Democracy Dollars are a bad idea

by

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


An idea that seems to have caught fire among the Democratic party is the concept of “Democracy Dollars.” “Democracy Dollars” would be cash vouchers given to citizens by the government, using taxpayer money, which citizens can take to donate to a political candidate of their choosing. 

Seattle recently implemented such a program that passed through a voter referendum in 2017. The program gives all Seattle residents four vouchers of 25 dollars each to donate to their local candidates of choice. The program is funded by an increased property tax. 

Similar ideas have also been proposed by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates such as Andrew Yang and New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand on the federal level. Senator Gillbrand’s plan would restrict candidates who can receive such donations to those who agree to forgo any private donations more than $200. Mr. Yang’s plan currently doesn’t have such a restriction. 

Advocates argue that this program would give low income voters and grassroots candidates a larger say in our elections. This is despite, however, legal challenges about the constitutionality of the Seattle program and reported high administrative costs.

Outside of legal and administrative objections, the idea of “democracy dollars” seems to run contrary to the idea of participatory democracy that we hold so dearly in the United States. The core of participatory democracy is that citizens willingly use their time and effort to support candidates and policies they believe in, such as attending rallies, volunteering for the candidates they support, and, of course, going to the ballot box. The problem with “Democracy Dollars” is that it seems to undermine the “participatory” aspect of a participatory democracy. 

Citizens who use these vouchers would not have to use their own hard earned money or even leave their own homes to support their chosen candidates. Instead, all they would have to do is mail in their voucher, paid for by tax-payers. This seems to be the lowest level of participation, if we even want to call it that, a participatory democracy could have in every respect. 

While there are people on both sides of the aisle who agree that big businesses and corporations play too much of a role in politics, programs such as the “Democracy Vouchers” instituted by Seattle are not the answer. Government programs funded by taxpayers should not replace activism about the ideas we care about and participation in our democracy.

Joshua attends New York University with majors in Politics and History and a minor in Economics. When he is not having political arguments with friends, he likes to read and watch movies.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Joshua Kim

New York University

Joshua attends New York University with majors in Politics and History and a minor in Economics. When he is not having political arguments with friends, he likes to read and watch movies.

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