February 2, 2009 · Lessig
The New York Times has an excellent piece about the Daschle debacle. It points to the fundamental point missed by the obsession with whether the former Senator(‘s accountant) made an error in calculating his tax: The real problem is not people who can’t understand and follow tax rules (i.e., all of us, at least on the understanding part). It is a system in which former Members can trade their status as former Members for millions of dollars.
This system is an economy. It only works if those being paid millions deliver millions (plus something) in value in return. And as the business model of being a public servant more and more becomes the business of becoming a well-paid ex-public servant, public servants within the system will do whatever they can to make this economy work. Think of it as a political life insurance policy — paid out when your public political life ends.
Daschle, of course, is the most innocent in this guilty system. His plan was to serve the public as long as he possibly could. The voters in South Dakota terminated that plan. His desire is to return to public service, working on a set of issues that he feels passionate about. Indeed, issues he actually knows something about. So no doubt, he is a good soul in a bad system.
But his goodness doesn’t inoculate the system. And the system is why no one should count on real CHANGE till it, the system, gets changed.