Speaking before the House of Commons 65 years ago, Winston Churchill reminded Members of Parliament -- and free peoples everywhere -- that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried from time to time."
Though messy and seemingly unfair, democracy (narrowly defined, with minority rights protected) beats dictatorship, the rule of an elite, and anarchy or mob rule.
The private financing of elections is similarly paradoxical. The general consensus seems to be that it doesn't work well and that there must be a better way, but no one can come up with an acceptable alternative.
Self-appointed do-gooders never stop trying, but the "solutions" they most often propose -- vesting public officials or commissions with appointment power or providing public financing for elections –- only make matters worse.
The first option deprives citizens of the power to choose their own public servants. The second forces them to pay for the campaigns of candidates they oppose.
Public financing, moreover, generally benefits the current office holder, thereby promoting incumbency and discouraging turnover.
The disadvantages of public financing are well-documented, the arguments against it easily accessible to anyone interested in making an informed choice. (Google it.) But the do-gooders really don't care about the pros and cons of the subject. They're convinced that they know better than us and that they should be allowed to make decisions for us, for our own good.
Thus, we now have in West Virginia a pilot program providing public financing for the elections of Supreme Court justices.
The program's off to a bad start. To everyone's surprise, a Republican candidate was the only one to apply for the financing. The State Election Commission, having already released several hundred thousand dollars to him, is reluctant to release more because of previous rulings about the issue.
Lawyers from all sides are now arguing these issues in different courts at different times, to be followed by more appeals, further arguments and plenty of lawyer fees. It could last for years.
We could have told you it was a bad idea -– and, in fact, we did.