At What Cost Democracy?

Posted on March 26, 2008. Filed under: Politics | Tags: |

Political theater: charismatic juggernauts fighting it out, a battle of ideas, rhetoric and emotion. At best, that’s what an American Presidential election provides, and the as yet undecided round of candidate picking this year has given the world plenty of that to feast on (even if you wouldn’t call Hillary Clinton the most charismatic speaker there ever was).

However, all that politics comes at a crazy price. To whit: in both January and February, leading Democratic candidate Barack Obama raised over a millon dollars a *day* ($36 million in January alone), close runner Hillary Clinton slightly less and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain a paltry $2 million for the entire month.

For a look at the campaign total, have a look at this: Presidential Candidate Spending to date (February 29th) from the Federal Electoral Commission.

If you want to skip the read, and get down to the reason I brought you here: to date the sum of the funding for the Presidential campaigns comes to a mind-blowing USD 792.2 million. That’s the kind of figure that doesn’t actually mean anything.

To try and get some perspective on what this amount of money can do, consider UNICEF, the largest charity in the world that does work for children, and one of the largest NGOs on the planet. In its latest available annual report (2006 as of this writing), the organisation’s total income was USD 2,781 million, where the largest single donation from a government was USD 261 million and total income from the private sector (including NGOs) stood at USD 799 million.

Yes, I know.

Can this really be justified? Well, this money has been raised over the course of the entire campaign which, in case you’d forgotten, started a little over a year ago. With the date for the election set as the 4th of November 2008, that’ll be coming up to 2 years of campaigning for the final candidates from the two major parties. With that much time, you can start to see how this amount of money gets spent and (sorta) why the campaigns feel they have to raise so much. It’s a long running, high-stakes game.

Of course, there are positives and negatives to choosing the executive branch of government this way; the fact that the very competition is what’s causing the funding levels to rise is clearly on the negative side. But I’m fairly sure folks shouldn’t be collecting or spending this much money this way. There are probably decent ways of ensuring this doesn’t happen (at least not to this extent – I’m not arguing that there should not be any funding for election campaigns). Anyone any ideas?

Incidentally, I got onto this whilst reading some information from the UK Parliament this week. The contrast is interesting…I might post on that soon.


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3 Responses to “At What Cost Democracy?”

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I would be interested in reading about the contrast. You might find some of this interesting

[…] on April 2, 2008. Last week, I posted about the crazy level of funding and the incredible amount of time that is ploughed into an […]

[…] on April 11, 2009. Filed under: Politics | Tags: Politics, social media, uk | When I last wrote about politics, the global political landscape was in a state of flux, and the full force of the ‘economic […]

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