For those who haven’t seen it yet Larry Lessig – champion extraordinaire of creative commons and free culture – is stepping back from his research and advocacy in these fields.(side note: if you haven’t read Free Culture or seen this presentation, please do so now!)
His work to date has led him to believe that the political system is fundamentally corrupt. In his own words:
“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.”
As a result, for the next ten years, he will be refocusing his energy on trying to figure out how to solve this riddle.
I think Lessig walks on water. So am pleased to hear he’ll be focusing his energy on one of the most significant problems in American politics and American history. Why History? Because Lessig is picking up on a theme American Progressives made central to their movement back in the 1890’s-1920’s. Progressives of that time were keen to limit the influence of special interests in American politics. In some regards they succeeded but, in many respects their key reforms such as the primary system and the creation of larger government bureaucracies actually benefited the very actors they sought to limit. As Larry himself admits, the problem may not be solvable.
But then, it’s a new era, and we have new tools. I’m hoping Lessig succeeds. He certainly has the passion and brains.