ccMixter is free for creators and listeners -- and your support helps keep it that way! Enter your mailing address with your payment to receive your cool ccMixter sticker. Thank you for supporting ccMixter!
Walden Pond Blues By Lawrence Lessig Edited by Admiral Bob
So sometime before 1846, someplace close to this pond, Walden Pond, this man Henry David Thoreau wrote this. “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root.” Another legislator had a much more tweetable response. He said, “Wow, voting on the merits, right.” Now it’s that idea I want you to think about here - how often can we say that what we’re witnessing in our government’s voting on the merits? Or even forget voting on the merits, what about voting for what the people actually want? How often can we recognize that in what our government does?Now some people look at this and they say, “Why is there such anti-free-market silliness in this free market country here?” The Political scientists can say, “Well, we can’t say with certainty why the silliness is here, but this is what we know – there’s an extraordinary amount of campaign cash inside the system.” And if it’s because of these campaign contributions then we say campaign money distorts markets which distorts food production which distorts our kids which at least makes it hard to believe that there was voting on the merits. When I think about the recent debacle on Wall Street, of course we saw in 2008 the collapse of our economy thrown over the cliff by a collapse on Wall Street. Why is it we came to this bubble and disaster? Why did we regulate it like that? Political scientists say, “None can say with certainty, but here’s what we know – the largest growth, the fastest growth in campaign contributions over the last 15 years has been in these sectors, making it again extremely hard to believe that it was voting on the merits that led congress to these decisions.Invoking the words of the 20th Century’s greatest philosopher David Byrne, “Same is it ever was.” Again making it impossible to believe we have voting here on the merits. Now in all these cases we don’t even dream anymore about the idea of having a system that would vote on the merits. In all these cases are good souls around us except this is the system we’ve got. Good souls hacking at the branches of evil, none who is striking at the root. So do we have roots here?
Do we have a sense of exactly what’s behind this craziness? Its picture looks something like that, but it’s not the money that inspires a Rod Blagojevich, it’s not the money in brown paper bags that’s being handed out to congressmen secretly, our congress is, I think, among the cleanest congresses in this sense in the history of our congress. Instead the money here is the money described in this extraordinary book by Bob Kaiser “So Damn Much Money” flowing through an economy of influence, at the core of which are lobbyists who feed members who feed special interests who feed the lobbyists. A system of dependency where the special interests indirectly through the lobbyists control members producing this marionette congress. A system of dependence upon the lobbyists and fundraisers.
Now get me wrong here, dependence can be ok. I’ve got a couple of very young children, I want them to be dependent upon me. Indeed, the right dependence is ok. And you can even understand independence as a function of the right kind of dependence.
Right, we want an independent judiciary. That doesn’t mean a judiciary that does whatever the hell it wants. It means a judiciary that is dependent upon the law, that uses the law to guide it, and only the law to guide it in the decisions that it makes. And the framers of our constitution, giving us a republic, intended that to be a representative democracy, by which they meant a system where the branch of the federal government ought to be dependent upon the people alone. There was a dependency at the core of this system of independence, upon the people alone.
But in the current system we have evolved, where members spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money for them or their party to get back to power, where they develop this sixth sense about how what they do might affect their ability to raise money, where they live the life of shape-shifters constantly bending themselves to conform to the impression or image they believe their potential funders want. This system does not produce a system where congress is dependent upon the people.