We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim | Lawrence Lessig

We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim | Lawrence Lessig

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast Once upon a time, there was a place called Lesterland. Now Lesterland looks a lot like the United States. Like the United States, it has about 311 million people, and of that 311 million people, it turns out 144,000 are called Lester. If Matt’s in the audience, I just borrowed that, I’ll return it in a second, this character from your series. So 144,000 are called Lester, which means about .05 percent is named Lester. Now, Lesters in Lesterland have this extraordinary power. There are two elections every election cycle in Lesterland. One is called the general election. The other is called the Lester election. And in the general election, it’s the citizens who get to vote, but in the Lester election, it’s the Lesters who get to vote. And here’s the trick. In order to run in the general election, you must do extremely well in the Lester election. You don’t necessarily have to win, but you must do extremely well. Now, what can we say about democracy in Lesterland? What we can say, number one, as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, that people have the ultimate influence over elected officials, because, after all, there is a general election, but only after the Lesters have had their way with the candidates who wish to run in the general election. And number two, obviously, this dependence upon the Lesters is going to produce a subtle, understated, we could say camouflaged, bending to keep the Lesters happy. Okay, so we have a democracy, no doubt, but it’s dependent upon the Lesters and dependent upon the people. It has competing dependencies, we could say conflicting dependencies, depending upon who the Lesters are. Okay. That’s Lesterland. Now there are three things I want you to see now that I’ve described Lesterland. Number one, the United States is Lesterland. The United States is Lesterland. The United States also looks like this, also has two elections, one we called the general election, the second we should call the money election. In the general election, it’s the citizens who get to vote, if you’re over 18, in some states if you have an ID. In the money election, it’s the funders who get to vote, the funders who get to vote, and just like in Lesterland, the trick is, to run in the general election, you must do extremely well in the money election. You don’t necessarily have to win. There is Jerry Brown. But you must do extremely well. And here’s the key: There are just as few relevant funders in USA-land as there are Lesters in Lesterland. Now you say, really? Really .05 percent? Well, here are the numbers from 2010: .26 percent of America gave 200 dollars or more to any federal candidate, .05 percent gave the maximum amount to any federal candidate, .01 percent — the one percent of the one percent — gave 10,000 dollars or more to federal candidates, and in this election cycle, my favorite statistic is .000042 percent — for those of you doing the numbers, you know that’s 132 Americans — gave 60 percent of the Super PAC money spent in the cycle we have just seen ending. So I’m just a lawyer, I look at this range of numbers, and I say it’s fair for me to say it’s .05 percent who are our relevant funders in America. In this sense, the funders are our Lesters. Now, what can we say about this democracy in USA-land? Well, as the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, we could say, of course the people have the ultimate influence over the elected officials. We have a general election, but only after the funders have had their way with the candidates who wish to run in that general election. And number two, obviously, this dependence upon the funders produces a subtle, understated, camouflaged bending to keep the funders happy. Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power, and the question we need to ask is, what does it do to them, these humans, as they spend their time behind the telephone, calling people they’ve never met, but calling the tiniest slice of the one percent? As anyone would, as they do this, they develop a sixth sense, a constant awareness about how what they do might affect their ability to raise money. They become, in the words of “The X-Files,” shape-shifters, as they constantly adjust their views in light of what they know will help them to raise money, not on issues one to 10, but on issues 11 to 1,000. Leslie Byrne, a Democrat from Virginia, describes that when she went to Congress, she was told by a colleague, “Always lean to the green.” Then to clarify, she went on, “He was not an environmentalist.” (Laughter) So here too we have a democracy, a democracy dependent upon the funders and dependent upon the people, competing dependencies, possibly conflicting dependencies depending upon who the funders are. Okay, the United States is Lesterland, point number one. Here’s point number two. The United States is worse than Lesterland, worse than Lesterland because you can imagine in Lesterland if we Lesters got a letter from the government that said, “Hey, you get to pick who gets to run in the general election,” we would think maybe of a kind of aristocracy of Lesters. You know, there are Lesters from every part of social society. There are rich Lesters, poor Lesters, black Lesters, white Lesters, not many women Lesters, but put that to the side for one second. We have Lesters from everywhere. We could think, “What could we do to make Lesterland better?” It’s at least possible the Lesters would act for the good of Lesterland. But in our land, in this land, in USA-land, there are certainly some sweet Lesters out there, many of them in this room here today, but the vast majority of Lesters act for the Lesters, because the shifting coalitions that are comprising the .05 percent are not comprising it for the public interest. It’s for their private interest. In this sense, the USA is worse than Lesterland. And finally, point number three: Whatever one wants to say about Lesterland, against the background of its history, its traditions, in our land, in USA-land, Lesterland is a corruption, a corruption. Now, by corruption I don’t mean brown paper bag cash secreted among members of Congress. I don’t mean Rod Blagojevich sense of corruption. I don’t mean any criminal act. The corruption I’m talking about is perfectly legal. It’s a corruption relative to the framers’ baseline for this republic. The framers gave us what they called a republic, but by a republic they meant a representative democracy, and by a representative democracy, they meant a government, as Madison put it in Federalist 52, that would have a branch that would be dependent upon the people alone. So here’s the model of government. They have the people and the government with this exclusive dependency, but the problem here is that Congress has evolved a different dependence, no longer a dependence upon the people alone, increasingly a dependence upon the funders. Now this is a dependence too, but it’s different and conflicting from a dependence upon the people alone so long as the funders are not the people. This is a corruption. Now, there’s good news and bad news about this corruption. One bit of good news is that it’s bipartisan, equal-opportunity corruption. It blocks the left on a whole range of issues that we on the left really care about. It blocks the right too, as it makes principled arguments of the right increasingly impossible. So the right wants smaller government. When