Monday, April 8, 2013

Lawrence Lessig ~ The People Can Save the Republic by Taking Back Power from "The Lesters"

 photo LessigTalk2.jpg

Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, gave a fantastic lecture in which he explained how our crazy system allows a miniscule minority - 0.05% of citizens - the "Lesters" - to fund elections, and how that corruption "at the root" of the Republic is blocking reform. The "Lesters" pick and choose candidates and issues through money influence, and only after they make a choice do the "People" get to vote in general elections. This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Nor did they envision a country in which the public good is secondary to the future of politicians and their staffers to work as well-paid lobbyists for the Lesters. "This is a problem of incentives," says Lessig.

 photo LessigTalk4.jpg
 photo LessigTalk3-1.jpg

And while it seems impossible to overcome the corruption, we have to try because, as Lessig wryly notes, "Even we Liberals love this country." What is the answer? According to Lessig, it's the Obama-model of fundraising used successfully in two elections - take small contributions from many citizens instead of large lump sums from the one-percenters like the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson (after all, Mitt failed in spite of his money).

TED is a Non-Profit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

"Lesterland" is available as an ebook download in various formats

Lessig on CNN:
. . . in my TED talk, I created Lesterland: Imagine a country like the United States, with just as many "Lesters" as the United States (about 150,000 out of a population of more than 300 million, or about 0.05%). And imagine those Lesters have a very special power: Each election cycle has two elections. In one, the general election, all citizens get to vote. In the other, the "Lester election," only "Lesters" get to vote.

But here's the catch: To be allowed to run in the general election, you must do extremely well in the Lester election. You don't necessarily need to win, but you must do extremely well.

We all get what Lesterland would be like. Sure, as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, "the People" of Lesterland would have the "ultimate influence" over elected officials. Ultimate, because in the final election, the people get to vote. But "the People" only get to vote for the candidates who have made "the Lesters" happy. And no doubt, that fact will produce a subtle, understated, somewhat camouflaged bending to keep those Lesters happy.

Once you see Lesterland, and the corruption it creates you understand USA-land, and the corruption we suffer. For the United States is Lesterland.

Like Lesterland, the United States also has two elections. One a voting election, where citizens get to select the candidates who will ultimately govern. But the other is a money election, where the candidates who wish to run in the voting election raise the money they need to compete. As in Lesterland, the candidates don't necessarily need to win the money election. But they must do extremely well.

. . . Members of Congress will always be dependent upon their funders. But if we adopted a system to fund campaigns like the one proposed by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, The Grassroots Democracy Act, then "the funders" would be "the People." If members raised the funds they needed from small contributions only, then many more of us would be the "relevant funders." And thus when members were responsive to their "funders," they would thus be responsive to that many more of us.

That, after all, was the Framers' original design. James Madison promised us a Congress "dependent upon the people alone." "Alone." We've got instead a Congress dependent upon the people and dependent upon the Lesters.

1 comment:

  1. It is appaling. And yes I provided my measly few hundred to the Obama campaing...;)