lawrence lessig

lawrence lessig

[brookline, ma]


10 min in –

we can’t ignore this anymore.

this isn’t even the most important problem, yours is the most important problem. this is just the first problem.

this is what love means – the odds be damned

a republic dependent upon the people alone

14 min – i get the skepticism.. but i don’t buy it. this is solvable.. by being citizens

15 min in – even if you think this is impossible…

lessig impossible law:

impossible is irrelevant

my  yr old son, a dr telling me he has terminal brain cancer & there’s nothing we can do. so .. would i do nothing..? of course not… i would do everything i could, because this is what love means. you do whatever you can.. the odds be damned. impossible is irrelevant.

[utopia ness]


internet’s own boy


From his page on TED site:

In 2007, just after his last TED Talk, Lessig announced he was leaving the field of IP and Internet policy, and moving on to a more fundamental problem that blocks all types of sensible policy — the corrupting influence of money in American politics.

In 2011, Lessig founded Rootstrikers, an organization dedicated to changing the influence of money in Congress. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he shows just how far the U.S. has spun off course — and how citizens can regain control. As The New York Times wrote about him, “Mr. Lessig’s vision is at once profoundly pessimistic — the integrity of the nation is collapsing under the best of intentions –and deeply optimistic. Simple legislative surgery, he says, can put the nation back on the path to greatness.”

Read an excerpt of Lessig’s new book, Lesterland >>

Find/follow him here:

lessig site


saturday, july 23, 2011

lawrence lessig

taken for granted thoughts
network neurtrality

there is nothing unfair for communities to provide resources

say – enough
calling what is obvious to most – absurd

change this: via Arnold Hiatt, merely because we are wealthy.. we have the right to make the decisions..
it won’t be politicians that will wage that war – it will be us – rootstrikers


preview of convo for july 11 on revinventors:

Published on Jul 3, 2013

Here’s a really hard problem that Larry Lessig is not sure how to solve: “Let’s assume we’ve got a fundamentally corrupt government, in the precise sense that the dependence upon “funders” corrupts the intended dependence upon “the people alone,” and that too many within that system are too deeply connected to it to push for its change. That means any effective movement for change has got to come from the outside. How would a grassroots movement in the Internet Age create the pressure such a change would require? How would the people who brought the Internet to scale tackle this problem?

Joining Larry in a virtual roundtable Thursday, July 11, is a veritable who’s who of internet know-how, the folks who have built & scaled networks for change: internet pioneer Tim O’Reilly, Founder Ben Rattray, Executive Director Anna Galland, VC Brad Burnham, Executive Producer of TED Media June Cohen, Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, and Markos Moulitsas, Founder of Daily Kos.

Learn more at:…


one of 9 on Mikko’s playlist:

Laws that choke creativity


Lawrence Lessig, the Net’s most celebrated lawyer, cites John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights and the “ASCAP cartel” in his argument for reviving our creative culture.

Lawrence Lessig has already transformed intellectual-property law with his Creative Commons innovation. Now he’s focused on an even bigger problem: The US’ broken political system.

1941 – competition was enough to break legal cartel over access to music

internet is allowing the revive read write culture that sousa romanticized.

amateur – culture where people produce for love of doing and not for the money.. culture that kids are producing all of the time

remix is not piracy – now democratized.. tools of creativity have become tools of literacy.. it is how our kids speak

the law has not greeted this sousa revival with very much common sense

every single use of culture produces a copy – .. getting that permission is as crazy as the airplanes over the chickens..

there’s a growing extremism from both sides… one side builds new tech – claiming power to take down anything.. on other side.. kids – growing copyright abolitionism.. that rejects the very notion of what copyright is supposed to do

balance – looked first at govt – but that failed..

we need a private solution – one that looks at what it means to be young again..

1. artists/creators choice that work is available freely

2. businesses to embrace this opportunity/enable it..

artist choice is the key for the new open

we can’t make our kids passive – we can only make them pirates.

we live life against the law – ordinary people – and that’s what we are doing to our kids

they live life knowing they are living against the law..

that realization is extra-ordinarily corrosive/corruptive and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better…


ted 2014:


republic lost

above – image links to pdf


below – notes/highlights from republic, lost:

reverse order from here:

a corruption crafted by good souls… we must learn to agitate against more than evil. – Republic, Lost – @lessig…

each side talks past the other. – Republic Lost – @lessig…

reverse order from here (to end of ch 3):

2. we have a nation of good souls who see that dependency, and assume the worst. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

1. we have a gaggle of good souls who have become dependent in a way that weakens democracy – Republic, Lost – #lessig

institution that depends on trust ..will lose trust/effectiveness, if it lets money seep into the wrong place. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

we don’t respond well to good souls who do harm. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

we don’t do well responding to bads that stand between good and evil. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

starve/block the cynicism/inference ..that money in wrong place creates. not money. money in wrong place. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

here, private interests coincide w/public good. govt intervention was therefore not necessary. – Republic, Lost – #lessig

#Wikipedia community spends 150 mill each year to secure the site’s independence from apparent commercial bias – Republic, Lost – #lessig

is there a feasible/reasonable way to win back the confidence that the presence of money takes away – Republic, Lost – #lessig

the mere presence of money w/a certain relationship to the results makes us less confident about those results. – Republic, Lost – @lessig

dependence corruption – distraction w/o assuming evil/criminal souls at the helm – Republic, Lost – @lessig…

 ch 4:

obesity-related disease costs the medical system $147 billion annually – a greater burden than the costs of cigarettes or alcohol

trade restrictions imposed in the 1980s cost consumers 6.8 billion a yr, while the value of govt subsidies received by the industry over the same period amounted to 30 billion

10% of the recipients of farm subsidies collect 73%of the subsidies – between 2003 and 2005 $91,000 per farm. the bottom 80% – $3000 per farm.

high cost of sugar (2-3 times as other countries) because us govt protects domestic sugar manufacturers w/tarrifs, there are 40 sugar co in us, 8 produce 75% of sugar. .5% of farms in america, 62000 workers.

increased sugar cost, decreased corn cost – for hfc (high fructose corn syrup) 1995-2009 govt spent 73.8 bill to ensure farmers produced more corn than market would otherwise bear – so then used to produce hfc at increasingly low price

since so cheap – corn fed to cattle, but cows 7 stomachs not able to digest corn.. so bugs grow in it while it’s trying to digest – so give cows antibiotics (with no oversight) – so superbugs – like e. col samonella.

so increase demand for corn.. ethanol – a political concoction interfering w/workings of marketplace. 2008 report: biofuel mandates of congress would cost the economy more than 100 bill from 2005-201o. 65 times the total amt spent on renewable energy r&d programs during same period.

govt protects sugar, subsidizes corn. more foods made with hfc, more cattle fed corn, more cattle fed antibiotics. hfc goes up in human diet, dangerous bacteria goes up – kids get fat and sick.

government distorts market, which distorts what we eat, which distorts our kids’ bodies/health

ch.. 5:

to say the something is a – public policy challenge – however, is not to argue for a govt program to solve it. neighbors are pretty good at working stuff out.

copyright – as way to protect artist..


power companies using coal to produce electricity.. according to pew center on global climate change.. cost of capturing /carbon produced by coal-fired power plants… in 2003 – cost to clean up between $280 and 840 billion in 2003 alone. profits of coal/petroleum industry combined in 2003 – 23.3 bill.

negative externalities.. most tangible – health costs – estimated to be 100 billion per year

copyright – govt has passed 32 laws over past 16 yrs – to protect artists (mole hill in comparison to cost)

carbon polluters – govt has passed 0 laws over past 15 yrs – to protect people (everest mtn in comparison to cost)

where the harm is almost certain – congress does nothing. where the harm is at best contested, congress races to the rescue.

pro-carbon reformers get wildly outspent by anti-reformers.

carbon issue – reform 22.4 mill in lobbying, anti-reform 210.6 mill (2009)

copyright issue – reform 1.3 bill in lobbying, anti-reform 1 mill. (1998-2010)

not: did he contributions and lobbying buy this apparently inconsistent result?

instead: do the contributions and lobbying make it harder to believe that this is a principled or consistent or sensible result?

ch 6:

on ed – disappointed that shared scoring/rating or math and literacy as assumed success. and that teaching was also assumed… as best for public

ch 7:

hard (for me) to follow – mostly skimmed – maybe later?

ch 8:

in both cases, (bpa, cell phones) i needed only to point to the money – money in (what was perceived to be) the wrong place – for confidence to weaken. not “money,” but “money in the wrong place.” describe the architecture of incentives, and people will infer the causation. with no good reason, perhaps. but with a reliable regularity that cannot be denied and certainly should not be ignored.

in a line: we don’t trust our govt. and until we crete the condition under which trust is possible – when in other words, the presence of money in the wrong places doesn’t inevitably make us doubt – this skepticism will remain. we can’t help it. it will follow psychologically even if it doesn’t follow logically.

between 1974 and 2008 – the avg amt it took to run for reelection to the house went from 56000 to more than 1.3 mill. in 1974 the total spent by all candidates for congress (both house and senate) was 77 mill. by 1982 – 343 mill – a 450% increase in 8 yrs. by 2010 – 1.8 bill – a 525% increase again.

this fund-raising in turn change what leadership in both parties would mean: if leaders had once been chosen on the basis of ideas, or seniority or political ties, now, in both parties, leaders were chosen at least in part on their ability to raise campaign cash. leading fund-raisers became the new leaders. fund-raising became the new game.

ch 9:

not grokking gift vs commodity. well getting the vs – but not getting the gift as obligatory – sounds like what befuddled me about eisenstein. that seems our problem perhaps – that we connect gift to obligation which means to measurement/comparison et al… no?

sen paul douglas: …what happens is a gradual shifting of a man’s loyalties from the community to those who have been doing him favors. his final decisions are, therefore, made in response to his private friendships and loyalties rather than to the public good. throughout this whole process the official will claim – and ay indeed believe – that there is no causal connection between the favors he has receive and the decisions which he makes.

this is the gift economy. as jake arvey, the man behind adlai stevenson’s political career, defined politics: politics is the art of putting people under obligation to you. obligation, not expressed in legally enforceable contracts, but in the moral expectations that a system of gift exchange yields.

oh my.

a gift economy is grounded upon relationships, not quid pro quo. those relationships grow over time, as actors within that economy build their power by developing a rich set of obligations that they later draw upon to achieve the ends they seek. in this world, the campaign contribution does not “buy” a result. it cements a relationship, or as kaiser describes it, it “reinforces established connections.” as one former lobbyist put it when asked why contribution s are made: “well, it isn’t good govt. it’s to thank friends, and to make new friends. it opens up channels of communication.”

it is within this practice of reciprocity that obligation gets built. and as economist michele dell’era demonstrates, the gifts necessary to make this system of reciprocity work need not be large. what is important is that they be repeated and appropriate within the norms of the context. what is critical is that they are depended upon.


unlike traditional gift economies, however, washington is a gift economy not because anyone wants it to be. it is a gift economy because it is regulated to be. having banned the quid pro quo economy, the market makers have only one choice: to do the hard work necessary to build and support a gift economy. the insiders must learn a dance that never seems like an exchange.

lobbyists exponentiate

ch 10:

so in a single line, in a way that frames the core of my claim that ours is a corrupt congress, the framers gave us a “republic”; to them, a republic was to be a “representative democracy”; a “representative democracy” was to be “dependent upon the people alone”; a representative democracy that developed a competing dependency, conflicting with the dependency upon the people, would be “corrupt.”

1. weaken possibility of competing dependencies  2. strengthen dependency on people

a link. a dependency. a dependency sufficiently strong to ensure the independence of the institution.

independence in this sense simply means the proper dependence. – upon the people alone.

we don’t see it – is not the same as – there is nothing to see.

money as distraction/distortion/loss of trust

(just skimmed rest of ch 10 – maybe come back to it) – skipped to conclusion for now..

ch 14: two conceptions of corruption

ch 15: reforms that won’t reform

ch16: reforms that would reform

p. 284/268 –

if a substantial number of candidates opted into this system, then no one could believe that money was buying results.

this reform is the key to everything else that follows. regardless of what you believe america’s most important problems are, you need to see this as the first problem that needs to be solved.

