September 21, 2007  ·  Lessig

On Tuesday I give my first cut at this question of corruption in a public lecture at Stanford.

One part of my research leading up to this talk has led me to redescribe what before I was calling the “Noncorruption Principle.” I now think a better way to describe this idea is with the notion of “independence.” The aspiration I would commend is to maintain independence.

I hope to have a version of the talk available here afterwards.

  • http://electromate.blogspot.com Fernando Barrio

    Hi Larry,
    It would be interesting to devote some time to look into the corruption carried forward typical of the independent regulatory bodies of the US. In many cases, these bodies more than Congress decide what and how things can be done and it is far too common that the commissioners leave the commissions to work for the industry that they used to regulate with ridiculous salaries, vg corruption carried forward.
    Good luck in your new endeavour and I hope that we can cross each other again in some conference that deals with IT/IP where corruption becomes an issue.

  • http://ejnorman.blogspot.com Eric Norman

    Would it make a difference if corporate funding for research were provided with no strings attached? For instance, the researcher gets to decide whether, when, and where to publish the results. In copyright terms, this means the research results are not work for hire.

    It seems to me that this would free the researcher from corruptive influences, but there might be more subtle influences that lurk deeper.

  • HH

    Professor Lessig’s investigations of corruption are a bold move into an under-studied field. Leading liberal thinkers like Larry Lessig and Paul Krugman are beginning to see that societal malfunctions are grounded in ethical weaknesses much more than in structural defects. The expanded study of the undermining of societies ethical underpinnings will bring more progress than a thousand additional treatises on the fine-tuning of legal regulations or microeconomic theory.

    My suggestion to Professor Lessig is to move beyond the superficial target of cash-based corruption and consider the more subtle elements of the influence trade. Influence-peddlers have evolved their techniques over millenia, and one of their key tactics is to conceal their tracks. For example, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was just paid several million dollars by the Rupert Murdoch publishing empire for a biographical book. The next time a case comes before Justice Thomas affecting the regulation of media conglomerates, you may be sure that Rupert Murdoch’s interests will be given careful attention. This is the type of plausibly deniable deal that the global plutocracy routinely transacts with its enablers. Those who smooth the path for plutocracy are “taken care of” by their friends. Those who resist the plutocrats encounter numerous difficulties. It is all quite legal, and it is all deeply corrupt.

  • Dan Scoledge

    I beileve you are accurate about the corruption and I look forward to your progress but I find your example interesting.
    Gore’s lead consultant on his film is in charge of the raw data at NASA and his behaviour in regard to the data is very suspicious. He admits that the surface stations recording data is flawed but says the flaws can be corrected for by adjustments. When asked for the code making these adjustments he refused until those investigating the data found a Y2K bug in his code and he was forced to admit a flaw in his code. After that he finally released the code for public scrutiny all the while deriding those that just wanted to understand what he was doing.

    I can find no one that will deny that the 20th century is hotter than the 19th century but there is a question as to whether its gotten any warmer since the 1930s and the reluctance to share the methods used to adjust data adds to the controversy. Why would someone keep something as important as Global Warming data out of the publics hands?

    The question I have for you is what tools will you develope to determine what is a truth before you can even start on the whys and finding a solution.

  • http://fictionaluniversity.com David Ries

    Hello Larry, You are on to something here.

    I hope you get the interest and that your discussion eventully morph into a good dialogue on the benefits (or lack thereof) of the “Administrative State” as affecting individual liberty and our future ability to implement ideas. I mean really, can the Attorney General’s office be expected to investigate it self?

    The at&t data mining case is working its way to the supreme court . It looks to me like the government is going to get its way no matter what. It also looks like the U.S. Attorney arguing the legality of AT&T turning over the phone data was lying and doing a good job of it before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Congress has ok’d the 180 day it’s ok to tap as long as the Attorney General and NSA director agree it’s ok meaning warrantlless phone tap or data mining searches are now the law of the land….we will never really know.

    Are the 9th & 10th Amendment really dead letters?

  • Abby Brown

    I would not be so quick to substitute the word “independence” for “(lack of) corruption,” since at least in some fields (accounting is the one I know about) independence has become a regulatory concept leached of any real meaning beyond meeting a set of rules (a consequence of the very kind of behavior, whatever its name, that interests you). I understand the desire to use a different word, but perhaps there is still another term that still has meaning?

  • http://www.aaronsw.com/ Aaron Swartz