Lawrence Lessig Gives a compelling TED talk about the rapid deterioration of our country from a republic to an oligarchy. This talk is significant for a number of reasons: first of all, he acknowledges that this is a problem not with the Democratic or Republican parties themselves, but rather a problem with the framework that dictates how they are elected to office and how they behave once they have obtained such a position of power. Subsequently, he outlines how it is up to us as individuals to take our Democracy back.
As Al Gore put it in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria back in February, “Our elected representatives now have to spend most of their time begging rich people to give them money”. Indeed, as Lessig explains, representatives spend a disconcerting amount of their time seeking donations from an extremely wealthy minority. This is where the problem begins and where exactly the place that we need to begin reforming; we need to face the problem with money in politics head-on.
A perfect example of this legal “corruption” in politics is the recent controversy over domestic drone surveillance. Lawmakers proposed a bill which questioned the constitutionality of the use of drones by public agencies to spy on citizens without a warrant and not under exigent circumstances. Boeing, the aeronautic giant, responded by asking lawmakers to halt the bill because, “We [at Boeing] believe that as the technology matures, best practices and new understanding will emerge, and that it would be counterproductive to rush into regulating a burgeoning industry”. This translates roughly to “If you pass this, we will make less money. So don’t, or we’ll make you pay.” And lo and behold, lawmakers were happy to oblige, shelving the bill until further notice. What started as a conversation about whether or not surveillance drones represent a threat to citizens civil rights was boiled down to the interest of one company; instead of answering the very valid question of, “Are these surveillance programs constitutional?”, the decisions of lawmakers were suddenly based only upon the question, “Does this help increase Boeing’s bottom line?”, to which the answer was a resounding no.
Money creates distance between constituents and politicians. This problems are aggravated by an electorate brought into existence by morally and logically starved gerrymandering as well as campaign finance laws which hugely favor special interests. We need to band together as citizens to take back our government!
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