Political Fools and Their Money

What do you know about Lawrence Lessig?

If your life depended on writing a page on the career of Lawrence Lessig, and you had 30 minutes to write the essay, and you were in a room without access to the Internet, would I be wise to sell you a life insurance policy?

Quite frankly, I had never heard of Lawrence Lessig. Yet he has raised a million dollars in one month to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

When you think about this, it really is astounding. Here is someone you have never heard of, and I had never heard of, yet, somehow, he was able to go to 10,000 people, and persuade them to hand him $1 million.

If you had to raise $1 million, and you had a month to do it, could you do it? I don’t think you could. I’m quite sure I could not. Yet Lawrence Lessig was able to do this without any fanfare whatsoever.

Think about where the money is going. He is going to run for the nomination against Hillary Clinton. There is no possibility that he will defeat her. He cannot even get into the upcoming Democrat debate.

A man who almost nobody outside of Maryland has ever heard of, former governor Martin O’Malley, has about 2% of the vote. Another man, who is a best-selling author, a Hollywood screenplay writer, a former U.S. Senator from Virginia, and a former Secretary of the Navy, has between 1% and 2%. Can you name him?

Here is a man on the Harvard faculty who has persuaded 10,000 people to give him a total of $1 million. This is a completely suicidal campaign. Anyone with any sense whatsoever would know that it is a suicidal campaign.


How can people be this stupid? First, how can a Harvard professor think that he is going to make any difference whatsoever by announcing his candidacy for the nomination? What kind of egomaniac decides that his opinions count enough to run for the nomination to the highest office in the land? Second, even more astounding, what kind of money-wasting fools hand over money to this egomaniac?

Think of the causes that could be aided with $1 million. A quarter century ago, I used to interview people who were promoting various causes. I did a regular audiotaped interview service. I would ask them this question: “If somebody donated $1 million to your organization, what would you do with it?” That question always caught them by surprise. Some of them said, “I have never thought of that.” That’s because nobody ever hands over $1 million to some nonprofit organization that almost nobody has heard of.

Yet here is a man who almost nobody has ever heard of, who was able to persuade 10,000 people to write checks to him for a total of $1 million. The money is going to be completely wasted. Nobody is going to listen to the opinions of Lawrence Lessig. The public will never hear of him, despite this million dollars, or despite however much he will be able to raise in addition to $1 million.

There are people who move in circles where the members know somebody on the Harvard faculty, and who are stupid enough to write a check large enough to contribute to a $1 million election campaign fund. It is an election campaign fund that will lead to a complete waste of the money. Nobody will get anything out of it, other than the people who are hired on a temporary basis to do something for the campaign.

For all of their IQ points, the donors are stupid people. They don’t have any concept of political cause and effect. They think that a spokesman who has never run for political office, who no one has heard of, is going to carry the message, whatever it is, to the general public. They could have donated money to any cause, and the money would have had at least some positive payoff. But none of this money is going to have any positive payoff in terms of the agenda of the donors. Yet the donors wrote the checks.

We know the phrase, “a fool and his money are soon parted.” This phrase is applicable to this situation.

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