Tag Archives: Lessig

Democracy Vouchers

It’s hard to find anyone other than Karl Rove who disagrees with the proposition that there is way too much money in politics.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that–in the words of the Supreme Court–money equals speech. Unfortunately, what the Court meant and what reality looks like are different; the sense in which money is really speech is that people with lots of money have a much louder voice in policymaking than people who have less. Most of us understand that while robust debate is healthy, buying politicians doesn’t exactly advance the political process.

What it may take a rocket scientist to figure out, however, is how to fix our broken system.

He may not be that rocket scientist, but Lawrence Lessig is a Harvard professor with an intriguing idea: “Democracy Vouchers.” In his plan, each citizen would be given a $50 tax rebate, in the form of a voucher that he or she can assign to any political candidate who has agreed to accept only donations of $100 or less from individuals–not from PACs, not from Corporations, just $100 or less from real citizens.

Could this work? Probably not–for one thing, it doesn’t address so-called “Independent Expenditures,” which currently pose the most significant threat to our democratic system. As I understand Lessig’s proposal, it wouldn’t touch SuperPacs and the like.

If polls are to be believed, American citizens have finally, reluctantly, come to consensus on the diagnosis of what ails our body politic: we’ve allowed money and special interests to corrupt the system in favor of the “haves.” ┬áIf it turns out that “Democracy Vouchers,” won’t cure us, we need to figure out what will.

And we need to figure it out before the patient is too far gone to be resuscitated.