The world faces many problems – some of these are root problems which, if we strike at them first, will make it far easier to solve many other problems. This is one such problem:

Campaign financing laws in the US cause systematic corruption. Members of the US congress are currently dependent upon funding from large donors. Congresspersons spend an average of three out of five weekdays raising money for their reelection. This is time not spent caring for and debating the issues that benefit society at large: us. Furthermore, importantly, the funding greatly influences the way politicians vote on measures; they listen to campaign funders and lobbyists more than anyone else, passing laws which assist only a tiny fraction of people while harming the rest (see infographic). Indeed, what many congresspersons today are actually focused on are lucrative lobbying careers after Congress, rather than serving the public interest.

This skew towards cash in turn causes the public to consider the congress corrupt, pushing us away from being active in politics as we reasonably believe politicians don’t properly cater for our opinion. A poll conducted for the book Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig showed that 71% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats believed that “money buys results in Congress.” In a poll conducted by CBS and New York Times, a record high of 89% of Americans say they “trust the government only some of the time or never.”

Why is this a root problem? There are many examples of further problems which this problem causes. You can try protest and work against these symptom problems one by one, but unless the root issue is fixed they’ll keep showing up. Your mileage may vary; Wikipedia mentions Lessig's examples like “The complex system of subsidies and tariffs that have led to the rise of corn-fed beef and high fructose corn syrup in the American diet”, “the regulations governing pollution and copyright infringement” and “the lack of regulation in the derivatives market.” With each of these, high lobbying money was involved, and with each of these, an arguably illogical choice was made over years of Congressional decision-making. The contributions and lobbying make it harder to believe that this is a principled or consistent or sensible result. FollowTheMoney.org argues that “Money in state politics plays a pivotal role in shaping public policy in individual states and across the nation.”

Lessig writes, “Republicans and Democrats alike insist we are on a collision course with history. Our government has made fiscal promises it cannot keep. Yet we ignore them. Our planet spins furiously to a radically changed climate, certain to impose catastrophic costs on a huge portion of the world’s population. We ignore this, too. Everything our government touches – from health care to Social Security to the monopoly rights we call patents and copyright – it poisons. Yet our leaders seem oblivious to the thought that there’s anything that needs fixing.”

“The great threat to our republic today comes not from the hidden bribery of the Gilded Age, when cash was secreted among members of Congress to buy privilege and secure wealth. The great threat today is instead in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people. A process that distorts our democracy from ends sought by both the Left and the Right: For the single most salient feature of the government that we have evolved is not that it discriminates in favor of one side and against the other. The single most salient feature is that it discriminates against all sides to favor itself. We have created an engine of influence that seeks not some particular strand of political or economic ideology ... We have created instead an engine of influence that seeks simply to make those most connected rich.”

Lessig adds that he doesn’t mean to rally anyone against the rich. “But I do mean to rally Republicans and Democrats alike against a certain kind of rich that no theorist on the Right or the Left has ever sought seriously to defend: The rich whose power comes not from hard work, creativity, innovation, or the creation of wealth. The rich who instead secure their wealth through the manipulation of government and politicians.”

How can we strike at this root problem? Once we agree on the core issue, different routes may be viable and should be discussed. Lessig proposes a plan “in which every voting citizen would get a voucher of $50 from the federal government to be contributed to qualified candidates for election purposes. The plan was similar to one proposed by Bruce Ackerman in 2003 called Patriot Dollars or voting with dollars. To get this money, candidates would have to agree to finance their campaigns only with vouchers or with private contributions limited to $100 or less.”

As Wikipedia explains, Lessig suggests a four-part strategy; “Congress could pass a law reforming campaign funding; A popular, non-politician 'supercandidate' could run for the House of Representatives in multiple jurisdictions in the same state, promising to stay in the race until other candidates promise to reform their campaign funding procedures; An elected president could prevent the government from functioning until Congress enacts campaign finance reform; A Constitutional Convention could propose a Constitutional Amendment requiring campaign finance reform.”

You can join several sites out there, like Reddit's rootstrikers, and participate in trying to solve this issue. RootStrikers.org writes, “Political bribery has been legalized by the courts, and both major parties have been co-opted and corrupted by the system. ... The result: The upper 1% have done well. The other 99% of us have been left behind. And now we’ve reached a breaking point.” Henry David Thoreau said, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Together, RootStrikers say, “we must strike at the root of America’s problems.” UnitedRepublic.org argues that “In 2012 alone, special interests will spend roughly $4.5 billion on campaign contributions and $3.5 billion on lobbying. That’s a crushing amount of influence. And the only way we can counter it is with the creativity, enthusiasm and time of people like you. Millions of people like you.”