The Guardian’s ‘Pictures of the Week’

By Scott London — June 28, 2014


Some of my photos of art cars made it into The Guardian’s “Pictures of the Week,” including amazing creations by Duane Edward Flatmo, Jon Sarriugarte, Harrod Blank, and others. The images are taken from my forthcoming book with Jennifer Raiser and Sidney Erthal, Burning Man: Art On Fire, which will be out in a few weeks. Check out the gallery here: http://gu.com/p/3qdjj

A few of the images also made their way into the print edition (in the Weekend supplement):

Interview in Arts Illustrated

By Scott London — June 3, 2014

Arts Illustrated is a beautiful journal devoted to art, photography and graphic design. I was delighted and honored when the editors contacted me some months ago asking if they could feature a selection of my photographs along with an interview. The issue is now out and it features a full 12 pages of my photos, along with an interview in which I talk about my journey as a photographer, my sources of inspiration, and of course what it’s like to shoot at Burning Man. Here’s a short excerpt from the Q&A:

Burning Man appears to be a very seductive and transformative place.

Yes, there is a sense when you arrive at Burning Man that you’re stepping out of one dimension and into another one — one teeming with possibility, suffused with beauty, and replete with freedoms that we don’t have in our everyday lives.

The rules and conventions of ordinary life simply don’t apply the same way. At Burning Man, you are whatever you happen to be doing or creating. So you can reinvent yourself in whatever guise you like. You can try on new identies and explore new modes of expression.

I have a friend who embodies a different character each day throughout the event. Like an actor, he doesn’t break character all week. Each character has its own personality, its own history, its own outfit. Some of his creations are extremely elaborate. He spends months planning it all down to the last detail.

As a photographer what appeals to you most and as an artist what do you connect with the most?

As a photographer, I feel that our culture is already heavily saturated with imagery. We see hundreds if not thousands of images every day. They flicker by in an unending stream and we barely stop to take notice. This means that it’s very difficult as a photographer to make an impact, to touch people and say something new, with a single image.

I don’t know of any good way around this problem. But as a photographer I’m always looking for moments that contain some element of the unexpected. I think those have a greater chance of speaking to people. The most powerful photographs, I believe, are those that surprise you and perhaps awaken in you a sense of possibility.

Burning Man is a wonderful place to make such images because things are never quite what they seem there. The foreign and the familiar are always coming together in arresting ways.

Some of the images from Burning Man make it appear like a very surreal place.

The word surreal is apt because there is always a sense at Burning Man that what you’re seeing is not quite real. A sixteenth-century Spanish galleon gliding across the desert floor. A group of bankers in dusty outfits holding umbrellas and briefcases. An old country church tipped on its axis, like a mouse-trap.

The Surrealist movement a century ago was a subversive attempt to redefine art and literature by erasing the line between dream and reality. The Surrealists wanted to disrupt our habitual ways of seeing the world by juxtaposing contradictory images and bringing together seemingly unrelated frames of reference.

Like much of the art and writing from the Surrealist period, what you see at Burning Man can be startling, witty, unconventional, and, in some deep sense, eye-opening.

How easy or difficult is it to capture people and get them to participate in your visual chronicle?

It has gotten easier over the years as my confidence has grown. In the beginning, I was wary of getting too close to my subjects. My training as a journalist had emphasized objectivity — the idea that you must faithfully record events and document people’s lives but without interfering or affecting them in any significant way.

This ethos may work well for photojournalists covering the news. But it doesn’t work at Burning Man. In fact, it violates one of the essential principles of the event — the notion that each of us is a participant rather than a spectator.

To participate fully meant that I had to step out from behind the lens and create images, not stand by and wait for something interesting to happen. So I’ve adopted a more participatory approach over the years. My best images now come from working with people to create images that can stand on their own. It’s more collaborative, more creative, and a lot more enriching.

