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Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved. OSO version 0. University Press Scholarship Online. Sign in. Not registered? Sign up. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search my Subject Specializations: Select Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Platform or Personality? More Campaign organizers and the media appear to agree that voters' perceptions of party leaders have an important impact in elections: considerable effort is made to ensure that leaders look good, speak well, and that they are up in the polls.

Authors Affiliations are at time of print publication. Print Save Cite Email Share. We need to focus on empowering average people by reinvigorating and expanding the public-financing system for campaigns, both on the federal and local levels. How could the government get enough money to finance elections at a level that would be an effective counterweight to the oodles of private money out there? Ironically, it may have been Barack Obama who killed the federal public-financing system for presidential elections when he opted not to participate in , despite his support for public financing in principle.

Since then, neither Obama nor any of the Republican nominees has accepted federal matching funds in exchange for strict limits on campaign spending, and neither of the nominees this year is expected to, either.

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The odds may be long, but Democrats and advocates for campaign-finance reform have been pushing to modernize and expand the system. The idea is to level the playing field for candidates who can demonstrate a minimum level of support while also helping to free up incumbent members of Congress from the burden of spending hours each day dialing for dollars rather than working on legislation or helping their constituents.

Neither of these bills have any chance of passing, however, under a Republican-controlled Congress. As with many election reforms, the action is now mostly at the local level. Last November, Seattle voters approved a system whereby citizens could contribute to candidates in local races without spending a dime of their own money.

Yet even if public financing empowers ordinary citizens, it is not a panacea for political corruption. Just look at New York City, which has had both a popular public-financing system for decades and no shortage of crooked local legislators in recent years.

And Donald Trump is winning without spending a ton of money, in relative terms. The same is true of Ben Carson, who stuck around long after his poll numbers cratered. There are so many factors that figure into a presidential race that money is not always paramount. In those contests, money can play a much bigger role.

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It can be the difference in whether a candidate gets noticed or an issue gets raised, and which side spends the most is more often a determining factor in the outcome of an election. What is the role of the Federal Election Commission, and how can it better enforce the campaign-finance laws that are already on the books? How much would it cost to implement a public financing system that candidates would actually participate in?

Besides various forms of public financing, what other proposals could reduce the influence of money in politics? The Heritage Foundation has constructed an Index of Economic Freedom that looks at 10 key areas: trade policy, taxation, government intervention, monetary policy, capital flows and foreign investment, banking policy, wage and price controls, property rights, regulation, and black market activity. It has found that countries classified as "free" had annual real per capita Gross Domestic Product GDP expressed in terms of purchasing power parities growth rates of 2. In "mostly free" countries the rate was 0.

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Second, democracies that embrace liberal principles of government are likely to create a stable foundation for long-term economic growth. Individuals will only make long-term investments when they are confident that their investments will not be expropriated.

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These and other economic decisions require assurances that private property will be respected and that contracts will be enforced. These conditions are likely to be met when an impartial court system exists and can require individuals to enforce contracts.


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Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has argued that: "The guiding mechanism of a free market economy Mancur Olson thus points out that "the conditions that are needed to have the individual rights needed for maximum economic development are exactly the same conditions that are needed to have a lasting democracy. A third reason may operate in some circumstances: democratic governments are more likely to have the political legitimacy necessary to embark on difficult and painful economic reforms.

Fourth, the United States should spread democracy because the citizens of democracies do not suffer from famines.

The economist Amartya Sen concludes that "one of the remarkable facts in the terrible history of famine is that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press. Although this claim has been most closely identified with Sen, other scholars who have studied famines and hunger reach similar conclusions. Joseph Collins, for example, argues that: "Wherever political rights for all citizens truly flourish, people will see to it that, in due course, they share in control over economic resources vital to their survival. Lasting food security thus requires real and sustained democracy.

Throughout history, famines have occurred in many different types of countries, but never in a democracy. Democracies do not experience famines for two reasons. First, in democracies governments are accountable to their populations and their leaders have electoral incentives to prevent mass starvation.

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The need to be reelected impels politicians to ensure that their people do not starve. As Sen points out, "the plight of famine victims is easy to politicize" and "the effectiveness of democracy in the prevention of famine has tended to depend on the politicization of the plight of famine victims, through the process of public discussion, which generates political solidarity.

