Lessig talks about how the people have lost control of our government to those who have money. He tells stories of politicians and everyone connected to the political and legislative process evolving their thinking to appease their financiers. Deregulation is politically counter-productive because those involved get steady cash from lobbyists to manipulate those regulations. Total reform is nearly impossible because keeping the status quo means keeping your financial backing.
Lessig offers an emotional argument to draw attention to this issue of corruption, a word he uses many times. He reminds us that regardless of how impossible the task of forcing change in the engine of political finance may seem, we must do it because we love this country as we love our child. Lessig gives no path of action or inspirational light at the end of his talk, making it all the easier to push the problem out of our minds. I would at least resolve to keep the issue in the back of my mind in hope of having some small idea to affect change.
It’s amazing how appearances affect our behavior. Edi Rama, an artist and the former mayor of the capital of Albania gave an inspiring TED talk about transforming his city by adding color to old buildings and improving public spaces. Streets that used to be crime ridden became safer because they looked nicer. People are less likely to litter on clean, well groomed streets than streets already covered in dirty, covered in rubble, and broken windows. Shop owners and residents regain their pride and are protective of their neighborhood.
It’s amazing how this concept extends to so many areas. Rama tells a story of combating corruption, again, using the tool of appearances. By improving a government building from a shack with a dark hole to a well-lit building with face to face interactions with officials it reduced the frequency of bribes. And a little closer to personal experience – when my office’s kitchen sink has a few dirty dishes laying about everyone feels like they can add to the pile, but as long as the sink is clean people tend to wash their own.