Condé Nast Traveler

By Scott London — May 14, 2014

Some of my images from Burning Man appear in the Winter 2014 issue of Condé Nast Traveler (the Italian edition). It’s a 14-page spread with images from 2012 and 2013 mostly, including portraits of some of my favorite burners, like Siberfi Stelter, Suliman Nawid, Uncle Ira, and Daniel Piotr Rozenberg.

Default World Dreaming

By Scott London — March 20, 2014

I’m thrilled to have my photography exhibited in a show opening today at Gallery 151 in New York City. The show is called “Default World Dreaming” and takes inspiration from the art and culture of Burning Man. The week-long event, held each summer in the desert of northern Nevada, represents a curious and dynamic world of opposites — an ephemeral community that rises out of the desert only to disappear again a week later, and the established, accepted, and socially constructed reality of our daily lives.

To those in the Burning Man community, quotidian life is often referred to as “the default world.” It stands in stark contrast to the culture of Burning Man which is exemplified by self-reliance, non-commodification, gift giving, and radical self-expression. For those who attend Burning Man, these values can be so creative and so liberating that they feel more real than the “real” world.

The exhibition looks at the dichotomy between living in a default world and dreaming of an alternate world, one suffused with creative extravagance and limitless possibility.

The show opens today and runs through April 19, 2014. For more information, please visit Gallery 151.

A View From the Lakebed

By Scott London — February 25, 2014

Because of the record drought in California, Cachuma Lake has been drying up. It’s now just a fraction of its usual size. Here is a self-portrait where I’m standing on the the exposed lake bed admiring a giant root of some kind.

I’m working on a photo essay documenting the drought. More on that soon…

Dharma On the Playa

By Scott London — February 3, 2014

The Spring 2014 issue of Tricycle magazine features several of my photographs from Burning Man paired with an insightful and beautifully written piece by contributing editor Allan Badiner. The article describes Badiner’s first experience at Burning Man in 2013. It was a journey he had avoided making for many years, he says, but reluctantly agreed to in 2013 in order to accept a speaking invitation. Once there, he was taken in by the event and struck by the curious parallels between Burning Man and some of the core practices and rituals at the heart of Buddhism:

Here’s an excerpt from Badiner’s piece:

Traveling the playa, experiencing scenes from the fantastic to the crudely immature and everything in between, I found more improbable resonance creeping into my awareness between this artsy hi-tech desert ritual and Buddhist ways of being. From the generosity, nonjudgment, and eightfold path-like principles practiced by Burners to the sacred geometry of the city’s layout to everyone’s acceptance that it would all disappear in a matter of days, the playa was permeated with a Buddhist view of life.

And while Burning Man is of an entirely different character, it did have its similarities to a Zen retreat: attendees are hoping for a shift in their perspectives; people are, for the most part, on their best interpersonal behavior; and they take on new names, sleep less, and have amazing insights. Unlike the program at a Zen retreat, many people simply come to dance all week, make love, or blow their minds open with psychedelics. But everyone has permission to follow their dreams and pursue what makes them happy, without judgment. And while some found happiness in pursuing sense pleasures, others took solace in yoga, meditation, and intellectual inquiry. The vast variety of intentions and possibilities don’t seem to separate Burners from one another; rather, it unites them.

Check out the complete article here: Dharma On the Playa

Here’s a peek at the Tricycle spreads:

Breaking Into Print

By Scott London — January 18, 2014

When you shoot for stock agencies, you never know where your images are going to turn up. A friend of mine contacted me a few days ago, saying that one of my photos just appeared in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s leading daily newspaper. It was a rather unremarkable red carpet photo of actress Jennifer Lawrence that I had taken some months ago.

What was poignant about this particular photo credit was that Dagens Nyheter was where I first broke into print. I was a teenager living in Stockholm in the early 1980s. The newspaper ran a short commentary of mine about a city landmark—Kulturhuset—that I happened to love. To say that I was happy to see my name in print would be an understatement. It was one of the biggest thrills of my life!

Some years prior to that, one of my mother’s friends, a reporter at Dagens Nyheter, had given me a personal tour of the newsroom. The experience set its mark on my young and impressionable psyche and nurtured my passion to become a journalist.

