March 11, 2009 · Lessig
More people I admire missing the point (for which, as I’ve said again and again, I’m happy to take responsibility but which, again and again, begs clarification): this time, Ed Brayton.
Lessig is arguing that that the bill is bad policy and that Conyers is being paid off by the publishing industry to get the measure passed.
No. No. And again, Ed, no. To be “paid off by the publishing industry” is a crime. It’s called bribery. To be given a campaign contribution in exchange for introducing or passing legislation is also a crime. Any quid-pro-quo for legislative action is banned six ways to Sunday.
But as I said and said and said, I am not accusing anyone of any crime. I’m not even accusing anyone of anything unethical. My charge is that by (a) introducing legislation that has no good public policy justification behind it and which (b) does not benefit your own constituents while (c) being disproportionately supported in financial contributions by the single industry that would benefit from the legislation, you invite the charge (as 88% of citizens in my district believe) that “money buys results in Congress.” WHETHER OR NOT “money bought” this result, you have committed this wrong. The wrong is the relationship, and the suggestion the relationship begs. It is not — and again, NOT — that the person accused is “being paid off” by anyone.
I make this point over and over again in the (now close to 1 billion) talks I’ve given about “corruption.” They’re collected at lessig.blip.tv. I understand how it is rational for no one (or very few) to spend the 20 to 60 minute necessary to watch those talks completely. But here’s a four minute clip about another popular Democrat. Watch this, and maybe the idea of “good soul corruption” will become clearer.
What could a “good soul” do to avoid the charge of being “good soul corrupt”? Well, the simplest is to make sure the that the only time you introduce legislation that 33 Nobel Prize winning scientists believe would harm science (or the equivalent), it plainly benefits your constituents. A bit more difficult, but certainly appropriate: As a chairman of a committee, refuse to solicit or accept contributions from the interests your committee regulates. And most important, and ultimately: pass legislation that provides for “citizen-funded elections” — so that when you support legislation with no good public purpose behind it, no one could believe it was because of the money.
And what could a good soul citizen do to end good soul corruption? Join our donor strike — strike4change.com — and thereby refuse to support any federal politician who doesn’t support this plainly corrupt system.