Thursday, April 04, 2013

Lessig sees the corruption of the system; gives rousing speech. Nothing follows.

Lessig comes so close to seeing that the democratic legitimacy of the Republic is a sham. As a big-shot talking to a bunch of other big-shots, it's understandable that he would think that the system is ultimately responsive to the people.

"Fixing the problem" is not impossible, but his strategy is a non-starter. A broken system cannot fix itself. The law-making process cannot be fixed by passing a law.

He's trying to be radical, but he stops short. His analysis is superficial -- the thinks that the problem is in how money is obtained, but he doesn't ask why money is necessary. He doesn't answer this question, and therefore he doesn't realize how detached regular people are from the rule making process. He doesn't realize that the system is elitist (and "corrupt") at its core.

2 comments:

rulingclass said...

just to note, we can define a "ruling class" in political economic terms by the condition that rents >> outlays(the money being bid for the privileges). In conventional public choice, outlays=rents or outlays>>rents. The anomaly condition is where rents are greater than the money chasing them. This condition destroys the entire "liberal paradigm"(the public choice theorists' words, not mine) because competition should equilibrate the two flows. The persistance of this inequality is an empirical verification of a "ruling class" condition.

So, contrary to naive intuition, banning money, or artificially restricting outlays, actually makes the condition worse. Indeed, it would greatly increase the rule of "The Firm," which is the governance entity for political economy. You wouldn't eliminate the organs of political economy; on the contrary, now the only form of compensation would be employment in "the Firm." i.e, a revolving door or circular reference of:

politics<-->corporations<-->regulatory entities

The radical position, that is, the position that gets to the root of the problem, is to "ban" or constrain the ability to make laws. The extremist position, that is the one chopping at the branch extremities, is to ban the money.

Ricketson said...

Update: The video of Lessig's TED talk is now embedded properly.

rc: Lessig's solution may actually avoid the problem you identify. His solution is to INCREASE the amount of money, essentially by giving every voter a voucher that they can contribute to a campaign.

There are many things that I like about this proposal (relative to other campaign finance-related proposals). It reflects the same principles that Lessig has brought to his other work (on copyright).

Lessig is one of those guys (like Henry George) who is trying to save liberalism from itself. It is admirable, but I expect he'll have as much success as George.

I wish him luck, but I'm not going to get excited about it (and I discourage any currently marginalized citizen from getting excited either).