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Lessig On Corruption and Reform

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the only-haggling-over-the-price dept.

Government 138

Brian Stretch sends us to the National Review for an interview with Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig talks about money, politics, money in politics, and his decision not to run for an open seat in Congress. From the interview: "Lessig hates corruption. He hates it so much, in fact, that last year he announced he'd be shifting away from his work on copyright and trademark law... to focus on it... 'One of the biggest targets of reform that we should be thinking about is how to blow up the FCC.'"

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Explosives (3, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691080)

One of the biggest targets of reform that we should be thinking about is how to blow up the FCC.

Why stop at blowing up the FCC?

Re:Explosives (3, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691120)

(err.. and before someone arrests me for that comment, I wasn't being LITERAL)

It's all in the wording (1)

JavaRob (28971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691734)

(err.. and before someone arrests me for that comment, I wasn't being LITERAL)
Don't worry -- you were merely asking "why stop" at blowing up the FCC -- you certainly weren't advocating any violence (or indeed, even implying that you personally would act to bring about any such violence).

I, too, would not advocate violence against the executive branch of our government, however much they theoretically may deserve to be throttled in their sleep, and however enjoyable that imaginary act could be.

No, we must follow the laws, which exist for very good reason, as any feasible assassination plot will undoubtedly be announced in clear terms beforehand by the assassin.

Unlike this roundabout verbiage [harpers.org] , for instance, which merely discusses the subject with some relish, much as I am doing.

Re:Explosives (5, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691150)

Yes! Let's also blow up the other letters of the alphabet! After that, we target pictograms and heiroglyphics!

Re:Explosives (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692086)

Parent should have been modded Insightful.

Re:Explosives, any sort of FOS (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694516)

Dogma is a secure refuge for all pseudo-intellectual adelophobics.

Adelophobia: irrational fear of the unknown. The general unknown, which would include science, technology, culture/race, death, god, self, others .... A biologist afflicted with adelophobia will be functional with in the realm of text book biology and maybe even stem-cells, but espouse the great dangers of nanotechnology.

Some of the better known highly distinguished USA adelophobics (I think) are GBMcclellan (No Fighting), DAMacArthur (Politics First), TRFranks (DSDS Almost Fired by Bear), WCWestmorland (Lies to Die by), RSMcNamara (Lead by Deceit), DDEisenhower & RMNixon (Domino Theory, War on drugs ... dogma cure alls), Bush-Family (Ivy League Educated Bigots, Thieves, and Nazi Lovers), DChaney (Lord of Oil & Scams), DRumsfeld (Quagmire-Don the DoD destroyer), BShockley (Transistor Racist), HFord (Bigot and Nazi Lover), TAEdison (Bigot, Thief, and proxy-Nazi Lover), BGates (Software Nazi), LEWalcott (Nazi Islam Bigot), RLimbaugh (Dogma Comedian) ....

Waterboard! (2)

agent (7471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691194)

Label them terrorist, and do what ever the fuck you want to them.

Re:Explosives (2, Funny)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691316)

Why blow up a compiler in the first place? I'm assuming 'FCC' is some sort of relation to 'GCC'... I tried "fcc -v" but didn't get any meaningful results though. Maybe it is just not installed on my system?

Re:Explosives (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691554)

Why blow up a compiler in the first place? I'm assuming 'FCC' is some sort of relation to 'GCC'...

Because it is a communist compiler used by hackers who haven't paid for the license. And yes, you are right, it spawns new cells every now and then in a process these enemies of freedom call "proejct forking".

Re:Explosives (2, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694028)

Why blow up a compiler in the first place? I'm assuming 'FCC' is some sort of relation to 'GCC'... I tried "fcc -v" but didn't get any meaningful results though. Maybe it is just not installed on my system?
FCC is a special compiler. If you compile the driver for certain wireless networking cards with FCC, it deletes the source code and leaves only a binary behind.

I would have moved... (2, Insightful)

Bartab (233395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691100)

... in order to vote for Lessig for Congress. Not that it's a big move, mind you, I live in Oakland.

It's unfortunate he decided not to run.

Re:I would have moved... (2, Informative)

dido (9125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691508)

FTA:

NRO: Why did you decide not to run for Congress?

Lessig: The race was a special election being held on April 8. It became clear it was going to be impossible to achieve any recognition of the campaign or the issues in 30 days. The fear was that a failure would be an indictment of the reform movement.

There may be yet another campaign for Lessig in Congress. More power to him then!

"Blow up" the FCC? (1, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691102)

Is it just me or isn't he in danger being invited in for a "friendly chat" with the FBI? Remember kids - we live in less innocent times and rhetorical excesses can seriously mess up your day.

Re:"Blow up" the FCC? (4, Insightful)

Bartab (233395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691124)

It's just you. You're a crazy conspiracy nutcase.

Re:"Blow up" the FCC? (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691172)

Maybe not for the 'blow up' comment, but perhaps for his decision to expose corruption within the government.

That sounds like a dangerous proposition. Kudos to him, though, if he can get anywhere real with it.


-FL

Re:"Blow up" the FCC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22692188)

When I worked for an ISP that shall remain nameless, the NSA did get some records for some guy who emailed GW.B, before his presidency, mind you, suggesting some creative ways in which he might find an end to his life. Wasn't a big deal, at the time, but once he actually got elected it was a threat on the president's life and it got escalate This was pre-homeland security, mind you, so the paranoia is probably warranted, but only if he's sending copies to the right people. I dun think that some comment on slashdot is going to be enough for record subpoenas.

Re:"Blow up" the FCC? (1, Funny)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692730)

Was he the dood who suggested eating that bag of Pretzels? If so, good show, old chap.....

FCC moves aim to curry favor of future employers (5, Informative)

SpaceWanderer (1181589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691106)

I thought this was interesting. Found it on Lessig's blog. Basically, FCC employees brown-nose prospective future employers by decreeing public policies that benefits those future employers.

The wires are sparking with news of the GAO report (pdf) that FCC insiders routinely tipped lobbyists and corporate insiders about agency agenda decisions before they were made public. This is critical, because under agency "sunshine rules," FCC members can't be lobbied for the week between the public announcement of an agenda and the meeting. Knowing what's going to be announced on the agenda in advance thus gives lobbyists and corporate insiders an opportunity to lobby before the sun[shine rules] rise. From the report: FCC generally followed the rulemaking process in the four case studies of completed rulemakings that GAO reviewed, but several stakeholders had access to nonpublic information. Specifically, each of the four rulemakings included steps as required by law and opportunities for public participation. Within the case studies, most ex parte filings complied with FCC rules. However, in the case studies and in discussions with other stakeholders that regularly participate in FCC rulemakings, multiple stakeholders generally knew when the commission scheduled votes on proposed rules well before FCC notified the public. FCC rules prohibit disclosing this information outside of FCC. Other stakeholders said that they cannot learn when rules are scheduled for a vote until FCC releases the public meeting agenda, at which time FCC rules prohibit stakeholders from lobbying FCC. As a result, stakeholders with advance information about which rules are scheduled for a vote would know when it is most effective to lobby FCC, while stakeholders without this information would not. When I commented upon this to a colleague, his response was typical: "What do you expect? And anyway, so what? What's wrong with giving affected parties a bit more time to make their case?" "What's wrong" first is that the rules say otherwise. "What's wrong" second is that the rules are bent in a completely predictable way. Agency insiders curry favor with precisely the people they'll be getting a job with after they leave the FCC. And "what's wrong" third is just what this indicates about the kinds of bending we might expect goes on inside the FCC. If the agency is willing to bend the rules to favor futures employers, are they willing to put the thumb on the scale in difficult contested policy determinations? But my colleague was right about one thing: "What do [I] expect?" Here's an agency chaired by a former lobbyist. Is it likely to be scrupulous about rules meant to constrain or balance the lobbying process? This example is just one many that is our government. (As I'm learning as I work through the extraordinary reading list compiled by my Read-Write readers at the Lessig Wiki on Corruption. But it needs to become a bigger issue for the candidates in this election. Let's hear a promise by the presidential candidates that they will only appoint FCC commissioners who promise not to work for those they have regulated for at least 5 years after their term is over. That would be real change.

Re:FCC moves aim to curry favor of future employer (4, Insightful)

Danse (1026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691312)

Basically, FCC employees brown-nose prospective future employers by decreeing public policies that benefits those future employers.
So it's just like Congress, or any number of other government agencies.

Re:FCC moves aim to curry favor of future employer (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692250)

This only means that your congress and other government agencies are also bad, it doesn't make FCC practice okay and sure as hell doesn't constitute a reason to stop improving things.

Re:FCC moves aim to curry favor of future employer (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692802)

Let's hear a promise by the presidential candidates that they will only appoint FCC commissioners who promise not to work for those they have regulated for at least 5 years after their term is over. That would be real change.

Promises mean nothing. That kind of behavior is probably already illegal (and if it isn't, it should be made so) with the Feds given to understand that prosecuting those who break those laws are a priority.

You won't get the money out of politics... (4, Interesting)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691108)

...until you get politics out of money.

More government control of the economy = more corruption. The more opportunity congress has to pick winners and losers, the more money businessmen are willing to spend to rig the outcome. The more powerful and less accountable a bureaucracy is to voters, the less checks their are to curb corruption. This is why the scandals in the previous French government and the UN oil-for-food scandal dwarf anything that's ever gone on in America. And the trend is to makle those bureaucracies even less accountable to votes (think of the EU's centralizing drive, and how the latest UK Labour government decided it didn't need to let its citizens vote on surrendering sovereignty to the EU after all. The more centralized power, the fewer chances for checks and balances to prevent corruption. And of course the communist bureaucracies of the old Soviet Union were the most corrupt of all, with millions killed while the Nomenklatura lived in luxury.

As Lord Acton noted, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The larger and more centralized government becomes, the more opportunities for corruption.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (5, Interesting)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691280)

Lessig doesn't really seem to agree with this. He says he knows government is corrupted by money. The Libertarian answer is to reduce the size of government to reduce the amount of corruption, but Lessig somehow thinks that the amount of corruption can be dramatically reduced without taking that step. But he can't explain concretely how.

His only plan is to get politicians to promise they won't take lobbyist money, and to "abolish earmarks", and to add more campaign finance restrictions. Sorry Larry, but politicians are professional promise-skirters, and I see no reason to believe that them making yet another promise is going to significantly change how the government works at all levels.

The "abolish earmarks" thing is especially quixotic; you might as well make them promise to stop gerrymandering while you're at it. They'll find another way to do it, and just call it something else, or outright deny that's what they're doing, playing with the word definitions. As for the lobbyist thing, lobbyists have *plenty* of ways to influence politicians besides outright giving them money, and there's not even a way to enumerate all of them, much less make every politician promise to ignore them, and then enforce that promise.

I don't see any part of Larry's plan that makes me think it's more sensible than the Libertarian point of view. The problem of government corruption is just too complex to confront head-on, and it's okay to admit that. "Special Interests" are ingenious, well-funded, and determined; thinking that they can be outmaneuvered forever is just hubris. There is a simple solution, and we know what it is: the way to *truly* remove corruption from a part of the government is to eliminate that part of the government.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (4, Interesting)

Danse (1026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691324)

The Libertarian answer is to reduce the size of government to reduce the amount of corruption
The problem with the Libertarian answer is that it is vague and largely unworkable due to the current level of corruption. You need to come up with ways to reduce the amount of impact the corrupt officials can have by proposing things that are concrete and easier for people to get behind than something like "reducing the size of government".

Simple != vague (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691444)

Just because the libertarian answer is simple doesn't mean it's vague. If you want to reduce the effect that corrupt politicians have on the lives of normal people then what better way to do it than by reducing the number of those politicians as well as reducing the power that the remaining politicians have? Less government + less government power = less effect of government corruption on normal peoples lives. It's a simple equation, but I don't think it's the least bit vague or unworkable.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692000)

Good point.

