Should campaign finance reform aim to level the playing field?

Ryan Pevnick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Many argue that an important goal of campaign finance reform should be to ensure that competing candidates have roughly equal financial resources with which to contest campaigns. Although there are very important reasons to worry about the role that money has come to play in many democracies, this article argues in three main steps that this particular position lacks compelling justification. First, while advocates of such positions often rely on an analogy with much smaller deliberative settings to defend the view that advocates of competing perspectives should be given equal resources, there are differences between such settings and campaigns that undermine the analogy’s appeal. Second, independent arguments – connected to the importance of ensuring that the wealthy do not dominate public debate and preventing corruption – may speak strongly in favor of a generous system of public funding, but fail to provide reason to ensure that advocates of competing positions have access to equal resources. Third, it is impossible to meaningfully level the playing field without objectionably restricting civil liberties. An implication of these arguments is that common criticisms of voucher-based systems of public funding, which hinge on an implicit commitment to the importance of a level playing field, fail.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)358-373
    Number of pages16
    JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


    • campaign finance
    • campaign spending
    • democratic theory
    • money in politics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Economics and Econometrics


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