October 12, 2011  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

Like a fever, revolutions come in waves. And if this is a revolution, then it broke first on November 4, 2008, with the election of Barack Obama, second, on February 19, 2009, with the explosion of anger by Rick Santelli, giving birth to the Tea Party, and third, on September 10, 2011 with the #Occupy movements that are now spreading across the United States.

The souls in these movements must now decide whether this third peak will have any meaningful effect — whether it will unite a radically divided America, and bring about real change, or whether it will be boxed up by a polarized media, labeled in predictable ways, and sent off to the dust bins of cultural history.

In the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., championed a strategy of non-violence: that in the face of state sponsored and tolerated aggression, the strongest response was a promise not to respond in kind.

In this movement, we need a similar strategy. Of course a commitment to non-violence. But also a commitment to non-contradiction: We need to build and define this movement not by contradicting the loudest and clearest anger on the Right, but instead, by finding the common ground in our demands for reform.

So when Ron Paul criticizes the “Wall Street bailouts,” and attacks government support for “special businesses” with special access, we should say, “that’s right, Congressman Paul.” Bailouts for the rich is not the American way.

And when Rick Santelli launches a Tea Party movement, by attacking the government’s subsidies “to the losers,” we should ask in reply, what about the subsidies “to the winners” — to the banks who engineered the dumbest form of socialism ever invented by man: socialized risk with privatized benefits. What, we should ask Mr. Santelli, about that subsidy?

Or when Republican Senator Richard Shelby tells NBC’s Meet the Press that the message in bank reform “should be, unambiguously, that nothing’s too big to fail,” we should say that’s right, Senator, and it’s about time our Congress recognized it.

Or when Sarah Palin calls GE the “poster child of crony capitalism,” we should say “Amen, Mamma Grisly”: For whether or not we are all believers in “capitalism,” we should all be opponents of “crony capitalism,” the form of capitalism that is increasingly dominating Washington, and that was partly responsible for the catastrophe on Wall Street in 2008, and hence the catastrophes throughout America since.

We should practice “non-contradiction,” not because we have no differences with the Right. We do. We on the Left, we Liberals, or as some prefer, we Progressives, have fundamental differences with people on the Right. Our vision of that “shining city on the hill” is different from theirs. Our hopes for “We, the People,” are more aspirational. More egalitarian. More ideal.

But even though our substantive views are different, we should recognize that we have not yet convinced a majority of America of at least some of our fundamental views. And that in a democracy, no faction has the right to hold a nation hostage to its extreme views, whether right or not. We should fight in the political system to win support for our Liberal views. But we should reject the idea that protest, or violence, or blackmail are legitimate political techniques for advancing views that have not yet prevailed in a democratic system.

Instead, we should use the energy and anger of this extraordinary movement to find the common ground that would justify this revolution for all Americans, and not just us. And when we find that common ground, we should scream it, and yell it, and chant it, again, and again, and again.

For there is a common ground between the anger of the Left and the anger of the Right: That common ground is a political system that does not work. A government that is not responsive, or — in the words of the Framers, the favorite source of insight for our brothers on the Right — a government that is not, as Federalist 52 puts it, “dependent upon the People alone.”

Because this government is not dependent upon “the People alone.” This government is dependent upon the Funders of campaigns. 1% of America funds almost 99% of the cost of political campaigns in America. Is it therefore any surprise that the government is responsive first to the needs of that 1%, and not to the 99%?

This government, we must chant, is corrupt. We can say that clearly and loudly from the Left. They can say that clearly and loudly from the Right. And we then must teach America that this corruption is the core problem — it is the root problem — that we as Americans must be fighting.

There could be no better place to name that root than on Wall Street, New York. For no place in America better symbolizes the sickness that is our government than Wall Street, New York. For it is there that the largest amount of campaign cash of any industry in America was collected; and it was there that that campaign cash was used to buy the policies that created “too big to fail”; and it was there that that campaign cash was used to buy the get-out-of-jail free card, which Obama and the Congress have now given to Wall Street in the form of a promise of no real regulatory change, and an assurance of “forgiveness.”

“Forgiveness” — not of the mortgages that are now underwater. The foreclosures against them continue. “Forgiveness” — not even of the sins now confessed by Wall Street bankers, for our President has instructed us, no crimes were committed. “Forgiveness” — just enough to allow candidates once again to race to Wall Street to beg for the funds they need to finance their campaigns. The dinner parties continue. The afternoons at the golf course are the same. It’s not personal. It’s just business. It is the business of government corrupted.

There is no liberal, or libertarian, or conservative who should defend these policies. There is no liberal, or libertarian, or conservative who should defend this corruption. The single problem we all should be able to agree about is a political system that has lost is moral foundation: For no American went to war to defend a democracy “dependent upon the Funders alone.” No mother sacrificed her son or daughter to the cause of a system that effectively allows the law to be sold to the highest bidder.

We are Americans, all of us, whether citizens or not. We are Americans, all of us, because we all believe in the ideal of a government responsive to “the People alone.” And we all, as Americans, regardless of the diversity of our views, need to stand on this common ground and shout as loudly as we can: End this corruption now. Get the money out of government. Or at least get the special interest money out of government. And put back in its place a government dependent upon, and responsive too, the people. Alone.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil” — Thoreau, 1846, On Walden — “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root.”

If this fever is to have its effect, if this revolution is to have any meaning, if this struggle — and the carnival notwithstanding, it is an obvious struggle to sleep on the streets — is to have real consequence, then we all, Left and Right, must strike first at that root.

“It is the duty of youth,” they say Kurt Cobain said, “to challenge corruption.” He may have meant a different corruption, if indeed he uttered this poetry too. But whatever he meant, embrace his words. It is your duty to challenge this corruption. And once you have ended it — once we have restored a government that cares about what its people care about first, and not just its funders — then let us get back to the hard and important work of convincing our fellow citizens of the right in everything that is left.

(Original post on HuffPo)

October 7, 2011  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

I’m a liberal. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe gays should be free to marry. I believe that society has an obligation to help the worst off. I believe public education should be free and fantastic. The government should not be allowed to spy on me, or my neighbors, whether they are citizens or not. Business should not be allowed to pollute the environment. Markets, I believe, when properly regulated, produce extraordinary innovation and spread wealth. I believe no one should be permitted to buy an election, human or not. I believe equality is a means to a better society. Regulation is necessary to keep the powerful true. And swift and efficient justice is necessary when the powerful are not true. I believe in the Great Society, even if we’ve not found it yet. I listen to NPR. I am a card carrying member of the ACLU.

But I also believe that the only way to fix this Republic is through cross-partisan reform. We must, I believe, find a way to work with people we don’t agree with to make this Republic work again. People who think differently from how we do about a wide range of substantive policy questions — from taxation to regulation to Internet policy to federalism.

Yet as I walked through the #OccupyWallSt protest Wednesday, and asked people about such cross-partisanship, I was not encouraged. There is an anger and frustration among those on the Left. They feel they’ve tried compromise before. It got us this. They’re not interested in more of this. They want something different. They want change. The sort of change they can really believe in.

And I realized then just how hard it was going to be to get people to understand what cross-partisan must mean. It does not mean compromising on substantive issues. It does not mean finding the middle between Left and Right. It does not mean the incoherent “bipartisanship” that too often takes over DC — giving us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on drugs, and the sort of justice system that executes Troy Davis.

It means instead a constitutional cross-partisanship: The recognition that however much we disagree about substantive issues, we have to be able to agree about the system within which we work out those substantive disagreements. That however much we disagree as Democrats and Republicans, there has to be a foundation of agreement as citizens — about at the very least the system within which disagreement gets resolved.

That system for us is a democracy. Or more precisely, a representative democracy, cabined by a constitution that both limits the power of government and checks the power of one branch against the others. It is the rules of the game. The terms upon which competition happens.

Sometimes those rules don’t work. Or they don’t work anymore. Sometimes they defeat the objectives of not just one side in a competition, but all sides. And when that happens, all sides need to stop the competition for a moment and fix the rules. All sides must cooperate to make competition between all sides work again.

This is the cross-partisanship that I mean.

The Republic that our framers gave us does not work anymore. It does not work for the Left. It does not work for the Right. Federalist 52 promised us a Congress “dependent upon the People alone.” The last 15 years have produced a Congress dependent upon the Funders primarily. Members of Congress spend between 30% and 70% of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back in power. As they do this, they obviously — obviously — bend themselves and their policies in a way that makes it easier for them to raise money. And as they do that, they send a clear message to America. Like a father fingering his Blackberry rather than playing with his kids, Congress shows us that we don’t matter. And like that kid, we get it. 75% of Americans believe “money buys results in Congress.” Only 12% of Americans have confidence in what Congress does.

