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.