Saturday, March 22, 2008

Change Congress (beta) Launched

This presentation, from Stanford's brilliant Lawrence Lessig, is the best thing I've seen all year.

He discusses how institutional corruption undermines public trust (in case of experts such as academics and doctors), and leads to transparently bad policy (in case of government). People may care more about substance than process, but just like the alcoholic who can't save his job, family life, or liver until he addresses his alcoholism, so the most substantial problems facing the world today cannot be solved until we reform our corrupt political processes.

This is a message that should resonate across the political spectrum. Increased transparency, porkbusting, and an end to 'crony capitalism' or anti-market regulatory capture -- these are projects that liberals and conservatives alike can recognize as important and necessary. Public financing is a harder sell, but we may draw on Scott Scheule's insight that what libertarian and conservative principles really call for is limited government, not small government. If we must invest in public financing to prevent government/regulatory capture by corporate interests (and the gross inefficiencies that go along with such market distortion), that's surely a good deal from the perspective of limited government!

Anyway, building on the efforts of existing reform groups, Lessig has launched the Change Congress project to help realize these much-needed reforms. A Google Maps overlay makes transparent the PAC money feeding into each congressional district. Another, once the site is in full swing, will track congressional support for the four key reform proposals. This will make it much easier to see which politicians are doing their bit to guard against corruption, and -- once a critical mass is reached -- to pressure the rest of them to follow suit. (See the presentation for more detail.)

You may notice I've added a 'button' of support to my sidebar. You can get your own here.


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