Al Gore was Vice President, his team had an idea for deregulating a significant portion of the telecommunications industry. The chief policy man took this idea to Capitol Hill, and as he reported back to me, the response was, “Hell no! If we deregulate these guys, how are we going to raise money from them?” This is a system that’s designed to save the status quo, including the status quo of big and invasive government. It works against the left and the right, and that, you might say, is good news. But here’s the bad news. It’s a pathological, democracy-destroying corruption, because in any system where the members are dependent upon the tiniest fraction of us for their election, that means the tiniest number of us, the tiniest, tiniest number of us, can block reform. I know that should have been, like, a rock or something. I can only find cheese. I’m sorry. So there it is. Block reform. Because there is an economy here, an economy of influence, an economy with lobbyists at the center which feeds on polarization. It feeds on dysfunction. The worse that it is for us, the better that it is for this fundraising. Henry David Thoreau: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” This is the root. Okay, now, every single one of you knows this. You couldn’t be here if you didn’t know this, yet you ignore it. You ignore it. This is an impossible problem. You focus on the possible problems, like eradicating polio from the world, or taking an image of every single street across the globe, or building the first real universal translator, or building a fusion factory in your garage. These are the manageable problems, so you ignore — (Laughter) (Applause) — so you ignore this corruption. But we cannot ignore this corruption anymore. (Applause) We need a government that works. And not works for the left or the right, but works for the left and the right, the citizens of the left and right, because there is no sensible reform possible until we end this corruption. So I want you to take hold, to grab the issue you care the most about. Climate change is mine, but it might be financial reform or a simpler tax system or inequality. Grab that issue, sit it down in front of you, look straight in its eyes, and tell it there is no Christmas this year. There will never be a Christmas. We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first. So it’s not that mine is the most important issue. It’s not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about. No sensible reform, and we cannot afford a world, a future, with no sensible reform. Okay. So how do we do it? Turns out, the analytics here are easy, simple. If the problem is members spending an extraordinary amount of time fundraising from the tiniest slice of America, the solution is to have them spend less time fundraising but fundraise from a wider slice of Americans, to spread it out, to spread the funder influence so that we restore the idea of dependence upon the people alone. And to do this does not require a constitutional amendment, changing the First Amendment. To do this would require a single statute, a statute establishing what we think of as small dollar funded elections, a statute of citizen-funded campaigns, and there’s any number of these proposals out there: Fair Elections Now Act, the American Anti-Corruption Act, an idea in my book that I call the Grant and Franklin Project to give vouchers to people to fund elections, an idea of John Sarbanes called the Grassroots Democracy Act. Each of these would fix this corruption by spreading out the influence of funders to all of us. The analytics are easy here. It’s the politics that’s hard, indeed impossibly hard, because this reform would shrink K Street, and Capitol Hill, as Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee, put it, has become a farm league for K Street, a farm league for K Street. Members and staffers and bureaucrats have an increasingly common business model in their head, a business model focused on their life after government, their life as lobbyists. Fifty percent of the Senate between 1998 and 2004 left to become lobbyists, 42 percent of the House. Those numbers have only gone up, and as United Republic calculated last April, the average increase in salary for those who they tracked was 1,452 percent. So it’s fair to ask, how is it possible for them to change this? Now I get this skepticism. I get this cynicism. I get this sense of impossibility. But I don’t buy it. This is a solvable issue. If you think about the issues our parents tried to solve in the 20th century, issues like racism, or sexism, or the issue that we’ve been fighting in this century, homophobia, those are hard issues. You don’t wake up one day no longer a racist. It takes generations to tear that intuition, that DNA, out of the soul of a people. But this is a problem of just incentives, just incentives. Change the incentives, and the behavior changes, and the states that have adopted small dollar funded systems have seen overnight a change in the practice. When Connecticut adopted this system, in the very first year, 78 percent of elected representatives gave up large contributions and took small contributions only. It’s solvable, not by being a Democrat, not by being a Republican. It’s solvable by being citizens, by being citizens, by being TEDizens. Because if you want to kickstart reform, look, I could kickstart reform at half the price of fixing energy policy, I could give you back a republic. Okay. But even if you’re not yet with me, even if you believe this is impossible, what the five years since I spoke at TED has taught me as I’ve spoken about this issue again and again is, even if you think it’s impossible, that is irrelevant. Irrelevant. I spoke at Dartmouth once, and a woman stood up after I spoke, I write in my book, and she said to me, “Professor, you’ve convinced me this is hopeless. Hopeless. There’s nothing we can do.” When she said that, I scrambled. I tried to think, “How do I respond to that hopelessness? What is that sense of hopelessness?” And what hit me was an image of my six-year-old son. And I imagined a doctor coming to me and saying, “Your son has terminal brain cancer, and there’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can do.” So would I do nothing? Would I just sit there? Accept it? Okay, nothing I can do? I’m going off to build Google Glass. Of course not. I would do everything I could, and I would do everything I could because this is what love means, that the odds are irrelevant and that you do whatever the hell you can, the odds be damned. And then I saw the obvious link, because even we liberals love this country. (Laughter) And so when the pundits and the politicians say that change is impossible, what this love of country says back is, “That’s just irrelevant.” We lose something dear, something everyone in this room loves and cherishes, if we lose this republic, and so we act with everything we can to prove these pundits wrong. So here’s my question: Do you have that love? Do you have that love? Because if you do, then what the hell are you, what are the hell are we doing? When Ben Franklin was carried from the constitutional convention in September of 1787, he was stopped in the street by a woman who said, “Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” Franklin said, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” A republic. A representative democracy. A government dependent upon the people alone. We have lost that republic. All of us have to act to get it back. Thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim | Lawrence Lessig”

