November 1st, 2014
03:46 PM ET

Lessig: What Hong Kong protests should teach U.S.

Fareed speaks with Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and director of its Safra Center for Ethics, about what the U.S. Should learn from the Hong Kong protests. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Over a month ago, protests began in Hong Kong. The so-called umbrella movement was started because the citizens wanted to be able to pick their own candidates for the city's leader or chief executive, rather than have the candidates pre-selected for them. My next guest, Larry Lessig, says that voters in the United States, who go to the polls on Tuesday, should take a page from these Hong Kong protesters.

So why do you make this comparison to Hong Kong?

Well look at what's going on in Hong Kong. They want to have a two stage election. And in the first stage, a small committee of 1,200 people get to pick the candidate. So 1,200 out of five million is about .024 percent of Hong Kong picks the candidates who get to run in the general election.

Well compare that to the American system. Any candidate who wants to run for Congress in America knows he has to raise an incredible amount of money to be able to run for Congress. Who are the funders of that campaign? It's a tiny, tiny fraction of America, maybe about .05 percent of the relevant funders of campaigns.

So in America, like in Hong Kong, we have a two-stage process. And at the first stage, a tiny fraction of our democracy chooses the candidates who get to run, effectively, in the second stage. And so it's just like that two-stage process in Hong Kong.

And why is that, in your view, so corrupting? Why is it that having to raise all this money from a small sliver of the public is corrupt?

Well, just imagine you spend 30 to 70 percent of your time calling these funders, this tiny fraction of the 1 percent, to raise the money you need to fund your campaigns. As any of us would, it would develop in you a sixth sense, a constant awareness, about how what you do will affect your ability to raise money. Your focus is on the funders and not on the people.

And the point is, if the funders are not the people, which they are not when they are this tiny fraction of the 1 percent, it can't help but corrupt the way our government functions.

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Topics: GPS Show

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    It is in voting that USA citizens are equal. Every person has one vote.
    Equal influence cannot be guaranteed by any form of government. Some human beings will always have more power than others.
    That realty is not bad. Kings were once chosen because they were the most powerful, and strong leadership was of greater benefit to the people than weak leadership.

    November 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • Chappel H

      Yup Islamic Finance. US Govt is investing tons in it.

      November 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • jimbob

      Joey, it is quite possible to tweak relative equality in influence. Campaign finance law once tried to achieve this until McCain-feingold was overturned through a huge mistake by supreme court. Democracy also do we sent necessarily disenfranchise minorities: the bill of rights and rhe voting rights act are two examples of how minority rights are protected.

      November 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Reply
      • MoneyedPoliticians

        So, George Soros and the Koch Bros need protection?

        November 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
      • RillyKewl

        @MoneyedPoliticians No! We need to be protected from them, obviously.

        We need to overturn *CitizensUnited* We need to eradicate *dark money* We need a 28th Amendment to repair the broken campaign finance system, to finally, once + for all *get money out* of our elections. These candidates must be beholden to their voters, not their donors.

        November 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
      • banasy©

        RillyKewl: agreed.

        November 2, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
  2. Blue Saffron

    Democracy is a falied concept. It disenfranchises the minorities.

    November 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      No.
      Democracy is the best system devised so far. There are imperfection in any system.
      A benign monarchy would be better than democracy, but with a monarchy the power/corruption catch is presented..

      November 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Reply
      • Blue Saffron

        The excuse of imperfection is not good enough. The turmoil in the world today is the reflection on failure of democracy. Even UN has failed. Obsolete concepts. A new world order is in the offing based on new principles. I call it "Islamoracy."

        November 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Imperfections, plural.
        There are imperfections...

        November 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Really, Blue Saffron?
        Islamocracy?
        if that is coming, I am blessed to be very old.

        November 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        Imperfection is a concept as I use it. Subtle intellectual difference. No apologies needed from you.

        November 1, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        Yes Joey Islamocracy. That is what CNN is trying to convey!!! Gosh, where have you been!!

        Re: your getting old. If you are in USA, Oregon is a right to die state. FYI.

        November 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
      • banasy©

        One thing that will never happen is a government that is run by a religion. (Or, if one prefers, "a way of life" based on that religion.)

        It is written in the very fabric of our US Constitution.

        November 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
      • Karmaesque

        IF we keep on hitting our heads against the wall then I hope that we eventually will get it and change direction. I am evolving to a data based trustless and global system. I trust maths and the transparency of a global open public ledger called the blockchain!

        In data we trust!