12%. We need to keep that number in context. There were more who believed in the British Crown at the time of the Revolution than who believe in this Congress today. This Republic is lost. And it is way past time for us to get it back.

But we won’t get it back unless we find a way to work across the diversity that is America. Not to shove that diversity into a blender. But to find common ground about what’s gone wrong, and to commit to a common path to fixing it. We, as Americans, may not have common goals. We do, however, have a common enemy.

That enemy is the corruption of Congress. The single fact that most all of us agree about is that our Congress is bought, and our politics, corrupted. Not the buying of quid pro quo bribery. Congress is not criminal. But you don’t have to be a criminal to be corrupt. The corruption that is our Congress is in plain sight. It is legal, indeed, protected by the First Amendment. It is the bending and contorting to feed the fundraising frenzy that occupies the majority of the life of too many in Congress. And everyone — from Bill O’Reilly to Jon Stewart (really, watch) — should be able to agree that this corruption is at the root of the problems facing this Republic. And that until we remedy this corruption, this Republic will remain lost.

I was hopeful about #OccupyWallSt because it is the first mass movement that might accurately speak to this more fundamental corruption. For as I explained here before, the story of Wall Street is this story of government corrupted. Not just in the lead up to the collapse, but more brazenly and terrifyingly in the aftermath of that collapse — when Wall Street effectively blackmailed both Republicans and Democrats to block any meaningful reform. #OccupyWallSt should be to call out this corruption, and unite a movement across the nation to demand that we change the system that permits this corruption. This is the root in Thoreau’s “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root.” This movement could be that one.

If it were, then it would be a million times more important than what happened in Madison. There was no way to understand the protests in Madison except as Democrat against Republican, as Left versus Right. The same with the Tea Party which, try as its leaders might, is only ever understood in America as the Right against the Left.

But as Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told a packed and rapt audience at Harvard last month, we have to find a way to resist the business model that depends upon “making us hate each other.” We must find a way to look beyond our differences, to bracket those differences, so we can fix the system within which those differences compete. We need a time out, to fix the rules so that politics is not just a game to feed the ratings of cable news and Comedy Central.

I agree with you, Mark Meckler, that there is a business model of hate. It is the business model of too many, and it is destroying this Republic. So let’s put the fight over Medicare or Social Security aside for a moment, and find a way to fix this Republic. Not by criticizing those who dress differently (as is the Fox News meme of the day about these protesters), but by recognizing the passion of people who love this country every bit as much as you, and by working to unite us against our common enemy: The corruption that is this Congress.

(Original post on HuffPo)

October 7, 2011  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

I’m a liberal. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe gays should be free to marry. I believe that society has an obligation to help the worst off. I believe public education should be free and fantastic. The government should not be allowed to spy on me, or my neighbors, whether they are citizens or not. Business should not be allowed to pollute the environment. Markets, I believe, when properly regulated, produce extraordinary innovation and spread wealth. I believe no one should be permitted to buy an election, human or not. I believe equality is a means to a better society. Regulation is necessary to keep the powerful true. And swift and efficient justice is necessary when the powerful are not true. I believe in the Great Society, even if we’ve not found it yet. I listen to NPR. I am a card carrying member of the ACLU.

But I also believe that the only way to fix this Republic is through cross-partisan reform. We must, I believe, find a way to work with people we don’t agree with to make this Republic work again. People who think differently from how we do about a wide range of substantive policy questions — from taxation to regulation to Internet policy to federalism.

Yet as I walked through the #OccupyWallSt protest Wednesday, and asked people about such cross-partisanship, I was not encouraged. There is an anger and frustration among those on the Left. They feel they’ve tried compromise before. It got us this. They’re not interested in more of this. They want something different. They want change. The sort of change they can really believe in.

And I realized then just how hard it was going to be to get people to understand what cross-partisan must mean. It does not mean compromising on substantive issues. It does not mean finding the middle between Left and Right. It does not mean the incoherent “bipartisanship” that too often takes over DC — giving us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on drugs, and the sort of justice system that executes Troy Davis.

It means instead a constitutional cross-partisanship: The recognition that however much we disagree about substantive issues, we have to be able to agree about the system within which we work out those substantive disagreements. That however much we disagree as Democrats and Republicans, there has to be a foundation of agreement as citizens — about at the very least the system within which disagreement gets resolved.

