"Albany should emulate New York City's public financing of campaigns, which promotes competition and lessens the corrupting influence of special interests," the New York Times advises in an editorial this morning. How's that "public financing of campaigns" working out for New York City? Well, it's hard to credit the law with promoting competition when, as this article notes, "Over the past two decades, incumbent New York City Council members have enjoyed a 97.5 percent rate of re-election." And it's hard to credit the law with countering corruption, when, as this article reports, the council "for years used slush funds, stowed in the names of fictional organizations, to sidestep budget rules and bestow political favors. That was followed by indictments, first of two Council aides, who later pleaded guilty to embezzling city funds designated for a nonprofit group." And, as Henry Stern of New York Civic points out, "public funds have been used by sure losers to promote themselves or their private businesses or law practices. Or, worse yet, to employ their relatives to work in their campaigns on the taxpayer's dime. Both winners and losers have found public finance a way to put campaign workers on salary who would otherwise be volunteers. Technically, public funds cannot be used to hire relatives. They get around that by using funds they raised privately to pay their loved ones, and the public funds are then freed to use for other purposes. Sure winners have abused public financing, printing more literature than they can use, buying unnecessary advertising to get favorable treatment in the press, sending sound trucks around to blare their names to the neighborhood, sometimes at unseemly hours, on behalf of a politician who has been an incumbent for many years and is in no danger of defeat. In many cases, public funding is little more than a racket, with both sides operating to scam the city treasury." What, you may wonder, has this to do with the future of capitalism? It's another example of government spending programs competing with private activity, and of such programs failing to achieve their stated goals while instead opening themselves up to abuse. The pattern of distorted incentives and government waste and use of taxpayer funds to support cronies is similar, whether it is the politicians who are being subsidized through the public campaign finance system that the Times holds up as a model, or whether it is subsidies for automakers, for farmers, or for banks.