Over at the Monkey Cage, Joshua Tucker gets really bent out of shape over comparisons between campaign spending and spending on consumer items -- in the case he cites, potato chips.
The problem here is one about big numbers. Big numbers used to scare people. So the total spending on a campaign, or in this case on all the campaigns in one cycle put together, adds up to some big number and we are to believe that the system is wrong simply based on that big, scary, number. The virtue of the comparison is that it puts the big, scary, number in context. That's all. It doesn't say whether campaign spending is good, or bad, or anything else; it just helps us understand the size of the number.
We need more of this, not less, in my view. Candidates raised and spent $6B in 2012? Is that a lot, or not? I don't think most of us have any idea. I don't think most of us have any intuitive idea of what many of the numbers mean in budget debates, in tax debates, in health care debates, or the rest of it. Anything we can do to provide some sort of meaningful way to talk about millions, billions, and trillions of dollars is, in my view, helpful.
Of course that doesn't mean that campaign spending is similar to advertising on other products. It's just about the size of it. That's all, but it's something.