Larry Lessig on the corrupting influence of money

Larry Lessig has a new book called Republic, Lost which discusses the corrupting influence of money on politics. I would highly recommend the book, because it gets to the heart of why things so many things in Washington, D.C. seem broken today and how to fix them.

If you don’t have the time to read the book right now, you’re in luck. Lessig recently stopped by Google and gave a brief overview of the themes from the book. I had the honor of introducing him, and the video is live on the web now. Lessig’s talk is about 45 minutes long (the rest of the video is questions and answers from Googlers), and I promise it’s worth your time: Lessig is a fantastic presenter. Watch the talk right here:

If you’re wondering what you can do–besides buying Lessig’s book, of course–Lessig has joined with a new organization that just launched called United Republic. It’s coalition of people from the right, center, and left tackling the problems of money in politics. And if you agree with United Republic’s ideal that “Democracy is not for sale” then you can sign up to volunteer, organize, donate, or just stay in touch.

27 Responses to Larry Lessig on the corrupting influence of money (Leave a comment)

  1. I forget who said it, but the quote about most congressmen making an average of 45k/year when elected and somehow becoming multi-millionaires 2 years later seems to sum up every problem with our political system.

  2. Great points, I’ll have to catch the video later. I would also argue that since money is a primary motivation for so many of us in technology, it not only corrupts but creates complacency, something that all growing companies must deal with.

  3. I saw Prof. Lessig at The ABATECSHOW last year. In a word: Wow. +1 for his presentation skills.

  4. Thanks for sharing Matt. I just wonder if anything will really be done. I mean with the Supreme Court ruling that there is no limit on corporate donations to Super Pacs, and media being such a large platform for political messages, is there anything that can be done?

  5. “people from the right, center, and left” considering that what you call ‘left’ in US is ‘right’ in Europe, where I come from, I wonder if those right/center ones have a good understanding of what democracy really is

  6. I like Larry on intellectual property law. I’m far less concerned about money in politics though. This goes to the whole lobbyist thing. Everyone hates lobbyists right? They’re evil corrupting people. Why not just make them illegal? Well, because the first amendment allows for them, you would have to repeal it or alter it. Is that a road we want to go down? Besides, you may dislike the concept of lobbying, but there is probably a lobbyist working on your behalf you’re not aware of, they cover all sides of all issues. In fact, it would be hard for a functional representative democracy to work without them. Each senator may be beholden to millions and millions of voters. The only possible way everyone could petition their senator would be for them to self select into groups of common cause or interest, then hire or elect a representative of that group to organize their list of requests or issues, and have that person actually present their needs to their senator. Which is what we have now, and those people are called lobbyists. The money issue is pretty much the same thing. Are we going to pass laws preventing the private funding of political speech? You can (and we already do) limit the donations to specific candidates to a set maximum, but how can you limit the ability for a non candidate organization or person to publicly advocate for an issue without drastically limiting free speech? If there is corruption, if people are bribed, if there is pay to play, if there are backroom backhanded deals, by all means, root it out. Campaign finance though ends up being a matter of free speech, and that always must be protected.

  7. I can whole heartedly attest to the feeling of doom not being an exclusively American one.

    In Germany, where I am located, there too is an increasingly haunting notion in the air that we as a people won´t make it through… what´s called the current economic crisis.

    Both America and Germany are considered economical giants these days. Has you wondering how it is that even prospering and comparatively rich economies invoke this feeling among their own.

    Btw, Lessig indeed is a gifted speaker 🙂

  8. Thanks for passing this on. It is so timely.

  9. well someone in google is needing to hear this man, each they further away from the original don’t be evil philosophy

  10. Great share matt, one thing that stands out for me is the incredible quality of people that Google attracts, it’s no wonder they attract the best and brightest.

    This information is brilliant, I’ve signed myself up to help

    Neil asher

  11. I had my share during my Political Science studies.
    Now I don’t vote and don’t read books that piss me off.

  12. how do i know this one in the video is the TRUE MATT CUTTS and not the FAKE ?

