Both vote buying and tax-cut promises are attempts to manipulate voters through cash incentives in order to win elections, but only vote buying is illegal. Should we extend the ban on vote buying to tax-cut promises? This article will argue for three conclusions. The first is that tax-cut promises should be understood as a form of vote buying. The second is that campaign promises are a form of vote buying. The third conclusion is that campaign promises, including tax-cut promises, should not be banned. An important distinction is drawn between enforceable wrongful incentives and unenforceable wrongful incentives. The difference between vote buying and tax-cut promises is not wrongfulness but enforceability.
Thom Brooks is Professor of Law and Government at Durham University’s Law School.