Lessig on Political Corruption in America

Pub­lic con­fi­dence in the U.S. House and Sen­ate is at an all-time low, and, after last week’s Supreme Court deci­sion, it’s bound to sink even low­er. On Jan­u­ary 19th (the day before the deci­sion), Har­vard law pro­fes­sor Lawrence Lessig returned to Stan­ford and high­light­ed the degree to which “insti­tu­tion­al cor­rup­tion” — in the form of lob­by­ists and cor­po­rate influ­ence — per­vades Con­gress, dic­tates leg­is­la­tion, and brings large sums of mon­ey to cam­paigns and, yes, even rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ per­son­al bank accounts. (Rough­ly 50% of U.S. Sen­a­tors become lob­by­ists, work­ing for indus­tries they once assist­ed polit­i­cal­ly, and earn sub­stan­tial incomes.) The talk, accom­pa­nied by a rapid fire Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion, runs a sol­id hour and details var­i­ous instances in which lob­by­ists have shaped unfath­omably bad leg­is­la­tion. Hap­pi­ly, the talk also ends with Lessig out­lin­ing pos­si­ble solu­tions. Pol­i­cy changes can offer some answers. But, a lot of it comes down to this: get­ting the pas­sive priv­i­leged to rein in a cor­rupt­ed elite.

Note: To see Lessig’s imme­di­ate response to the SCOTUS deci­sion, look here.

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