well. unless you realized that say many/enough people don’t have the option of spending $100 of their jeans money on supporting campaign. or that perhaps – campaigning/voting isn’t the biggest problem (at least not in fixing it). perhaps its even a mechanism – on the wrong side of history. true – if we keep the system as is, ie: have a congress, then work on campaign money. but what if we question a congress at all. what if we question campaigning at all.

too much ness

p. 285/270 –

in 2009, the cato institute estimated that the us congress spent 90 bill on corporate welfare….. subsidies and regulatory protections that lawmakers confer on certain businesses and industries…. the welfare is the payback, indirect and legal, …

we’ve waged the longest war in american history to make democracy possible in iraq. the total cost of that war? more than 750 bill. and that’s just the money. put aside the 4500 patriots who have given their lives to that theory of democracy building ..

ch 17: strategy 1: conventional game

you don’t beat the british by lining up in red coats and marching on their lines, as they would on you. you beat them by adopting a strategy they’ve never met, or never payed. the forces that would block this bill work well and effectively on capitol hill, and inside the beltway. that is their home. and if we’re going to seize their home, and dismantle it, we need a strategy that they’re sure is going to fail. yet we need it to win.

ch 18: strategy 2: – unconventional (primary) game

to be credible, this must be seen as the act of disinterested citizen whose only objective is to change the system for others.

ch 19: strategy 3 – unconventional presidential game

Obama in 2010 – we were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn’t change how things got done.

the view “he can’t win” makes it likely ” he can’t win,” even if a majority of souls would support him were they convinced he could win.

pluralistic ignorance ness

losing the president as an agent of change is a huge loss. president elections are important to focus america..

however – becoming much like the classroom.. about irrelevant things.. or at least.. locked up in a system where things that matter will not be able to be carried out… addressed even.. by people – who in their hearts would love more than anything to address them.. do something about them.. (ie: remember who the enemy is.. not the people.. the system)

in our multitasking way, we’ve become quite good at picking up a lot in tiny bites over extended periods of time. the presidential primary system was made for just such an attention span. presidential primaries were made for twitter.

we must find a way either to make a transformational candidate for president credible, or to get america to engage in politics outside the ordinary cycles of ordinary presidential elections.

the first: how could she make that the only issue that mattered? or more precisely, how could she frame the issue so people recognized that though there were a million other issues that mattered more, this issue must be resolved first?  one path – if elected 1) hold the govt hostage until congress enacts a program to remove the fundamental corruption that is our govt, and 2) once that program is enacted, she will resign…….. her terms ends when congress ratifies the changes that the people have demanded. … she is a regent president, holding office until the democracy grows up.

ch 20: strategy 4 – convention

so our founding fathers decided to break the rules….convinced those present to meet in secret. windows were shut. … for almost 3 months framers banged away at a document that we continue to revere today….the too to this exceptional path because the recognized that sometimes an institution becomes too sick to fix itself. not that the institution is necessarily blind to its own sickness. but that it doesn’t have the capacity, or will, to do anything about it.  sometimes an institution, like an individual, needs an intervention, from people, from friend, from outside.

who sets the rules for the convention? how are delegates selected? what defines the agenda? are there any limits to what it can decide?

James Wilson put it – the framers conceived of themselves as “authorized to conclude nothing, but.. at liberty to propose anything.”

how likely is it that the proposals of a runaway convention… would be ratified by 3/4 of the states? not likely . at all. but if it happens, then it would happen only because that runaway convention had come up with the same sort of world-changing brilliance that our framer did. if an “illegal proposal” were so strong as to overcome its own illegitimacy, and rally the support of 38 states, it would have to be an incredible proposal.

the hard work would be building the movement to support a convention.

and at that point – would we even need govt as is? let’s see.. no?

such a movement needs to live beneath the radar at first. like the internet itself, it needs to develop in a world where all the experts say that it’s impossible, so that those who understand the world only through the experts ignore it as it develops. .. it needs to develop by exercising the civic power of ordinary citizens. we’ve seen people devote endless hours to a single person; we need the same devotion to an ideal. or a cause.

the platform need not be heavily staffed. indeed, it needs to grow with the discipline of our own revolutionaries: small, apparently disorganized citizens fighting for liberty.