  1. As long as politicians have the ability to impact the economy, none of these "fixes" or "proposals" will work. All they'll do is make corporate funding slide under the radar or behind-the-scenes. The ONLY effective solution is to take away the power of government…

  2. Solutions for Americans are always at the local level, start there, then County, then State, and stay involved. This dumbing down of Americans and Politicians running 'over' us as voters is stopped by that process.
    Go Local!! And everyone, I mean everyone, has something to contribute.. People are often not aware that even one hour  a week is a huge contribution.

  3. With McCutcheon, we have lost any possibility of small source funding of elections. The only remaining solution, short of revolution, which never turns out the way people want and expect (e.g. Egypt, Libya, etc.), is sovereign money.  Debt-free money under Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 5 of the constitution, with enough carved off for public financing of elections, so that finally, politicians can get off the corporate teat. Then, we need similar moves for much of what government currently spends our diminishing taxes on too.

  4. What Lessig sees must absolutely be implemented to save this country and our freedom. And power must be wrested back from the corporations, but it may be a snail-paced and herculean task if we don’t also have a way to hold politicians accountable for their words, and a system where laws are passed alone and not bound along side a mass of others, related or not.
    I see us voting in officials on their word, only to have them turn the moment after they are elected; and I see laws that should be passed, become lost, and those that should never see the light of day be pushed through because of the manner in which they’re packaged, and not on their merit.
    If there is no power in our vote; if we don’t have the power to take back our support; it’s useless and we all lose faith as self-interests have their way with us, on our nickel and at our peril.
    There is no transparency anymore. There is absolutely no accountability. A politician’s word as his honor has become a joke. And this whole exercise in democracy, has been become a play for power and a venue for the corrupt to truly ply their trade.
    Is there not a way to simplify the election process and get totally away from the big dollar productions that just blind us to the truth?? Can we not just get back to a politician’s word as their election platform and promise??
    This all came to light for me with this latest power play – GMOs. How does Obama go from saying he will set Food Labelling in place specifically for GMO foods, and then turn and sign the Monsanto Protection Act? GMOs: an unproven, untested product gets Republican and Democratic support; and just like Bush with Haliburton, politicians are prepared to move heaven and earth to support their funders.
    Good God, the sooner we turn this around the better.
    Who is going to take the reins??