The libertarian answer looks good on paper. Neuter the government's power and go from there. The problem is that the politicians will just ignore the new limits on their power, just as they ignore them now. The only people who can hold them accountable, their constituents, won't care enough to throw them out.

There are a lot of factors working against reform:

* Politicians gerrymander districts in order to practically guarantee re-election
* Politicians create arcane ballot access laws and anti-competitive voting systems to keep voter choices limited to the two major parties
* Voters refuse to hold their representatives accountable for their votes on anything but "meat and potatoes" issues (when was the last time the average voter cast their ballot with patent reform in mind; do you even know your congressman's position on anything other than the main issues?)

The people are getting the government they deserve. Plain and simple. Politicians aren't making it easy for citizens to vote their conscience, but that's a lame excuse. Alternating between two corrupt parties and consistently voting for the lesser of two evils has gotten us to this point. Continuing to do it won't fix anything.

Vague?!? Surely you jest. (3, Insightful)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692416)

The Libertarian philosophy is anything but "vague". In fact, Libertarianism is the most well-defined and internally consistent political philosophy I've ever heard, which is probably why I like it, as a computer scientist. It's so clear cut that you can actually apply the core philosophy directly to voting decisions and get an unambiguous answer in many cases, which is not something you can say of conservatism or liberalism.

As an example, let me run down some of the items on Barack Obama's issue pages (since I just happened to be reading them) and tell you the Libertarian answer to each point, off the top of my head:
  • Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Libertarians are for tax cuts; they reduce the size of government.
  • Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Reducing the complexity of the tax code is good, as it would tend to reduce the size of government, though Libertarians would prefer to eliminate the income tax and thus the need for individual tax filings.
  • Fight for Fair Trade: Free trade is good, but Obama proposes using trade deals to enforce our rules on other countries and protect our jobs from foreign competition. Libertarians are against this and for completely free trade.
  • Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama wants to "fix" NAFTA, and I don't know what that means but it sounds like protectionism, which Libertarians are against.
  • Improve Transition Assistance: Obama wants the government to pay to retrain workers. This increases the size of government so Libertarians are against it.
  • Support Job Creation: Obama wants to double spending on research and education. This increases the size of government so Libertarians are against it, believing that it will produce corruption and waste; a free market can do a better job of allocating those resources than fickle politicians can, without the corruption and waste.
  • Invest in U.S. Manufacturing: More spending; bigger government; Libertarians say no.
  • Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: Again, Spending. Bigger government. No.
  • Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: Spending. Bigger government. No.
  • Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Spending. Bigger government. No.
  • Protect the Openness of the Internet: Libertarians believe that the Internet should not be regulated.
  • Invest in Rural Areas: Spending. Bigger government. No.
I could go on, but as you can see, the Libertarian viewpoint is very well-defined, and not at all vague. As for whether it's "unworkable" or whether people can "get behind" it, well, that's debatable. But vague is the one thing it's certainly not.

Re:Vague?!? Surely you jest. (1)

shark swooner (1077115) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692966)

Libertarianism's answers are often simple, but their justification of these answers very often uses vague a priori logic. For example, libertarians say that we shouldn't regulate against monopoly, because monopolies are actually always caused by government intervention... somehow or other. Or, we should legalize competing currencies, as the US monetary system is going to collapse... any day now.

Re:Vague?!? Surely you jest. (2, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693874)

Libertarianism's answers are often simple, but their justification of these answers very often uses vague a priori logic.

That may be the case, but you failed to provide any evidence for the assertion.

For example, libertarians say that we shouldn't regulate against monopoly, because monopolies are actually always caused by government intervention... somehow or other.

Did the Libertarian article you were reading on this topic actually fail to say how the monopolies are caused by government intervention? Or did you just stop reading? Taking the example of the monopoly most often discussed on /., Microsoft's business model is entirely dependent upon copyright, patent and trademark law. Without government support, Microsoft wouldn't exist.

Or, we should legalize competing currencies, as the US monetary system is going to collapse... any day now.

Libertarians wouldn't say we should legalize competing currencies because the US monetary system is going to collapse. They'd say we should legalize competing currencies because that maximizes individual liberty -- people and organizations should have the option to issue their own currency if they want to, and other people should have the right to choose whether or not they want to use it.

As the GP said -- whether or not Libertarianism is workable is a question worthy of debate, but the philosophy is built on such simple, easy-to-apply axioms that it most definitely is not vague, and if the logic appears "a priori", that's probably because the speaker assumes it's well-understood and therefore doesn't need to be explained.

Copyright vs. real estate (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694226)

Taking the example of the monopoly most often discussed on /., Microsoft's business model is entirely dependent upon copyright, patent and trademark law. Without government support, Microsoft wouldn't exist.
Some people view copyrights as analogous to real estate: both copyright and real estate involve a bundle of state-enforced rights subject to easements. Copyrights are just taxed less. Would libertarians eliminate both, keep both, or somehow justify one and not the other?

Re:Vague?!? Surely you jest. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22694290)

>> For example, libertarians say that we shouldn't regulate against monopoly, because monopolies are actually always caused by government intervention... somehow or other.

Not "always," but some monopolies or oligopolies are created by the government. See utilities, telecom providers (not "official" monopolies, but often de facto monopolies in geographic areas), etc.

>> Or, we should legalize competing currencies, as the US monetary system is going to collapse... any day now.

Competing currencies are not illegal. College towns (famously Ithaca among others) sometimes have their own currency. Emperor Norton I made his own currency. The recent crackdown on that "Ron Paul dollar" company is because they seemed to encourage confusing their currency with US legal tender -- the government does not look favorably upon that.

Telecom easements under libertarianism? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694196)

Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Spending. Bigger government. No.
Would libertarians give non-subscribers the right to prohibit providers of last-mile telecommunications from stringing wires under or over their land?

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693258)

No, the problem with the Libertarian answers are that, in general, they won't work. As long as the FCC has been mentioned, let's consider the electromagnetic spectrum. In the absence of regulation, everybody will use it as they can, which means that nobody can get good use out of it, due to interference. The reason I can listen to radio stations, for example, is that the FCC hands out licenses, and prevents other people from broadcasting on the same frequency in the same area. The alternative is for radio stations to send out goons to dynamite the competition, and I don't see that as an improvement.

So, what is the Libertarian alternative to the FCC? Laissez-faire in the air? Pitched battles around antennas? Any peaceful solution that allows decent use of the airwaves is going to need some allocation method and some enforcement method.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695436)

Libertarians aren't against allocation *or* enforcement a priori. They simply believe that all allocation and enforcement should be done the same way: property rights in a free market. The Libertarian alternative to the FCC would be a free market of property rights to parts of the spectrum, with no regulation governing who can own it or what they can do with it. Right now the FCC sometimes has auctions, but it's a long way from a free market.

Some people believe that there should be no property rights in the electromagnetic spectrum, and everyone should be free to transmit as they see fit. This attitude stems from a belief that it could work technically; that the spectrum is large enough that there would be no tragedy of the commons. This belief about the (non-)necessity of property rights stems from an opinion about the technical feasibility of ultrawideband communication, not Libertarianism per se. Libertarians would not object to a sensible system of property rights for the spectrum (with enforcement) if one is determined to be necessary or beneficial.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691936)

Lessig acknowledges that the goal is to get to a smaller government; it's even in the article. He pointed out, quite correctly, that the current structure won't get you to a smaller government, and is trying to change the structure.

As for your "simple solution" - how exactly do you plan to "eliminate that part of the government"? Which seat are you running for again?

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692194)

Lessig acknowledges that the goal is to get to a smaller government
He practically contradicts himself about this. He says nice things about wanting smaller government, and I want to believe him, but he says other things that don't sound like small government at all. Also, he calls himself a Democrat and unreservedly endorses Barack Obama. Obama is many things, but I wouldn't call him a small-government candidate. A national health insurance plan is not small government. Extending the Universal Service Fund to broadband is not small government. Obama has a "comprehensive plan" for every issue, and they almost all involve expanding programs, creating funds, and "investing" in things, which is the opposite of small government. Don't get me wrong; there are things about Obama I like (technology for open government, foreign policy), and I'm no McCain fan either, but you can't support Obama wholeheartedly and simultaneously be for small government.

As for what I'm doing about it, I vote. I'm not required to work harder than Lessig to offer my opinion about him on Slashdot, so don't get self-righteous with me. The Libertarian solution is simple in concept and implementation; the only hard part is getting people to see that it's a good idea when they could be voting themselves government handouts instead. As opposed to the big-government solution, which is easy to get people to vote for, but well-nigh impossible to keep from getting unmaintainably complex and corrupted.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694750)

I'm not trying to be self-righteous - I'm just pointing out that eliminating parts of the government that are prone to corruption (your simple solution) is far from simple in practice. Lessig isn't standing on a corner bitching about how government should be wiped out - he's actively trying to push a solution that (in his mind) has a chance of working.

If the problem was simple, it would have been corrected long ago. It's an extremely complex problem.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (2, Interesting)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692702)

You post is quite excellent, Good Citizen Spy Hunter, but I must take exception with you when you state:

The problem of government corruption is just too complex to confront head-on, and it's okay to admit that.

In 1978 two pivotal bills were passed by a heavily "purchased" US Congress. First, the bill allowing corporations, via lobbyists and other methods, to buy off Congress, whereas previously they hadn't been allowed to contribute to political campaigns due to legislation created and successfully lobbied for by President Teddy Roosevelt.

The second bill, thanks to a bought-off Black Congressional Caucus, gave tax breaks to corporations for laying off American workers and offshoring their jobs - they created and passed this in the name of "diversity" - evidently they considered "diversity" only to apply to foreign Asian workers and not Black American (and other American) workers.

These bills, especially when examined together, have brought us (along with soooo many other corrupt practices - please see sites below) to where the USA is today.

Of course, others [centerfori...orting.org] have influence as well over US elections. Please read this excellent article blog [niemanwatchdog.org] as well as this outstanding blog [blogspot.com] .

How to prohibit gerrymandering objectively (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694182)

you might as well make them promise to stop gerrymandering while you're at it.

I can think of an objective way to make gerrymandering more difficult. Measure the land area and perimeter of each electoral district. From the perimeter, compute the "ideal area" as the area of a square with the same perimeter, that is, the square of one-fourth the perimeter. Then for each district, compute the land area as a fraction of the ideal area, and require each district to have at least a specified fraction.

After I typed that out, I looked up gerrymandering on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , and I found that someone had already explained such a system, calling it "isoperimetric". Wikipedia lists another method that uses the area of a district's convex hull as the ideal area.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694852)

Sorry Larry, but politicians are professional promise-skirters, and I see no reason to believe that them making yet another promise is going to significantly change how the government works at all levels.

You might as well say "Americans are notorious morons, and I see no reason why they wouldn't start voting for principled and uncorrupted politicians." If a Senator takes the Change Congress pledge and then turns his back on it, Larry is introduced a level of accountability for the American public to say "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. Umm. You can't fool me again." If the Change Congress movement gains critical mass such that only uncorrupted politicians can get elected and the elected politicians can be held accountable to stay uncorrupted... then Larry will have succeeded.

This isn't as much of a political battleground that Lessig has laid out... and is more one where the support of the majority of Americans can pragmatically reform Congress. I, for one, welcome the opportunity to gauge a person's corruptibility in the formula decide whether he is worthy of my vote. As a tried and true open-minded citizen who happens to vote Democrat, I would willingly send votes to Republicans or other parties who offer candidates who take the Change Congress pledge... just because I think it is important that government and business policies should not be as interwined as they are within the current Administration.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695132)

Publicly funded elections, compulsary voting, and a non-politicial electoral commision to run them. It works. Publicly funded so the influence of campaign donations are lessened a lot. Compulsary voting so the "get yours out to vote and try to stop the others" is lessened. and an independent electoral commision to stop the gerrymandering and other partisan games.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691336)

More government control of the economy = more corruption.

And yet, those Nordic countries were the state has great control over the economy are also marked by some of the lowest government corruption in the world.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691462)

And yet, those Nordic countries were the state has great control over the economy are also marked by some of the lowest government corruption in the world.
Because, other than Nokia, they have no economy.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (3, Informative)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691762)

You mean, other than Nokia, oil, hydro, oil, Erikson, Nilfisk, oil, Volvo, oil, Saab, oil, boats, drilling rigs, construction, oil, Ikea, Maersk, oil, and oil, they have no economy ? Sure.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692916)

Well, that and tourism.

Being of Norwegian heritage, someday I'll probably waste money on a troll doll -- troll doll, get it?

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693266)

...and the fish slapping indüstri

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (4, Informative)

krasmussen (891165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693090)

A bit of facts [wikipedia.org] .

GDP per capita 2007:
Norway: 47,098
United States: 44,765
Iceland: 41,680
Denmark: 38,438
Finland: 37,957
Sweden: 36,687

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691878)

And yet, those Nordic countries were the state has greatER control over the economy are also marked by some of the lowest government corruption in the world.

There, fixed that for you. (Of course, I fully agree with your position, but I think it's important to note that greater != great.)

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (2, Informative)

lastninja (237588) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692640)

We have other types of corruption, nepotism for example is rampant here in Sweden. Also it should be remembered that the laws that our government passes seldom affects business decisions, they are mostly to control the people. So there is rather small reason to try and bribe anyone. unlike France where the people are relativly free from government control but where business is heavyly regulated.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692976)


"And yet, those Nordic countries were the state has great control over the economy are also marked by some of the lowest government corruption in the world."

By what standard? What are your references? Links? Something? Or are you just going to pull assertions out of your ass and hope no one checks? If you're going to advocate a government takeover of the economy, at the very least take the time to back up your assertions of why this is such a good idea with proof.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

RattFink (93631) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694694)

By what standard? What are your references? Links? Something? Or are you just going to pull assertions out of your ass and hope no one checks? If you're going to advocate a government takeover of the economy, at the very least take the time to back up your assertions of why this is such a good idea with proof.
To my knowledge there really is only one group out there doing comparative research of this and their research seems to back him up: CPI Ranking [wikipedia.org] .

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (3, Insightful)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691432)

Your assumption seems to be that it is possible to reduce the size of government. I disagree with this notion. If you reduce the size of democratic government a non-democratic government will arise to replace it. Your example of communist russia is an excellent one. After the collapse of the communist government private enterprise filled up the power vacuum that was left, and focused more on profit than on people. The end result was that people actually overall had it noticeably worse under the weak government model that came after than under the all-encompassing communist model of old.

I might also mention that no country in the EU has abandoned sovereignty because countries can leave the EU at any time without approval from the other EU member states. The EU is a treaty, not a country. This makes the EU very fragile. If it became a harm to its member countries instead of a benefit, it would dissolve rapidly.

And by the way, the EU has been very good for my country. Without the EU we would have more pollution, unhealthier food, higher unemployment, severe trade and budget deficits, a devalued coin, higher unemployment, and software patents.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692198)

And by the way, the EU has been very good for my country. Without the EU we would have more pollution, unhealthier food, higher unemployment, severe trade and budget deficits, a devalued coin, higher unemployment, and software patents.
That's ironic. In my country, with the EU we have all those things.

Although we only have higher unemployment once.

As for reducing the size of a democratic government, reducing the size does not automatically lead to tyranny. Removing a lot of the bureaucracy around government can be achieved without reducing its democratic credentials. The collapse of the soviet system is a poor example as it was far from democratic to begin with.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (4, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691434)

More government control of the economy = more corruption.

Sorry, I have to disagree on that one. Some of the least corrupt governments in the world happen to be the scandinavian countries, which also happen to be very much on the socialist side. You can also find plenty of the opposite case, i.e. banana republics where the government doesn't control the economy and is very corrupt. I wouldn't go as far as saying that more govt control means less corruption, but I definitely disagree on your simple "more control = more corruption" statement.

This is why the scandals in the previous French government and the UN oil-for-food scandal dwarf anything that's ever gone on in America.

I disagree on that one to. All the oil-for-food scandals around the world (not just French, there was AU and probably others) are just dwarfed by the US corruption involved in the Iraq invasion. Starting from Halliburton's ex-CEO supporting the was a vice-president, making up false "evidence" (and screwing up the career of the wife of the guy who exposed that in the process), turning a blind eye on over-billing (Halliburton and others), and all the stuff we haven't heard of yet.

As Lord Acton noted, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

True, but there are ways to reduce the power of *individuals* while making sure the govt has control on the economy. Just because the US screwed up at that, doesn't mean you have to deregulate everything. What needs to be done is that the power must be distributed. That's the idea behind the US "checks and balance" principles. The only problem is that there's currently an individual who managed to mostly seize most of the powers. That's where the problem is.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22692048)

even in the oil for food scandal, us companies accounted for 52% [guardian.co.uk] of all kickbacks paid to saddam hussein's govt. those kickbacks were often facilitated by the us govt. bet you didn't know that.

in some parts of the world people use elephants for labour. elephants are large and can easily kill humans, hence people make sure to keep them trained and constantly under control. the size of the elephant is immaterial. a similar attitude should be held towards governments. a small govt. will waste your money and your freedom just as quickly as a large one if it isn't controlled. i'd have thought that lesson would have been learned by now.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (2)

lastninja (237588) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692762)

More government control of the economy = more corruption.

Sorry, I have to disagree on that one. Some of the least corrupt governments in the world happen to be the scandinavian countries, which also happen to be very much on the socialist side. You can also find plenty of the opposite case, i.e. banana republics where the government doesn't control the economy and is very corrupt. I wouldn't go as far as saying that more govt control means less corruption, but I definitely disagree on your simple "more control = more corruption" statement.
The Nordic countries have relatively little control over the business side of the economy, for example the telecom industry in Sweden and Finland is the most libertarian in the world(last time I checked Nokia was basically the entire Finnish stock exchange). The government do however have large say over working peoples wallets. Since people have relatively small amounts of money bribing officials are out of the question. Getting permits to build a house can take years, but will go much faster if the official granting them is you dad.

