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Campaign Finance and American DemocracyWhat the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters$
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David M. Primo and Jeffrey D. Milyo

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226712802

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226713137.001.0001

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Weak Link?

Weak Link?

(p.18) Chapter Two Weak Link?
Campaign Finance and American Democracy

David M. Primo

Jeffrey D. Milyo

University of Chicago Press

In this chapter, Primo and Milyo offer a theoretical foundation for why and how public perceptions of American democracy are thought to be tied to the role of money in the political system. They cast doubt on these microfoundations, showing that a hydraulic theory of influence implies that attempts to limit access and influence by restricting campaign contributions will lead to a reorientation of efforts by affected interests—not capitulation. Moreover, because research in social choice theory establishes there is no such thing as the “will of the people,” the notion that money in politics “distorts” outcomes—a central claim of campaign finance reformers—has little meaning in the absence of some normative standard, which itself will be the subject of dispute.

Keywords:   hydraulic theory, social choice theory, will of the people, access, influence, elections, interest groups, campaign finance

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