Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution

Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution

Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution

Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution


As of the latest national elections, it costs approximately $1 billion to become president, $10 million to become a Senator, and $1 million to become a Member of the House. High-priced campaigns, an elite class of donors and spenders, superPACs, and increasing corporate political power have become the new normal in American politics. In Capitalism v. Democracy, Timothy Kuhner explains how these conditions have corrupted American democracy, turning it into a system of rule that favors the wealthy and marginalizes ordinary citizens. Kuhner maintains that these conditions have corrupted capitalism as well, routing economic competition through political channels and allowing politically powerful companies to evade market forces. The Supreme Court has brought about both forms of corruption by striking down campaign finance reforms that limited the role of money in politics. Exposing the extreme economic worldview that pollutes constitutional interpretation, Kuhner shows how the Court became the architect of American plutocracy.

Capitalism v. Democracy offers the key to understanding why corporations are now citizens, money is political speech, limits on corporate spending are a form of censorship, democracy is a free market, and political equality and democratic integrity are unconstitutional constraints on money in politics. Supreme Court opinions have dictated these conditions in the name of the Constitution, as though the Constitution itself required the privatization of democracy. Kuhner explores the reasons behind these opinions, reveals that they form a blueprint for free market democracy, and demonstrates that this design corrupts both politics and markets. He argues that nothing short of a constitutional amendment can set the necessary boundaries between capitalism and democracy.


American democracy raises the strangest questions. Why does it cost nearly a billion dollars to mount a successful presidential election campaign? Why are corporations considered citizens and entitled to unlimited political spending? Will unaccountable organizations such as superPACs and dark money groups become more influential than political parties? How have citizens been forced into the role of consumers in a political marketplace? Indeed, how did democracy become a market?

For those who fought throughout our nation’s history for political equality and popular sovereignty, these questions would prove fantastical or maddening. Civil rights movements occupied the better part of the last two centuries, as white males without property, women, and African Americans struggled to become equal citizens. It took several constitutional amendments to prevent political power from being officially conditioned upon property ownership, sex, and race. Today, however, political power is increasingly conditioned upon wealth—not exactly a satisfactory conclusion to centuries of progressive political reforms. Foreign observers reinforce the point, marveling at how American democracy decides all manner of political issues through commerce, not civics, and wondering if commerce will someday become the new civics everywhere. After all, it would not be the first time that an American innovation spread across the globe.

These questions and concerns arise from money in politics. Political parties, political campaigns, and elections must be financed by one source or another. and in today’s world, interest groups, lobbyists, and political ads in the mass media also receive tremendous financial backing. the sources, amounts, and implications of all those funds are addressed by an area of law called political finance or, more commonly, campaign finance. in the exercise of this responsibility, campaign finance law acquires profound power over the character of American democracy, shaping its opportuni-

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