Contra Kevin Carson on Political Speech

Kevin Carson, in this recent commentary piece at the Center for a Stateless Society, employs dialectical reasoning to argue against Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The intent of the commentary was to make a left-libertarian case that “Citizen’s United” is an unfettered positive feedback loop in a Democracy Death Spiral as described in this post by Charles Smith.

I have some disagreement with Carson’s dialectical deconstruction in this particular case. First, I would attack his premise that all corporate lobbying is rent-seeking. No, it’s not. Some of it may be directed towards reversing or breaking down existing monopoly privileges. A simple empirical example would be the small toy manufacturers who are attempting to amend, reverse or abolish the Children’s Safe Products Act. Another easy empirical example are lobbies who must practice eternal vigilance, e..g, video games, porn, magazines, to keep their products legal under the First Amendment.

Secondly, if we are going to appeal to dialectics, let’s actually apply the proper context. The immediate context of Citizen’s United was McCain-Feingold. McCain-Feingold was just part of a long line of regulation that has placed undue burdens on informal organized speech which has served to effectively “corporatize” political speech. The Citizen’s United case, which was brought before the Supreme Court because the FCC had shut down political speech critical of Hillary Clinton because it was being aired in an “illegal time period” before an election, served to remove many legal restrictions on speech that had already been “corporatized.”

We can talk about “Democratic Death Spirals,” but Democracy is rigor mortis without any meaningful method of “redress of grievances.” The contextual analysis informs us that political speech has already been “corporatized,” and a proper conclusion would be that allowing the Political Class to determine permitted corporate speech would be an unfettered positive feedback loop for the utter evisceration of the First Amendment.

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