  5. So…therefore what? The rest of the story must be told. This video is simply an introduction. This video does not tell how to strike the root.

  6. MayOne is only $1000 away from hitting it's 1 million goal, with 18 days left in the campaign.

    Professor Lessig hits the nail on the head with this talk.  It certainly is of the absolute utmost importance for reform to go through our government and the money greasing the wheels to take a vastly downgraded role.

  7. It's crystal clear now.  That nasty, heated argument over why one way is better than another becomes moot until and unless we regain control of the way that is common and required for all to succeed.

  8. Wow, inspirational. 

    And now you can actually do something about it – just go to http://mayday.us and sign up to pledge whatever you can.  MayDay.US was founded by Lessig and is aiming to raise $5M by 4th of July to start working on the legislative changes he talks about toward the end of the video.

  9. All true and obvious, so, now is the time to ask the key question – do you want to save the ship or go down with it?

  10. Alexander Maxhall

    Wow… America… <3… My years of worrying what direction you would take or at least consider taking is at last settling… 
    Knowing that this has been in the process for some years, and that it is also picking up speed makes me feel more relieved about the future, and the steps my country and other countries that are bound by your country, is taking. I know that the USA is and has been for a long time, the trend setter/setting "the bar" and also paving the way for how many of its allies will indoctrinate certain policies, rules and regulations and even other ideologies. That's why I have been nervous for what the U.S.A does. Therefore I have always tried to sense what direction the US is taking and why, cause I know it will indirectly cast a shadow/touch and influence the direction that we in my nation and probably (other nations) will make as well…. 
    Thanks for sharing this fantastic talk about how this establishment works and what makes it go around, you are being ideal trend setters. 😉 <3 

  11. First of all, we do not have a democracy, we have a republic.  The difference being, a democracy is mob rule, winner makes all the rules and laws.  In a Republic, the winner can make the rules FOR GOVERNMENT, but the people retain all of their inalienable rights, including the right to property (cannot tax him).  Any claim to an inalienable right cannot be challenged by anyone within the representative government, as they do not act by right, they act by limited authority and power.  Courts are to decide cases by rights only.

  12. Nothing can happen until public sector unions are outlawed. It does no good to limit funding by big money donors if the government bureaucracy itself has a vested interest in its own self aggrandizement.

  13. One of the fundamental flaws of Mr. Lessig's idea is that so called "in kind" contributions are overwhelmingly from liberals, who, contrary to his professed love of country (which I have no reason to question) are predisposed toward big  and coercive government: exactly the opposite of our founding principles. Furthermore, they (speaking of them collectively, not individually) are not only dependent upon (academia being but only one example), but have an ideological bias toward statism. When the inevitable end result of your ideas comport neatly with your governing philosophy, but are anathema to 60% of the country, your ideas will not gain widespread acceptance. At least he admits to his liberalism, but the fact that he has bought into the proven fraud of AGW theory casts doubt about his judgement in other areas.

    I agree with him on many of his  points. Our government has become non representative. But I disagree with his solution. We need to overturn the 16th and 17th amendments. Of the two, the 17th is far more destructive to our system of government, and in far more urgent need of repeal. Even FDR knew that public sector unionism would directly conflict with taxpayer interests. It has to go. Voting has to be strictly limited to those who pay taxes, and prohibited to those who receive government funds of any sort, including government employees with the exception of current and former military. Unfortunately, reform of the sort he envisions raises serious First amendment issues. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I freely admit that the problem is a great deal more intractable than he seems to think.

  14. I've shared this before and I will keep sharing it. I'm a little disturbed that it doesn't have nearly as many views as some of these other silly videos out there. #Seriously  
    @Lawrence Lessig nails it and people need to know it. This system is corrupt by the very definition of corrupt. We need to change the way we do this. #RootHackers  

  15. It is all about big government fascism and money. Money created out of nothing by the Federal Reserve and loaned to the American people at interest. Global warming is just another big government scam and this knucklehead is buying it.

