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Lessig backs Tea Party

Now for the de-sensationalizing of that headline.

Lawrence Lessig is indeed finding common cause with the Tea Party, but only with one part of its agenda: fighting earmarks — a position that has put the Tea Party at odds with many members of the Republican Congressional delegation.

If any of the Tea Partiers want to back the end of gerrymandering, I’d be happy to tip my liberal hat at them.

4 Responses to “Lessig backs Tea Party”

  1. There’s a problem in his argument right here: “But by the same logic, one might as well observe that the bribes paid … were tiny as well. Is that a reason not to prosecute those Members for taking them?”

    The difference is that bribes are criminal, always. But earmarks are a relatively minor budget tool – unless he’s willing to argue they are somehow intrinsically, _per se_, corrupting (simply allocating money doesn’t qualify, that has to be done somehow).

    On a meta level, this is interesting politics. On the one hand, it’s excellent strategy to feed the flames of the intra-Republican fights between the plutocrats and the mob they’ve whipped up. But on the other, it does help the billionaire astroturfers portray their organization as a grassroots rebellion. Oh well, I always say, I’m bad at politics, so I won’t attempt to claim which predominates.

  2. Seth,

    Lessig addresses that point in the paragraph following the sentence you quote:


    Earmarks are not bribes. But they are an essential element in the corruption that is Congress today. As Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser describes in his fantastic book, So Damn Much Money, they have become the key to an incredible economy of influence that effectively enables lobbyists to auction too many policy decisions to the highest special interest bidder. That economy won’t change simply by eliminating earmarks. But eliminating earmarks is an essential first step to starving this Republic-destroying beast.

    A government in which access can be bought, and influence paid for is not the Republic our Framers intended. They wanted a Congress “dependent,” as Federalist #52 puts it, “upon the People alone.” But through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Congress has evolved to become “dependent” not upon “the People,” but upon “the Funders.” Earmarks are a critical element in that dependency. And if we’re going to end government captured by an elite, we have to end that dependency.

    Earmarks aren’t bribes, but they’re one of the conduits of corruption.

  3. Right – I wasn’t clear. His argument strikes me as starting “earmarks are a tool being used in corruption machinery”, but there’s problems then going to “We must eliminate earmarks entirely”, or “If earmarks are eliminated, the corruption machinery has no other comparable mechanisms”.

    Compare something along the lines of a hypothetical “P2P file-sharing protocols are not lockpicks. But they are an essential element in the rampant piracy on the Internet. That widespread copyright infringement won’t change simply by eliminating P2P file-sharing. But eliminating P2P filesharing is an essential first step to starving these industry-destroying predators”
    (n.b. not that I believe the above statement – it’s just to make evident the problems with the argument).

  4. Yep–he glosses over the reasons why earmarks are corrupting. But the process is well-documented elsewhere–in So Damn Much Money, for instance, or this great piece from The Hill: http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/128537-lobbyists-see-earmark-business-turn-to-ashes

    To me, it’s pretty clear that earmarks need to be eliminated entirely.


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