The nature of corruption

Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford law professor and founder of the Creative Commons project, which I have mentioned several times on these pages, recently changed his main research and activist focus from copyright law to examining the dynamics of political corruption. As he explains it on his Wiki:

I want to discuss “corruption” in a very particular sense. I’m not interested in overt lawbreaking or outright bribery (e.g., Congressman X takes $50,000 personally to vote Nay on a particular bill); I am instead interested in non-obvious corruption–instances where a decision is improperly and/or subtly influenced by a government actor’s anticipation of some sort of indirect economic gain or loss. Where a person in power is motivated more by, e.g., money to their campaign, support for favored research, etc., than the interests they claim to or otherwise should be advancing.

Lessig quotes figures saying that American politicians spend 50 to 70% of their work on raising campaign funds rather than doing the actual parliamentary work in the relevant government institutions. In that way, it cannot come as a surprise if they also pay more attention to the interests of these specific campaign contributors than the interests of the people who voted for them?

When Lessig visited Denmark recently, he discussed these issues briefly on Danish national TV:

If this piques your interest, there’s more. As Lessig recently put the first version of his new talk on political corruption on-line. It is well worth the watch as he not only highlights the problems, but also potential ways of breaking out of this corrupt status quo.

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