  16. God Bless America! Great and important speech. Hope you, the people of the USA will get your republic back. It can not be that (more less) 132 people finance the elections (buy it….). If you loose representative democracy too, like the EU already is and will be continue to do…. where will be democracy left….?? Switzerland is too little to stand alone….

  17. Who are the 89 people who disliked this video? Ironically it's almost representative of the people who would vote for status quo.

  18. At present, 4,429 thumbs up, 90 thumbs down. This is out of balance based on the subject matter. There should only be two thumbs down, a proper representation of the 0.05% of relevant funders. I guess even here at YouTube, people vote against their own best interests.

  19. The problem with the Lesters' though, if you call out who they are you will be called anti Semitic. Sorry, might sound prejudice but it is true. Follow the money and most of it will lead you to the doorsteps' of Israel.

  20. I've known for years that we have a corrupt system in this country of ours, and now I finally understand who's getting the money, and why some of us still love this country so much, how it's all one humongous misunderstanding. Like he said so very well, we all must act as citizens to bring this country, our home, back to the way it was originally conceived by our founding fathers.

    Overall, excellent presentation Prof. Lessig. Thank you. 🙂

  21. As accurate as this is, I fail to see how anything can change from talking about this. Action must be taken, and talking is not sufficient action. States can do whatever they want in the way of adopting a good idea here and there but when these jackwads sit in their orifices in DC, everything changes. Big Money buys them and their votes. What changes? We KNOW what has to change, but WE DON'T VOTE IN DC. We only send these assholes to DC to vote on laws, bills and regulations FOR US. They DON"T. They vote the way they are paid to vote by big money. Talk is cheap. Until the pitchforks come out NOTHING will change.

  22. This is partly correct with the problem being more fundamental.  Essentially, our Representative form of government was gamed by insiders in the early 1900s when our representative form of government was fundamentally changed allowing the floodgates to open for lobbying and funding.  Prior to 1911, the size of the House of Representatives increased in size every ten years based upon the results of the census.  The census wasn't created to simply fight over the divvying up of a fixed number of congressional seats but rather, in order to calculate how many seats would need to be added in order to continue being representative.  Congress fixed the size of the House at 435 rather than allowing it to continue growing in size as it had for the prior 120 years.  The Constitution states that there should be one Representative per 30,000 citizens.  In 1911, there were 117,000 citizens per representative.  Now it exceeds 1,000,000 in certain districts.  By fixing the size of the congress, they systematically made it easier for lobbyists and funding to thwart democracy by making it more efficient to gain power with lobbying or funding since they only need to get to 218 House Members and 50-60 Senators.  Congressmen have essentially become "mini-Senators".  The 2nd thing that was done was allowing Senators to be subject to a popular vote within their State instead of being appointed by their Governor and approved by the State legislature.  By subjecting Senators to a popular vote, every Senate seat has become a national election with money coming from all over the county rather than from the power of the State.  Once a Senator gains election, they only represent the State in name while swearing their allegiance to the central commands of the party.

  23. We vote for the people to be congressmen, and therefore they represent us. If they're not representing you, too bad. You elected them.

  24. I must say that being dependent on people alone has at least as much problems as being dependent on a small rich group.
    In the scenario of dependence on people the main goal for an mp is to appeal to the voters, which in many cases encourages postponing serious decisions and leads to stupid ineffective and bureaucracy boosting decisions that eventually eat up a country from the inside. We are in situation like this in Finland.

    For not all people can be smarter than average, why give everyone the equal number of votes, if thats the basic measure of influence? Democracy isn't necessarily the best way of decision making. As Winston Churchill once said: "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

  25. Denial, or a cognitive dissonance by the greater majority of this U.S. continues to pulls us further back to the dark-ages…   To be more specific… it's the religious right that voluntarily and sternly refuse to accept fact or truth  – even if that information vitally affects their life in all aspects.  After money is taken out of politics – we need to remove religion as well.  I AM SURPRISED THAT NO ONE IS TACKLING THIS PATHETIC PHENOMENON, because religion has become the excuse for many to treat each other and this planet like crap.  

