Larry Lessig is out with a new post that sheds light on one of the most important problems affecting our political system today. In a recent interview Lessig explained his decision to move from Stanford Law School, where he focused on copyright and trademark reform, to Harvard where he will now lead a new center to study and combat the problem of corruption.
In this NPR interview, he explained the move as stemming largely from his experience with Congress regarding copyright reform.
Nowhere does Lessig accuse Congress of being corrupt explicitly, but he argues that it is the perception of impropriety that is so damaging to both the effectiveness of Congress and its place in the eyes of the American population. As with a Doctor who accepts pharmaceutical company perks for prescribing a certain drug, it oftentimes isn't the action itself that is damaging or even wrong necessarily, but the conflict of interest question is what corrodes trust and support for such indispensable institutions.
Transparency International has done a good job of making this distinction, where its Corruption Perception Index rates the world's most corrupt countries. What they have realized is that the perception of corruption serves as a corrosive just as bad perhaps as corruption itself on the respect for and faith in a government's institutions.
So if you are wondering why I am mentioning Lessig think about this: Lessig has known President Elect Obama since their days teaching Law at the University of Chicago together and it is well known that they are friends. Let's hope that Obama's thinking regarding technology and corruption are influenced by Lessig's views and push for change. Perhaps this is why Lessig was not chosen to head the FCC as some had suggested, because Obama prefers to keep him as a behind the scenes adviser. We should be so lucky.