• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed

Harvard law professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig is mounting an intriguing run for President. Lessig’s symbolic campaign will be entirely funded by crowdsourced donations since he has a one-issue platform: campaign finance reform.  If elected president, Lessig would attempt to pass a single law through Congress which would scrap existing “private” campaign financing in favor of a “public” system under which citizens could fund their favored candidates through small tax vouchers. Lessig has said after passing the law, he’d resign from office. Like many others before him, Lessig denounces the multi-billion dollar industry that American electioneering has become but proposes an inadequate remedy.

Lessig isn’t wrong to detest the baldly corrupt American political system. In the 2016 presidential race, less than 400 of the country’s wealthiest families will contribute nearly half of the overall money raised. The well-known billionaire business magnates that make up that list (the Schwabs, Larry Ellison, and Norman Braman, to name just a few) have a lot riding on the success of their presidential racehorses. Knowing that their houses of cards depend largely on political protection, these corporate pigs feeding at the political trough understand that elections are of paramount importance.

Nineteenth century French radical Frederic Bastiat described this symbiotic relationship aptly when he wrote, “the state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” No group benefits more from this patristic relationship than the upper echelons of the business class, who will spare no expense to purchase a cadre of politicians in order to keep their already well-oiled profit machines running smoothly.

Lessig, like so many other well-intentioned campaign finance reformists, mistakes the symptom for the disease.  While campaign donations are little more than thinly-veiled bribery, they’re only the product of much deeper problem – that of political authority.

Without political authority, the billions paid by corporate leaches to their public stooges would have little practical effect. It is the ability of the political class to implement the dictates of their wealthy benefactors that makes campaign donations so profitable. Absent the force of the law backing blatant corporate handouts like the Drug War, intellectual property,perpetual warfare, and a giant banking cartel, American taxpayers would simply not stand by as their looted incomes fund these monstrosities.

Banning large campaign donations might have a temporary effect which would last only until the business class figures out the most efficient way to subvert new campaign financing regulations. Eventually, the bribery would pushed underground if necessary, or, as C4SS’s James C. Wilson argued, might simply take place through influential intermediaries like the always for-sale American media. As long as the state carries a monopoly on law-making and enforcement, there will be suit-and-tie welfare queens knocking on their doors.

Campaign finance reform is a bandage on the gaping wound that is government. While Lessig can’t be faulted for his desire to change the corrupt nature of Washington, it’d be far preferable to see him use his position of prominence to attack the relationship between the political and business classes at its very foundation, rather than poking at it with a stick.

More articles by:

Chad Nelson is senior editor at the Center for a Stateless Society. He’s an attorney based out of Providence, Rhode Island and a Fellow at C4SS. He considers himself one of the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fans despite their blind obedience to the Obama administration. Follow him on Twitter @cnels43.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail