Lawrence Lessig: I’m Trying to Run for President, but the Democrats Won’t Let Me

This…a million times this!

Like Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley, I believe America needs urgent and important reform: it needs a minimum wage that is a living wage, it needs climate change legislation, it needs to respect the equality of citizens and end—finally—the second class status that too many Americans know. It needs a health care system that Americans can afford. It needs to stop subsidizing oil companies, and stop tolerating their pollution. It needs the courage to stand up to the banks, it needs to restore safety to the financial system, it needs an immigration policy that promises some of the hardest working Americans that they can become citizens and it needs sane gun laws that keep machine guns away from the sorts who would massacre school children.

But unlike Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley, I’m willing to tell America the truth about these urgent and important needs.

That truth is this: The policies that these politicians are pushing are fantasies. Not because, as the Wall Street Journal might argue, we can’t afford them. Of course we can afford them. If we can afford a trillion dollar war that has only made America less safe, we can afford a real social security system, or a health care system that doesn’t sell out to pharmaceutical companies.

The reason these policies are fantasies is because of the corruption that we have allowed to evolve inside Washington, D.C. One NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, has written that the biggest obstacle to climate change legislation is money in politics. That’s certainly true, but it’s not just true about climate change. Every important issue that Washington faces is affected by this corruption. And what America needs right now is candidates willing to explain this truth, to describe a plan to fix it, and to commit to fixing it not someday, but on Day One.

A “democracy” in which 400 families give 50 percent of the money in campaigns is not American democracy. It is a banana republic democracy. A “democracy” in which candidates for Congress spend 30 percent to 70 percent of their time raising money from the tiniest fraction of the 1 percent is not a democracy that could be responsive to the people. It is a democracy that will be responsive to those funders only. What America needs right now is to recognize—all of America, not just the Democrats—that until we fix this democracy, none of the urgent and important policies pushed by these politicians is possible.


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6 thoughts on “Lawrence Lessig: I’m Trying to Run for President, but the Democrats Won’t Let Me

  1. Exactly! Well almost. Let’s not place all the blame on “politicians.”

    What about a Supreme Court or at least a majority of justices bearing the blame for betraying their trust to the people? And who opened the monetary flood gates with “Citizens United” making ;people unequal in supporting their candidate? And finally, what branch of government has allowed special interests to “own” and/or “buy” members of Congress?

    Our justice system has become “supremely” unfair if not unethical and a betrayal of our trust. that all candidates are equal financially in seeking election.

    “Oh, the humanity!”

  2. No doubt about it, corruption is a huge problem, with no easy solution. Here is what I don’t get about the left, liberals, progressives, take your pick: Their preferred solution to many problems inevitably calls for a nationwide approach, usually new laws of some sort or other. To enact a law at the federal level, you must have huge influence. New laws will benefit those with the power to enact them. I don’t mean for this to be snarky at all, just pointing out a difference, but it seems that while huge imbalances of money in politics is viewed as a problem, the solutions from the left call for huge imbalances of money and power. I am not claiming to have an easy answer, but the way I see it, the more that power is concentrated in Washington DC, the less your average Joe will have as a citizen.

    1. Denis, when citizens value “local control,” and states’ rights, they understand the need for local and state taxes. Higher local and state taxes don’t always translate into fairer outcomes, but at least those local and state governments can pay decent wages. Without qualified local and state workers in all three branches, more control is effectively ceded to the federal government.

      That’s why “(Federal) Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete,”
      is such a critical fiscal reality. When the federal government takes tax dollars out of the economy, dollars that it does NOT need to provision itself, it makes it tougher for state and local governments. They have to tax to provision themselves.

      As you know, the “Fourth Estate,” the local and state media, play an enormous role in the quality of local and state governments.

  3. I don’t think that government should necessarily look to pay a “decent” wage. Rather, they should get the job done well and serve the interests of the taxpayer. If that means a “decent” wage, great. I see no reason why taxpayers should pay more than the market rate for government services. It doesn’t translate into better service so far as I can see but too often creates an intrenched special interest that corrupts the political process. Now we can argue about my assertions if you want to, but my larger point is to suggest that it can be extremely difficult to control local government and that it would be even more so to control the powers at the federal level. As such, I think we should look also at non-government solutions to problems as well. Yes we need taxes at the local and state level but I am not inclined to want to give more until they can demonstrate an ability to serve our interests over theirs.

    1. “Rather, they should get the job done well and serve the interests of the taxpayer. ”

      The less you pay local and state workers, the more incentive they have to take bribes. Who else locally and in the state has more control over local property values and tax assessments? Who controls land titles? Who is the first level in resolving disputes among property owners? If you call your rep or state Senator about an issue, who do they call to help you?

  4. I am not sure the extent to which low salaries correlate with bribes, but if we suspect that bribes are a problem, we should investigate and punish the offenders. I suspect that if a government official is open to soliciting bribes, he or she will continue the behavior regardless of salary. People are often geniuses when it comes to rationalizing bad behavior. One way to address a bribery problem would be to limit the time employees could hold those positions where bribery could be a problem. I know they do that at the State Department. Many government jobs don’t offer much opportunity for graft, thank goodness.

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