Thomas Sowell

Now that the election is over, can we talk sense?

"Campaign finance reform" is a great political issue for an election year, but it makes no sense otherwise.

What is a campaign supposed to do -- and how will campaign finance reform affect how well it does it? A campaign is supposed to inform the public about the issues and about the opposing candidates' positions on those issues, as well as the candidates' own records. Obviously, the campaigns themselves are just one of the sources of such information. The mass media are a major source for many, if not most, people.

Polls have shown, again and again, that nearly 9 out of 10 media people vote for the Democrats' candidates for president. So this is not a source from which the public is likely to hear both sides of an issue presented even-handedly. On some issues, such as partial-birth abortion, the mainstream media seem determined that the public will never even know what it is. The very phrase is not used in much of the media, and such newspapers as the New York Times and USA Today have refused to accept advertisements which simply describe what it is. And photographs are out of the question.

"The public's right to know," which the media invoke so piously in defense of their own intrusive activities, apparently does not mean a right to know what the media do not want them to know.

Another major source of political propaganda, though not labeled as such, is the government itself. Government agencies are always trying to drum up more business for themselves with publications and TV ads saying what wonderful things they are doing and what wonderful new things they could do, if only they had more money and more sweeping powers.

In addition to such direct propaganda, government agencies finance vast amounts of research, including research on controversial subjects like global warming. When the administration is pushing for all sorts of new controls and new programs, in the name of preventing global warming, do you think that they are equally likely to finance those scientists who say that global warming is bunk?

Given the massive amounts of government spending on research, and the fact that the agencies which hand out this money have a large vested interest in the outcomes, you are far more likely to hear that "studies prove" whatever will contribute to these agencies' money and power than you are likely to hear about studies that indicate the opposite.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate