Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Something obscurely interesting in the Clinton/Podesta email leaks

This will take a bit to explain, but the gist is as follows: Lawrence Lessig is a moron, and plenty of insiders know it.

Who, you may ask, is Lawrence Lessig?  Lessig is a Harvard law professor.  And a moron.  The two are not incompatible.  Lessig is what we call, in political science, a "goo-goo."  That is a derogatory term for someone who believes that all political ills can be cured by some snake oil "good government" reform.  Of course, true believers don't know it's snake oil, but you get the point.  "Goo-goo," obviously infantilizes them, and that's the idea.

Lessig is a law professor, which means he can't do math.  That means he is incapable of interpreting the quantitative political science literature which says that campaign contributions have little if any influence on policy decisions.  Rather, when we observe campaign contributions associated with policy choices, that is because groups tend to contribute to their ideological allies.  To believe otherwise is to assume, implicitly, that without corporate money, Ted Cruz would be sitting around a drum circle at an "occupy" rally, taking bong hits, and Elizabeth Warren would be wearing tricornered hats with teabags dangling from them if she weren't sullied by union money.

If it sounds idiotic when I put it that way, that's because the notion of widespread corruption is actually kind of idiotic.  Congress, particularly now, is filled with hardcore ideologues.  They don't need to be bought off to do what they do.  They are believers.  If they could be bought off, maybe we'd see more compromise...

Anyway, if you want some real political science on the topic, I keep assigning John R. Wright's Interest Groups and Congress.  It's old, but still right.  The thing is, analyzing how the social science works requires being at least somewhat numerate.  Lessig is a lawyer.

Which brings me to goo-gooism.  Lessig ran a laughably stupid campaign for president this time around.  Did'ya notice?  Probably not.  The premise of his campaign was a one-issue deal.  Pass campaign finance reform, then call it done!  'Cuz, then, see, everything would be, like, this total utopia (as in: nowhere).  And, if he won, it would totally happen!  Constitutional amendment and all!

Yeah, fuckin' right.

What was really amazing, though, was that Lessig deluded himself into thinking that his campaign was anything other than a total joke.

And even more amazing was that the Clinton campaign noticed him!  Which brings me to this WikiLeak.  So, apparently, Podesta and Neera Tanden didn't like him, or take him all that seriously.  They just knew they couldn't go too far.

Points for them, as far as I'm concerned.  Clinton may have recklessly put national security at risk with her email handling, but at least this email stuff shows us that those around her had the proper level of disdain for that idiot goo-goo, Lawrence Lessig.  I'd say he should read Wright's book, but it has some numbers in it, which means it's probably over his head.  I'd also say he should read something about how primaries work, but apparently none of us know anything about that, so, well...

Anyway, any candidate who thinks that campaign finance reform fixes everything has no right to be taken seriously.  So, let's all have a good laugh at Lawrence Lessig, and remember that he thought he was running for president!  On the other hand, if you want to learn something about the problem of trying to measure influence, go read Wright's book.


  1. Lessig's response to their trashing him is actually quite good.

    (He doesn't react to it at all, and rather just says that he supports actions like Snowden's, but doesn't support airing people's emails just because they're salacious, but tell us nothing about anything we need to know.)

    1. Be careful. It almost sounds like you are... saying... something... nice... about Lawrence Lessig. Your anti-goo-goo credentials may be revoked if this continues.

      Yes, I know. You aren't actually saying anything supportive about his "campaign" or beliefs. Still...