Moreover, authoritarian and totalitarian rulers often have political incentives to use famine as a means of exterminating their domestic opponents. Second, the existence of a free press and the free flow of information in democracies prevents famine by serving as an early warning system on the effects of natural catastrophes such as floods and droughts that may cause food scarcities. A free press that criticizes government policies also can publicize the true level of food stocks and reveal problems of distribution that might cause famines even when food is plentiful. During the famine in China that killed million people, the Chinese authorities overestimated the country's grain reserves by million metric tons.

This disaster later led Mao Zedong to concede that "Without democracy, you have no understanding of what is happening down below. The food supply was high, but floods, unemployment, and panic made it harder for those in need to obtain food. The two factors that prevent famines in democracies-electoral incentives and the free flow of information-are likely to be present even in democracies that do not have a liberal political culture. These factors exist when leaders face periodic elections and when the press is free to report information that might embarrass the government. A full-fledged liberal democracy with guarantees of civil liberties, a relatively free economic market, and an independent judiciary might be even less likely to suffer famines, but it appears that the rudiments of electoral democracy will suffice to prevent famines.

The ability of democracies to avoid famines cannot be attributed to any tendency of democracies to fare better economically. Poor democracies as well as rich ones have not had famines. India, Botswana, and Zimbabwe have avoided famines, even when they have suffered large crop shortfalls. In fact, the evidence suggests that democracies can avoid famines in the face of large crop failures, whereas nondemocracies plunge into famine after smaller shortfalls. Sudan and Ethiopia, which were nondemocracies, suffered major famines, whereas the democracies of Botswana and Zimbabwe did not.

But the absence of famines in new, poor democracies suggests that democratic governance itself is sufficient to prevent famines. The case of India before and after independence provides further evidence that democratic rule is a key factor in preventing famines. Prior to independence in , India suffered frequent famines. Shortly before India became independent, the Bengal famine of killed million people.

Since India became independent and democratic, the country has suffered severe crop failures and food shortages in , , , and , but it has never suffered a famine. In addition to improving the lives of individual citizens in new democracies, the spread of democracy will benefit the international system by reducing the likelihood of war. Democracies do not wage war on other democracies. This absence-or near absence, depending on the definitions of "war" and "democracy" used-has been called "one of the strongest nontrivial and nontautological generalizations that can be made about international relations.

Although wars between democracies and nondemocracies would persist in the short run, in the long run an international system composed of democracies would be a peaceful world. At the very least, adding to the number of democracies would gradually enlarge the democratic "zone of peace. Many studies have found that there are virtually no historical cases of democracies going to war with one another. In an important two-part article published in , Michael Doyle compares all international wars between and and a list of liberal states.

Most studies of the democratic-peace proposition have argued that democracies only enjoy a state of peace with other democracies; they are just as likely as other states to go to war with nondemocracies.

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Two types of explanations have been offered for the absence of wars between democracies. The first argues that shared norms prevent democracies from fighting one another. The second claims that institutional or structural constraints make it difficult or impossible for a democracy to wage war on another democracy. The normative explanation of the democratic peace argues that norms that democracies share preclude wars between democracies.

One version of this argument contends that liberal states do not fight other liberal states because to do so would be to violate the principles of liberalism. Liberal states only wage war when it advances the liberal ends of increased individual freedom. A liberal state cannot advance liberal ends by fighting another liberal state, because that state already upholds the principles of liberalism.

In other words, democracies do not fight because liberal ideology provides no justification for wars between liberal democracies. This norm applies between and within democratic states. Democracies resolve their domestic conflicts without violence, and they expect that other democracies will resolve inter-democratic international disputes peacefully. At the most general level, democratic leaders are constrained by the public, which is sometimes pacific and generally slow to mobilize for war.

In most democracies, the legislative and executive branches check the war-making power of each other. These constraints may prevent democracies from launching wars. When two democracies confront one another internationally, they are not likely to rush into war. Their leaders will have more time to resolve disputes peacefully. For example, in liberal democracies liberal norms and democratic processes probably work in tandem to synergistically produce the democratic peace.

They thus will have few crises and wars. In illiberal or semiliberal democracies, norms play a lesser role and crises are more likely, but democratic institutions and processes may still make wars between illiberal democracies rare. Finally, state-level factors like norms and domestic structures may interact with international-systemic factors to prevent wars between democracies.

If democracies are better at information-processing, they may be better than nondemocracies at recognizing international situations where war would be foolish.