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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Let’s make one thing clear: The social contract dictates that a government can take away or limit autonomy if an action harms the rights of another, or if it harms society at large. In fact, when a society enters into a social contract, it agrees to give up certain rights and freedoms to preserve social order. You gave up the right to take the life of another human being and gave it to the government, hence capital punishment. You are not able to carry that punishment out at your own discretion, because that would be murder.
The reason for this is the establishment of some semblance of order within a society. I say semblance because no one has really figured it out so far; we’re sort of making it up as we go along, hoping our next move will take us in the right direction. Utopia is the goal, but it’s a little out of our reach right now.
I believe the social contract theory works, for the most part. Sometimes other people disagree, and sometimes those people are the justices of the Supreme Court. Sometimes those same people forget that even though our society and constitution value individual autonomy, we still need to prevent individuals from harming society at large. In this case, society at large happens to be the government functioning without corporate or individual influence.
Donation caps and aggregate limits on campaign contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals have been all but eviscerated by our court system. We prevented large corporations from giving large campaign contributions because we didn’t want Chevron to control policy decisions. Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission not only eliminated that cap, but gave corporations the same rights as people. Yes, corporations were given personhood.
We also prevented wealthy individuals from giving exorbitant amounts to individual campaigns because they could have just as much influence with large amounts of money. This practice, where people spend money so representatives act according to the will of their benefactor, is commonly known as corruption. The Supreme Court doesn’t seem to think so; instead, they believe it’s an exercise of freedom of speech. Because money equals words, somehow.
In the more recent McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission — the Supreme Court decided that aggregate limits, or limits on the total amount that a person can give to all candidates or committees — on campaign contributions are unconstitutional.
Currently, the only limits on campaign donations are base limits on the amount a person can give to any one candidate. But if a person wanted to give the maximum amount to every candidate, they could. What’s worse is — now that aggregate limits are out of the way — base limits can come under fire, and with the lineup of conservative judges siting in the deciding seats, we could see limits eliminated altogether.
The harm to society of possible corruption far outweighs the harm done to the very few wealthy individuals when you prevent them from spending more than $48,600 on candidates over the span of two years. Just as it is illegal to run into a movie theatre and yell “FIRE,” so too should it be illegal to affect the election of representatives so greatly. Simply because the harm of the latter is less explicit than the former, does not mean the harm does not exist, or that there is no possibility for it.
Found within the opinion of the majority is logic like this: If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition. Popular opposition to large campaign contributions does not arise out of offended people. I’m not offended that companies and individuals give a ton of money to Republicans and Democrats alike.
I’m pissed off and worried that my voice as an individual will get drowned out by the money of those around me. It’s like the representative can say, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of all the money Shaun McCutcheon is giving my campaign.” I’m worried about the thousands of voices that are now silenced because they can’t contribute that same amount. I’m worried about equality, and I’m worried about my autonomy and rights being stifled by the actions of others.
This is Zachary Antoyan, wishing he could make tiny, tiny burritos. Have a fantastic week everyone.