My Plan, and Why You Don’t Want it

Quinn Norton
Sep 2, 2015 · 3 min read

Support Lessig’s presidential bid here.

Years ago Lessig said to me, speaking of how terrible a governmental response to a violent uprising would be: “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” He was warning me away from my political philosophy of opposition to government-as-we-know-it, trying to steer me towards reform rather than my desire to tear it all down and do something new. He was pleading for the easier and better, more incremental way, of getting to the future, and I understood that.

Lawrence Lessig and I are both clear-eyed about the path this nation and this world are on. He thinks the political system can save itself by manifesting the will of the people; I think it is too far gone.

To someone who doesn’t know us well, it would be easy to think that an anarchist that doesn’t do dayjobs and consistent home addresses and a Harvard constitutional law professor don’t have much in common. The truth is, our opinions are no more than a few fingers apart. Lessig believes we are approaching a point of democratic failure; I believe we’ve passed it. As such, I’ve given up voting; turned to studying systems of mutual care and how massive lateral society can work. I believe we need to dismantle nations or wait for them to die on their own.

Let me make something clear right now. You want Lawrence Lessig to be right, and me to be wrong. Hell, I want Lawrence Lessig to be right, and me to be wrong.

In my vision of the future we would have to come together to face our debts, and not let our leaders manage them for us. I don’t mean monetary debts, which are largely ridiculous. I mean our bio-diversity debts, our nitrogen and phosphorus debts, our carbon debts, our energy debts. These debts are not just environmental issues, they also describe economic injustice, and access to resources for 4–5 billion people on this planet, and growing. What do you think prosperity is made of? Mostly, as it turns out, nitrogen, carbon, energy, and the space that was once diverse ecosystems.

The billions of humans who don’t have these things in our abundance don’t particularly like to hear that, while we in the west will keep our current share, they should settle for very little, for environmental and economic reasons. They are a chorus of billions whose resentment is getting louder.

The work and pain of remaking a post-political world, becoming what would be by present day definitions a post-political species, in order to confront our common problems of injustice and planetary boundaries is not just hard work. It is the hardest thing we could do. It could be an era of privation, and perhaps death almost as bad as the 20th century. It could break our sense of security and bodily integrity, and force us to live with an understanding of our vulnerability in a terrible universe, forever.

My idea about how to deal with the world is awful and painful, and the only thing that could possibly be worse is what we are doing now: nothing. Just acting like nothing is going wrong, while we wait for Entropy to present the bill. Very broadly, we are looking at three ways forward: Lessig’s way of gentle reform and democratic inclusion, my way of remaking human institutions, and the destruction of humanity as we know it through inaction.

Despite being an anarchist, I deeply support Lessig’s campaign, and hope you will too. My personal message about Lessig’s candidacy is this:

Come on, America, prove me wrong. Prove we’ve got a future as a democracy, and that democracy has a future in this world. Let’s come together in existing and well-understood structures to make a sustainable and just world that reflects who we are now, at peace with each other and within our planetary boundaries.

And if you think fighting the government is hard, wait until we’re fighting nature. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.

You can help make Lessig’s reforms a reality here.

Quinn Norton

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A journalist of Hackers, Bodies, Technologies, and Internets. ‘’Useless in terms of… tactical details’’ -Stratfor Contact me here: