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Lawrence Lessig
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Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and founder of Rootstrikers, an activist network opposed to corruption in government.

Lessig has authored numerous books, including Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It and One Way Forward: The Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic. He serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MapLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and iCommons.org, and on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries.

Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school's Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Entries by Lawrence Lessig

The Question for My Critics

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2015 | 7:41 AM

Three weeks ago, I launched an exploratory campaign for a run in the Democratic Primary for president. I promised a different kind of presidency -- one committed to the fundamental reform that would begin to restore a representative democracy. Because I believed that extraordinary reform would require an extraordinary mandate,...

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On Being 'Serious' About Reform

(0) Comments | Posted August 31, 2015 | 8:12 AM

There is an extraordinary number of Americans who feel passionately about Bernie Sanders. They should. As I wrote when I launched an exploratory campaign to be a "referendum president,":

Sanders is a rare hero among politicians. Throughout his career, he has been unwavering in his advocacy for...

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On 'Dumbing Down' the Democratic Debate

(0) Comments | Posted August 28, 2015 | 2:47 PM

There are two stories about why Washington doesn't work. One blames a corrupted process. The other blames Republicans.

Corrupted process sorts point to the grotesque inequality that has developed within our political system -- an inequality that makes Congress ripe for capture by special interests, by giving the funders...

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The Plan, Part 2: Referendum Representatives

(2) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 4:44 PM

Two weeks ago, I launched a campaign to explore a run for the Democratic nomination for President. My motivation was the recognition both that our government had lost the capacity to govern -- in the words of Elizabeth Warren, that "the system is rigged" -- and that none of the candidates in the Democratic primary had offered any plan that had even a hope of a mandate strong enough to fix that corrupted system.

My plan is a "referendum presidency." I promised a campaign that would focus the nation on the underlying cause of this corruption. And I promised that if elected, I would serve only as long as necessary to pass fundamental reform attacking that basic corruption.

Not just for some ideological or moral reason. But instead because fixing that corruption is the first step to making it possible for our government to address any of the problems that we as a nation face.

We won't pass climate change legislation until we address this corruption first.

We won't enact sensible limits on guns until we address this corruption first.

We won't be able to "take on Wall Street" -- among the biggest funders of congressional campaigns -- until we fix this corruption first.

We won't address student debt sensibly, until we address this corruption first.

Fixing this corruption isn't the most important problem that we face. It's just the first problem. And we need a strategy that has at least some hope of fixing it first, if we're to have a prayer of addressing the long list of critical problems that we as a nation must solve.

A referendum is that prayer. Unlike an ordinary president, who comes to office with a mandate divided among 8 or 10 major issues, the referendum president comes with just one. Through his or her election, the people will have spoken as clearly as a people might speak. And the moral -- and political -- force of that statement would be stronger than anything possible with any ordinary president.

Yet some are skeptical that would be enough. Some worry that a referendum president might be stranded in office, facing a Congress unwilling to act, and a mandate limited to a single, if fundamental issue. How long should the referendum president wait around? What if Congress never passes the promised reform?

The answer to this fair question was hinted at in my original announcement, but it deserves emphasis now. A referendum president would have an unprecedented mandate. But to guarantee this strategy would work takes not just a committed president. It also takes a committed Congress. And the way to earn that commitment is to complement a "referendum president" with "referendum representatives," elected to Congress at the same time, with the same purpose: to pass fundamental reform to make democracy possible.

We would do this by a campaign to recommit our democracy to an ideal central at the founding, but forgotten over the past 20 years: the equality of citizens in a representative democracy. Because here is the assumption behind this fight. Outside of the beltway, far from the political hacks, this equality is not a partisan issue. Good and decent people can disagree about wealth equality. Those fighting speech equality include the left (the ACLU) and right (Citizens United) both.