While the banana republics may have low taxes, (I assume you mean South America) you basically need a permit to go to the toilet, unless you bribe someone ofcourse. Government control of the economy is much more than taxation it is as much about regulation.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

bluesnowmonkey (148168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694088)

Scandinavian countries are tiny and ethnically homogeneous. The success of semi-socialism there suggests that it might also work for, say, the state of Wisconsin. And honestly, I think it might. But that carries no weight in a discussion of US national politics.

I don't really know how to get this across to non-Americans properly. We are like 50 countries, with all the implied diversity of race, religion, industry, and thought. We speak the same language, mostly, and that's about it. A Californian easily is as dissimilar from a Louisianian as a German is from a Frenchman.

When you can make the Nordic model work for the EU, you can use it as an example to show the US how to run its business. My guess is that the EU will be the same cesspool of corruption as the US federal government.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691658)

This is why the scandals in the previous French government and the UN oil-for-food scandal dwarf anything that's ever gone on in America.
Er, that's basically because America has insitutionalized and legalized corruption through the lobbying system. Get real.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22694418)

This is why the scandals in the previous French government and the UN oil-for-food scandal dwarf anything that's ever gone on in America.

Excuse me? The USA was complicit in the oil-for-food scandal [signonsandiego.com] .

"There is no question that the bulk of the illicit oil revenues came from the open sale of Iraqi oil to Jordan and to Turkey, and that that was a way of going around the oil-for-food program," he said. "We were fully aware of the bypass and looked the other way."

-- Senator Carl M. Levin

Why is it hardly anybody in America is aware of this and thinks of it solely as a UN scandal? Are you guys really that brainwashed by the anti-UN propaganda over there? The USA is in no position to point fingers at others regarding the oil-for-food scandal.

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694614)

>This is why the scandals in the previous French government and the UN oil-for-food scandal dwarf anything that's ever gone on in America.

Ever hear of The Gulf of Tonkin?

Re:You won't get the money out of politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22694910)

Does any one what is reference to John Quincy Adams is about? I am ABD in American history and have no ides what he is talking about.

Why not run it? (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691110)

If he is in with Obama, and Obama becomes president, perhaps Lessig can win an appointment as Chairman of the FCC.

Re:Why not run it? (3, Interesting)

Bartab (233395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691118)

Are you under some delusion that the Democrats don't like the FCC?

Re:Why not run it? (2, Informative)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691140)

Obama sought out Lessig for his technology policy! If Lessig gives him a reasonable road map to implement the FCC-related portions of the technology plan, he can easily get an appointment, and there is NOW WAY the democratic congress is going to reject his appointment...unless his nanny is an illegal immigrant.

Re:Why not run it? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691206)

Is that a rhetorical question?

Re:Why not run it? (1)

jay-za (893059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691130)

Like Obama, Lessig is still relatively young. I think this will actually work to his advantage if Obama wins. Obama and Lessig are both young, intelligent and have pretty radical ideas on fixing the US.

For those who recognise the name but don't know where from, Lessig is the "founder and CEO of the Creative Commons and a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and of the Software Freedom Law Center, launched in February 2005. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications." (From his wikipedia entry)

Re:Why not run it? (3, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691188)

Just out of curiosity, what are Obama's "radical" ideas on fixing the US?

Re:Why not run it? (1)

radimvice (762083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691222)

To be fair, I'm pretty sure he just means "radical" in a "not politics as usual" sense, not in a Slashdot crowd sense. ...unless he's a surfer, or a ninja turtle...in which case he should definitely be modded up.

Re:Why not run it? (3, Funny)

blowdart (31458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691294)

As a subject of Her Majesty the Queen I've been watching the US race with some interest (and lots of spam from idiot US activists, thanks guys). I must admit to liking Obama not for any real reason, but because his slogan "Yes we can" is in fact a very British phrase taken from one of our most popular entertainers, Bob the Builder [bobthebuilder.com] . Who would have thought the slogan from a pre-school edu-tainment star would reach the heady heights of US political office?

Re:Why not run it? (1)

balloonhead (589759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692288)

You would think that GWB would be the one to know all the pre-school targeted claymation catchphrases. I could see him stealing one of the cookie monster's lines, for instance. (yes, I know that's not a claymation one)

Re:Why not run it? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692594)

Replying instead of moderating: I think it shows a cunning understanding of the target market, actually. My brother has kids, they watch Bob the Builder all the time so I'm sure both he and his wife hear the phrase a lot; for a politician to then use it, well it makes them subconsciously think "this is something similar" and we like similar things. (Unless of course the parents are sick of the show...)

Re:Why not run it? (1)

jay-za (893059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691492)

Radical [reference.com] as in "thoroughgoing or extreme, esp. as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.; favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.

If you don't like radical, substitute drastic or extreme. Fromwhat he's said he's prepared to take actions that no other US president hasa publicly considered before.

Re:Why not run it? (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693048)

If you don't like radical, substitute drastic or extreme. Fromwhat he's said he's prepared to take actions that no other US president hasa publicly considered before.
I think you must have misread my post. I didn't ask what the definition of a word was. I asked what his "radical" ideas were? That is, which of his ideas are "radical." So far you've been about as specific as Mr Obama in specifying them :-)

Re:Why not run it? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693984)

From what he's said he's prepared to take actions that no other US president has publicly considered before.

F'rinstance?

Re:Why not run it? (2, Funny)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693036)

Just out of curiosity, what are Obama's "radical" ideas on fixing the US?
CHANGE.

That didn't convince you? Okay, let's whip out the biggie:

HOPE.

See? Lord Obama has answered all of your questions! Praise Obama!

Re:Why not run it? (1)

ConcreteJungle (1177207) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691228)

First look I read the title as 'Why not ruin it' :)

Re:Why not run it? (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691704)

it does not matter who gets to be president, the US federal government is going to continue doing what it does best = fleecing america for all they can get out of it...

it is the nature of government & people in power to usurp more power at the expense of the freedoms & liberties of its nation's citizens...

