June 19, 2007  ·  Lessig

During my keynote at the iCommons iSummit 07, I made an announcement that surprised some, but which, from reports on the web at least, was also not fully understood by some. So here again is the announcement, with some reasoning behind it.

The bottom line: I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues. Why and what are explained in the extended entry below. | technorati |

Three people I admire greatly are responsible for at least inspiring this decision.

The first is Obama. Six months ago, I was reading Obama’s (really excellent) latest book. In the beginning of the book, he describes his decision to run for the United States Senate. At that point, Obama had been in politics for about 10 years. Ten years, he reflected, was enough. It was either “up or out” for him. He gambled on the the “up.” We’ll see how far he gets.

But for me, Obama’s reflection triggered a different thought. It’s been a decade since I have become active in the issues I’m known for. Over this decade, I’ve learned a great deal. There has been important progress on the issues — not yet in Congress, but in the understanding of many about what’s at stake, and what’s important. Literally thousands have worked to change that understanding. When we began a decade ago, I would have said it was impossible to imagine the progress we’ve made. It is extraordinarily rewarding to recognize that my pessimism notwithstanding, we are going to prevail in these debates. Maybe not today, but soon.

That belief (some think, dream), then led me to wonder whether it wasn’t time to find a new set of problems: I had learned everything I was going to learn about the issues I’ve been working on; there are many who would push them as well, or better, than I; perhaps therefore it was time to begin again.

That thought triggered a second, this one tied to Gore.

In one of the handful of opportunities I had to watch Gore deliver his global warming Keynote, I recognized a link in the problem that he was describing and the work that I have been doing during this past decade. After talking about the basic inability of our political system to reckon the truth about global warming, Gore observed that this was really just part of a much bigger problem. That the real problem here was (what I will call a “corruption” of) the political process. That our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding.

This is a thought I’ve often had in the debates I’ve been a part of, especially with respect to IP. Think, for example, about term extension. From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a “no brainer.” As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.

Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea — both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a “corruption” of the political process. I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

The point of course is not new. Indeed, the fear of factions is as old as the Republic. There are thousands who are doing amazing work to make clear just how corrupt this system has become. There have been scores of solutions proposed. This is not a field lacking in good work, or in people who can do this work well.

But a third person — this time anonymous — made me realize that I wanted to be one of these many trying to find a solution to this “corruption.” This man, a Republican of prominence in Washington, wrote me a reply to an email I had written to him about net neutrality. As he wrote, “And don’t shill for the big guys protecting market share through neutrality REGULATION either.”


If you’ve been reading these pages recently, you’ll know my allergy to that word. But this friend’s use of the term not to condemn me, but rather as play, made me recognize just how general this corruption is. Of course he would expect I was in the pay of those whose interests I advanced. Why else would I advance them? Both he and I were in a business in which such shilling was the norm. It was totally reasonable to thus expect that money explained my desire to argue with him about public policy.

I don’t want to be a part of that business. And more importantly, I don’t want this kind of business to be a part of public policy making. We’ve all been whining about the “corruption” of government forever. We all should be whining about the corruption of professions too. But rather than whining, I want to work on this problem that I’ve come to believe is the most important problem in making government work.

And so as I said at the top (in my “bottom line”), I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues: Namely, these. “Corruption” as I’ve defined it elsewhere will be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the problem I will try to help solve.

I do this with no illusions. I am 99.9% confident that the problem I turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try. That’s true in this case.

Nor do I believe I have any magic bullet. Indeed, I am beginner. A significant chunk of the next ten years will be spent reading and studying the work of others. My hope is to build upon their work; I don’t pretend to come with a revolution pre-baked.

Instead, what I come with is a desire to devote as much energy to these issues of “corruption” as I’ve devoted to the issues of network and IP sanity. This is a shift not to an easier project, but a different project. It is a decision to give up my work in a place some consider me an expert to begin work in a place where I am nothing more than a beginner.

So what precisely does this mean for the work I am doing now?

First, and most importantly, I am not leaving Creative Commons, or the iCommons Project. I will remain on both boards, and continue to serve as CEO of Creative Commons. I will speak and promote both organizations whenever ever I can — at least until the financial future of both organizations is secure. I will also continue to head the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

But second, and over the next few months, I will remove myself from the other organizations on whose boards I now serve. Not immediately, but as I can, and as it makes sense.

Third, in general, I will no longer be lecturing about IP (whether as in TCP/IP or IPR) issues. No doubt there will be exceptions. In particular, I have a few (though because this decision has been in the works for months, very few) obligations through the balance of the year. There will be others in the future too. But in general, unless there are very strong reasons, I will not be accepting invitations to talk about the issues that have defined my work for the past decade.

Instead, as soon as I can locate some necessary technical help, I will be moving every presentation I have made (that I can) to a Mixter site (see, e.g., ccMixter) where others can freely download and remix what I’ve done, and use it however they like. I will continue to work to get all my books licensed freely. And I am currently finishing one last book about these issues that I hope will make at least some new contributions.

Fourth, these pages will change too. My focus here will shift. That will make some of you unhappy. I’m sorry for that. The blog is CC-BY licensed. You’re free to fork and continue the (almost) exclusively IP-related conversation. But I will continue that conversation only rarely. New issues will appear here instead.

Fifth, some will think this resolution sounds familiar. In the beginning of the Free Culture talk I gave at OSCON 5 years ago, I said that talk was going to be my last. In fact, what I intended at the time was the last before the argument in the Eldred case. In my nervousness, I didn’t make that intent clear then. The literally hundred of talks since (85 last year alone) should have made that obvious.

But again, this is not a resolution of silence. It is a decision to change channels. This new set of issues is, in my view, critically important. Indeed, I’m convinced we will not solve the IP related issues until these “corruption” related issues are resolved. So I hope at least some of you will follow to this new set of questions. For I expect this forum will be central to working out just what I believe, just as it has in the past.

Finally, I am not (as one friend wrote) “leaving the movement.” “The movement” has my loyalty as much today as ever. But I have come to believe that until a more fundamental problem is fixed, “the movement” can’t succeed either. Compare: Imagine someone devoted to free culture coming to believe that until free software supports free culture, free culture can’t succeed. So he devotes himself to building software. I am someone who believes that a free society — free of the “corruption” that defines our current society — is necessary for free culture, and much more. For that reason, I turn my energy elsewhere for now.

So thank you to everyone who has helped in this work. Thanks especially to everyone who will continue it. And thanks the most to those who will take positions of leadership in this movement, to help guide it to its success. Just one favor I ask in return: when you get to the promised land, remember to send a postcard.

  • http://nathanielstern.com nathaniel

    Thanks for the clarification, Larry – and good luck in your new endeavor, one just as noble as your last. It was great to see you again in Croatia (I ran the artist residency the last two years).

    I wonder: given the example of Gore (whose new book blew me away), might it be an interesting experiment to not only give away your presentations for re-mixing, but actually more emphatically encourage/train people to present them publicly, as he did with his?

  • http://georgiaharper.blogspot.com Georgia Harper

    Creative energy requires fertile ground to walk upon, no, to run through, to twirl and skip through. I feel strongly that you’ll find great satisfaction in this shift in your pursuits, and the world will be a better place for your having put yourself to this new task. A mind is, indeed, a terrible thing to waste. Go where it leads you. You’ve been an incredible inspiration to me. I doubt that will change at all! Best of luck to you.

  • Greg

    Congratulations on your decision. Your new project is a worthy target of your intellect. For the sake of our nation, I hope that you are as successful in these endeavors as you have been in your work that led to creative commons.

  • Addison

    What really strucks me is that there are people like you, obviously clever people, who are unable to accept the possibility that this global warming thing is an invention of people who have their own agenda. It seems that Bush has an agenda, but Gore has not. Or that Bush have obscure motivations and Gore has bening ones.

    I am just a layman, and I dont believe this global warming thing the ecologist are trying to impose upon us. Global warming is far from being demonstrated, let alone the fact that it is supposedly caused by humans. It is simply not demonstrated, no matter how many corrupted scientifics paid by the United Nations can tell u so.

    I am with you in the corruption issue. But the problem is in the system itself. The most powerful people on earth now are not the “money” guys. The most powerful people are the politicians in power, who can regulate even the tiniest aspects of our existence. Keep power away from politicians, give freedom back to people, and corruption, as we know it, will be a thing of the past.

  • http://www.myprivatespace.org RainbowW

    while i’ll be sorry to see you move away from “intellectual property” issues, it’ll be interesting to see where you go in this new direction, and i certainly won’t be dropping my bloglines subscription.

    and, when you get confused and overwhelmed with your newbieness, think of it like this:

    you may be up to the challenge of making the problem -better-, but by yourself at least, you can’t possibly fuck up so hard as to make it -worse.-

  • http://www.jamendo.com/ sylvain zimmer

    Thank you Larry for all you’ve done, created and inspired.

    I think it’s very courageous to switch your focus to a field you consider yourself a beginner in, though I don’t think it’s quite the case ;-)

    Anyway, good luck for the next 10 years! I hope you’ll achieve something even more important for all of us.

  • http://www.b�rwolff.de/ mbaer

    Big you up, sir. This is awesome news. The best of luck and rewards in this venture! There is probably some truth to the fact of diminishing returns to scale even in the IP (both as in TCP/IP and IPR) world, and you have already opened a host of new perspectives in the field. May other minds continue to build upon your work here. You will no doubt greatly enrich our understanding of public choice and the “corruption” you’re on about, too. Again, this is good news, so all the best for you.

  • http://alterzone.net/blog Stephen Tolton

    Good luck to you. I think you are right that these bigger “corruption” problems need to be addressed before real change can occur in other areas. Based on your success over the last ten years, I’m sure that your contributions to this field will be significant.

  • http://moderndragons.blogspot.com/ Mike Johnson

    I’d like to echo the previous comments: good luck in your new focus. I hope you’re as successful in it as you’ve been with Creative Commons. The world needs more people like you.

