Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lawrence Lessig fights corruption.

This is a great article. I am temporarily under the influence of my Black Dog (depression), thinking about corruption and bullying.

These things work by one person (or group) extracting a lot for themselves from the hides of the masses. In government, a group such as sugar farmers, gets policies that pour billions to them, and extracts $100 each from hundreds of millions of ordinary people.

Mr. Lessig may succeed because of the great power of mobility and the Internet. This has significantly reduced transaction costs. All around the world, poor people are finally able to use banking services, because the transaction costs have gone down by orders of magnitude.

How can this work in real life? For example, as a totally fictional example, our athletic club is being destroyed by a single, big, obnoxious bully. Other people are behind him, because he might lead one team to victory. Everybody else is sick of him, but the transaction cost is high, since confronting him leads to violence (ouch!). We need to allow all those who are sad at the destruction of the club to put in a small token, that can aggregate to something big.

In politics, corruption is always the same. A power group greases the politicians for lots of money to them. All the other people, who loses a little blood, have no ability to mount resistance, other than leading some big political movement, and getting killed.

The first effect of the Internet is working, that of making the contributions more transparent. We find more and more of what Hilary is getting. We don't find what promises Harper gets after he leaves office. But the second part is more transparent as well, what subsidies each group is getting. For example, we know the billions that ethanol farmers in Iowa are getting, and we know what things political people vote on.

Now we need the second part - lower transaction costs. That means Mr. Lessig needs an organization that takes all these corrupt money flows, and apportions each cost to people, depending on their income. For example, there would be a huge list with things such as sugar protection, what the fat cats get, and how much it is costing you.

If you find that the NRA is costing you $10 a year in terms of increasing the chances your kid will get shot, then you might want to contribute $1 to fight them. The same for all the other 'deaths of a thousand cuts'

This could aggregate from millions of people who are being taken for a ride. Individuals of the "Corruption Social Network (Corrupt-book)", would contract for action. Someone might take the risk and loss of salary of organizing something, and be compensated. Other people might just need expenses to go to a protest.

There could be light actions, and heavy actions. For example, something similar happened recently in Canada, in protest to the "Canadian DCMA". Thousands registered displeasure in Facebook (a light action), but it resulted in a spontaneous demonstration at the Ministers riding, in the middle of nowhere. This could be organized!

I wish you luck, Mr. Lessig, and hope you can read this one day.

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