I’m reading Gulliver’s Travels again right now and wanted to share this excerpt from when Gulliver is explaining about British government to the king of the giants:
He then desired to know, what Arts were practiced in electing those whom I called Commoners. Whether, a Stranger with a strong Purse might not influence the vulgar Voters to chuse him before their own Landlord, or the most considerable Gentlemen in the Neighborhood. How it came to pass, that People were so violently bent upon getting into this assembly, which I allowed to be a great Trouble and Expense, often to the Ruin of their Families, without any Salary or Pension: Because this appeared such an exhaulted Strain of Virtue and publick Spirit, that his Majesty seemed to doubt it might possibly not be always sincere: And he desired to know, whether such zealous Gentlemen could have any Views of refunding themselves for the Charges and Trouble they were at, by sacrificing the publick Good to the Designs of a weak and vicious Prince, in Conjunction with a corrupted ministry.
We talk these days about corruption in politics as though it were a new thing, come about because of where candidates aquire their campaign money, and as though shutting off corporate funding would solve the problem, and while I don’t want to make an argument against shutting off corporate funding of election campaigns, its an interesting reminder that the problem has been around much longer than that.