Jonah Goldberg

But the point is that when social engineers attempt to make things better, they're just as likely to make things worse or create new problems. This is more than the law of unintended consequences, because "iatrogenic government" implies that our political physicians can't stop meddling with the patient, even when their meddling is causing the problems.

Take these allegedly pernicious 527s - the independent political organizations which offend liberals when they criticize Kerry's war record (but please them when they call Bush a Nazi). These 527s are the direct result of "reformers" trying to muzzle political speech. The basic story goes like this. Free people (and the groups they form) say unpleasant things about a popular politician or cause. Journalists and politicians don't like this, for many reasons, but mostly because they don't like free agents messing things up. So the political establishment decides to regulate who can speak in politics, to create a barrier to entry for the competitors who aren't already elected or who don't already have a voice through a newspaper, movie studio or TV show. It's a way to make politics tidier.

The problem is that each "reform" creates more problems. Political Action Committees, which are now vilified, were a major accomplishment of previous reformers. Then the PACs became too powerful. The limits on so-called "hard money" created the perfidious currency known as "soft-money." The effort to get rid of soft money created these new 527s.

Every time these "problems" appear the social physicians think the answer is to keep upping the dosage of their medicine, when the truth is the reverse. Already President Bush - who has been captured by the politics of campaign finance "reform" - wants to ban 527s. Well, that wouldn't be necessary if he hadn't signed the law creating them.

My solution is the oldest medicine - fresh air and sunlight. Let Americans participate in politics as they see fit. If they want to give money to politicians, they should do it in the bright sunlight of full disclosure. We have a right to know where a politicians' money and support is coming from. But beyond that, we don't have the right to muzzle his supporters.

In fact, fresh air and sunlight sounds like just what the doctor order for the fat folks, too.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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