Larry Lessig is Susan B. Anthony

I think I was a surprised as anyone when I heard that Larry Lessig was stepping away from Creative Commons. It seemed like a sudden change of direction, because Lessig has been a vocal advocate for freedom and choice for so many years. But as I hear Lessig describe his journey from Creative Commons to Change Congress, I’m reminded of Daniel Okrent’s history of the prohibition movement in the United States, “Last Call”.

In the book, Okrent reminds us that the prohibitionists needed major structural reforms in American politics before they could eliminate alcohol in the United States. The movement was composed and motivated largely by women, who at the time could not vote. The reforms they sought would only arrive once women were given the franchise. Also, the Federal government relied on alcohol taxes for 30%(!) of annual Federal revenue. So suffrage, the income tax, and prohibition are intimately acquainted even if they are, on their face, unrelated.

Susan B. Anthony was a passionate temperance advocate before she became the most famous suffragist. She left the temperance movement, in part, because temperance had many advocates, while suffrage desperately needed leadership. In this light, Lessig’s newest project suddenly makes perfect sense.