Today, Lawrence Lessig gave a talk at the National Press Club announcing the launch of Change Congress, an effort Sam Boyd and I looked at last month. Change Congress is premised on ameliorating the dearth of trust and truth in government when it comes to "easy" public policy questions, such as promoting nutritional health and addressing global warming (his examples). The failure of government -- specifically, Congress -- to tackle these issues comes down to one thing in Lessig's view: "improper dependence" on money, an "economy of influence" that breeds "institutional corruption."
Lessig's insight is laudable, for most people understand corruption to be a simple exchange: the greedy member of Congress accepting a suitcase of money in exchange for political favors to a wealthy client, usually a evil corporation with a sinister and equally greedy agenda. This old-style corruption has largely been eradicated, Lessig argued, replaced with something that turns basically honest people into dependents of monied interests. Solving the problem, then, is a matter of "changing the power of money," specifically how it is used in the political process and where it originates.