Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It (TED Books)
Before we can tackle climate change, financial reform, education reform or, well, anything, there is a single issue that we in the United States must confront. As legal activist Lawrence Lessig says in today’s talk, before we can bring about change on any of the thousands of issues that matter to us, we must change a central corruption at the root of the American political system — that politicians must raise vast amounts of money in order to have a chance in the general election. This makes them prone to the influence of a very small percentage of the population.
The American political system has been foundationally weakened by a corrupt campaign funding system, creating a dangerously unstable and inequitable design that could destroy our republic — if we let it. In this provocative and important book, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes on the deep flaws in our campaign finance system and lays out a plan for fixing it. Lessig describes a place called Lesterland, a fictional land with a population of 311 million people of whom the 144,000, or 0.05 percent, named Lester are the people really in charge. It’s the United States, of course, and Lesters are the people who fund the election. Lessig notes that just 132 Americans gave 60 percent of the SuperPAC money spent in the election cycle. It’s these few, he says, who are our Lesters, and our dependence on them is perverting the democracy of the country. After all, if candidates have to spend 30 to 70 percent of their time trying to raise funds to get back to Congress, which they do, might that not affect their principles, their beliefs, their ideals, and what they’re prepared to fight for on behalf of the people?