There's too much money in politics. Money in politics corrupts democracy. We need to get money out of politics. Aphorisms like those have been uttered pretty much ever since cash has exchanged hands. The complaint is bipartisan, primal. As such, we commonly regard the notion as an abstract truth, an unfortunate feature of political life.
And so, when more people than at any point in recent memory are crying out that money is indeed corrupting the political process today, it can nonetheless seem like a vague charge. Yes, we all know that reviled lobbyists swarm Washington D.C. and that Big Money buys access to our political leaders while the rest of us are left out in the dark. But even these concepts seem almost mythic to those of us outside the Beltway. So what does the moneyed perversion of democracy actually look like? How does it work?
The answers to those questions are important--and that's why Jon Stewart's interview with Lawrence Lessig, the author of Republic, Lost should be required viewing for anyone interested in better grasping why our political culture is so broken, so unresponsive to the demands of the majority of Americans. The ways that money distorts the political process are indeed both deeply entrenched, and quite mundane.
Lessig has some interesting ideas on how to halt this pernicious cycle--a 'democracy voucher' system, and anonymous donations:
Working to get 'money out of politics', to borrow that immortal phrase, should be the number one priority for anyone hoping to see their government seriously address major concerns like climate change. It's unlikely that we'll ever get it all the way out, but Lessig shows us that there are interesting places to starting to breaking the stranglehold.