I think Lawerence Lessig might be the Adam Smith of the Political Influence Economy. And right now, the US Political Influence Economy does not support the goals of our representative Republic. As I read Lessig’s new book, Republic, Lost, I am awestruck by how right on Lessig is about the nature of this problem…and why it’s so hard to fix! Come join Coffee Party Austin to discuss this great book:
Republic, Lost by L. Lessig
Sat, Dec 3, 2011, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Yarborough Library, 2200 Hancock
One issue: In 2011, Cenk Uygar said “There is only one issue in this country”. “Campaign finance reform.” Lessig writes, “For the vast majority of America, Uygur’s comment is obscure. For a small minority, it is obvious. This book was written for that vast majority, drawn from the insights of that small minority.” Lessig believes that all the intractable problems our government seem hopelessly unable to fix come back to this one, deceptively subtle and complex issue.
The challenge: As my friend Coke says, “It’s the SYSTEM, stupid and it must be changed.” Lessig feels that “The challenge is to get America to see and then to act.”
Activists & Academics diverge: Lessig sees “Each side in this debate talks past the other. The academic seeks a truth, but that truth is too often too obscure for citizens to grok. The activist seeks to motivate, but with stories that are too often too crude, or extreme. The activist is right that the problem is bad–indeed, worse than his focus on individual corruption suggests. But the academic is right that if the problem is bad, it is not bad because our government has returned to the Gilded Age. We are better than they were, even if the consequences of our corruption are much worse. For this is the paradox at the core of my argument: that even without sinning, we can do much more harm than the sinner.”
Lessig feels “The great threat of our republic today comes not from the hidden bribery of the Gilded Age, when cash was secreted among members of Congress to buy privilege and secure wealth. The great threat today is instead in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people.” Left or Right.
The “easy” answer leads to a dead end: Lessig, “We look to a collapsed economy, to raging deficits, to a Wall Street not yet held to account, and we feel entitled to our anger.” (p6) It’s easy for Democrats to be angry at Republicans and Republicans to be angry at Democrats. But as Lessig dug into this problem, he came to believe that our nation’s inability to fix some very significant, fundamental problems all come back to this one root problem. “Until it gets fixed, government will remained stalled.”
Lawrence Lessig: is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. His center is currently working on a five year research project studying the general area of institutional corruption. He has also worked to help forge a multipartisan political movement, www.rootstrikers.org. Rootstrikers has just merged with #GetMoneyOut and others to create http://unitedrepublic.org. Read more about United Republic.
Watch Charlie Rose interview Professor Lessig about Republic, Lost.