That system for us is a democracy. Or more precisely, a representative democracy, cabined by a constitution that both limits the power of government and checks the power of one branch against the others. It is the rules of the game. The terms upon which competition happens.

Sometimes those rules don’t work. Or they don’t work anymore. Sometimes they defeat the objectives of not just one side in a competition, but all sides. And when that happens, all sides need to stop the competition for a moment and fix the rules. All sides must cooperate to make competition between all sides work again.

This is the cross-partisanship that I mean.

The Republic that our framers gave us does not work anymore. It does not work for the Left. It does not work for the Right. Federalist 52 promised us a Congress “dependent upon the People alone.” The last 15 years have produced a Congress dependent upon the Funders primarily. Members of Congress spend between 30% and 70% of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back in power. As they do this, they obviously — obviously — bend themselves and their policies in a way that makes it easier for them to raise money. And as they do that, they send a clear message to America. Like a father fingering his Blackberry rather than playing with his kids, Congress shows us that we don’t matter. And like that kid, we get it. 75% of Americans believe “money buys results in Congress.” Only 12% of Americans have confidence in what Congress does.

12%. We need to keep that number in context. There were more who believed in the British Crown at the time of the Revolution than who believe in this Congress today. This Republic is lost. And it is way past time for us to get it back.

But we won’t get it back unless we find a way to work across the diversity that is America. Not to shove that diversity into a blender. But to find common ground about what’s gone wrong, and to commit to a common path to fixing it. We, as Americans, may not have common goals. We do, however, have a common enemy.

That enemy is the corruption of Congress. The single fact that most all of us agree about is that our Congress is bought, and our politics, corrupted. Not the buying of quid pro quo bribery. Congress is not criminal. But you don’t have to be a criminal to be corrupt. The corruption that is our Congress is in plain sight. It is legal, indeed, protected by the First Amendment. It is the bending and contorting to feed the fundraising frenzy that occupies the majority of the life of too many in Congress. And everyone — from Bill O’Reilly to Jon Stewart (really, watch) — should be able to agree that this corruption is at the root of the problems facing this Republic. And that until we remedy this corruption, this Republic will remain lost.

I was hopeful about #OccupyWallSt because it is the first mass movement that might accurately speak to this more fundamental corruption. For as I explained here before, the story of Wall Street is this story of government corrupted. Not just in the lead up to the collapse, but more brazenly and terrifyingly in the aftermath of that collapse — when Wall Street effectively blackmailed both Republicans and Democrats to block any meaningful reform. #OccupyWallSt should be to call out this corruption, and unite a movement across the nation to demand that we change the system that permits this corruption. This is the root in Thoreau’s “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root.” This movement could be that one.

If it were, then it would be a million times more important than what happened in Madison. There was no way to understand the protests in Madison except as Democrat against Republican, as Left versus Right. The same with the Tea Party which, try as its leaders might, is only ever understood in America as the Right against the Left.

But as Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told a packed and rapt audience at Harvard last month, we have to find a way to resist the business model that depends upon “making us hate each other.” We must find a way to look beyond our differences, to bracket those differences, so we can fix the system within which those differences compete. We need a time out, to fix the rules so that politics is not just a game to feed the ratings of cable news and Comedy Central.

I agree with you, Mark Meckler, that there is a business model of hate. It is the business model of too many, and it is destroying this Republic. So let’s put the fight over Medicare or Social Security aside for a moment, and find a way to fix this Republic. Not by criticizing those who dress differently (as is the Fox News meme of the day about these protesters), but by recognizing the passion of people who love this country every bit as much as you, and by working to unite us against our common enemy: The corruption that is this Congress.

(Original post on HuffPo)

October 5, 2011  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

It is way too early, and perhaps even a bit crazy, to see an American Spring in the growing protests on Wall Street. Yet. But there is no doubt that if there is one place in America that these protests should begin, it is there, and it is now.

Writers by the dozen have lamented the influence that Wall Street exercised over Washington throughout the 1990s, leading up to the great collapse of 2008. A multi-billion dollar lobbying campaign, tied to hundreds of millions in campaign contributions, got Washington to erase its regulations and withdraw its regulators. One statistic summarizes it all: in 1980, close to 100 percent of the financial instruments traded in the market were subject to New Deal exchange-based regulations; by 2008, 90 percent were exempted from those regulations, effectively free of any regulatory oversight.

But there is nothing at all surprising in that story. The spirit of the times was deregulation. The ideology of Democrats and Republicans alike was regulatory retreat. No one should be surprised, however much we should lament, that politicians did what the zeitgeist said: go home — especially when they were given first class tickets for the ride.

