Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

“The West Wing” and post-hoc reality, or “Mr Lessig goes to Washington”

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-20

"West Wing" fans may remember a legal prof Lawrence Lessig dropping into the White House and chatting to Jed and Toby until the wee smalls about constitutional theory.

It looks like the real Lessig is likely to run for congress in the California 12th according to (yep, a dot-org rather than a dot-com, not surprising from a Electronic Frontier Foundation founder, Free Software Foundation board member, and a rock star to wonks and nerds everywhere).

Obama took his technology policy to Lessig (the real one, who has changed focus from copyright law and the future of ideas to a campaign to stamp out political corruption). There is even some talk in the the rumor mill about an Obama/Lessig ticket (probably just wishful thinking).

Actually, for West Wing fans, here are excerpts from Lessig’s own blog around the time the relevant episode aired (and remember, he is Stanford in real life, Harvard on the show):

The story is based (loosely) upon a true story. I was involved in the drafting of one early version of the Georgian constitution. But the story ended up in the West Wing because I told the story to my students in Constitutional Law at Harvard, and a current writer for the West Wing was in that class. … Two things about the episode did, however, make me very happy. First, that it showed that at least some law students escape the trap that the top law schools have created — the path to a tedious and unrewarding practice that few seem capable of avoiding. And second, that it captured beautifully the single most important thing that I learned from my years working on “constitutionalism” in Eastern Europe: That 90% of the challenge is to build a culture that respects the rule of law, and that practices it. A document doesn’t build that culture. And no one has a formula — either for building it, or preserving it.

At, you can watch a 10 minute video explaining the launching of a Change Congress movement, and the decision I am trying to make about whether to run for Congress. That decision will be made soon. I’ve been spurred to consider it seriously by the enormous support of many at and facebook (and by the cool swag at zazzle). Those three I had nothing to do with. But this I do.

This is a very difficult decision. In the coming days, I’ll reflect a bit about it here. Thank you to everyone who has tried to help — both through very strong words of encouragement and very very strong words to dissuade.

I wasn’t going to do this, but then someone ask me to do it, and someone else told me (to my horror — not that it would be insane for anyone, but insane for her) that she was for Clinton. So consider this my precinct captain duty for the lessig blog. [(Go to the original post at to get the 20-minute video) – dtb]


One Response to ““The West Wing” and post-hoc reality, or “Mr Lessig goes to Washington””

  1. obama decides said

    Cool Blog! Definitely deserves my Digg! :)

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