  13. It’s fantastic someone like you is raising awareness to these problems and I praise you for this action.

    I’m not a US citizen but the harm these guys do end up affecting the entire world directly or indirectly.

    I wish you all the best!

  14. Saw him on the Daily Show last night too. Might be good for those who want the “light” version.—lawrence-lessig-extended-interview-pt–1

  15. God, I love this guy. You really can’t fix any other problem we face without addressing this MAJOR issue first.

  16. Does Google have paid lobbyists?

  17. The whole system is fundamentally flawed because humans are fundamentally flawed.

  18. Thanks for sharing this Matt. Whether it the USA or Europe there I feel is a growing mistrust of politicians and suspicion of corruption. The state Lessig describes is an appalling one where 99.95% wishes are ignored and corruption has been legalized. There was a great euphoria when Obama was elected but little will change as long as the structure stays the same. Like him or not one of the greatest things Obama did was reconnect people that had been isolated from politics. I recall a story of a 90 year old lady who voted for the first time because of Obama. These same people are left without a voice again.

    I think it’s a great idea to restrict campaign donations and a good place to start. But I also think the internet has a role here. Not simply to entertain or shop but also to inform and educate. I do not accept Chris’s notion that a Senator can not be intouch with his voters as the internet provides us the opportunity both to express our opinion and to be informed. Not just that but there is a wealth of knowledge on every subject online. People who are experts in there field are available and should be consulted or able to voice there opinion.

    Maybe before we go invading any more countries to bring democracy we should strive to provide a true democratic process in our own countries first. Maybe then we can see a world where Bankers don’t get the Bail Out and we get the Bill. Where an individual can make a difference and where 99% of people aren’t ignored. And I think Google could have a big part to play in this type of future

  19. Matt,

    Would you recommend Prof. Lessig book to a Canadian ? If so I will buy it.

  20. Hi Matt,
    Google could sidestep this problem for many countries by creating an online voting system.
    Seems so old fashioned now to go to the polls to cast your vote.
    What about setting up a website where all registered voters are entered into a data base, then each person can log in securely to cast their votes online. This system could be sold as a service to countries with endemic corruption. It could also be used for voting on different proposals etc.
    This could in effect render much of government obsolete.

  21. Matt,

    Given the amount of money Google is pouring into lobbying to try to prevent authors from defending their works, I’d say you’re calling the kettle black. For every millionaire Hollywood producer, there are thousands of struggling writers. And I wouldn’t be surprised if for every millionaire Hollywood producer, there’s a millionaire Google employee as well:-)

    BTW, I repurposed my last comment here as a letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to an anti-SOPA editorial they ran, they printed it a couple weeks ago:

    Copyright is what Feeds the Writers

    WSJ came up with the title.

    BTW, Google’s DMCA Dashboard has been a pleasure to work with, though they seem to have taken the week off.


  22. Matt,

    This is going up on my blog. Bottom line is that Google and its partners have the financial wherewithal to make a change to this country.

    This was a very powerful speach. My respect for you and the Google team just went up 1,000 fold.

    Government is ran by big business…logically Google is one of the most capital intensive businesses in the world, therefore you can make a change. This country needs it.

    Thank you again for this post.

  23. My forecast: at the end of this century the word democracy will be a cuss;
    the reason is, this system needs more than the most people can give. No one is really interested to devellope this system with rationality, the only active people are these which defeats their social achievements. At most this sytem lives by the hushed majority; and because the majority rules this sytem, there could be no movement foreward, before it collapsed totally.

  24. I’m not american but when I saw the video it help me understand what is happening in the political issue of America. But I believe that this situation is happening everywhere around the world.

    I also believe that we as a people can truly make the difference by being humble and helping one another to educated people and be more willing to share. I think this will greatly help our attitude towards a better community and government.

  25. Hey Matt, totally agree with all of that there! It’s good to see it 🙂

  26. Great share matt, this really good as you always produce. It’s really informative!!

  27. If money is a corrupting influence, then what does that say about the fact that Google Shopping will now require an active Adwords campaign for inclusion? 🙂