        November 2, 2014 at 11:26 am |
      • Philip

        Democracy stops working when the average voter can no longer pass an 8th grade final.

        November 3, 2014 at 11:20 am |
      • banasy©

        Democracy stops when people don't vote, yet spends their time complaining about the intelligence of people who do avail themselves to that priviledged.

        November 3, 2014 at 11:41 am |
      • banasy©

        *that priviledge

        November 3, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • Philip

        No. It wasn't people figuring out that it's the one counting the votes that wins (not the one getting the most votes) that brought the world's first democracy to an end. It was the average voter becoming a drug addict and so becoming stupid that brought ancient Greece down.
        Btw. Nearly half of US citizens are drug addicts. The average citizen is also visibly obese, and according to the Nations adult Literacy Survey, the avg. US adult cannot comprehend information delivered above the 8th grade level.
        Only dummies want dummies to decide which way nations go.
        Idiocracy is what Democracy is now.

        November 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
      • banasy©

        Democracy will come to a complete standstill if nobody votes. A person who can vote, yet doesn't, is just as ignorant as the people he is constantly complaining about. The true dummy is the one who cannot grasp that.
        How much does an ego weigh?

        November 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Blue Saffron

    Every person does NOT have one vote in America. That is the fallacy. It is the electiral system, stupid. And then the 49% get disenfranchised. Two major problems.

    November 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Our system functions splendidly.

      November 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Reply
      • Blue Saffron

        Good we need ostriches like you.

        November 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
      • banasy©

        Theocracy will never happen in the United States. No matter how one closes their eyes and wishes very, very hard.

        November 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
      • Chappel H

        Islamic Finance has arrived

        November 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
      • banasy©

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukuk
        It is very nice that our banks are accommodating our Muslim citizens.

        November 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm |
      • Duke

        Western financial system collapsed in 2008. Islamic Finance was the savior.

        November 1, 2014 at 10:52 pm |
  4. chri§§y

    Lol @ Joey....ya know the other day someone posted that some alive today may live to be 1000. If thats the case you are still quite young!😉

    November 1, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  5. Chappel H

    You nailed it @Blue Saffron. You are indeed a student of epistemology. You could bring some fresh air to CNN.

    November 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  6. chri§§y

    Ya know @ troll (names in blue) the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thhgng over and over again and expecting a different result!

    November 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  7. chri§§y

    Oops meant same "thing"

    November 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  8. Blue Saffron

    Islamic Finance is just one example of shariah law being universally implemented and accepted by all including US Government.
    It is here to stay.

    The finish line belongs to moslems.

    November 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      And true that, too @BS. Nothing short of Sharia Law (called Noahchide Law in US laws) can possibly stop Americans from rayping and robbing each other blind. And from eating themselves to death. If something drastic isn't done, in the near future, the average U.S. citizen will weigh around 300 lbs.

      November 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Reply
      • banasy©

        Sharia Law is Islamic law.
        Noahchide Law is Judiaic Law.
        Two different religions, Philip.

        It is wonderful that the United States is so accomodating to the different faiths, is it not?

        November 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
      • Philip

        True. Abraham had more than one grandson. What's your point, banasy? Mine is, that if some form of drastic law is not soon enforced upon the American peoples, they will continue to eat themselves to death and become even more obese than they are now. Even more overly promiscuous, spreading AIDS like there's no tomorrow. MORE prone to view violence as entertaining. MORE likely to view statutory raype as a sin to be forgiven by 50 "Hail Marys" rather than a crime punishable by drastic laws calling for the death penalty.

        November 4, 2014 at 9:53 am |
      • banasy©

        My point is you spread misinformation constantly, and this is but one of many examples that destroy your credibility. I should think it'd be obvious that if one is wrong in something so simple, the data you throw out constantly, with no citations even when asked repeatedly, would become suspect.

        Such as your 80% of all doctors in this country are addicts.
        Or 75% of all nurses are addicts.
        I should think this goes to the heart of your credibility, such as when you have also stated that the only time you've ever seen a doctor is when you were born, and I know that's patently untrue, given your other posts over the years that you've seen at least one psychiatrist, and your repeated stories about how you survived a murder and several suicides.

        You don't add up.
        That's my point.

        Sure, I'm completely off topic, but it keeps the tone of all of your off topic posts quite nicely, I think.

        November 4, 2014 at 10:49 am |
    • banasy©

      Sukuk finance is a purely Islamic thing; the world likes interest on their investments. You will have a valid point if the US government relies soley on it, instead of being one of the ways it invests.
      It is nice that the US provides the opportunity for Muslims a way to avail themselves to investing in the US in away that isn't contradictory to their religion.

      November 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • Matthew

      You trolls need to go back to living under a bridge... quit polluting the comments.

      November 4, 2014 at 10:37 am | Reply
  9. Blue Saffron

    Democracy is nothing but Demonocracy of the majority. Fascism of the many over the few. It has failed. Islam is the savior. Islam is the solution. Islam is the future. The Ray of Hope.

    November 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      In a democracy, you simply cannot have corrupted leadership without there first being corrupted voters who keep voting-in corrupt leaders. Once American voters learned that they could vote-in generous gifts for themselves from our national treasury, America became corrupt beyond repair.

      November 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      True that @Blue Saffron. The Supreme Court did force the will of the minority onto the majority when legalizing abortions and acts of sodomy.

      November 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Reply
      • banasy©

        You may not deny the US citizens equal rights because they're gay.
        That was the issue. The SCOTUS recognizes that, even if bigots don't.

        November 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Sometimes autocratic rulers are better because they don't have to cater to special internet groups and don't have to accept bribes. A wise king is better than a corrupt president who serves special interests like Bush and Obama.

    November 1, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      I wouldn't say that, My Troll.

      November 2, 2014 at 5:34 am | Reply
      • Philip

        What would you say, then. Joey?

        November 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  11. mehran

    Campaign finance laws in US has created a corrupt state. The government no longer looks after the interest of it citizens and rather it focuses on appeasing the funders!

    November 1, 2014 at 10:19 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Well put, mehran.

      November 1, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      The Citizens United ruling is an abomination.

      November 2, 2014 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • Philip

      Hogwash. The U.S. government continually sends troops overseas on your behalf. Not on behalf of God&Country. On behalf of Americans consuming 1/3 of all world produce.
      Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a car crash. (quote from CNN story about using obese crash test dummies instead of normal ones)

      November 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  12. Duke

    @Blue Saffron you are right about democracy. Islam needs to start its own cable channel to spread the word around.

    November 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Reply
    • Zhang

      The spreading of Islam is equivalent to the spreading of manure for the farm crops.

      November 2, 2014 at 8:09 am | Reply
      • Philip

        The spreading of cluster bombs in the M.E. by U.S. Christians is the equivalent to spreading lies about God.

        November 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • Zhang

        Well said, Philip. Thank you.

        November 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  13. newageoftruth

    Reblogged this on newageoftruth.

    November 2, 2014 at 2:48 am | Reply
  14. Philip

    How many more months/years before Chinese aircraft industries put Boeing out of business? (as Chinese builders of nuclear powerplants did to Kellog Brown&Root a few years ago)

    November 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  15. chri§§y

    Wow! I mustve missed the class on "how to vote in generous gifts for ourselves"! When and where do we sign up for that? Because it sure would be nice to have the same perks that our "illustrious congressional crooks". Gotta say free medical for life sounds very appealing!

    November 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      For example, people living off of welfare generally don't vote for politicians running on the Cut Welfare Spending platform.

      November 3, 2014 at 11:33 am | Reply
      • banasy©

        So you admit our Congressional Reprentatives are living on welfare?

        November 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
  16. TruthDawg

    I wish we all had a dime for every time a financially comfortable well-placed "expert" has the audacity to ask "where are the American people"? We would all be billionaires. This goes beyond infuriating.

    First of all, a comment like this shows not only arrogance but ignorance. The American people have no power and lost it under George Bush Jr. We were betrayed by our own courts and the politicians at that time that handed our democracy off to monied interests that we then ended up bailing out with our taxes. This was the beginning of the end. We DID protest (look at the footage of the Bush Jr inauguration ON CNN Dr. Lessig); then Citizens United came along. Then there are all the other blows to our democracy by our own politicians and Supreme Court the result of which has been to utterly strip the "every day American" (that you know NOTHING about Dr. Lessig from your high Harvard post) of any say or power. Look at our elections now, again, gutted by our own Supreme Court, men and women LIKE YOU–in which is takes millions and millions...it is YOUR CLASS that did this to us Mr. Lessig and how dare you, while we are making less than minimum wage, criticize the American people as not caring. We care and deeply but what you said resembles something like coming up to man with legs, beating him badly so he can no longer walk, then criticizing him for it. YOUR class and your rich friends have beaten us down to where we can barely survive and you have the audacity...we have NO POWER Dr. Lessig. Your class of people have ripped it from us. Here is a question for you–why aren't you out there, leading the protest you so despereately want to see?? GO AHEAD. START IT!! I bet you won't.

