Lawrence Lessig: The Declaration For IndependenceExpert Opinion June 24th, 2008
Drew Bennett, Former Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com
NEW YORK, June 24, Morning Keynote – Stanford Law Professor and veteran Internet activist Lawrence Lessig presents his Declaration For Independence to the Personal Democracy Forum. Mr. Lessig’s address outlined his perspective on the most pressing problem in the American political system: the public perception of government as disproportionately influenced by the stakeholders that fund political campaigns. Presenting a number of case studies in corruption, Professor Lessig asks what the public is expected to believe when the 94 members of the House who changed their minds on the Telecom Immunity Bill receive twice as much funding from Telecom companies compared to those who did not? Advocating for a change and a sustained effort for change that extends beyond election years, Lessig called on the audience to support his efforts to change Congress and restore America’s trust in the institution.
Lawrence Lessig cued up his signature power-point style to address the problem of Congressional dependency on Interest group funding and the lack of accountability to individual citizens among Government officials. He compared this dependency to alcoholism and said that, “like alcoholism, [corruption] may not be the most important problem, but it’s the first problem and the first problem has to be solved first.”
Presenting countless examples of the problem of government dependency that date back to the founding of the nation, Lessig called for an agenda of change in Congress and recommended four fundamental steps towards better governance. First, elected politicians should reject all funding from lobbyists and PACs. They should then abandon the practice of including earmarks in legislation. Third, reformists must embrace public financing for political campaigns. Finally, more transparency in government should be sought at every opportunity.
The framers of the constitution, according to Professor Lessig, were as obsessed with dependency as they were with independence. They sought to create a nation that was free of dependencies on government and a government that was free of dependencies on corruption. He encouraged participants in the Personal Democracy Forum to join his efforts at change-congress.org and to put pressure on their representatives to live up the objectives of a Congress free from its dependency.