so, ignorant we are. but we’re not stupid. indeed, for all the reasons this book has collected, remaining ignorant about politics and our government is a perfectly rational response to the government we have. the question isn’t what we know. the question is what we’re capable of knowing, and doing…

ch 21: choosing strategies

i feel the dismissive impatience of those inside the system whenever i talk about changing the system. i can almost feel them roll their eyes as they hear about a fight to change the status quo. – but i also know love. and i know what love says to the rational.

love makes the odds


they recognize that in a democracy their power is wrong. not their wealth. their power.

our republic (representative democracy) is ours to save. or better, it is only ours if we save it.

it won’t be billionaires. it won’t be geniuses with brilliant code. and it certainly won’t be politicians.

for our politicians are teltsin. their problem is an addiction. this magnificent republic melts away, and they can’t stop themselves long enough to save it. they can’t stop themselves because they are being pulled in a way that they can’t yet control.

so think about that harm. recognize its nature. think about the alcoholic and his plight. he might be losing his family, his job, and his liver, each of these is a critically important problem, indeed, among the most important problems a person could face. but we all recognize that to solve any of these”most important” problems, he must solve his alcoholism first. it’s not that alcoholism is the most important problem. it’s not. it is just the first problem. 

we won’t solve these problems (health/economy/climate/education/..) until we solve our first problem first: a dependency that has corrupted the core of our democracy.


july 2015

yes. let’s not be insane. let’s do something different.

our insanity… that the hero can maintain when they get to the capital… the system is rigged.. until we can unrig it..

let’s unrig the rigged system. ie: we are the plan – a nother way. on our time.


aug 2016 – Lessig 2016

we need to fix this rigged system – one of citizen inequality…

running for a referendum president..


aug 2015 –

Hey, Dems: Where’s the plan? The Reason this Hack is Needed, now on Medium:…

where’s the plan – on why unrigging the system can’t be one on a list of to do’s

– – –

then – why i want to run:

Yet while every major candidate in the Democratic Primary has acknowledged this truth, none of them have waged a campaign that would produce a mandate powerful enough to fix it. They all offer a take-out menu of bold ideas — from climate change legislation to tackling Wall Street, from student debt relief to equalizing the wealth in America — but not one has offered a plan for fundamental reform that could actually unite a divided America, and give us back a democracy that might work.

perhaps… beyond presidency… beyond america…
Yet what should be obvious to everyone — or at least the 82% of Americans who believe “the system is rigged” — is that none of these incredible reforms is possible until we un-rig the rigged system first. We’ve lived through “change you can believe in.” What we need now is a reason to believe in change.
or… time for a new system… ie… no pres.. no 4yr elections ness…
and the campaign for a referendum president could unite America behind a principle that would make democracy possible again.
beyond america… beyond democracy…
berners lee… ness… whole world.. to work..
That principle is a demand for equality. Not the equality of wealth, though I share Sanders’ view about the harm wealth inequality has done. And not an equality of speech. The First Amendment must mean at least this. But an equality of citizens. The right that all of us have in a representative democracy to be represented equally.
with web… aren’t we beyond representation ness…?
great idea. would have been super 30+ years ago. but today we can leap frog past it.. hasten equity.
That right has been violated in America today — and brazenly so. In the way campaigns are funded, in the way the poor and overworked are denied an equal freedom to vote, and in the way whole sections of American voters get written into oblivion by politically gerrymandered districts that assure their views are not represented, we have allowed the politicians to cheat us of the most fundamental commitment of a democracy: equal citizens. And until we find a way to create a mandate to demand equality for citizens, we will never find a way to make real change possible.
beyond campaigns… beyond funding… beyond funding campaigns…. no..?
beyond voting..
a way… a nother way.. no demands needed.. just freedom to change. everyday. as the day.
We are better than this. And if we muster the strength to undo the corruption that the politicians have allowed, the greatness of America will be reflected in its government too. It once was. When we are finally equal citizens, it will again.
when was it once..?