  • http://www.ambientgroove.net Jacob

    Thank you for everything you’ve done. Maybe you haven’t “solved” the legal corruption as you say, but remember that your work has enriched society by facilitating the production, availability and consumption (that is, enjoyment) of creative and intellectual works. This place is better now than before you began- don’t forget this.

    I am a graduate student and you’ve inspired me as a student and in my undertakings as a musician. Thank you for that.

    Best of luck and success with your future plans

    Jacob -ambientgroove.net

  • Ashley Rose

    Say it ain’t so!

    As a computer scientist and current scholar of law I have followed your works with great interest. I think the path you have chosen will, no doubt, provide many great challenges ahead. I guess it may be a little premature, though I am intrigued as to where you will begin and do you intend to pursue a particular area of corruption?

    In a sense much of your work already overlaps in corruption, particularly in setting the record straight – I guess it’s a pursuit in search for truth. Most often I find is that corruption propagates through a lack of transparency and a failure in those measures.

  • http://kathyandcalvin.com Dickey47

    Great decision! I wish you the best. I’m wondering if publicly funded campaigns are one such way to fight corruption but then the corporations have the free speech/we are a person thing behind them.

    Just to let you know, if we had 12 + 12 copyright law, I’d be redoing all of the curriculum from a certain very large company on to the internet 6 years ago. Our education system may well have looked VERY different with this instructional strategy in the mainstream.

  • http://atpicaljoe.com Joe Windish

    Good luck Larry. You are exactly right, the fundamental problem must be fixed in order for the rest of the work to move forward.

    If I may, I’d like to suggest a book/podcast that I think neatly illustrates a dimension of the corruption you describe: University of Pennsylvania Political Science Professor Ian S. Lustick’s “Trapped in the War on Terror.” A good intro to its thesis of a broken symbiotic system in which all of us are (for the moment) “trapped” is the University Channel podcast of his speech at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

    I hope you might find it interesting. I have followed and appreciate the work you’ve done. I look forward to following all that you will do.

  • http://netstumbling.wordpress.com Davide Tarasconi

    Good luck Lawrence, a very mighty journey awaits you.

  • Martin

    Congratulations. A person should ask themselves what are the most important problems in their field and, moreover, why they aren’t working on them. I’m glad you did.

    However, your work will be frustrating and unrewarding because your enemy is not politicians or the political system. Your enemy is the man on the street; often your friends, your family. Every political system makes the crucial but erroneous assumption that the citizens are rational and strive for social justice. “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute talk with the average voter.”–Churchill. People constantly defer to authority instead of reason, to the status quo instead of amelioration. They don’t want to think, it is stressful. They long to be ruled, they want to their lives directed for them, life is far easier that way. They want to believe that someone is watching over them and protecting them. They largely reject substantiative change, the familiar is comforting and history is their strongest evidence for ceaseless constancy (“It been like that as long as I remember, why change it?”).

    You can’t save those that do not want to be saved. You can’t help those who refuse to even acknowledge they have a problem.

    The answer is vastly improved education. Not merely more money for education but a completely overhauled system that focuses on real independent thought and reasoning and which promotes life long learning. Sadly, I will be long dead before I would be able to see the results.

  • http://augmentation.blogspot.com Ken

    Great good luck, and thanks for all your hard work and creativity over the past decade.

    My only suggestion is to try to conceptualize the challenge/goal in positive terms, as well. Perhaps “civic integrity” would be appropriate?

  • http://www.partidopirata.es Findeton

    Very interesting reading. I will be following this blog very closely, more than ever.

  • Don

    Congratulations. If you can motivate and education people about “corruption” the same way you have done on IP issues then I think the world is going to be a much better place to live in 10 years. Give ‘em hell Lawrence!!!

  • http://www.koch.ro Thomas Koch

    Dear Larry,

    thank you for your inspiring work so far and the many things I’ve learned while reading it.

    Last month I had a chat with George Greve from FSFE and we realized, that we had thought independently of the same idea: the next step in the Form of government. By now, the parliamentary system is recognized as the most modern kind of government.

    I see mainly two reasons behind this form:
    a) Due to the geographical distance of the central government to the main part of it’s citizens, it would be impossible, for all interested citizens to take part in disputs.
    b) A parliamentarian should represent the interests of those who sent them in a professional way and this way making governance more effective.

    Today, the geographical distance is no reason anymore for not taking part in governance and the representation of people’s interests through parliamentarians has failed.
    So the next step would be, to use the methods practiced in free software development in the political world: Everybody can take part. All Informations are available. People take part in projects which are interesting for them…

    Just to give you an idea to think about…

  • http://crazymonk.org crazymonk

    I applaud you for moving down the layer stack of bad government policy, and for having the courage to sacrifice the comforts and stability you have earned in your field. These are the advantages afforded to you as a member of high-standing in a nearly permanent institution, yet sadly only a few use them fully.

    Your foray into low-threshold corruption will be a trip down the rabbit hole, to be sure, but I think the contributions of someone of your integrity and — in the good sense — naivet� is needed to fight this Goliath.

    Good luck.

  • http://www.Digitization101.com Jill Hurst-Wahl


    Thank you for the clear explanation. I, like others, wish you the best in this new work.

    I heard Gore talk at the Special Libraries Association Annual Conference (my blog post) and understand how he can spark the internal question of “where should my focus be.”

    It is interesting that I am reading your post a day after hearing CNN talk about the earmarked spending of our Congress. Are they being corrupt? I don’t know. I do know that they — and other politicians — need someone like you to point out their inconsistencies while empowering people like us to help change the political environment.

    Dr. Lessig — Larry — may luck be with you! (You’ve already got the skills!)

  • anonymous

    I think the term you want is “capture”


  • PJ

    Good luck. You sure know how to pick your windmills! And I think some of the lessons and viewpoints you’ve learned from your contact with OSS and CC will stand you in good stead in trying to change the integrity assumption.

    Most of all, thanks for all your hard work for the last 10 years.

  • http://www.dariodenni.it Dario Denni

    Hi Larry,

    I really can’t believe you decide to say goodbye, here, now… because of what?? …the ‘corrumption of the system’… That’s odd…
    At first – let me say in my broken english – I think that your decision to dismiss your 10 years work it’s quite insane. It looks so incredible to believe that you understand only too late that the system is corrupted from money interests. I see you like a sort of evangelist who could produce a spiritual revolution only after an entire generation. Don’t mind if there are apparently no way to change things!
    Internet needs you. Here. Now.
    hoping to hear again and again your ‘voice’ soon
    my best regards


  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Good luck! Tilting at windmills is a noble cause …

  • http://www.meganetwork.org/ MFP

    Thank you, and good luck.

  • Erik M�ller

    Congratulations, Larry; this is a very wise and reasonable decision. I wish you the best of luck in at least increasing the awareness of what I see as a thorough corruption (no scare quotes) of international political processes. opensecrets.org has the facts about the US political system; I think the challenge is to make people understand on an emotional level what the impact of this corruption is, and to punish (perhaps, for lack of resources, selectively) the worst offenders.

  • http://www.goldwatches.com Watches

    Yes but will it explode like the past years!

  • http://blogs.forum.nokia.com Hartti

    Thank you for all the work you have done in the past 10 years! As an admirer of your work (and your great talks!) I am sad to see you heading towards new endeavours, but your next cause is not any less important than your previous one. Good luck!

  • http://www.contactify.com/9f513 Huy

    Beautiful news!

    I love what you’ve done for intellectual property rights. But I’m with you: the bigger problem is the corruption of the US political process. It’s the source of so many of our problems. It equates democracy with unaccountable capitalism.

    I wish that more philanthropists would give their money to fixing the political process. This could have positive effects many times greater than direct donations in many cases.

    I will be following closely what you do now. You’re a great leader.

  • Rick Hull


    I think you are 100% correct in making this move. Identifying this problem, and the feeling impotence in attempting to solve it, are things I have struggled with. By taking a strong stance and concrete steps, you have inspired me (and surely countless others) to keep hope alive.

    Glad to be on board! Please try and come up with an outlet for activism so that normal guys like me can plug into and contribute.

  • hi

    there is a fine line between magnamity and an ego trip.

    “it is easier to help ‘humanity’ than to help your neighbor”.

  • Greg Mo

    Dr. Lessig,
    I was instantly captured in the subject of IP since I first learned about it, and though I never had the opportunity to hear you speak about the subject, I have learned much more about the issue because you have brought others into the field. I thank you for the work you have done and will continue to do, and hope to join you sometime to help you in the fight for not just the issue of IP but this new (or perhaps old) problem of government inaction. I wish you the best of luck in the transition.

  • Joseph Huang

    Has there ever been a state that is not corrupt? Built upon theft, there can be no good state.

    By the way, you mite want to learn that global warming is caused by the sun. And CO2 emissions trail global temperatures by 800 years. Gore’s truth is falsehood.

  • obscure kiwi

    This is starting to look like a trend.

    It’s dawned on me, over the last couple of decades, that our political systems are seriously malfunctioning, with consequences banal and horrific. Wondering how they might be fixed I read up on electoral systems, politics, history, philosophy etc. searching for even the name of the problem: is it metapolitics, political science, constitutional engineering? “Sociology” sounds right but I haven’t found anything of use there. It seems like the disipline that has the most to say about how to solve this problem might be economics, Public Choice theory etc.

    So I’m dropping my career to study it, because it doesn’t matter if I help discover a drug that saves thousands, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the deaths and waste arising from the stupid decisions our broken collective-decision making machines deliver.

    Many of us, I’m sure, know of stupid laws in our own domains of interest – for LL it’s IP law, for Al Gore it’s climate change – never mind what my trigger was, it would take too long to explain here, but just realise that the stupidity you are aware of is probably dwarfed by the stupidity across domains you never think about and assume the government is getting mostly right, they are not, and the consequences are more tragic than you imagine.

    Anyway, i’m just an anonymous lurker, not much chance I’ll be changing the world.

    But then Al Gore wrote “The Assault on Reason”.
    And then Lawrence Lessig wrote this post.

    I wonder where it will all end.

  • http://www.jerf.org/iri Jeremy Bowers

    Congratulations on this decision and good luck.

    If I could offer one word at the beginning of this endeavor, it would be this: Be sure not to fall prey to partisanship. You’ve articulated the true problem, the generalized inability to determine value correctly. That’s not Democratic, that’s not Republican, that’s not Right or Left, that’s not Communist or Democratic or anything else. It’s a general human problem.

    Most people, if not all, whom I’ve seen set out on this path eventually themselves get captured by one side or the other and come to believe that corruption only lies with their enemies. At that point, they are simply one more partisan shill, and they can and should be ignored at that point.

    I wish you good luck retaining your focus and perspective; somebody with your reputation would be very valuable in such a role.

  • http://www.bisani.net Alok

    The magic bullet is accountability. Chances are if someone is accountable for what they do, then they will consider whatever they do. This is good for everyone in most cases.

    The wonderful gun for accountability is transparency. Can you really be transparent about how much of Government’s money goes into Defence contracts. Sure you can. Can you really, really be transparent about how much of Government’s defence contract money goes into which contracts, to whom and why? In a world where there are enemies to defend against, not practically without a serious disadvantage.

    So there are you are, solve the accountability and transparency problems, and you are 80% done. Come to me again if you want to know the whole shebang.

  • Gary

    Lots of work has been done in the area of Political Economy by Gordon Tullock and Nobel Laureate James Buchanan.

    The simple fact is this: so long as you accept a system where the government can destroy entire industries with a stroke of a pen, create monopolies, and there is no limit to what regulation or influence they can exercise in the market, there will always be a strong desire to influence legislation and policy.

    To expect the livelihoods of thousands of people to ride on legislative decisions and to expect people to NOT do anything is a bit absurd.

    Buying influence is cheap in the big scheme of things. Getting influence on policy that can have multi-billion dollar ramifications for only a few thousand in campaign donations is one of the best deals around.

    Banning or trying to regulate contributions wont do anything, because the economic consequence of not acting is too great. Like poking a balloon, everything will just shift to a different area. Look at the aftermath of McCain/Finegold.

  • http://www.makingthemovie.info J. Ott

    I’m not an expert on corruption either, but it seems to me that ‘public shame’, as deployed by filmmakers like Michael Moore or your average Letter-to-the-Editor writer, is one of the most effective weapons in the fight. How to get the public at large to think of itself as an interest group, and to resist issue-balkanization, is a real Gordian knot. gl!

  • Henok

    The Opposing mind —–that is how successful people thinks –according to Harvard Business Review. O well Dear Lessig great luck in what ever you do.

  • Henok

    The Opposing mind —–that is how successful people thinks –according to Harvard Business Review. O well Dear Lessig great luck in what ever you do.

  • Joe

    Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the best way to address corruption is to continue doing EXACTLY what you’ve been doing for the past 10 years.

    The corruption of politicians is right out in the open Larry. They don’t hide it. It’s just that public isn’t paying attention because they are being relentlessly dumbed down by our stunningly stupid top-down media culture – a media that decides what we’re allowed to know.

    The free culture movement is a force growing in power and the only one that can directly challenge this sick, ongoing brainwashing and dumbassification of the public.

    Stay with it.

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    Thanks for all you’ve given for the past 10 years, Professor. Good luck and godspeed, and enjoy the well-earned time with your family as you focus on preparing for this next great (and/or completely insane ;) challenge. (A much longer note on your influence in my life, and my hopes for your search for solutions, is on my blog. I’d be gobstoppingly honored if you read it :)

  • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

    Dr. Lessig,

    First of all congratulations on the changes. It will be sad to see you leave the shores of IP protection but I suspect you believe the fight is now in strong enough hands for you to be able to move on.

    The problem of corruption within the system is definitely a different project, with a different set of complexities. I think it will be fascinating to see how you deploy your brain in that arena. But should we consider you a shill for the anti-corruption business :)

    I recently read that the most brilliant discoveries or innovation have generally been made by people looking OUTSIDE of their field but applying some of their fields’ rules and processes to those outside dimensions.

    Wishes for great luck with your new effort,


  • Kristi Gilleland

    I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you.

    Please, keep us informed so that those of us that want to, can help.

  • Jay Carlson

    Good. Often the output of the legislative process, especially around IT issues, makes me want to scream “are you lying, or are you stupid?” When contacted, Congressional staffers release form letters which when translated say, “I’m either lying or I’m stupid.”

    There is no penalty for this.

  • http://sonokie.net/ Daniel Ferguson

    You have made a good decision. Corporate corruption of politics is at the root of many other problems besides IP and I’m sure you can help fix things.

  • http://www.daveybot.com Dave Morris

    Fascinating to hear of your up-coming change in direction. I think it’s a highly worthy cause, and congratulate you on what must have been a tricky decision to move into such turbulent new waters.

    I’m glad I got to attend one of your IP lectures, though, and now look forward to seeing one of the ‘new batch’ of lectures, too. Best of luck, and we’ll all be following closely!

  • http://vincent.van-wylick.com/ Vincent van Wylick

    So does this shift indicate that you think the intellectual property right battle is more or less over? Are you a rifter, larry? :)

    In any case, this is a great and exciting direction to be an activist in and I wish you a lot of luck.

  • http://www.ulmer.de Matthias Ulmer

    As a strong opponent of many of your ideas, I should be happy today. In fact I am sorry for this decision. If You can`t realize Your ideas, it is not corruption, it is maybe because Your ideas don`t work.
    If people don`t do what you think they should do, they are not dull, they are not undereducated, they are not blocked by corruption, they just have other ideas and wishes, their own will.
    Communication and society needs that one accepts and respects the ideas and opinion of the other. To argue, that the ideas are right but you have to change the people is the core idea of any totalitarian system. Be aware of that on your new way.

  • Dean

    Despite having tacked an extremely complex subject (that is considered both “impossible to solve” and “boring” by many), you created passionate advocates out of all of us. The movement you started has enough mass to not only sustain its relevance, but to grow and evolve.

    I’m excited about your new direction and am sure you will be able to convince lots of people to work on reducing the influence of money on our political system. It sounds like a monster of a problem though — maybe even “impossible to solve” ;)

    Good luck.

  • http://www.simuze.nl BjornW


    Thanks for the 10 years of unrelentless dedication and inspiration! I wish you and your family all the best in your new endeavours. I hope that your work on this “corruption” will have an effect not only in US politics, but also in the EU and its member states.

    So long and thanks for all the fish :)

  • http://www.danielberninger.com Daniel Berninger

    As one hypothesis – the behavior of government (corruption) reflects the behavior of the public (disengaged). Corruption will remain the rule until the public holds those in government accountable. Those in power appreciate this equation and actively seek to keep the public distracted and unaware of the realities. Your campaign against corruption must revolve around finding ways to get the public engaged in holding their representatives accountable…rather than trying to get those in power to do the right thing.

  • http://www.logarithmic.net/pfh/ Paul Harrison

    At last!

  • Esben Stien

    Has anyone worked out a better control mechanism to control government?. Can’t a logical system be developed to make a better functioning government without too much paperwork?. A system where people are heard and where criminals in power are prosecuted for treason and locked away..

  • Barney Cassidy

    Two books to consider: Noonan on Bribes and S. Bok on Lying.

  • http://www.thedisneyblog.com John Frost

    Congrats on your decision to take on what is probably the #1 barrier to social change in the US and the world. It appears you enjoy pushing big rocks up high hills, because it is truly a sysiphean task.

    I look forward to your thoughts on what I see as the central conflict of this battle: free-speech rights and political speech being equated with corporate spending and quid-pro-quo votes by elected officials.

  • ART

    The problem is that you are a loser in terms of political activities. However, your failure to win is no sign of “political corruption” but of your inability to adapt to the political process.

    The EU Software patents debate is a perfect counter-example. Your contribution here was more or less superficial. Of course no one won because of you.

    We know how to win the struggles. Get educated. It is easy. The real problem is that all the busy critics are not there when and where real decisions are made. And then they speak of corruption, nonsense. A single trained activist is worth 20 industry lobbyists. It is very easy to win the “war”. Yes, I noticed how your phrases radicalised. “War”. So, all we need is a bit stormtrooper training.

    For instance: x persons write in their weblogs why TPM sucks, but they don’t submit the stuff when a public consultation on DRM is held. So only the four industry groups submit their boring garbage. And then the critics wonder why no one takes their views into consideration. Of course you cannot believe that you submit your views late into a process and things immidiately change, because you have the “proof” and an indisputable teaching. Politicians don’t read mailing lists, don’t read slashdot and don’t get invited to community conferences.

    Your chance for meaningful contributions e.g.
    Very interesting. High opportunities. Who will participate? (*)

    Desperados are dangerous, they fail and instead of reviewing themselves and their methods, they radicalize. You have been spreading a desperado teaching for long. It is cheap and it is wrong, believe me. We lack contributions where it matters.

    (*) It is even de-facto constitutional and affects “content policies”.

  • jlw


  • Marc Brett

    Hook up with Michael Geist in Canada, who’s been exposing IP corruption (the bribery kind as well as the insidious kind) for a while now.

  • http://nickgogerty.typepad.com/designing_better_futures/2007/06/framing_a_probl.html nick gogerty

    fighting the cuases of corruption may be more interesting. Here is a project, I am working on getting off the ground called property law wiki. a lot of corruption is caused by poor bureaucracy and lack of oversight, which then becomes and endemic cultural expectation. short video here http://nickgogerty.typepad.com/designing_better_futures/2007/06/framing_a_probl.html

    powerpoint here:

  • http://www.whatisleft.org Chris Sacca

    Congrats and good luck. Please let me know how I can help. This is inspiring.

  • http://ngimagination.wordpress.com Seth Mazow

    Sorry to see you (sorta) leave one noble endeavor, but happy to see you enter another. If you haven’t already, check out The Sunlight Foundation, they’re an awesome group and are right up your new alley.

  • http://lonewacko.com/ TLB

    One of today’s greatest examples of corruption is illegal immigration.

