Lawrence Lessig: Republic, Lost

Lawrence Lessig in a talk at Google in 2011 speaking on the topic of his book, Republic, Lost. His talk concludes:

This nation faces critical problems requiring serious attention, but we don’t have institutions capable of giving them this attention.

They are distracted, unable to focus.

And who is to blame for that?

Who is responsible?

I think it’s too easy to point to the Blagojeviches and hold them responsible, to point to the

evil people and hold them responsible.

It’s not the evil people.

It’s the good people.

It’s the decent people.

It’s the people who could’ve picked up a phone.

It’s us.

It’s we, the most privileged.

Because the most outrageous part here is that these corruptions, of course, were primed by the most privileged, but they were permitted by the passivity of the most privileged as well–permitted by us.

When Ben Franklin was carried from the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, a woman stopped him on the street and said, “Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?”

Franklin replied, “A republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.”

A republic.

A representative democracy.

A democracy dependent upon the people alone.

We have lost that republic and all of us have to work to get it back.