December 31, 2008 · Lessig
Robert Sand wrote this thesis as an undergraduate at Brown (he is now a law student). Roughly put, it models the effect that the view that “money buys results” has on political participation. The idea he wanted to test is this: that the more you think “money buys results,” the less effective you think your own participation in the political process is, and thus, you participate less. And, by contrast, the less you think “money buys results,” (for example, because of citizen funding of elections), the more effective you think your own participation is, and thus you participate more.
He’s got an enormous range of data for this, and he finds statistically significant results supporting the thesis.
Sand wants to work on this more and eventually publish it. He has included his email address if you’d like to see the data. Obviously, there’s tons more work to be done here to verify and understand the model better. But I wanted to share this here (with his permission) because it is precisely the dynamic at the core of the concern that I am talking about: The expectation of illicit influence drives people to disengage — even if there isn’t any such influence.
If this model stands up, it will be an important contribution to this debate. Whether it does or not, quite a contribution from an undergraduate.
Meanwhile, less than 12 hours to vote on the Citizens’ Funded Elections proposal at change.org. At this moment, we need 6 votes to get into the second round.