    We wouldn’t have anywhere near as many illegal aliens here if politicians weren’t corrupt for one reason or other: either they’re being paid off with contributions or even directly, or they’re expecting to get a good private sector job later, or they’re looking for votes. And, the Feds are even trying to profit from illegal activity, as are thousands of businesses, including large ones such as banks and money transfer companies.

    And, unfortunately, one of those corrupt politicians is Barack Obama, who marched at the May 1 2006 illegal immigration march in Chicago. The same march that was organized by those associated with Mexican political parties and those linked to the Mexican government.

    If Prof. Lessig wants to do something about corruption, I urge him to look into illegal immigration, even if some of those he supports are on the wrong side.

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael

    The correct wikipedia link is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

    There seem to be two basic approaches:

    a) Restructuring markets through regulation to ensure competition (for example, separation of backhaul and local-loop businesses from each other and from content and services), as well as other forms of reform aimed at making it more difficult to buy influence directly or indirectly (eg. sunshine laws and exposing astroturf operations).

    b) The second approach is to make it radically easier and cheaper to ‘do politics’, so that large wads of cash are simply not very helpful anymore.

    I think both are needed, but people have been advocating the former for a very long time without getting very far, so the latter may be a critical missing enabler. Most attempts I’ve seen at building this kind of infrastructure have been at the national level, making little headway except for gathering an opposing amount of cash. Perhaps focusing on local politics first (mayoral elections, judges, city councils, school boards) and scaling up will work better.

  • http://www.madlibrarian.net Eli

    Well, dang it.

    Thank you and much success to you, sir.

  • Steve Champagne

    Only the ounce of prevention trumps the pound of cure needed in your new interest, as it does in even simpler matters like, “why do I need a bike lock?” “why do I need 100 passwords?” “why can’t I hand a waiter/waitress my credit card anymore, without learning of thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges against it hundreds of miles away in another month?”

    And that ounce of prevention is: “raise better human beings”.

    It’s time to get serious about understanding the nature of “self” and “selfishness”, and support those who do the real work of forming “self” (i.e. parents), with education on why one can do one’s child (and others who will have to endure them) no greater disservice than to raise them to be habitually selfish.

    PS: The reader would do well to do some homework on the nature of “self” and “selfishness” before hastily coming to conclusions about this based up on popular notions thereof.

  • beowulf

    Hey Larry,

    Perhaps you are reaching the point of diminishing returns by focusing on IP reform. Everyone with an interest in the matter is familiar with your views and (excepting those with vested financial interests) everyone is agrees with you.

    As to your new endeavor, the problem with good government types (goo-goos) is that they imagine what they want is naturally the best path for everyone. So if their system isn’t explicitly a system of elites imposing their views on the public at large, implicitly their reforms mean elites get to overrule the yahoos. TLB’s rant against immigration isn’t far off base. The Rasmussen polls arre pretty clear cut that the elite opinion of immigration is in stark contrast to the public opinion of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

    My point is, the path out of either elite rule or special interest rule is putting the “Wisdom of Crowds” in the political system. The most radical proposal is former Gov. Pete Dupont’s suggestion that the House of Representatives be chosen randomly (like a jury pool). In terms of what could be achieved without a constitutional amendment, Ross Perot proposed an electronic referendum system (IIRC he meant as an advisory vote taken before Congress voted on issues) and Bruce Ackerman has proposed a Deliberation Day, when voters would be briefed and then hash out issues in groups two weeks before election day.

    If you mash up the two: Before Congress votes on any issue, you could take a random sample of voters, have them go through a Deliberation Day and then take an advisory vote on the issue.

    At the very least, Kevin Phillips idea that Members of Congress vote electronically from their home district office wouuld certainly confound the lobbyist class.

  • Marcos Gonzalez

    Can you help fight corruption in third world countries? Cause it is spoiling everything!

    Please help create an anti corruption foundatin for Venezuela!

  • http://www.humanwirtschaft-online.de AndyCarl

    The keyword is “human”. I�m from germany and perhaps it is the place, from where you can start your journey.
    To understand the corruption you mean it could be helpful to understand money.
    Try this:


    the post form June the 20th “Globalisation and Public Welfare with respect to the money and land order”

  • Bill Frank


    I’ve read your books and have been an admirer. As you move forward regarding “corruption” you might consider a more balanced approach. All the “corruption” is not the resulte of big business running wild.

    For example, the Democrat leadership in Congress changed not at all from the Republicans as it tries to use earmarks to bribe Democrat congressman to vote a particular way.

    Union member dues are automatically used to support Democrat candidates and issues without individual union member consent.

    We are still in Iraq despite the Democrat control of Congress and war funding.

    Is it unreasonable that illegal aliens convicted of a crime should be deported? Why would Ted Kennedy be against this?

    Is it reasonable that our state taxes continue to go up because state workers are gaming the pension system?

    Finally, while there is no doubt about global warming, the cause is very much in doubt. Gore is entitled to his opinion, but it’s just that – an opinion.

    I could go on. As an original thinker, it behooves you to examine issues from all sides.



  • C.T.

    Maybe politicians shouldn’t be allowed to serve for more than one term.

  • http://lonewacko.com/ TLB

    beowulf: here’s a small step you and Lessig might consider:


    As I’ve posted here before, making presidential debates open source is worthless if the questions they’re asked are worthless. Much better to push for better questions. That would help reduce corruption by both politicians and the press.

    From the link:

    “Each [presidential] debate should be focused on just a few topics in order to avoid generalities. Debate moderators should consult with policy matter experts from across the entire spectrum, and ask them to craft questions designed to reveal flaws in the candidates’ positions. Journalists are not policy experts, and there are some topics – such as immigration and globalization – where the mainstream media is aligned with most politicians despite what everyone else thinks. Moderators – together with experts from across the spectrum – should be allowed to ask a series of questions in order to hone in on a candidate’s actual positions and in order to reveal flaws in their policies. “

  • RFT

    Larry, you’re the closest thing we have today to a Jefferson or Franklin. Thanks for taking up the most difficult fights, regardless of your chance of winning them.

  • Martin

    Mr. Lessig,

    Thanks for the shift, it’s a good move; I think of IP problems and corruption of government/democracy by company money, the latter is the higher-level problem.
    I’ve been trying to wake my friends for over five years now concerning this issue, and one thing is very clear: far to few people talk, or even think about the subject.

    And neither the danger of this corruption to democracy, nor its recognition are new:

    ” “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That in its [sic] essence, is Fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling private power.”
    – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message proposing the “Standard Oil” Monopoly Investigation, 1938″


  • Mark

    Thank you for your hard work over the years. You spent a lot of personal time on issues that matter to many of us, and it is appreciated greatly.

  • Anon

    This is a tall an the mountain to climb.
    Our money itself is corrupt. It was supposed to be either Silver or Gold.
    The majority of our representatives don’t actually write laws that obey the Constitution.
    There is an argument that since the 14th Ammendment, we haven’t actually been citizens of what we thought we were living in.
    Why did WTC 7 fall?
    Why did both towers fall like demolished towers when no other tower has ever fallen from fire? There has been a similar situation in Egypt that did not fall.
    Why do our current Social Security cards look a lot like stock certificates?
    When was the last time the US was not in a state of emergency?

    Good Luck.

  • Rich

    No complaints here, Larry. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a problem that I have long despaired of, and I have seen no way for me, a typical middle-class guy, to effect change. It is a huge problem that I sincerely hope you can make a dent in, as I have all but written off my ability to do the same.

    I will freely admit that there’s a lot to the political process that I don’t understand, but I’ve never understood the difference between political contributions and bribery. I mean, there *must* be a line somewhere, right? But darned if I can see a difference. Money changes hands, and it affects the process.

  • Grant Schnebly

    > until a more fundamental problem is fixed,
    > “the movement” can’t succeed

    You get it. Thanks for your continued service in this crazy war of sanity vs. money.

  • Eduardo

    Looking at corruption from 50,000 feet, two factors are:

    1) persons without normal consciences, often referred to as sociopaths, who comprise perhaps 2% of the population.

    2) complex social systems in which such persons can profitably engage in various unethical activities, including influencing the government for monetary gain.

  • Tyler Durden

    I have a decent amount of professional experience in fighting corruption (as an auditor, info security specialist, and fraud investigator). What I’ve seen is that laws are made by elites for commoners. The elites view themselves as above the law, and commoners are within it, whether the obey or disobey. This is a matter of acquiring power. No academic model will solve this problem. The powerful and those seeking will simply reject any constraints put on them. For example – the Declaration of Independence affirmed “god given rights” to all people. The old structure was rejected — but a new one was set in place almost immediately. Even the weak central government set forth in the Constitution was viewed as suspect at the time. Ever so slowly a new elite emerged that tilted the rules in its own favor. Why compete on a level playing field when you could in fact tilt the field in your favor? This process is inevitable under current economic and human nature constraints.

    Regarding human nature, We must go back to first principles — morality. Study ancient religious texts and modern evolutionary psychology. “The Lucifer Principle” by Howard Bloom is a great text. If you are a materialist, group selection evolutionary pressures dictate evil & corruption. If you are religious, some concept of evil explains the same. Communism failed because it had a positive view of human nature that was vastly off the mark. Yet Marx’s predictions of the direction of capitalism have proven alarmingly accurate. Many science fiction authors have explored what would happen to society if fundamental aspects of human nature were changed…

    Regarding economics, corruption is is an unsolvable feature of our society because society is hierarchical. Groups have competing agendas, and therefore go to the source of power to advance those agendas. The only “solution” is diffusion of power through a mutually interdependent networked anarchy (not chaos). The economic models based on scarcity support the hierarchy — because massive centralization is necessary for production. If we were to transition to an individual producer society as it was in the ancient times, but with modern technology such as self-generation of electricity through solar/wind, micromanufacturing, etc, individual moderately powerful actors could dilute the base of massive amounts of weak actors necessary in our current society. All the negative aspects of our current society would fade. There would still be conflict, but it would be on an individual scale. The incentives of the economic system would encourage other actors to limit the spread of influence by force.

  • /. coward

    I’m someone who works in Washington, so I’m posting as a coward.

    I’ve seen Lessig talk, read a lot of his stuff, and must say that his announcement is the most egomanical thing I’ve read in a while. First: Lessig doesn’t know Washington at all. He couldn’t pronounce Congressman Goodlate’s name correctly when Goodlatte was one of the top copyright people in town. Second: activism isn’t all on the net. You have to show up and lobby once in a while. Lessig was absent most of the time. Third: corruption? Lawyers and lobbyists get paid to represent interests. There were LOTS of paid guys running around DC advocating the exact same things Lessig does because they were paid to. Many corporations are fighting copyright battles and pay well to do it.

    Whether you agree with Greenpeace, hate GE, or just the opposite, there are paid people in DC arguing on your behalf. They are ALL lobbyists. And that doesn’t make them corrupt. And it doesn’t mean they are guns used to the highest bidder either. Most believe what they advocate. Passionately.

    Lessig may know copyrights, but he don’t know politics.

  • Mike S.

    I just want to thank you for your efforts to make the world a better place. If more people would work toward this goal rather than wealth and power, well that would already be a good start.

  • http://jhw.vox.com james woodyatt

    Insert strong words of encouragement here.

    I hope you will reconsider using the word ‘corruption’ to describe the problem you’re choosing. The word carries such a strong connotation related to personal ethical failure that I worry your unconventional usage of it here will lead to a lot of otherwise avoidable confusion.

    It’s like the difference between “lies” and “bullshit” I think. It’s not so much that our politicians are ethically corrupt; it’s that the ethical system in place is fundamentally irrelevant to the business of governance anymore. I’m not sure I see a way to bring ethics and accountability back into our political system, but if anyone can figure out a tough problem like that, then I’m confident it’s you.

    I hope you achieve success in your efforts. It would be nice to feel some optimism about politics again.

  • Charles Sullivan

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said far more eloquently by others. Thank you for fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom over the past ten years – you’ve been and will remain our hero. May your new endeavors be fruitful as the future of our civilization is at stake.

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com lucychili

    w00t. fantastic LL. Will be wonderful to have this creative mind not scoped by that stultifying copyright law. Also agree with crazymonk and obscure kiwi that this is one of those information stack issues where the structure of discourse has been bent beyond constructive function. Obama does think interesting thoughts and seems prepared to walk the talk. Drahos’s book Information Feudalism is about international treaties around information policy, which is your old stomping ground, but is also written from a perspective that leaves you with that sense of structural disfunction of political process, of what is missing. His paper on the ratchet model of treaties is useful. Confessions of an Economic Hitman is another face2face with international structural disfunction.
    Looking forward to this. Thankyou Janet

  • joff

    New beginnings are always very exciting. Looking forward to a new chapter for you. You’ll continue to be at the top of my blog reader…


  • http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/ Jay Rosen

    Here’s what I wrote at my blog:

    After ten years of authorship and activism about copyright insanity and the Creative Commons solution, Larry Lessig hangs it up. His new beat: political corruption. This is someone I respect and admire a great deal, and more so after his decision to execute this turn in his studies. (About corruption: “I am beginner.”) My favorite lines in his farewell, copyright post. “I am 99.9% confident that the problem I turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try.”

    Right on, Larry. You continue to be an inspiration to me.

  • concerned citizen

    Yeah. You seem really egomaniacal. I can figure out what you’re planning to do. Are you going into politics??

  • Siera


    You’re the type of person who starts a discussion and even a movement, then lets others take over. I admire you for that.

    Good luck on your new endeavor. I have faith that you will captivate people when you talk about corruption like you did with IP issues.

    Your “creativity builds on the past” meme was one of the things that got me interested in IP. I hope you can make up a new meme for the new issues you’re concerned with.

    Also, use the same format for your powerpoints on corruption like you did in the past. They are very effective.

    I look forward to what you have to say.

  • Siera


    You’re the type of person who starts a discussion and even a movement, then lets others take over. I admire you for that.

    Good luck on your new endeavor. I have faith that you will captivate people when you talk about corruption like you did with IP issues.

    Your “creativity builds on the past” meme was one of the things that got me interested in IP. I hope you can make up a new meme for the new issues you’re concerned with.

    Also, use the same format for your powerpoints on corruption like you did in the past. They are very effective.

    I look forward to what you have to say.

  • Tim Shephard

    I think the challenge has always been, and poorly recognized, is how to have accountability without money managing the process.

    We need an evolution of ideas. How do you objectively measure survival except via campaign donations?

    Who’s going to decide which idea is right and which idea is wrong? You? Some professor at a university?

    Are we going to have a referendum on every bill? Isn’t that why we elect senators and congressman? But waitasec, are they really the right people to be making the decisions on complex ideas when really their skillset is just getting elected?

    I don’t think the political process is corrupted. I just think it’s the best way to do things in a very imperfect world.

  • http://turn.pro Mike Stone

    I’d like to see someone of your stature take on a similar problem, the problem of intellectually dishonest, dangerous R judges, not only life-appointee federal judges but also state prosecutor-judges, and the larger problem that the public isn’t aware of the harm they can do. Just look on pollingreport.com and look at the numbers for people like Roberts or Scalia.

  • Justin

    I am a great admirer of Larry Lessig. Were he to retire today his contributions would be phenomenal, especially to the free software movement. I expect his new endeavor to be one that truly makes a difference in a corrupt world.

  • PHP

    I agree that in some countries, especially the US, democracy is becoming a farce.

    The people in power do not listen to the people, they do not do what is good to the people. Only big money and big companies decide what is good for the people.

    So the power has been sold to the lobbyist. And one important reason for this is the money that they get from the big companies. The congressman is better off getting $100.000 as a consultant to XYZ than he is if he fight against them for the little man.

    America has sold out democracy to corporations.

  • http://c0d3h4x0r.0catch.com Keith Kelly


    You hit the nail right on the head. Important, obvious needs in the US and beyond are blatantly ignored by government due to informal financial corruption.

    But the bottom line is that the system, as defined, is so badly broken that it is impossible to fix the system by working within the system. The only way that corruptive financial influence over government will cease is for all the oppressed intelligent citizens to rise up violently and forcibly overthrow the government and replace it with a new one… and hopefully the new one will finally be designed so as to be truly immune to the influence of rich special interests.

  • Siera


    You’re the type of person who starts a discussion and even a movement, then lets others take over. I admire you for that.

    Good luck on your new endeavor. I have faith that you will captivate people when you talk about corruption like you did with IP issues.

    Your “creativity builds on the past” meme was one of the things that got me interested in IP. I hope you can make up a new meme for the new issues you’re concerned with.

    Also, use the same format for your powerpoints on corruption like you did in the past. They are very effective.

    I look forward to what you have to say.

  • http://www.boycott-riaa.com Mike (Shmoo) Steely

    You correctly identified (and best of luck fighting) the true underlying problem our society has with regard to Free Culture (and just about everything else wrong out there!)

    You have done so much to get our “movement” started. We have grown very strong over the past 10 years. Don’t worry, there are lots of us out here to continue spreading the Free Culture message from now on.

    Now, go kick ass and take names in the new arena of battle!

    –independentmusician, aka “Shmoo” of Electric Gypsy
    and http://www.boycott-riaa.com

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I should have put in suggestions earlier about reading, e.g. Lani Guinier’s work, and studying “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, to get some mathematical insight.

    Oh well, too late now to get it read by the commenter-flood.

  • vinay

    Six degrees of separation

    Indeed it is a bold, and very interesting step of a distinguished activist. I applaud your choice, as I did all the work you did in the area of IP.

    Coming to corruption, you’ll have your plate full – or even overflowing. My initial suspicion is that you will discover great details of what connects globalisation to global warming to the “war on terror” etc. There is probably no more than “six degrees of separation” between all the major issues that we as humanity face. And these issues float in the miasma of corruption.

    Wishing you (and the rest of us) Good Luck !

  • Lin Borkey

    Three words, Larry: congressional term limits

  • http://www.piratpartiet.se/ Rickard Olsson

    Best of luck and keep up the good fight, Larry.

    One of the positive terms we’ve come up with is “Citizen respect” – used to describe the respect the elected should have for the electors so they don’t try to blind-side us with laws that are “for our own good” without giving us all the facts and reasoning. “War on terror”, software patents, copyright extensions and a lot of environmental issues stem from this same root cause, the same lack of respect. It’s our money they’re spending and our children’s future they’re playing with.

    When fighting fires, you are supposed to point the extinguisher at the base of the flames, not the top. Same thing here – cure the disease, not the symptoms. So yes, this is a logical next move.

    BCNY on the barricades and on the house floors. ;-)

  • David

    Interesting challenge.

    You call it corruption – but since the government and the law stand to serve people and corporates are legally people – what’s the problem :)

    Is it the disproportionate power of the wealthy individual? The ethics and morals of organisations? An evolutionary jungle where humanity is challenged by corporate entities? The place of faith (not religious faith) when there is too much knowledge for a single person?

    I wait with bated breath…

  • http://blog.davidkaspar.com David Kaspar

    Very well put, especially “And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.”

    Best of luck!

  • http://www.quotedb.com/quotes/1931 Henry Ward Beecher

    “The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next”

  • ER

    I’m afraid the problems lie in democracy and the human nature itself. While democracy may be the best kind of government so far, it’s mostly an illusion. It’s opium of the masses, giving the illusion that the average citizen has an effect on government, while all the real decisions are made in small circles and hidden cabinets. And it’s not just that the system is corrupted, but that a real democracy wouldn’t work either. Heck, I wouldn’t want to see a society where the decicions are made by the average opinions and views.

  • Larry

    Larry, I add my thanks, and best of luck to you. You have set for yourself the ultimate task: to weaken the grip of Capital on the legislative process — the principal tool by which it protects its prerogatives. It took the Great Depression to discredit Capital sufficiently to enable the public to push back and expand the public sphere. McCarthy-ism was the response. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement and the Sixties that the public was strong and organized enough to push again for an expansion of the public interest. Reagan (and the Democratic de-regulators) was the response — and they have gained ground since.