Re:This is goat5Ex (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691250)

Wow, that link is so distended, I cringe imagining what image it links to....

Is this some sophisticated form of meta-goatse?

I would subscribe to his newsletter (2, Interesting)

rsax (603351) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691308)

What a coincidence, I just watched Pirate Radio USA [bside.com] , a documentary which contains all these fun facts about the FCC and big business.

Careful there Larry (4, Insightful)

eclectro (227083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691328)

Many a nerd who happens to read your blog got their ham license through the FCC and talked with the world *before* there was an internet. Or even computers. Many of us built computers from schematics that showed up in the early magazines and interfaced them to radios. We were making phone calls with radios *before* there was cell phones. Countless hams worked in the electronics industry, and worked in companies that brought forth many of the innovations we use today. A ham radio license, which was hard-eanred (most of us automatically decode all that mosrse code when it shows up on TV :D), is and continues to be a cherished part of many peoples lives. And was the beginning of many careers in technology and science.

While the FCC has many flaws, be careful to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. While I mention ham licenses, they do have a place in technical matters as well.

Re:Careful there Larry (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692990)

While the FCC has many flaws, be careful to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. While I mention ham licenses, they do have a place in technical matters as well.
I'm a ham myself, and I tend to think the baby is not much better than the bath water. All the "technical matters" I've had assistance with came from other technophiles. The fact that a few of them were affiliated with the FCC was secondary. They were associated with the FCC because they were hams, not the other way around.

Re:Careful there Larry (1)

bluesnowmonkey (148168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694174)

Are you suggesting that the license or the licensing process is what got those people into the field of ham radio? What's so great about the license that people cherish it? If you just like getting a certificate for overcoming a challenge, I'm sure I can print something up for you. I fail to see how the FCC helped the ham radio industry flourish.

For the benefit of the non-US part of the audience (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691774)

Please could someone explain what Lessig means by an 'earmark' in the article?

Re:For the benefit of the non-US part of the audie (2, Insightful)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692016)

An earmark is this crazy system the Americans have for tacking supplementary pieces of legislation in. For example - let's say there's this important piece of legislation for, say, feeding starving babies. It's bound to get through - no question. So some congresscritter from Alaska says "I'll vote for this, but I'm adding this clause where we also give $500million to build a bridge in Florida". If the bill passes, so does the addition - the earmark.

It's a tad more complicated than that, but that's the general gist; US politicans can append stuff to legislation (in some cases, after it's already been voted on!) and there is no easy way to get it taken out, but the bill is still needed, so the whole tainted package gets through.

How the US ever came up with such a wacky system I don't know...

Re:For the benefit of the non-US part of the audie (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693306)

The US came up with such a wacky system because it works to the benefit of the people who make the system. It makes it much easier for a congresscritter to funnel money into his or her district.

The necessary and sufficient condition to stop this is for the US people to change priorities slightly. If a senator running on a platform of cutting $50 billion of waste from the budget can beat one running on a platform of bringing $1 billion extra into the state by any means necessary, the earmarks will mostly go away. As long as the voters prefer the idea of bringing money into the district, rather than (which would be better for almost everybody) cutting large amounts of waste, the earmarks will be politically valuable and the earmarks will stay.

In this particular case, the US public gets exactly the government it deserves.

Wow! (1)

denalione (133730) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691976)

A link to National Review. The collective head of slashdot just might explode.

Re:Wow! (1)

svallarian (43156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693114)

Well buckley is dead, so maybe the mag will swing the other way now.

All Politics is Local (2, Interesting)

OakLEE (91103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692138)

I've worked, studied, and basically lived in current political system for nearly 6 years, and in my opinion, its FUBAR, or close enough at any rate.

The biggest problem is that our current system was not built to handle vast government bureaucracy that has cropped up since WWII. Now look, before any liberals get pissy, I'm not a Paul-tard, and I'm not saying that government should only build roads, delivery mail, and fund a military.

That said, fundamentally, the U.S. form of representative democracy was built to do just that. It was meant to keep politics as the local and state level, while the current political discourse in this country has increasingly grown more national. Take the legislative bodies in the states and Congress for example. All of them are based on the idea of direct representation. A state legislator or House Member's role is to keep his or her constituents happy. If not, he gets the boot. And at the state senate and US Senate level (the latter especially after the 17th Amendment), the scope expands to a broader constituency, but the goal stays the same.

This structure creates an incentive and drive to keep the locals happy regardless of what the greater national interest might suggest. Now, that drive worked perfectly fine as long as the government had very little cash to dole out. Back in the 19th Century, the most a legislator could do was maybe bring some funding back for a new post office, roads, or at most a military installation. Government, especially at the federal level, did little else. Even education was rarely handled at the state level. There was very little money in government, and thus very little to try to corrupt. And when corruption did occur, it was on a much smaller (monetary) scale. (Hell even the land scandals with the railroad companies, while extremely bad, didn't really cost the government any money.)

Now, fast forward to the current situation where federal spending over the last 50 years has been at least 20% [cbo.gov] of the GDP, and where it is now accepted and expected that government's role is to dole that money out to someone, whether it be corporations through subsidies and contracts, the poor through welfare, students through college grants and loans, schools through grants and funds, the elderly through social security, the sick through medicare, deficit-inducing tax-cuts for taxpayers, and on and on.

With the current system, legislatures' are lured to keep the local folks happy by offering them a greater and greater share of the pie. They try to squeeze a nickel here, a dime there and before you know it, they've nickel and dimed their way into a quarter-trillion (or whatever it is now) dollar budget deficit. Look at Iraq, look at Social Security, look at the prescription drug benefit, look at no child left behind. All of these are just short term rackets run to please voters without any regard for any long-term damage they might be causing (i.e., inflation, debt, higher tax rates).

