Photo by David Mark

We Should Care More About Campaign Finance

Science shows that principles are no match for money

14 min readMar 2, 2020


“The odd American idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens.”

— Timothy Snyder

“I don’t care who [politician’s name] takes money from.”

I saw this comment on a Facebook post recently, and it shocked me. I had to remind myself that not too many years ago, I might have said the same sort of thing. I knew that some politicians are corrupt, but I also believed that for a genuinely principled person, money would have no real effect on their choices.

What changed my mind? Science.

Some years ago, I went through a period of fascination with behavioral economics — which, for those of you who don’t know, is kind of like the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of the social sciences: “You got your economics in my psychology!” “You got your psychology in my economics!”

One of the books I read then was Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, which has a chapter on ‘conflicts of interest’. He…



Karawynn Long

Queer Autistic disabled reader, writer, researcher of disparate things. Newsletter & journal at