    I look forward to your contribution in this area. The force required to push back against the corruption that favors Capital has to come from the public, and will have to be great. The policy-makers can help chart the way, and channel the energy of a mobilized public so that when the time is right there may be solutions that again expand the public interest, whether it’s in health care, education, the environment, election reform, labor, or peace. I’m sure you will soon be in the forefront of policy-making and organizing in this area. I look forward to your thoughts and your new activism.


  • WiseWoman

    Will you be joining Transparency International?
    That would be awesome!

  • Bryan

    I would like to help. In my opinion this is the defining issue in society today. Until we can return government to the people and away from corporations and special interests our nation will continue to slide. The point of current legislature is not to protect the people but to protect the profits of companies. In doing so the laws lower our standards of living and slowly degrades the abilities of this once great nation.

  • Anon

    Thanks for your great work so far and best of luck.

  • nate

    Good Luck Larry! I feel confident that there are many continuing your work. myself included.

  • Venugopal

    Wish you all the best ! The world is a better place due to your work.

    The work of Arbinger institute [ http://www.arbinger.com ] has been inspiring me personally since I started reading it last month. Hope you can use some of the ideas for your future work on ‘de-corruption’.

    God speed.


  • http://fiorellocortiana.it fiorello cortiana

    Larry, thanks for all you have done to explain the nature of the digital/cognitive ecosystem and the rights for its future. I think that now you are continuing to face the same challenge in another way.I hope we’ll have another lunch together like the last one in Milan at the conference “Sharing Knowledge”. Have a good hacking, arrivederci.

  • phil


    Electronic Voting Machines

    I don’t see how you or I or anyone is going to clean out these Oath Of Office Breaking, Perceived Diligence, Corrupt people without first removing these unconstitutional, rigged electronic voting machines.

  • murmelfuss

    Hi Larry,

    Is it possible Apple has swapped out Gore’s Keynote from the URL you give above for an AD for Keynote3 presentation software?

    If so, doncha love it. :-/

  • http://www.leonardi.adv.br/blog/ Marcel Leonardi

    Dear Professor Lessig,

    You can be sure that your outstanding work on Internet/Intellectual Propery issues will carry on influencing students, policy makers and other professors around the world.

    I hope you can achieve at least some of your goals on the new path you have chosen. This new road is much bumpier.

    For now, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

  • Ian H

    The way that people act is constrained in general by the nature of the system in which they find themselves. It is difficult to change human nature. It is possible to change the design of the system to discourage corrupt behavior.

    Hence to address the problems you mention you must be willing to redesign the system – a rethink of the constitution is needed! That is going to be hard to do considering the extent to which the founding fathers and their document are venerated in the US.

    Democracy is not a Boolean variable. It is a continuum. The US could actually do with being a lot more democratic. A government which claims to be of the people for the people is instead much more like of the rich for the rich. Is this not the problem you have observed?

    One place to start would be with a survey of how different democracies function around the world, comparing the structure of each system with the level and nature of `corruption’ (in the sense defined by yourself).

    In the US I would point the finger in particular at separation of powers. Separation of powers is practiced in the US in an extreme and peculiar form not found in other democracies. In my opinion it is at the root of many of the problems that seem to particularly afflict the US.

    When power is divided responsibility can be evaded. When power to act is dispersed, power to block action becomes universal. When the paths by which decisions are made become convoluted and unclear actual power is exercised out of the public eye and the door is opened to all sorts of slimy dealing.
    An open and more direct system is less subject to this kind of abuse.

  • Joshua Markel

    Sounds to me like you are peeling away the layers of the onion, a decade at a time. Just as the layer underneath IP issues is that of “corruption”, “corruption” itself is the outer layer of something more fundamental. Unfortunately, that innermost layer is something which has already been named, but with a name which has become a vastly oversimplified charicature of itself – that is to say the rule of that class which owns the means of production (and those it can buy off in various real and imaginary ways).

    This structure has as its predominant feature dishonest accounting. The true costs of products and services is always passed on to the general public in a hidden way. The true cost of recylcling dead automobiles and dealing with their pollution is passed on to a public which willingly profits their makers and later pays the price. The true cost of the health of the workers making the cars is likewise hidden.

    It is no accident that the “corruption” of the political process takes place. There are people who benefit from that corruption and until a social democratic movement forcibly (but not violently) takes away some of the prerogatives of the owning class (as it has done to a limited extent in Europe in the past) this corruption will continue.

    Unfortunately, no amount of intellectual clarity on this issue can take the place of a political movement which has as its basis greater social control of key economic decisions but which also does not make the mistake of previous socialist initiatives in squelching entrepreneurship and individual freedom of inquiry and expression.

  • The Lodger

    I’m reminded of Einstein, spending the last half of his career, trying and failing to discover the unified field theory. I’m praying that you have better luck than he did :)

  • http://www.rustypipes.org Artie Jordan

    Thank you for 10 years of fighting for the creative commons. You’re an inspiration for all of us trying to stay free in the digital age, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Best of luck in the next phase, and thanks again for all the work you’ve done and I’m sure will continue to do.

    Give em hell!

  • Alan

    Kudos for all the work you’ve done. I’ve not always agreed with some of your political assessments but you’ve done the world a great service in this space.

    Some of the those commenting above came close to the issues you are about to confront (and is always interesting to see marxism rear its head again and again)

    If you aren’t radical in your approach (in the “root” sense of radical), you won’t be able to come up with answers to your quest.

    Hint: Everyone has a religion – the question is: which religion(s) accord most with reality. Atheists, secularists, agnostics – all have god(s) and religion. Until you find the right one, all of your efforts will only exacerbate the problem.

  • Pete C

    I was fortunate to have heard you speak and seen your amazing free culture presentation a few years ago. Thanks for the insights and raising my awareness on these issues and good luck in your new endeavor. But, you must not have listened to much punk music. Here’s what the British band The Jam had to say about “corruption” over 25 years ago:
    “And they didn’t teach me that in school -
    It’s something that I learnt on my own -
    That power is measured by the pound or the fist -
    It’s as clear as this”

  • http://www.wirearchy.com Jon Husband

    Best of luck, Larry. Nobody better to take this on.

    IP and copyright are just the tip of the control-society-and-everything-in-it iceberg.

    We need something different than money-and-property-take-all for the next phase of human existence.

  • http://autogeny.org J Storrs Hall

    I would modestly urge you to read my book “Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine”. First reason: sefl-deception in the face of strong motives is just as endemic to the human mind as it is to the political process. Second reason: most of the problems you describe are ultimately problems of stupidity — e.g. companies that fought regulation of CFC’s now make the most on their replacements; what were they fighting for? Similarly with global warming. But more basically, if voters as a whole had a firm grasp of economic theory, the term-extension idiocy simply couldn’t happen.

    So making more people smarter (or making more smarter people) is the only realistic solution — the political process (or the market) can only do so much if the population it operates over is clueless.

  • UNC fan

    From your UNC fan club: Best wishes!

    Your work has inspired a whole legion of us to teach these important lessons and concepts at the graduate level at countless institutions across the country.

    Speaking as an IP researcher and a mother, I’m thinking some of this decision has to do with your growing family, too.

    Let’s hear equal applause for the generation of intelligent and dedicated fathers. It’s no small task balancing the demands of academic work with family…especially if you want to do both well.

  • Karin

    In a lot of the comments above people talk about the need for different/better education for a system like democracy to work.
    With the basic thought behind that better and improved education: learning them how to think for themselves.
    I’m studying to be a teacher myself and in the current curriculum there is no time for that education. Students have to learn all kinds of unimportant tidbits like how flowers reproduce, what the bones in our body are called and how the nervous system work.
    If we don’t teach them that, but instead teach them to be interested in the world around them and how to look up information and question that information, I think their knowledge would be greater by the time they graduate �nd they will know how to keep improving their knowledge. More importantly, they will have learned to think for themselves. They will not blindly copy others thoughts.

  • three blind mice

    professor, your announcement brings to mind this stolen piece of dialogue from popular culture.

    lessig blog: So if you’re quitting the life, what’ll you do?

    professor: That’s what I’ve been sitting here contemplating. First, I’m gonna deliver this case to Marsellus. Then, basically, I’m gonna walk the earth.

    lessig blog What do you mean, walk the earth? and who the hell is marsellus?

    professor You know, like Caine in “KUNG FU.” Just walk from town to town attack the corruption in politics , meet people, get in adventures.

    lessig blog How long do you intend to walk the earth?

    professor Until God puts me where he want me to be.

    lessig blog What if he never does? will you come back to copyright?

    you’re doing a good thing, professor. change you choose yourself is always good….. but it feels a bit like alan alda not being hawkeye pierce anymore.

    your voice in the dialogue will be sorely missed.

    vaya con dios, herr professor.

  • Jan Hornb�ll Hansen

    Thanks for what you’ve already accomplished. Best of luck in your new endavor. Corruption/degradation of the political system is a problem that absolutely needs to be addressed, I just hope you will not limit your focus to USA, this has affected all countries in the western world. Much like the IP issue it may be more severe in USA, but most os us experience the detrimental effect of this.
    Here in Denmark Microsoft is twisting the debate over ODF vs. OOXML and goverment is likely to make a descition as unwise as extending copyright.

  • http://www.weblogg-ed.com Will Richardson

    Just want to note what an inspiration your work has been to me, and I’ve learned a great, great deal from your efforts. As I read this post, what really struck me was a similar sense that I’ve been struggling with when it comes to changing public school education to prepare our kids for a vastly different world, one that you have so greatly helped me understand. I wonder if that can happen before bigger problems and broader ways of thinking are “reformed.”

    Many good wishes on your new efforts, and I for one will continue to read.

  • http://kathyandcalvin.com Dickey47

    Karin – how can:

    “I think their knowledge would be greater by the time they graduate and they will know how to keep improving their knowledge. More importantly, they will have learned to think for themselves. They will not blindly copy others thoughts.”