On being “serious” about reform

Original Tweet:

what if there’s a deeper first. a deeper serious.
politics as refusal of rep itself, not politics of refusing this/that rep. (51) – Wark cc @lessig – deeper serious
Brazil’s top court bans corporate money in election campaigns | Reuters
ok.. this helped me see fractal to lessig
money to not think about money
just …if going to all the trouble.. begs going deeper
as you say… do this first..
beyond for election campaigns..
oct 2015 – I’m Trying to Run for President, but the Democrats Won’t Let Me


from Lessig’s forward to Aaron‘s writings in – the boy who could change the world..

didn’t want blog read.. now reading it in book form.. wonder how he feels about that..

from a very young age, aaron felt a freedom that most of us never really know: the freedom to simply do what you believe is right.

something else .. luxury ness


not as if he was a guy preaching in the corner to the unwilling listener.. he spoke through questions not commands. he inspired by giving others a sense of he best they could be. and he often was super-quiet as he worked out what or whom to believe. a quiet kid among strangers. a deep blue pool, hiding a volcano.

al again – the swim freely in the world book

but he was not quiet in his endless writings. and these writings capture well a mind in constant reflection.

p 3

we will

p 7

Aaron’s life was shaped by an ethical belief that information should be shared freely and openly….transfixed by the fact that a piece of knowledge, unlike  apiece of physical property, can be shared by large groups of people without making anybody poorer…. . unethical to deprive people of info by creating artificial scarcity in knowledge, culture or info.



The cleanup of our polluted political ecosystem will require the energy of citizens across the political spectrum

What led Europe to its catastrophe was the absence of a certain intelligence—a strategic intelligence. That is, the ability to recognize a common threat and to respond. The capacity to see in “their” threat a threat to “us.” A strategic intelligence that links what seem like disparate wrongs to a common menace.

imagine instead.. we link what seem like a nother way for all of us..

We have allowed our republic to be captured by special interests, because we force representatives to raise the money for their campaigns from those same special interests.


in our republic, Congress is plainly more dependent on “the rich” than on the rest of us.


So long as our Congress is dependent on the wealth of the status quo, that status quo will be preserved.


My point is not that environmentalists should give up environmentalism. On the contrary, I believe one should work where one’s passion lies, because that is the place where one does her best work. My point is that these separate causes must recognize a simple truth: that even if we don’t have common ends, *we have a common enemy. To overcome that common enemy, every group striving for progressive change needs to commit a slice of its resources to the common objective of a Congress and a presidency no longer captured by money.

We should, in a word, tithe.

what..? beat enemy with money..?

how about we make enemyness and moneyness irrelevent…

As for voting itself, Congress could end the discriminatory burdens on voters by repealing voter ID laws—this generation’s poll tax—and by moving Election Day to a holiday.

All of these changes would aim at a common core: a democracy that represents its citizens equally.

oy – improving how we vote..?

we have means to go deeper than rep

only way to rep citizens equally is to use tech to listen to 7 bill everyday.

host life bits..

We can’t wait for the long term. Because our planet can’t wait for the long term.


for (blank)’s sake


Lessig (@lessig) tweeted at 5:50 AM – 14 Oct 2016 :

#CanYouHearUS — an argument for a more global democratic movement in just 2 minutes.


lessig mindset

I’m a big believer in leaks for the public interest. That’s why I support Snowden, and why I believe the President should pardon him. But I can’t for the life of me see the public good in a leak like this — at least one that reveals no crime or violation of any important public policy.

We all deserve privacy. The burdens of public service are insane enough without the perpetual threat that every thought shared with a friend becomes Twitter fodder.


Helen Walters (@HelenWalters) tweeted at 7:41 AM – 30 Jan 2017 :

“We must remind the partisans that they are citizens first.” Wisdom from @lessig:

And that as citizens, we must rally an allegiance to the Constitution that this President seems so keen to ignore.

? how has that been working for us..? begs a human\e constitutionbe\cause.. impossible is irrelevant..
Jonas Kaplan (@Jonas_Kaplan) tweeted at 9:31 PM – 17 Jan 2019 :
The “Another Way” podcast by @lessig is an important listen. Fixing our democracy should be top priority.
from episode 2
‘what’s nuts is doing the *same thing and imagining something different’ @lessig
*ie: representatives; voting; elections
on joi and mit
Lessig (@lessig) tweeted at 0:18 PM on Sun, Sep 08, 2019:
On Joi and MIT