But the argument against citizen equality is rarely even uttered. When Tom Perkins, co-founder of the venture capital group, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, speculated that people should receive as many votes as taxes paid, the idea was ridiculed across the political spectrum. Equality of citizens is as American as apple pie. And anyone standing against it faces a very difficult political task to explain why our representative democracy, promised by James Madison to represent "not the rich more than the poor," should give more political power to some, and deny equal rights to any.

This fact is the fulcrum with which this corrupted democracy could be moved. Because as the candidate for a referendum president makes it clear how fixing this corrupted equality would fix this corrupted democracy, he could give life to a similar movement in the campaigns for Congress, and state legislatures as well. This election could be a rally for an idea as old as the Republic, but still not practiced by our democracy: that in a representative democracy, citizens must be represented equally.

So beginning in the primaries, and extending through the general election, we would encourage candidates to run for Congress -- ideally leaders in local communities, not necessarily politicians -- committed to support this single principle. And as those candidates emerged, they would put pressure on the incumbents in both parties to declare whether they were for or against the referendum. If the candidates in a district pledged to co-sponsor the Citizen Equality Act, then no candidate in that district would be needed. But if the question were contested, then a referendum representative -- running in either the Republican or Democratic primary, or, even better, as an independent -- would give voters a chance in that district to elect a representative who would support the Citizen Equality Act of 2017. That "referendum representative" may or may not choose to serve a complete term (the mechanism for replacing a member of the House is cumbersome). But whether she does or not, her first vote will be the reason she has been sent to Congress.

It would take less than fifty referendum representatives (with at least 4 in the Senate) to flip the control of Congress on this one issue -- not even counting the extraordinary mandate of the referendum president. Whether through a pledge, or an election, those referendum representatives could assure that the very first act of Congress would be to pass the most important civil rights legislation in 50 years -- the Citizen Equality Act.

As a candidate for President, I must convince America that they could trust me to serve as president for as long as necessary. The decisions of the office would be mine. The public would need to believe I would make those decisions with good judgment and well. And if I run, then every question touching every aspect of this most sacred trust would be fair. For regardless of what I commit to do, there would be a time when I would serve independent of that commitment.

But the plan of this campaign is that the period during which I would serve be as short as possible. Not because serving as president wouldn't be the greatest civil honor in our culture, but because remaining committed to this one principle is the only way this election could be about that principle.

And that it must be, if we're to get a democracy back. We as a people must commit again to this fundamental equality. And once we do, then we can turn our government back to those who promise to live up to that principle.

First a principle, and then a president. That's what we did more than 225 years ago, when we enacted a new constitution and then elected a new government. That's what we could do today, with a simple commitment to restore the core ideal of that constitution. If we achieve this core equality, we make democracy possible again. And if we do that, we would make hope believable....

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We Are Not Thinking Big Enough

(7) Comments | Posted August 19, 2015 | 8:00 PM

Bernie Sanders stands for something. He stands for something big. He has ignited an incredible movement -- stronger and more committed at this point than Barack Obama had in 2007. He has given America a vision of how they can get America back. Some doubt he could win. I don't...

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나는 왜 미국 대선에 출마하는가

(1) Comments | Posted August 12, 2015 | 4:43 PM

*이 글은 '공유경제' 개념의 창시자로 유명한 사회운동가이자 하버드대학 법학전문대학원 학자인 로렌스 레식 교수가 11일 미국 민주당 대선후보 경선 출마를 선언하며 허핑턴포스트에 기고한 블로그를 번역한 것입니다.


오늘 나는 민주당 대통령 후보 경선 참가를 결정하기 위한 위원회를 만들었음을 선언한다. 노동절(주:9월 첫째 월요일)까지는 경선 참가가 이치에...

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Why I Want to Run

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2015 | 10:29 AM

Today I announced the formation of a committee to explore my entering the Democratic Primary for President. By Labor Day, I will decide whether a run makes sense.

I want to run. But I want to run to be a different kind of president. "Different" not in the...

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Something Is Going Right: Net Neutrality and the FCC

(39) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 11:46 AM

Imagine that when you plugged something into an electrical outlet, the outlet queried the device and demanded identification. Was it a Sony TV or Panasonic? Was it a Dell or an Apple? And then based on that identification, different levels of quality or reliability of electricity were served at different...

