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Watch Larry Lessig make the case that campaign finance renders the US, at best, a quasi-democracy

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From Iran to Hong Kong to the United States.
  • Zachary M. Seward
By Zachary M. Seward

Editor-in-chief of Quartz

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The way political campaigns in the United States are funded puts the lie to the American ideal of democracy, argues Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School. At a Quartz event this week, he made the case that the US is no more democratic than Hong Kong or even Iran.

In the video above, Lessig makes his case in a 15-minute presentation. After that, he expands on the issue in an interview conducted by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. They also comment on the recent midterm elections in the US that swung power toward the Republican Party.

Watch the whole thing for Lessig’s full argument, but make sure to note the study he cites about 10 minutes into the video. It found that US policy is very responsive to the shifting views of elites but not to average Americans. Or, as the study’s abstract put it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

The two charts sum it up:



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