What is surprising — indeed, terrifying, given what it says about this democracy — is what happened after the collapse. That even after the worst financial crises in 80 years, and even after the lions share of responsibility for that crisis had been linked to finance laissez faire, and even after the dean of finance laissez faire, the great Alan Greenspan, expressly confessed that it was wrong, and that he “made a mistake,” nothing changed. A president elected with the spirit of Louis Brandeis (“[We have to stop] Wall Street from taking enormous risks with ‘other people’s money’”), who promised to “take up that fight” “to change the way Washington works,” (“for far too long, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has allowed Wall Street to use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system and get its way, no matter what it costs ordinary Americans”), and who was handed a crisis (read: opportunity) and a supermajority in Congress to make real change, did nothing about this root to our financial collapse. The “financial reform bill” is the reason the English language invented the scare quote: As every financial analyst not dependent upon the corruption that is Wall Street has screamed since the bill was passed, financial reform changed nothing. We are more at risk of a major financial collapse today than we were a decade ago. And the absolutely obscene bonuses of an industry that pays twice its pretax profits in salaries are even more secure today.

How could this possibly be? Never in the history of this nation have the agents of financial collapse so effectively avoided a regulatory response to that collapse. How is it that now they have not only avoided reform, but have effectively cemented their Ponzi scheme into the core of American law?

The protesters #occupy(ing)WallSt are looking for answers to that question. They should look no further than the dollar bills that they are taping to their mouths. The root to this pathology is not hard to see. The cure is not hard to imagine. The difficult task — and at times, it seems, impossibly difficult task — is to imagine how that cure might be brought about.

The arrest of hundreds of tired and unwashed kids, denied the freedom of a bullhorn, and the right to protest on public streets, may well be the first real green-shoots of this, the American spring. And if nurtured right, it could well begin real change.

In my book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It– published today by Twelve, I spend hundreds of pages trying to make clear what should be obvious to every single protester shivering in a Wall Street doorway. But the whole point of the book could be captured in the single quote that I stole from Thoreau right at a start: “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root.”

These protesters should see that they are that one striking at the root. They should understand that our system has been corrupted by money — even if the Supreme Court refuses to call it “corruption,” and even if political scientists are unsure about whether their regressions can show it. And they should recognize that until this root is hacked, the weeds of this corruption will continue to destroy this democracy, and this nation.

Now conservatives are eager to insist that our framers didn’t give us a “democracy.” They gave us, they say, “a Republic.” And so they did. A Republic — by which the framers meant, as Federalist 10 makes clear, a “representative democracy.” By which the framers expected, as Federalist 52 makes clear, a Congress “dependent upon the People alone.”

But ours is not a Congress “dependent upon the People alone” — or even mainly. It has instead allowed a different dependency to grow within its midst: a dependency upon the Funders of its campaigns. And so great is that different and conflicting dependency that even the worst financial crisis in three generations can’t break their obsession with the fix. Neither party dares to cross Wall Street, since both parties know they could not win control of Congress or the White House without Wall Street’s money. So they feed the addiction, and ignore the real work that they should be doing.

#OccupyWallSt needs to teach America this lesson. It needs to speak to the wide range of citizens who believe it. You don’t have to be a Marxist to rally against the corruption that is our Congress. You don’t have to be Dr. Pangloss to believe that people who don’t share common ends might nonetheless have a common enemy.

This corruption is our common enemy. So let this protest first #OccupyWallSt, and then #OccupyKSt. And then let the anger and outrage that it has made clear lead many more Americans to #OccupyMainSt, and reclaim this republic.

For if done right, this movement just may have that potential. What the protesters are saying is true: Wall Street’s money has corrupted this democracy. What they are demanding is right: An end to that corruption. And as Flickr feeds and tweets awaken a slumbering giant, the People, the justice in this, yet another American revolution, could well become overwhelming, and finally have an effect.

(Original post on HuffPo)

October 5, 2011  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

It is way too early, and perhaps even a bit crazy, to see an American Spring in the growing protests on Wall Street. Yet. But there is no doubt that if there is one place in America that these protests should begin, it is there, and it is now.

