Ralph Benko

Lawrence Lessig may be the greatest radical at work in America today. Lessig, a polymath, professor at Harvard Law School, is no ivory tower type. He is a radical — someone who strikes at the root of things — in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson. His latest book The USA is Lesterland breathes intelligent, courageous-to-the-point-of-heroic, radicalism from every pore. The USA is Lesterland is the most important political book of 2014.

Lessig’s core proposition:

… I offer a simple way to understand the nature of the corruption that is the United States Congress today. I also sketch out a strategy to fix it. That corruption isn’t illegal corruption. It’s not the bad behavior of bad souls. It is instead the ordinary behavior of good souls within a corrupted system. It’s legal corruption, and it has infected and poisoned our government.

Like a magnet beside a compass, or molasses in a gearbox, or a wheel not aligned: This is a system of influence that corrupts the government of our Republic. And it is a bi-partisan, equal opportunity corruption. It blocks the Left. It blocks the Right. It blocks both in the sense that it makes it harder (maybe impossible) for either side to get the principled reform that each side would push.

Lessig creates a sort of fairy tale to make his point simple and compelling. Rather than Alice in Wonderland we get Lessig in Lesterland with Lessig casting himself more Cheshire Cat than Alice. However, in light of the gravity of the problem, this is more epic David and Goliath than fairy tale.

“Once upon a time,” his book opens, “there was a place called ‘Lesterland.’" He uses, as a literary device, the fact that 150,000 Americans are named Lester. And that 150,000 people fund Congressional elections.

He develops a winsome extended metaphor. What if candidates had to gain the support of many, preferably a majority, of the 150,000 Lesters … before the rest of us got to vote? That would give "the Lesters" disproportionate influence on elections.


Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.
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