Democracy and the Supreme Coalition

Democracy and the Supreme Coalition

The marriage of capitalism and democracy has never been easy. Serious tensions exist between the economic inequalities toward which capitalism tends and the political equality that democracy requires. These tensions are greatest when disparities of income and wealth are most extreme, as they are in the United States compared with other basically democratic countries, but they can be reduced by the vigilant maintenance of legal barriers prohibiting the translation of wealth into political power. Restricting campaign expenditures is one crucial means of doing this. However, for more than two decades now, in the United States, the most important such barriers have been ruled out as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In 1974, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Congress radically amended the Federal Election Act so as to restrict both campaign contributions and expenditures, but the amendments were eviscerated two years later by the Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

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