Writers by the dozen have lamented the influence that Wall Street exercised over Washington throughout the 1990s, leading up to the great collapse of 2008. A multi-billion dollar lobbying campaign, tied to hundreds of millions in campaign contributions, got Washington to erase its regulations and withdraw its regulators. One statistic summarizes it all: in 1980, close to 100 percent of the financial instruments traded in the market were subject to New Deal exchange-based regulations; by 2008, 90 percent were exempted from those regulations, effectively free of any regulatory oversight.

But there is nothing at all surprising in that story. The spirit of the times was deregulation. The ideology of Democrats and Republicans alike was regulatory retreat. No one should be surprised, however much we should lament, that politicians did what the zeitgeist said: go home — especially when they were given first class tickets for the ride.

What is surprising — indeed, terrifying, given what it says about this democracy — is what happened after the collapse. That even after the worst financial crises in 80 years, and even after the lions share of responsibility for that crisis had been linked to finance laissez faire, and even after the dean of finance laissez faire, the great Alan Greenspan, expressly confessed that it was wrong, and that he “made a mistake,” nothing changed. A president elected with the spirit of Louis Brandeis (“[We have to stop] Wall Street from taking enormous risks with ‘other people’s money’”), who promised to “take up that fight” “to change the way Washington works,” (“for far too long, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has allowed Wall Street to use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system and get its way, no matter what it costs ordinary Americans”), and who was handed a crisis (read: opportunity) and a supermajority in Congress to make real change, did nothing about this root to our financial collapse. The “financial reform bill” is the reason the English language invented the scare quote: As every financial analyst not dependent upon the corruption that is Wall Street has screamed since the bill was passed, financial reform changed nothing. We are more at risk of a major financial collapse today than we were a decade ago. And the absolutely obscene bonuses of an industry that pays twice its pretax profits in salaries are even more secure today.

How could this possibly be? Never in the history of this nation have the agents of financial collapse so effectively avoided a regulatory response to that collapse. How is it that now they have not only avoided reform, but have effectively cemented their Ponzi scheme into the core of American law?

The protesters #occupy(ing)WallSt are looking for answers to that question. They should look no further than the dollar bills that they are taping to their mouths. The root to this pathology is not hard to see. The cure is not hard to imagine. The difficult task — and at times, it seems, impossibly difficult task — is to imagine how that cure might be brought about.

The arrest of hundreds of tired and unwashed kids, denied the freedom of a bullhorn, and the right to protest on public streets, may well be the first real green-shoots of this, the American spring. And if nurtured right, it could well begin real change.

In my book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It– published today by Twelve, I spend hundreds of pages trying to make clear what should be obvious to every single protester shivering in a Wall Street doorway. But the whole point of the book could be captured in the single quote that I stole from Thoreau right at a start: “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root.”

These protesters should see that they are that one striking at the root. They should understand that our system has been corrupted by money — even if the Supreme Court refuses to call it “corruption,” and even if political scientists are unsure about whether their regressions can show it. And they should recognize that until this root is hacked, the weeds of this corruption will continue to destroy this democracy, and this nation.

Now conservatives are eager to insist that our framers didn’t give us a “democracy.” They gave us, they say, “a Republic.” And so they did. A Republic — by which the framers meant, as Federalist 10 makes clear, a “representative democracy.” By which the framers expected, as Federalist 52 makes clear, a Congress “dependent upon the People alone.”

But ours is not a Congress “dependent upon the People alone” — or even mainly. It has instead allowed a different dependency to grow within its midst: a dependency upon the Funders of its campaigns. And so great is that different and conflicting dependency that even the worst financial crisis in three generations can’t break their obsession with the fix. Neither party dares to cross Wall Street, since both parties know they could not win control of Congress or the White House without Wall Street’s money. So they feed the addiction, and ignore the real work that they should be doing.

#OccupyWallSt needs to teach America this lesson. It needs to speak to the wide range of citizens who believe it. You don’t have to be a Marxist to rally against the corruption that is our Congress. You don’t have to be Dr. Pangloss to believe that people who don’t share common ends might nonetheless have a common enemy.

This corruption is our common enemy. So let this protest first #OccupyWallSt, and then #OccupyKSt. And then let the anger and outrage that it has made clear lead many more Americans to #OccupyMainSt, and reclaim this republic.

For if done right, this movement just may have that potential. What the protesters are saying is true: Wall Street’s money has corrupted this democracy. What they are demanding is right: An end to that corruption. And as Flickr feeds and tweets awaken a slumbering giant, the People, the justice in this, yet another American revolution, could well become overwhelming, and finally have an effect.

(Original post on HuffPo)