TED Talks: Lawrence Lessig on We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

An occasional post featuring talks by innovative thinkers, sponsored by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). This is what the internet is made for – to allow challenging ideas to escape from their academic ghettos and hang out in a place where they can talk to each other.

American academic and political activist, Lawrence Lessig, succinctly skewers the root cause of political corruption in this talk – the insidious influence of campaign funding. It’s been said before, but Lessig does it with minimal elegance and real passion – a gourmet hatchet job.

They Live

They Live Billboard

They Live is an intriguing horror/science fiction film from 1988, directed by John Carpenter. The protagonist, Nada, is an unemployed construction worker who believes in the American Dream, until his eyes are literally opened by putting on a special pair of sunglasses. They reveal that the world is run by aliens, brainwashing the human population into mindless consumption. As a metaphor to describe capitalism, it’s spot on. The dialogue also tells some transferable truths:

We gave the steel companies a break when they needed it. Know what they gave themselves? Raises. The Golden Rule? He who has the gold makes the rules.

Spot the similarity? Replace “steel companies” with “banks,” and it makes a perfect fit with the situation today. I’m usually dismissive of American films – glossy bread and circuses designed to maximise profit and keep people docile. John Carpenter is an exception, a genuine maverick who tells the truth while still producing superb films.

Here it is, in full.