For those who missed this, last Friday, Lawrence Lessig has launched the beta of his Change Congress movement. It’s a broadly-named effort, but his strategies to reduce systematic corruption in government are highly targeted. On the politician’s side:
- Create a series of voluntary pledges (e.g. support for a permanant ban on earmarks, no PAC money, etc.) any combination of which a politician could commit to.
- Develop online tools to centrally track these explicit pledges, as well as pledges implied by the actions of other politicians.
- Funnel national dollars into the local races of “early adopters” of the movement, allowing them to crush traditionally-funded opponents.
- Leverage public and media interest into a self-sustaining movement over several election cycles, as Americans make this a campaign issue at every level of government.
The Change Congress movement also has several key components that allow individuals to express their collective power (i.e. grassroots organizing/crowdsourcing):
- Let anyone with a website indicate their support for the various pledges with a badge on the website. These badges will not only be publicly visible (and clickable, for detailed information), but will contain code that indicates the website owner’s district. That information can then be aggregated via search engine, and representatives will soon be able to see how many public voices in their districts are asking for change, and of what kind. Mine is to the right.
- Create a wiki-like web application for people to make calls, do research, and enrich the data about the activities of various politicians and their level of support for the Change Congress pledges. I’m looking forward to participating in this effort.
- Allow individuals themselves to pledge financial support for candidates that support the pledges. I’ve pledged substantial amounts of money to the first five candidates who take a full, four-count pledge. You can, too.
Those who know me know that I believe that systematic corruption is the root of nearly all the problems with governance in our country (indeed, anywhere.) Lessig makes a good analogy: Like an alcoholic, there are many enormous problems that out government faces, all of which on their face would seem to be much more significant than the underlying pathology. An alcoholic may be losing his job, his family, and his life. But until the alcoholism is addressed, there’s only so much that the alcoholic can do to remedy his situation. I agree with Lessig that the same holds for our government’s dependence on special interests for campaign finance.
I’m no expert on this topic, but I’m pushing in the directions that have made themselves clear to me. Support for Barack Obama was one such push. Naturally, a movement coming from Lawrience Lessig (whose previous work with Creative Commons fostered a sea change in the debate over copyright reform) would end up being another push. I urge everyone to attack this problem in any way they know how. For now, these are mine.
- The Change Congress beta site. Make a pledge! Add a badge to your site!
- A video of the CC launch, in Lessig’s trademark slideshow style.
And, for a related treat, check out Lessig’s final lecture on the copyfight, in which he intricately weaves together the work of the last decade of his life, the work he hopes to do in his next decade, and how the defeats he suffered in the copyfight have helped him create the strategies of Creative Commons and Change Congress.