If you know who Lawrence Lessig is you will probably agree with me that he has proven himself to be much more intelligent than the average American citizen. If you don’t know who he is then you’ll have to take my word for it. I read an interview he did for National Review Online and I think that in explaining his personal political view he has captured the essence of the political views of any average American.
I think we’ve got to recognize that the way the system has functioned is to insinuate regulation in all sorts of places that aren’t necessary in order to fuel this political machine of fundraising. There’s this great speech of Ronald Reagan’s in 1965 where he talks about how every democracy fails, because once people realize they can vote themselves premiums, that’s what they’re going to do, and they’ll bankrupt the nation. Well, he had it half right, in the sense there’s a system where people realize they can vote themselves the benefits and destroy the economy. But it’s not the poor who gathered together and created massive force in Washington to distribute income to them. It’s this weird cabal of politicians and special-interest insiders that have achieved this effect. Basically, they can pervert the economy and growth in ways that protect and benefit certain interests.
I’ve read National Review from the age of twelve. I’m a liberal Democrat and I’m proud to be called a liberal Democrat. But the core values that true National Review people talk about in this regulatory context are ones that I understand and in many contexts would wholeheartedly endorse. . .
For example, one of the things that I think is outrageous about what’s happened in the recent past is that most of the kind of distortions that I would point to and say, “We’ve got to fix this,” are distortions that were shifting wealth and benefits to the richest in our society. I’m not talking about tax cuts — that’s a totally separate issue. I’m just talking about regulatory and fiscal structures, successful efforts to shift wealth from the middle to the top.
I find that wrong. And responsibility in my view is that those who are wealthiest, in the strongest position, shouldn’t be using their power to further benefit themselves, using their power over government to benefit themselves. At a minimum, they should bear the burden as much as anybody else and more than that, they should take the view that their responsibility is to make sure the worst off in society have some opportunity. And that means taking care of education, making sure public education functions in the way it is intended to function, and to make sure that health-care systems function in the way that is most efficient. All of these things are the focus of the Democrats right now. I think can be understood as extensions of what it means to be responsible members of society. . .
I’m not apologizing that I believe there is a role for the state. But I am going to say that you have to structure it so that it’s not captured by special interests and being perverted from a minimally intrusive, efficient regulation necessary into a protect-the-most-powerful-class-against-competition regulation.
I think if you look across the history of regulation, you get this time after time. Look at copyright regulation. It is a massive invasion in the innovative process that has been pushed and extended by special interests inside Washington, who have done nothing more than try to use government to protect their business models against new forms of competition. And I think you can see this in a hundred different areas.
I don’t think a liberal should shy away from saying we understand government gets captured. That’s a truth that political scientists have taught us from the day FDR went to Washington — we should learn from that and we should try to respond to that not by saying, therefore there shouldn’t be government. I think in places there ought to be government, but by being really clear to get rid of regulations of government where they’re not serving anything except special interests that happen to have the power to get them into place. (emphasis mine)
I would boil this all down to “there is a place for government regulation in various aspects of society but we must be very vigilant to stop the natural tendency for those regulatory efforts to become warped and corrupted.” I would also emphasize the fact that it is the responsibility of the wealthiest, those in the strongest position as Lessig stated, to do what they can to ensure that those who are the worst off have the opportunity to improve themselves through education and that they have access to basic services such as food, shelter, and health care services.
Note that it is not the responsibility of government to force the wealthy and strong to do this. Note also that it is implied that it is the responsibility of those in the worst situations to take the opportunities available to them. They must be free to shun those opportunities (because sometimes they will).
I believe that the only thing that really divides most average Americans are how much they do or don’t believe the two notes I have listed. This is a far cry from the efforts of Newt Gingrich with his poll derived Platform of the American People – this is just common sense articulated by an uncommon man.