    If kids don’t have a basis of knowledge. Why would they be interested in learning more about flowers if they didn’t understand how they reproduce, grow, or have cool genetic traits that can be passed on. What you are advocating is a stupid population that will hopefully learn things because they are, hopefully, curious. Dude, curiosity comes from a base of knowledge, not out of thin air. Please don’t believe the ed schools. I’m in WGU myself studying to be an elementary teacher. I have been reading up on copyright and Lessig because I found that knowledge should be free. You know, the direct instruction kind that schools should be performing but aren’t. Sad really.

  • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

    Dickey47: curiosity is a natural human feature, and people (this has been proven time and time again) learn naturally by their own curiosity at an age that differs from person to person, but eventually all healthy people display curiosity to learn. School usually succeeds in stunting that.

    Andy: I don’t think you’ve read the entry for “atheism” in your friendly neighborhood dictionary. It means, literally, “NO GOD”. No, as in “none”. God, as in “God”. Any other interpretation you may want to impress on us is simply the result of you not knowing what words mean.

  • http://google.com Tom Ritchford

    Very very best wishes to you!

    This is a glorious undertaking. I fear you won’t make any progress until there’s some sort of actual collapse, be it large and universal or, we hope, smaller and something we can recover from. People deep in delusional systems almost never emerge until the real world smacks them in the face — all your logic and wit are worthless against their armour.

    But this is the best thing you could be doing. Let us know how we can help.

  • Carrington Ward

    I got pulled over here from the “Scholars for Obama” blog. Looking forward to following your new work.

  • http://http:/www.xanga.com/edg176 Tim Fong

    This is fantastic news. I’m glad to hear you are taking this new direction. Regarding corruption:
    The real issue seems to be how to build a system where the decision making process is responsive to accurate feedback about reality. It seems like the current rules under which we operate have few incentives for that to happen, and plenty of incentives to insulate the decision making process from reality.

    I suspect that the level of change necessary would require Constitutional amendments.

    What about something like: require that laws which purport to solve a problem, be subject to empirical verification with a defined time limit. For example, if someone proposes a law that purports to “encourage creativity” by extending the copyright term, let’s find a way to empirically measure that. Give the bill , say, 10 years, and then set some metrics by which to measure creativity. If at the end of that time (or halfway) if the results are not delivered, sunset the law. We would probably need to set up a separate court system to adjudicate something like this– you’d need auditors, essentially, appointed for life and subject to rigorous screening and surveillance.

    Are you familiar with the Independent Commission Against Corruption ( ICAC) in Hong Kong? They’ve done a lot of anti-corruption work, and it was fairly successful.

  • ElRey

    Thanks for all you have done in the IP realm.

    I think you are right. As long as govt and business are conspiring to rip off the populace none of the IP problems will get fixed.

    I tend to agree with some of the other folks that publically funded elections is most likely part of the solution. Right now, you can’t get elected without millions of dollars, your own or somebody else’s. Without corporate money you can’t get elected, so you tend to represent the corporation rather than the people. I know at least one state has already moved to publically funded elections for state office and the results have been encouraging.

    From what I’ve read, the whole issue of “corporation as person” was never actually officially decided by the Supreme Court, though I doubt that would get far with the current court. Thomas Jefferson had some interesting things to say about corporations.

    Thought this was an interesting corruption story: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/6/23/6333/15245

    Also, in the new movie Sicko, about an hour in he talks to a former British MP who has some interesting insights. While other countries may have their own problems, looking at other countries for where they have successes is good to do.

    There is so much propaganda out there that sounds good to people but doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. Things like, “What’s good for business is good for the country.”, even when these are competing interests. For example, what “interest” do the majority of the people have in having jobs outsourced to other countries? “Creating jobs” is great, unless we’re really talking about creating minimum wage jobs with no benefits to make up for the engineering jobs with full benefits that got outsourced. How about oil contracts where we allow companies to pump oil out of public lands for next to nothing (OUR oil) and then sell it back to us at over 3x what it cost to pump out of the ground.

    Also the whole, “We need to privatize X because companies can do it more cost effectively.”, argument is a total farce and a big hole for corruption. Companies exist to make a profit. They have a motive to save money by reducing costs, but they don’t have a motive to pass that cost savings on to the customer, particularly when the contract isn’t bid or the bidding process is rigged. Look at all the Katrina contracts. Private health insurance spends 15% to process claims, while medicare spends 3%. So much for govt being less cost effective.

    Until people get mad about how they’re being taken advantage of, I don’t see things changing. Historically, governments that get corrupt beyond a certain point end up getting overthrown. Hopefully it won’t get that far in the US, but if something isn’t done it wouldn’t surprise me to see something like that in the next 100 years…

  • http://pier-23.tripod.com Pier Johnson

    Lessig, I will save you years of research time and get you right into the fray.

    [1] Restore Popular Representation to the House according to the Founders ratio of 1:30,000

    Since the Centralist “overthrow” in 1913, Congress suspended popular representation in the House, effectively changing the inherent design of the Constitution of the United States of America.

    This change:

    [a] established a single senate, effectively, with 80% of its members standing for re-election (pay off) every 2 years.

    [b] eliminated the power of the ordinary, commoner people, one that would grow stronger as the head count has grown and delivered this power to a small group of elites

    [2] Restore free seignorage coin minting and cancel the private cartel of the Federal Reserve Bank established during the 1913 “overthrow”.

    Once again, our genius Colonial America Founders knew better than we do today. By allowing a fiat banknote currency to become the mechanism of transaction, Americans lost control of their self-governance to a band of professional politicos.

    The privately owned Federal Reserve bank is the source for all dollars within the economy and hence the members of Congress stick out their hands to grab this continuously devaluing paper money.

    [3] Repeal the 16th Amendment that supports Marxist eponential rate income confiscation to support point [2]

    Our smart Founders knew that income taxation provides the mechanism for organized individuals to push otherwise compulsory taxation burdens upon those who are not organized and cannot gain favorable advantage through Congressional lobbying.

    [4] If you are really serious about ending Centralist control of each American, work to end Marxist confiscatory property taxation of all kinds.

    Once again, our Colonial Founders knew that if you levy tax on property, the tax effectively gives ownership to the state and provides limited usage rights to individuals. In essence, persons no longer own their property but rent it from the state.

    Everyday, Americans should be thankful for George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Wilson and a cast of others, including later appearing Andrew Jackson.

    Moreso, Americans should curse the names of Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

    This Hall of Shame of stage performers have duped Americans on behalf of the cabal of Bureaucratic Progressive Socialists and Mercantilist Oligopolists.

    This cabal alone is the sole source of all problems in America today and have been the sole source of problems in America since 1913.

    Without fail, Americans should joyfully celebrate the death of perhaps the most venal man alive, the one-time Gold Bug Randian who turned into America’s John Law. That man is Alan Greenspan, the Bubble Man.

    The true debate is about living IN Freedom with inalienable rights of life, liberty, property — rights we already have by virtue of being alive and being men — or being forced to live UNDER Officialdom, where elites grant privileges passed off as “political rights” or “civil rights” or “civil liberties” or “group rights” and only to those favoreds who please the elites of Officialdom.

  • http://ww.odr.info/rule.php Colin Rule

    Kudos to you for this bold move, Larry. Your entry into this line of activism is truly a harbinger of good things to come.

    Considering the magintude of your commitment (10+ years) I would urge you to think hard about the roots of the problem you are naming before you start to form an agenda. This “corruption” (especially in the broad way you are defining it) is a slippery thing to nail down. The perverse incentives introduced into democracy by money are one thing, but getting at whose motives are “corrupted” and whose motives are not is an entirely different ball of wax. Smith’s marketplace is about bending selfishness for social good — instead of attacking the selfishness, which will never go away, we should get creative about how we design the system, so that we can use the realities of human nature as our engine for making democracy work, as opposed to cursing them as a fatal flaw that undermines our ability to achieve socially optimal ends.

    I have great confidence that you will bring a seriousness and creativity to this challenge, one of the biggest challenges we face, that will realize some real progress. I’m eager to see what you come up with, and pitch in as well.


  • Brad Emerson

    Kudos and my two cents…

    I am please and encouraged to read about your decision — I also agree with some thoughts on how difficult this will be. My one suggestion is to attack everything by looking at the path of least resistance. People will do the right thing if it’s easy. When there is no impediment to doing the wrong thing that’s what will and does happen.

    I have heard it purposed that congress people be sworn it when speaking on the floor. This is one way to create a path of least resistance that is good for the people.

    I suggest that the more you can do to create paths of least resistance that focus on people doing the right things the further you will get and the more lasting the results.


  • http://www.socialmediaclub.com/ Chris Heuer

    Congratulations and good luck.

    I could not imagine you moving on to an even bigger and more important cause at this crucial time in our existence. I have a lot of thoughts in this arena as well and look forward to a chance to share them with you over coffee perhaps later in the summer at Stanford. I briefly touched upon some of the related issues in my post on “The Importance of Social Media”, but perhaps need to revisit the issue in more explicit terms.

    Let me know however I might be able to help…

  • http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Mokurai Edward M. Cherlin

    Welcome to the fight, Larry. My organization, Earth Treasury, has this as one of the major components in our attempt to end poverty at a profit by piggybacking on the One Laptop Per Child program. We propose to teach the children business and the necessary civics for their countries and the world at large. The children need you to share what you are going to learn and discover, and what a lot of other people will learn and discover.

    Simply ending the corn subsidies in the US would go a long way toward restoring agriculture around the world. In particular, it would greatly reduce that “giant sucking sound” you hear from Mexico, where bankrupt farmers are entering the US illegally in droves. But of course we can’t begin to have a national discussion about such a simple solution to the immigration “problem” under the present system.

    On the corruption of US aid to developing countries, and what we should be doing instead, I believe that the best starting point is to read

    Stiglitz, The Roaring Nineties
    Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents
    Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work
    Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom

    You also need to read about the Milgram experiments at Yale, for example in John Dean’s book, Conservatives Without Conscience, and the Stanford Prison experiment, in The Lucifer Effect : Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip Zimbardo

    And you can’t make sense of the US or world economy and political order without reading Thorstein Veblen’s classic, The Theory of the Leisure Class. Much of the behavior of politicians and the corporate elite is laid out clearly here. It is also the funniest serious sociology study ever written. I assume that you have the Federalist on your reading list, and de Tocqueville is good, too.