    November 2, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  17. TruthDawg

    I wish we all had a dime for every time a financially comfortable well-placed "expert" has the audacity to ask "where are the American people"? We would all be billionaires. This goes beyond infuriating.

    First of all, a comment like this shows not only arrogance but ignorance. The American people have no power and lost it under George Bush Jr. We were betrayed by our own courts and the politicians at that time that handed our democracy off to monied interests that we then ended up bailing out with our taxes. This was the beginning of the end. We DID protest (look at the footage of the Bush Jr inauguration ON CNN Dr. Lessig); then Citizens United came along. Then there are all the other blows to our democracy by our own politicians and Supreme Court the result of which has been to utterly strip the "every day American" (that you know NOTHING about Dr. Lessig from your high Harvard post) of any say or power. Look at our elections now, again, gutted by our own Supreme Court, men and women LIKE YOU–in which is takes millions and millions...it is YOUR CLASS that did this to us Mr. Lessig and how dare you, while we are making less than minimum wage, criticize the American people as not caring. We care and deeply but what you said resembles something like coming up to man with legs, beating him badly so he can no longer walk, then criticizing him for it. YOUR class and your rich friends have beaten us down to where we can barely survive and you have the audacity...we have NO POWER Dr. Lessig. Your class of people have ripped it from us. Here is a question for you–why aren't you out there, leading the protest you so desperately want to see?? GO AHEAD. START IT!! I bet you won't. After all, you have the power. We don't.

    November 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Reply
    • RillyKewl

      Do you not know anything about Larry Lessig?? Wow. Get that wax outta your ears man. Time to listen more closely. Learn.
      Your comment shows that you're almost on the right track, but shooting the messenger, one of the most prominent people out there trying to fix this crisis… whoa.
      Focus up. A little research could do you a world of good.
      Go to mayday.us or Wolf-PAC. com or democracyisforpeople. org or try rootstrikers or represent.us …
      Plenty of places to learn about getting this fixed through the amendment process. Check em out.

      November 2, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  18. Zhang

    The U.S. has ceased to be a democracy as the M.I.C.slowly takes over in Washington D.C.

    November 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      Democracy stops working when the average voter is a dumb fat ass. But, yeah. Using the military to run interference for corporate profits and having an executive commander in chief doesn't help either.

      November 3, 2014 at 11:30 am | Reply
      • banasy©

        Democracy stops working when these idiots don't vote, and yet spend excessive amounts of time complaining about those that actually do.

        November 3, 2014 at 11:39 am |
      • Philip

        Lmao @banasy. She wants idiots to vote! If idiots vote it becomes an Idiocracy, not a Democracy. Pull your head out, ostrich lady.

        November 3, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • banasy©

        The true idiots are the ones that don't vote, and then complains about it incessantly while looking like a fool. One who cannot grasp such a simple concept should be silent.

        November 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
  19. Philip

    You know your democracy is in trouble when your average voter becomes visibly obese and can no longer understand info delivered above the 8th grade reading level. And when their average Ivy League grad students can no longer pass an 8th grade final. THAT'S when you know that your democracy is going down ( getting stupider), not building up and getting smarter.
    Tick tock time is not on our side. The empire is crumbling thanks to stupid people having a voice.

    November 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Says the person who stated explicitly that Sharia law is called Noahchide law in the US.
      The problem isn't so much "stupid" people voting; it's people who don't bother whilst proclaiming their superiority over those that actually care enough to go and vote.

      November 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  20. Philip

    Should a person be allowed to vote if they are addicted to mind altering drugs that cause weight gain and brain damage? Heck no! Yet almost half of US are drug addicts.

    November 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      You're allowed to vote, and yet you do not. What is your excuse?

      November 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Reply
      • Philip

        You claim that idiots should decide which way America goes. You are an idiot.

        November 4, 2014 at 8:59 am |
      • banasy©

        You claim that. I did not. Don't project your insane thought processes on others.

        I said the voters should vote.
        I am not the who who insults millions of people who actually care enough to pull the lever.
        As idiotic as you may consider then, they're being proactive, so in that sense, they're miles above you in integrity.

        November 4, 2014 at 11:00 am |
  21. Idiocracy

    Idiocracy the movie. Set in a time when All-Star wrestling and Monster Truck crashing are America's favorite sports.
    Today, in other words.

    November 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Reply

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