It's the reason why the Democrats spent their way into deficits while they were in power in the 60s. It's the reason why Republicans did the exact same when they took power in the 00s. It's the exact same reason why we'll still be running a deficit 4 years from now regardless of who wins this next election. (In case you can't tell, my pet peeve is deficits.) It's the culture of pork-barreled politics, and the principle behind it ("bringing home the bacon") leads our governments--state, local, and federal--to writing checks that our society cannot cash.

You know, it's not even really corruption per se. It's just the way the system was set up, and its probably functioning the way the Founding Fathers intended it. They just probably didn't intend for it to go beyond post offices, roads, and the military. All politics is local. Perhaps that is a maxim we (the U.S.) as a country need to rethink.

Re:All Politics is Local (1)

theonlyaether (1146549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692228)

Mod parent insightful!
As an aside, I'm still totally confused as to what we think the president is supposed to do and how much power he/she should have. I'm still pretty sure that a constant state of war is needed for the president to exercise any reasonable level of power outside a fairly limited constitutional job description. Still not sure if that's why we're always at war, however...

Re:All Politics is Local (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692484)

Well said. Anyone who tries to challenge the pork barrel tendencies gets run out of town eventually. Gingrich did. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who takes fighting earmark abuse seriously, got snubbed for an open seat on the House Appropriations Committee by the Republican leadership despite tremendous grassroots support.

Another problem with overcentralized government: it makes expanding the nation difficult. Annexing Mexico would be a neat way of solving much of America's illegal immigration problem (about 1/3rd of Mexico's workforce is already here and there's a substantial American expat community down there), if majorities on both sides of the border voted for it, but it'd be a nightmare to integrate all those people into our top-heavy federal system. Plus inflicting the 1040 and the rest of the federal tax code on 100M+ more people may qualify as cruel and unusual punishment.

Re:All Politics is Local (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692760)

Thank the gods, Good Citizen OakLEE, finally someone who has read and understood Thomas Jefferson.....

Re:All Politics is Local (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693110)

Ummmm, yes and no.

Yes, the US govt has grown immensely since WW2.

However, the deficits have bloomed out of control due to inadequate taxation on the rich, which began during the Reagan Administration. Presently, the highest incomes actually pay less (percentage wise) than middle income earners. Bush's tax reductions on the rich only exacerbated the problem, and that is why the USA is staring at 1/3 to 1/2 trillion dollar deficits forever.

What we have seen over the past 100 years is the development of the American Empire. Empires are expensive to maintain and inevitably collapse under their own weight of corruption and mismanagement. That's what we are seeing now, is the dismantling of the American Empire - the abandonment of the unipolar for the multipolar geopolitic. It will take at least a few decades. The USA will be forced to retire as a global hegemon and take on a role as a regional hegemon (dominating North and South America) while China dominates East Asia, India South Asia, and Russia does a peculiar dance with a EU. Africa becomes a free-for-all exploitation zone.

We're about to start skidding down the back end of the energy curve, and that will make global empires obsolete, if not impossible. The USA was the last of that genre.

I think the USA is beset by a number of problems. Corruption is certainly one of them, but a lazy and wilfully ignorant populace I would rank as an even greater problem. If people were more engaged and better educated in critical thinking skills, I don't think the USA would be quite the slow motion train wreck it has become.

RS

What made the government grow (2, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693186)

Back in the 19th Century, the most a legislator could do was maybe bring some funding back for a new post office, roads, or at most a military installation. Government, especially at the federal level, did little else.

You have just described a government that is wholly absorbed in building a national infrastructure.

If your constituents lived on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, the Great Lakes, they wanted a lighthouse, a customs station, a ship canal. "Internal improvements" as they called it in those days.

This was never a penny-ante operation.

The federal government was employing 14,000 postal workers as early as 1841.

What made the government grow [americanheritage.com]

Re:All Politics is Local (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693340)

Your analysis of deficits is overly simplistic. Under Clinton, the size of the federal government declined slightly, and the budget was far more in balance. (Some sort of force majeure preventing the Feds from using smoke and mirrors to balance the budget would be nice, of course.) When I was younger, the Democrats were the big-spending party. Since 1980, it's been the Republicans. There's always been some group pushing for smaller government and more nearly balanced budgets.

The Devil you know ... (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693234)

The American system of candidates doing their own fund-raising does give plenty of opportunity for corruption in strong or weaker forms. But it also gives the legislators considerable independence from their parties and better able to represent their constituents (and contributors).

AFAIK, The US and Japan (India?) are the only major countries with independant legislators. Each vote on each issue must be won, one-by-one. All others are entirely behelden to their parties and eminently whippable. Especially the UK, where the sight of Tony Blair putting down three separate revolts over Iraq from Labour (traditionally anti-war and anti-US) back-benchers was truly awe-inspiring.

"Campaign finance reform", as lofty as it sounds likely would have the effect of making the party apparatus more powerful relative to the candidates. That would weaken an important check-and-balance and move further towards an elected dictatorship.

My Campaign Finance Reform Plan (1)

scruffy (29773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693336)

Allocate so many money to each viable candidate.

Each candidate can choose government financing or private financing.

Private financing can come from any source, but must be disclosed.

If a privately financed candidate goes over the limit, matching money will be allocated to government financed candidates.

Advantages: No candidate can outspend another. No one has their free speech or their spending on free speech restricted (except by voluntarily accepting government financing).

Disadvantages: It will cost more money to finance elections, but this is likely offset by less money spent on "kickbacks". Also, there are obviously many details to work out.

Corruption? Where is corruption? (2)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693990)

I'm a citizen of the USA and after I lived in China for a few year between 2003-06, I made this observation:

In China, corruption is widespread but mostly illegal (and people complaint about it rather loudly.)

In the US, corruption is not as widely spread but it is mostly legal because it has morphed into "political contribution" and "job opportunity" (and few people complaint about it -- hey, we vote this government -- we are democratic -- how can corruption happen in a democratic system.)

American politics has no problem (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694286)

America has the best politicians money can buy, and that's why there is never, ever any problem.

There's just simply no way that, say, oil cartels would push the government into invading other countries, or Banana companies would organise assassinations or anything remotely like that.

America is the best country, in the world, and the politicians, not the people are what made it that way!

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