Politics – Things we can agree on, and discovering a method

Larry Lessig is a brilliant guy.

Lately he’s been focusing on things that Americans across the political spectrum can agree on.

I think that this keynote he gave recently is worth the hour it takes to watch. I strongly encourage you to watch it.

The whole thing is great, but I’m going to seize on the content from 30:00-33:00 minutes to make a connection . . .

That section is about how temporary extensions of tax policy have become an engine for raising campaign funds. Judging from Larry’s comments, this is openly acknowledged and understood. The recipients of the (tax) benefits become predictably dependent on the grantors of their benefits, and value is exchanged.

Can this method of establishing a dependent class of beneficiaries be extended beyond legislation? Yes, and you don’t have to look far to find an example:

As a man in the business of shaping intellectual environments, Hertog has been described as the “the epitome of the conservative benefactor who bases his politics on conservative intellectualism and moves patiently and strategically to create, support and distribute his ideas.” Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, said of his longtime friend that, “Roger thinks of philanthropic endeavors as investments. The return he expects is long range.”

Hertog has been a staunch advocate of a conservative, results-based “new philanthropy” – the replacement of open-ended funding for endowed university chairs with money for selected projects, made available on a two- or three-year basis. He makes little distinction between the nonprofit and for-profit ventures that he funds, and has spoken of “retail” and “strategic philanthropy” as “leverage” to transform American universities.

Although the article that quote is taken from focuses on the content of the programs being established at universities, it’s the implementation of these programs I wish to point out, not the program content. They’re designed with short-term funding, to guarantee that the results suite the Patron.

Although “patronage” may be a correct name for these relationships, that word has fairly benign connotations in English today. Perhaps we need a new word or term to describe this sort of thing more accurately.

About Steve

I'm Steve Conklin, AI4QR I'm employed by Salesforce, on the SRE team for Heroku. Interests include Linux, open source software and hardware, electronics and music, and amateur radio.
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