Utne Reader Visionaries Special Project: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig


| Online Exclusive: November-December 2008


Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig, one of Utne Reader's visionaries, spoke on September 11, 2008, with Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman about his government reform organization Change Congress.

Why did you suddenly shift your focus from copyright law to government reform and form the organization Change Congress?

I came to a point when I working in copyright law where I recognized that the reason the issues turned out to be so difficult to resolve was largely because of the enormous influence that special interests had in the debate.

It was an obvious point, but then I began to realize how other critical public policy issues—global warming being the one that was most dramatic to me—were also directly injured by exactly the same dynamic of special interests influencing campaigns through contributions, and thereby making it impossible to get something done that would be progress.

So what I resolved was that we weren’t going to make progress on these issues until we found a way to deal with this first problem of the way Congress was being distorted by money, and that’s what made me shift.

Basically, you’ve gone meta on the issue.