    * The Evolution of Cooperation, by Norman Axelrod
    * The Complexity of Cooperation, by Norman Axelrod
    * Helplessness: On Depression, Development and Death by Martin E. P. Seligman
    * Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control by Christopher Peterson, Steven F. Maier, and Martin E. P. Seligman

    Full public funding of elections would be a good start. It would allow elected officials the time to work at their jobs, in addition to removing their indebtedness to donors.

    What is currently called Free Trade is nothing of the kind. It is freedom for corporactions under the legal fiction of personhood, but not for real people. A genuine competitive free market requires

    * Unrestricted access to markets

    * Unrestricted access to complete market information

    * Unrestricted access to production technologies

    * No price-setters, only price-takers

    * Perfectly substitutable goods

    This obviously does not exist anywhere, and Joseph Stiglitz argued forcefully against using it as a model for the newly free economies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in his book Whither Socialism? But I will argue that One Laptop Per Child provides a reasonable semblance of such a free competitive market for those who get the laptops with Internet access. I can show point by point how these conditions will be fulfilled for the target billion children and their families and friends. At least with each other, and in e-commerce with the rest of the world.

    The Netherlands prospered mightily after throwing off Spanish rule during the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) and declaring Free Trade and Free Thought, even though nobody else reciprocated. The principle still applies.

    Creative Commons–Developing Countries and GNU Documentation License are critical for this project, to provide free textbooks and a great deal more to the children.

  • http://www.sevensquared.com/blog jefe

    Amen Mr. Lessig. Godspeed and good luck with your new endeavour. Please let me know how I can help as I too think that this is really “the story behind the story” and the real problem with our current government overall.

  • Josh

    Dear Lawrence,

    it’s a worthy pursuit that all intellectuals should dive into as the corrupt nature of the system is a problem much worse than anyone alone could imagine.

    Despite the seemingly arrogant opening, the comment by Pier Johnson is right on the mark.

    It is 1913 (and similar events prior to it) that have brought all this mess. The establishment of the Federal Reserve, Fiat Money, Fractional Banking, Personal Income Tax, Interest are all conducive to the current state of affairs. The FedRes create the money out of thin air (it’s not even indexed on gold anymore), and they also control the inflation rate, i.e. its value.

    Aaron Russo’s “America, Freedom to Fascism” is a must see, as are his interviews. There are also other similar documentaries freely available on Google video, like ” The money masters”. Also of interest are the articles publishes by the Mises Institute website.

    Also, it is Dr. Ron Paul who is doing something about all this by promising to remove the Federal Reserve and bring back the minting power to the Government where it should be. He is the best candidate for America in 2008, not Mr. Obama. (I’m not an American citizen, so this is just an intellectual reflection and Mr. Obama seems a genuinely great man too).

    The networks which, through political manipulations, capital leverage and darker acts, keep this sad and corrupt system going on, are extremely powerful. It is now the time to read about the Bohemian Grove, The Bilderbergers, The Trilateral Commission, The Council for Foreign Relations, and others, which will certainly clarify your view of the current situation, the past machinations and what to expect.

    Your decision to devote your time, energy and intellect to tackle these issues is a beacon of hope but it is a daunting task, one which keeps me thinking daily too.

    For progress to happen, you’ll need help, you’ll need to be a deeper thinker than you’ve ever been, and also to be discrete.



  • ahoving
  • http://www.arkansawyer.com/wordpress John A Arkansawyer

    Speaking as the artist former known as adamsj, I’d like to note that Seth Gordon has a good idea.

  • http://www.paulhyland.com Paul

    Good luck – only you would find and latch onto a problem more difficult and intractable as the broken system meant to support artists and creativity. But if anyone can have an impact, it’s you.

  • dave

    Congratulations on your new endeavor. It has always struck me that the main problem with our system is that our representatives are highly underpaid for the work they’re supposed to do. As a result the people seeking elective careers tend to be either wealthy, corrupt (or easily corruptible), or masochists. Why not pay elected officials enough so that the office is financially attractive to competent, ethical individuals who will put the interests of the country before their own? Paying Senators and Representatives five or ten million dollars a year along with a comparable pension when they leave office (contingent on some semblance of ethical behavior) would at least lessen the influence of special interests (or at least raise their expenses.)

  • http://blogs.uct.ac.za/blog/gray_area Eve Gray

    Dear Larrry
    I realize that I have not responded to your change of direction, not wished you well. And I do wish you strength in what you are doing. I will be very interested to watch your progress – after all the impact of corruption in US politics certainly barrels down here to the southern tip of Africa to affect our lives in a number of often unexamined ways. And from the developing world perspective, I see quite a connection between what you were doing and what you are going to be doing. We face various forms of lock-down and coercion as a result of the flexing of US muscles across the world; the fact that we are no longer allowed to stroll into the Cape Town harbour area is a trivial but very vivid and immediate illustration of the extent to which the Bush paranoia affects us. If you ever do get to looking at knock-on effects in the developing world I will watch that with a great deal of interest as well.

    Good luck!


  • http://webcamstrippoker.trafcor.com strip-poker

    Larry, you’re the closest thing we have today to a Jefferson or Franklin. Thanks for taking up the most difficult fights, regardless of your chance of winning them.

  • Andrew

    This is a spectacular decision.

    As more before me have already said it is commendable that you have the power and motivation to shift your work and power into a different field.

    The corruption of the political system in the understanding that you supplied is the most essential problem that we as a race are facing.

    NOTHING that is important, including Global Warming, IP Law, Global Poverty, global Wealth distribution can be even tackled without first bringing the political system to a decent state.

    I am fully aware of the problems and troubles that await you and I will be visiting this blog regularly. A great move on your side would be recommendations of reading that you will be doing – i.e. what books, articles etc. you find intriguing or enriching. This would allow us – the readers, to grow with you, and be able to understand the problems and the world just a bit better.

    I am not an american, I live in Poland – however seeing that the american way is more and more becoming the global way of life and operating I appreciate and understand the significance of your new goal.

    You brought a lot of ideas and understanding to my life – regarding the IP Law, establishment and generally the way things work. If you will shine more light on each of us regarding this new vital topic – it will be a great journey for all of us.

    Anyway – just wanted to wish you all the best on this new path and assure you that a lot of people will be cheering you on.

  • Matthew T.

    Your work has been an inspiration for my own (music education) related work, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming book you describe as well as your new work.



  • http://drtaxsacto.blogspot.com drtaxsacto

    Professor Lessig, while I appreciate your efforts and hope they are successful, I am not sure I understand the scope or direction of your future work. The nature of the political process is one where interests clash. But there are also opportunities, as your colleague who was once at Stanford Anne Kreuger suggested, for rent seeking. As long as government is in the business of transferring resources from one source to another, rents are created. I suspect part of your solution will not be to reduce the influence which government exerts over Americans.

    Why is Gore particularly exempt from the “shill” charge you raise – even on the issue of global warming? Was the Kyoto protocol a serious effort to respond to a problem or a set of ill-conceived political decisions which would do little to reduce the effects of the problem? From my view, a lot of the discussion of responses to global warming are not that at all but rather attempts to move rents from one side to another.

    The concern that I have is that one person’s corruption is another’s legitimate source of political or substantive disagreement. In many cases the issues we try to deal with in the public sector are poorly defined which allows many to step in and adjust results inappropriately.

    Does that mean we should allow all of the egregious activities that we have seen in the process, even after the enactment of a series of political reform (i.e. Anti corruption) acts? Of course not. But definitions are key here.

    The possibilities for unintended consequences are substantial. For example, in the name of reducing corruption we changed the way political contributions are collected by reducing the amount that most individuals could offer in support. No sane person would suggest that we have made the process of running for office any less corrupt. Indeed, most observers suggest that the concentration on fund raising has become if anything more corrupting. When presidential candidates need to raise money in $1000 increments they spend a lot more time doing it. The Hsus of the world (bundlers) become more important.

    As one guide look at the history of the municipal reform movements at the turn of the 20th Century. In California it was led by Hiram Johnson and the Progressives. Many of the reforms of that era (the Initiative, Referendum and Recall) were created to reduce corruption. And yet when one looks at how many initiatives are created and advanced they look pretty corrupt. Ditto for the reforms adopted by the New York Bureau of Municipal Research.

    The caution here, based on my own 35 years of working in and around the political process, argues for clarity of definition and a lot of skepticism of purity of motives of ALL players in the process. From my academic work the best place to start is from the rich literature of Public Choice Economics.

  • http://engagemedia.org and

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    I got attracted to Creative Commons from being engaged in political activism rather than the other way around. I saw it as a practical tool that could be utilized as part of a broader movement against enclosures, whether in software, pharmaceutical drugs, media, land, water, where ever money and power go they seem to want to privatise what should be public and limit any accountability. I have generally been dismayed by the lack of a broader political analysis of power by those involved in the ‘free culture movement’, perhaps it because most participants tend to come from the most elite sectors of society?

    In any case, it’s good to see that people are finally setting these issues within a broader political framework rather than just seeing the problem of changing a few laws here and there.

    Oh, and please stop with the sycophantic congratulations and well wishes in every comment, Larry does good work but it starts to get embarrassing watching everyone line up to kiss his hand.


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    It’s time to get serious about understanding the nature of “self” and “selfishness”, and support those who do the real work of forming “self” (i.e. parents), with education on why one can do one’s child (and others who will have to endure them) no greater disservice than to raise them to be habitually selfish.

  • Farhana

    I’ve come to realize that the political discussion is simply a no end topic and that it touches upon a variety of areas..I recently did some light reading on Kenya’s situation, while searching for environmental problems, found that corruption dominated the country deeply and them came across your blog…I thought that as long as this world was run by money and people with interests, corruption would less likely to decline….

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