  26. Well, the US resembles Rome in that the most ambitious and ruthless entrenched interests rise to the top, consolidate power, and treat the public like the enemy.  Since that's how the leadership of the US wants to operate, I think we should do as the Romans. Once the Senatus became so corrupt it no longer served the people, the people gathered on the rooftops surrounding the building, and when the Senators exited, the people pulled the stone roof tiles off and hurled them down into the alleys, killing them in their tracks.  Other times they bolted the doors shut, drew swords, and slaughtered everyone.  Viola, new senate.  If our leadership faced consequences proportionate to the destruction they caused, they might think a little harder about what they're supporting.

  27. It's easy for people to blame this group or blame that group. I blame myself, just as any citizen should, for allowing this county to writhe in agony for so long. I vote we stop blaming others and start working towards a solution and a better future. I want my children and their children to be free. (For the record I have no political or religious alignments)

  28. Eureka! You say and in that one moment understanding lifts you above the crowd.  So many indicators of waste, fraud, abuse are of a single cause. So many labors reduced to a single issue. You now are obligated to tell others, donate to a campaign, vote!

  29. Lessig's explanation of his attendance at Bilderberg meeting is utter nonsense…example:


    A meeting in June in Europe of the Bilderberg Group – an informal club of leading politicians, businessmen and thinkers chaired by Mr Davignon – could also "improve understanding" on future action, in the same way it helped create the euro in the 1990s, he said.

    "When we were having debates on the euro, people [at Bilderberg events] could explain why it was worth taking risks and the others, for whom the formal policy was not to believe in it, were not obliged not to listen and had to stand up and come up with real arguments."


    Attendees of Bilderberg are violating The Logan Act states, in part: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

  30. LOL the systems corrupt, but the answer isnt a "referendum president who will stay in power as long as it takes to end corruption!"  Thats a dictator, even if it is for peace he will be dictating for peace! Not to mention this is exactly what Hitler said and things didnt go so well for Germany!  What we need to do is fully revolt!  Go down to washington, burst into congressional hall, throw all these treasonists in jail, end the fed, and you'll see how fast things change!

  31. Lessig serves on the Board of the AXA Research Fund –

    Bilderberg members: Who's going to the 2015 secret summit?

    Castries, Henri de Chairman and CEO, AXA Group FRA

    Henri de Castries might just be the most powerful man in the world. He is chief executive and chairman of one of the world’s biggest insurers, Axa, and a member of France’s illustrious noble house of Castries. But De Castries is also chairman of the Bilderberg group, a collection of political and business leaders from Europe and North America that meets in private every year to debate “megatrends and major issues facing the world”


  32. The attack on people spending money on politics breaks down once you understand that to avoid hypocrisy you'd have to constrain all political speech to what is equally available to everyone.

    So for example, no media outlet would be able to express a political opinion because it would disproportionately bias the national discussion. How many people are there in teh media? how many people own media companies? What are the percentages of versus the general population? By this logic, the media would have to be censored.

    But it goes beyond that because we have lobbying groups… not just the evil "lets have oil so we have gas so your cars and jets work" lobbies… but consider the "lets save the fuzzy animal lobbies" or the "lets help poor people" lobbies. All of these lobbies collect money from a disproportionately small portion of the population and megaphone their opinions throughout the culture and the political landscape.

    So if you hate the citzen's united outcome, consider the price of it not working that way. All your lobbying groups would be toast.

    Here's the thing, EVERYONE has a right to speak and everyone has a right to speak as loudly and consistently about something as they want. And if you're rich then you can of course leverage that money to have other people speak on your behalf or buy a captive audience. And if you don't like that… consider that to avoid hypocrisy… you'd have to shut down the media and you'd have to silence all the lobbying groups… even the ones trying to save the fuzzy kittens and poor people.

    Unintended consequences.

    What is my solution to the lester issue? We're seeing it in action. The media organizations are diversifying and atomizing. The mechanisms for social discourse are democratizing away from centralized media organizations. Those bottle necks are the vulnerability that make the lester's dollars matter. Why after all do you need all that money?

    Media buys. That's what it goes for… advertising. Now consider that when the media loses control over the ability to play gate keeper to the political process, you don't need to give them a dime to get heard. You just need to get bounced around by the social networks and the alternative media elements that tend to be the last mile delivery mechanism for a lot of media delivery these days with the likes of Reuters and the AP being mostly a source supplier that is paraphrased in the final delivery.

