A Republic — If You Can Keep It

Yesterday, I listened to a very interesting talk by Lawrence Lessig, titeled “We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim“, in which he describes how the US political system depends on a select few rather than the People, promotes dysfunction, and how difficult it is to change that — and why he is trying anyway.

I’m not going to paraphrase the whole talk here, you can listen to it or read the transcript yourself. I just want post two quotes and add my thoughts on them. These thoughts may seem to have little to do with each other, but I think they are connected if you look at them the right way.

And so when the pundits and the politicians say that change is impossible, what this love of country says back is, “That’s just irrelevant.” We lose something dear, something everyone in this room loves and cherishes, if we lose this republic, and so we act with everything we can to prove these pundits wrong.

— Lawrence Lessig, We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

This is precisely what Edward Snowden did: Doing whatever he could to restore that republic he loved.

When Ben Franklin was carried from the constitutional convention in September of 1787, he was stopped in the street by a woman who said, “Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” Franklin said, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” A republic. A representative democracy. A government dependent upon the people alone. We have lost that republic. All of us have to act to get it back.

— Lawrence Lessig, We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

This is not a specifically American problem. Yes, Lessig’s speech is focused on the US system, but the fundamental problem affects many other seemingly democratic countries as well, and I think we should work together, internationally, and as citizens, to defend and restore democracy. And in the end, the question shouldn’t be “Do you love this country?”, it should be “Do you love freedom?”

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