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We Should Be Protesting, Too

(80) Comments | Posted October 1, 2014 | 8:46 PM

This week, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents turned out to protest China's plan for bringing democracy to that city. Rather than letting voters pick the candidates that get to run for chief executive, Beijing wants the candidates selected by a 1,200 person "nominating committee." Critics charge the committee...

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What New Yorkers Can Do About Money in Politics

(10) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 5:57 PM

There's a meme spreading fast through the tubes of the Internets about what explains Governor Cuomo's refusal to debate Zephyr Teachout. Here's one tweet:

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Aaron's Walk: The New Hampshire Rebellion

(29) Comments | Posted January 10, 2014 | 11:22 AM

A friend of Social and Internet Activist Aaron Swartz describes the movement his life has inspired:

A year ago tomorrow, Aaron Swartz left. He had wound us all up, pointed us in a million directions, we were all working as hard as we could, moving things forward....

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"They Know We Know It." Get Politicians On The Record About Corruption

(71) Comments | Posted February 14, 2013 | 11:46 AM

"There's another challenge that we must address and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself."

No, that's not a quote from the President Obama's State...

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Prosecutor as Bully

(236) Comments | Posted January 13, 2013 | 9:01 AM

(Some will say this is not the time. I disagree. This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.)

Since Aaron Swartz's arrest in January, 2011, I have known more about the events that began this spiral than I have wanted to know. Aaron consulted me as...

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What the Hell Is Being a Moderator For?

(374) Comments | Posted October 21, 2012 | 12:00 PM

For the first time in as long as we can tell, neither candidate for president is addressing one of the top 10 issues that Americans believe should be a priority for the next president. Indeed, not just one issue, but two.

Since 2000, Gallup has been asking Americans to...

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The No Lobbying Pledge

(27) Comments | Posted September 11, 2012 | 4:10 PM

There are campaigns that attack the enemy directly -- think the British, in formation, Redcoats smartly cleaned. And then there are campaigns that attack indirectly -- think of a virus, passing on a handshake, entering the body at the next sneeze. Rootstrikers has launched a campaign of the latter sort,...

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The Great Promise of Super-PACs

(97) Comments | Posted December 20, 2011 | 8:30 AM

There's a certain terror to the life of a Member of Congress that, with all their pomp and pretense, it's easy to miss. This terror is new. No one yet knows precisely how to tame it. And it may ultimately prove to be the single most important motivator to real...

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One More Try: The Rules Versus the Game

(16) Comments | Posted October 27, 2011 | 3:57 PM

[Dave Zirin has replied to my response. This issue about strategy is critical and important. Let me try one more time.]

Still missing the point. Let me try, Mr. @EdgeofSports, one last time. This time with a sports metaphor:

Imagine you're a...

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A Reply to the @EdgeofSports: Who Exactly Are the 99%?

(291) Comments | Posted October 26, 2011 | 10:14 AM

Sometime-HuffPost blogger, and Nation contributor Dave Zirin has written a brilliant barn-raising response to my last HuffPost piece. Please read all of it, but here's the bit I want call out. Zirin states: "But by going to Occupy sites and arguing for a Tea...

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Something More Than Polarization

(314) Comments | Posted October 25, 2011 | 11:00 AM

At the end of September, I helped organize a conference at Harvard about the idea of calling a(n Article V) constitutional convention. The event was co-hosted by the Tea Party Patriots. And although that organization has not endorsed a convention, there are many conservatives and libertarians who do...

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A Letter to the #Occup(iers): The Principle of Non-Contradiction

(448) Comments | Posted October 12, 2011 | 3:03 PM

Like a fever, revolutions come in waves. And if this is a revolution, then it broke first on November 4, 2008, with the election of Barack Obama, second, on February 19, 2009, with the explosion of anger by Rick Santelli, giving birth to the Tea Party, and third,...

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