  33. "Politics is the gentle art of taking the money of the rich and the votes of the poor, promising to protect each from the other."   If the poor were powerless would we have a progressive income tax, $1 trillion/year in poverty program spending, free public schools,.etc. ?    Money will always influence politicians.  It can get a politician's incompetent brother in law a job so the pol's nieces don't starve.   The local charity will know the pol's ties to money brought it big donations.   Independent groups (527s) have a constitutional right to spend freely on politics.  Real reform means abolishing elections for Congress and instead randomly selecting Congress from qualified citizens.   P.S. Liberals don't love America, they love their own sanctimony and their utopian fantasies.

  34. He is now running for president. He says if he were elected, his mandate would be to get this problem solved and resign, letting the vice president ascend and go from there. It's sounds great, but nobody even knows this. So since we have a candidate already vehemently opposed to this donor class ownership of politicians, why doesn't he just put all his effort into getting him elected. He's already pulling in crowds the size of music concerts and he has this very same message…. a message he has held and yelled for years without interruption.

    Bernie Sanders for President!!!

  35. If the 1% pays 99%, why wouldn't they have total control? Don't you get what you pay for? How could I blame these businessmen for being good at business? I blame myself and the rest of the 99 for being woefully apathetic and not participating in our democracy. Don't hate the players… Obviously we must change the game. IF it's possible.

  36. I think this guy said he would consider running for vice president under Donald Trump. Will never get my vote. All we have to look forward to is the chaos of our military rounding up little kids who only speak english and sending them back to Mexico. Another reason the radical right will lose.

  37. I'm a Bernie Sanders Supporter, but I wholeheartedly agree with what Lawrence said here. I totally get why Lawrence is running, because simply endorsing Bernie isn't going to catch steam, but he's running his own one-issue platform to get the entirety of the Democratic party (or even just Bernie) to push more for Campaign Finance Reform and Income/Political inequality. An endorsement won't do it, he needs to get up on one of the debates and push his case.

    Eventually he'll drop out (I don't believe anyone will elect a one-issue candidate), but it's one of the most (if not the most) pressing issue of the decade and our generation, and I'm all for his campaign, even though I feel at the end of the day, Bernie will not only be the best comprehensive Presidential candidate on the Democratic side, but Bernie will push hard as best as he can for the Act that Lawrence is pushing for.


  38. Bernie Sanders..spread his word and TELL EVERYONE TO WATCH THE DEBATES..BOTH REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRAT..and tell me who is an intellectual in the end, from what i see it is Bernie Sanders as of right now.

  39. okay all of this sounds good but, whats to say he won't end up like uh i don't don't every other president exept for jfk .. whats to say he himself won't get corrupted by this corrupt government??…

  40. Who is this guy? I never heard of him. I don't know anything about this guy. It doesn't matter because I am supporting Bernie Sanders but really who is this Lessig guy?

  41. How long does he propose to jail people who distribute books and movies about politicians? He is clear that he wants them jailed for that behavior, the question is for how long?

  42. This guy was the greatest presidential candidate but he had a pretty rough week. He was locked out of debates, he was ignored by everybody, and was almost kicked out of candidacy. i wanted him to at least be allowed in debates when i am old anough to run i want to carry his dream to the extreme point and show that anyone can be equal and attack untill the end

  43. Professor Lessig would be an excellent nomination for the vacant Supreme Court seat! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/consider-professor-lawrence-lessig-candidate-fill-supreme-court-seat-left-vacant-late-justice-scalia

  44. Any time voting for Bernie Sanders is better spent fishing,……. but a way better choice than your other democratic candidate.  If you really read his bio than you would know Bernie's past doesn't exactly reflect a LOVING, PATRIOTIC ATTITUDE toward our U.S.A. based on MORALS AND VALUES indicative of a TRUE LEADER that loves his country.

  45. Nice words, and if there weren't other factors he completely ignores, I might sign on to his goal. He talks about how we need to cut out the funding for both sides by the rich elite who then get "favors" from those they help elect. He claims it would affect both the liberal and conservative sides. WRONG Because the left still has 98% of the media pushing their agenda. Not just the major news networks. You see the liberal agenda in practically every entertainment production there is.

    No, sorry Mr. Lessig, until you can address that, you won't have fairness.

  46. It's unfortunate that such an intelligent man can get so tied up on what has been proving to be a mostly inconsequential matter. By him focusing on Citizens United he overlooks the true gross injustice of our political system which is in fact dominated by money and influence throughout. If Citizens United led directly to money choosing candidates, then Jeb Bush would have won the Republican primaries by a landslide instead of showing a pitiful and embarrassing performance. Lessig imho should focus on how difficult it is to enter and win a political race and the pressure from special interest that usually compromise a candidate for special favors.

