Larry Lessig on Changing Congress


Larry Lessig on Changing Congress
Larry Lessig on Changing Congress
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Lessig's keynotes are hard to blog, but the message isn't. Lessig's basic message is that government makes poor policy--even when the choice ought to be easy. The problem isn't overt bribery. In fact, we may have the best situation we've ever had in that sense. But even good people are affected by indirect dependence on money. Money in politics causes problems in three ways

  1. Divert access - congressmen pay attention to donors over others.
  2. Change reasoning -
  3. Sets up an perverse incentive where regulation creates money raising opportunities

This has created a fundamental loss of confidence where people believe there's corruption even when there's not.

The error, the wrong decisions, are the direct result of the improper dependence of politics on raising money.

There are numerous proposals on what to do to lessen the dependence on money.

Congress is an incumbency machine. The whole set up is designed to make sure the congressman gets reelected. Earmarks are a perfect example. This gives an extraordinary advantage to the incumbent. Congressmen abuse earmarks for the purpose of increasing their personal wealth.

The insiders are the enemy. The outsiders are the only ones who will change this. Technology is not a Utopian solution, but it's the most powerful tool we have to change the system.

Lessig is launching a project, in the spirit of Creative Commons, called Change Congress that would allow candidates to commit to three things (below) and if they did, they'd get a badge for their Web site showing their commitment.

  1. Stop taking PAC money
  2. Support banning earmarks
  3. Support public financing of elections

We can get candidates to consider this by running against them to increase the cost. We can also ask candidates to support it. Delegates are in a powerful position to influence candidates.