  47. I feel as though he's giving too much power to those who get elected. Obama was elected, he's a democrat against global warming. How is who finances elections preventing the end of global warming!?

  48. оу с титрами понять глубоко весьма затруднительно. Проблема понятна, а решение я не усёк.

  49. Waterfrontworker

    The last couple of "TED Talks" I've heard on public radio lately were pretty heavy handed messages for hillary

  50. Waterfrontworker

    why doesn't lester talk about politician lining their pockets as well as rtaising $ for re-election? 99% of congress are millaires many times over

  51. Why doesn't this come up when I look up Publicly Funded Elections. The right is on the defense and is already funding papers and think tanks to say it's not effective and a waste of money. The Libertarian Besos paper, Washington Post article comes up first when you look up PFE. I'd love to see PFE as the 28th amendment!

  52. I haven't read it yet (aka not a troll) but his videos/speeches have been SO great that I'm gonna check out his book on this! https://www.amazon.com/Republic-Lost-Version-Lawrence-Lessig/dp/1455537012/ref=la_B001HCW3ZK_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478454148&sr=1-2

  53. What a jerk. :Lots o' Loads of crap. How did Trump win the lester election if all the lesters funded Jeb et al??

    Don't fall for this crap meant to take away freedom of speech, freedon of association.

    Long live Citizerns' United decision

  54. This idiot siad electoral college should be destroyed, for democracy. Isnt that a fucking hypocrisy, because thats the point of the electoral college. Majority rule is dangerous.

  55. lawarence lessig biggst hypocrite alive and stupid. killary will never be president now that she's been caught red handed with her pants down on all her scandals so tell lessig to fly to mars

  56. Current info on the anti-corruption act:
    There's a link at the bottom that connects to represent us, which should help you find a local chapter.

  57. Nice talk, but the solution will not solve the problems. More democracy, the type of democracy he seems to be expecting, would fail as horribly, if not more so. That’s for two reasons. The Founders did not design a representative democracy. A representative democracy is not the same as a republic. The Framers of the constitution designed a Federal Republic. That brings us to the second reason. Professor Lessig’s National Democracy is the antithesis to a federal republic. Self-government, localism, subsidiarity is the solution, not a tyranny of the majority that the professor’s solution will become.

  58. Not only the best presentation of the case for appropriate self-representation as the basic elements of the general context of self-governing systems, ( no one reads all or any law books before making personl decisions that affect others), this is the proof that you can find a good Lawyer to argue your case.

  59. Joe Rogan is a fool, needs to read a book and unfriend Alex Jones. Thumbs up don't mean anything. TED talks have dumbed down so much, we are left with this nonsense. The American Political System is a charade.

    Aaron Swartz was a hero, genius and truly committed activist, passionate about creating innovation in order to prevent a dystopia, where privilidge, finance and so-called philanthropy are used by Elite academia to perpetuate the control of knowledge, thought and freedom of information. He co-created a number of brilliant inventions including Creative Commons, an inspired system that uses copyright law to give ordinary people control over how their digital creations can be used by others. Cory Doctorow asserts that MIT allegedly were the driving force in Aaron's ultimate decision to suicide. It seems that there is far more to this story since Joichi Ito (Head of MIT Media Lab) resigned over the weekend, as a result of huge donations (in the millions) instigated or given personally by Epstein (always follow the money).. We can honour Aaron by deeply understanding his work, vision and activism and wherever possible create change/resist AI tyranny. "There's a WAR GOING ON FOR YOUR MIND" by the Flobots. Gil Scott Heron "The revolution will not be televised." Jedi Mind Tricks "As it was in the beginning". Aight….

  60. i've presented many times a system where
    * all officials must serve locally, then state before fed.
    * it is illegal to pay for any advertising…or for media to give any non-fact verifiable coverage. To get on a ballot candidate must petition door to door, public places etc. NO MAILING. NOTHING that would put underfunded person at disadvantage.
    * Media only covers equal access debates for petitioned candidates.
    * All put their positions/promises in text in the voter guide.
    * IF ANYONE violates a single one and it can be proven in court they never ever hold office again AND pay for their fraud. Capital offense at high levels of defrauding 100's of millions of people.

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