That was more than thirty years ago. I don’t feel that same rush of excitement when I see my name in print anymore. But for whatever reason, getting published in Dagens Nyheter still feels a little bit special. Like returning to an alma mater or revisiting a childhood home.

It helps me remember where I first set out on this long and strange professional journey and, more importantly, take stock of the many places I still want to go.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2013

By Scott London — October 12, 2013

The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Announcement

The routine is the same every year. The Norwegian Nobel Committee calls a press conference on the second Friday of October at the Nobel Institute in Oslo. At 11:00 a.m. sharp, the chairman enters the room, greets the international press corps, and announces the committee’s choice for the annual Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement typically consists of a short written statement, read first in English and then in Norwegian. The chairman then takes a few questions from the press, whereupon everyone rushes off to file their news reports.

This year was no different, except that word got out about an hour before the announcement that the winner was the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the U.N. watchdog group. NRK, Norway’s leading news organization, had leaked the information ahead of the announcement and it spread like wildfire, thanks in no small part to the social media rumor mill—Twitter, in particular.

It wasn’t exactly an exciting choice, especially for those of us gathered at the Nobel Institute hoping for a big win for, say, Malala Yusoufzai—the global favorite this year—or Russian human rights activists like Svetlana Gannushkina and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, or the great American peace scholar Gene Sharp, whom I’ve been pulling for in recent years.

The leak meant that by the time Thorbjørn Jagland, the committee chairman, stepped up to the microphone, the announcement seemed like more of a formality than a riveting news event.

It goes without saying that the OPCW is a worthy recipient. Over the last decade and a half, the organization has been working to dismantle and destroy chemical weapons, to prevent the creation of new ones, and to help countries protect themselves against chemical attacks.The organization has been especially busy in recent months working to eliminate Syria’s stocks of chemical arms under a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia.

This award follows in a long tradition of Nobel Peace Prizes to individuals and groups working for disarmament. This work is as vital as ever and a crucial part of the international peace effort.

But I was disappointed to see the Peace Prize go to an organization for the second year in a row. The best awards are those given to individuals, not organizations. Both the international recognition and the money mean far more to an individual laureate than to an impersonal institution or association.

I have spoken with individuals who were part of organizations that won the Nobel Peace Prize. Some will tell you, without batting an eye, that receiving the award and being under the global media spotlight distracted them from their mission and created organizational challenges that set their work back.

It’s worth noting that Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor who founded the prize, did not intend for it to be given to organizations. He wanted to support men and women who were “champions of peace.” For him, that term implied a passionate activism and idealism. He saw his prize as a kind of development grant, like the “Genius” awards given out by the MacArthur Foundation, that would have no strings attached and could free a laureate to pursue his or her highest calling.

In a curious twist, Nobel’s intentions were ignored after his will was probated. In drafting the statutes of the foundation established to oversee the awards, Nobel’s heirs and their lawyers insisted on a more open-ended interpretation of the founder’s wishes—presumably to avoid any possible corruption of the prizes. That has freed the Nobel committee to give the award to individuals and organizations alike.

Oslo City Hall

This year I reported on the Nobel Peace Prize for the CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). In the reports and interviews following the announcement, the question on everyone’s mind revolved around Malala. Why didn’t she win the prize? Would it have been too heavy a burden to place on a 16-year-old girl? Will she perhaps win next year?

Who knows? She certainly would have been a risky choice for the Norwegian Nobel Committee. She’s still a child, after all, and there is no telling how a prestigious award of this magnitude could change the direction of her life. She has already been targeted and nearly killed by the Taliban for her campaign to promote education for girls in Pakistan.

As I mentioned in an AFP interview the other day, Malala would also have been a controversial choice for the committee in the wake of several unfortunate awards, including those to President Obama and the European Union.

There’s a growing chorus of critics around the world saying that the prize has become overly politicized, that laureates are chosen less on merit and more on their perceived publicity value, and that the committee has, in some profound way, deviated from the original charter of the prize. Those criticisms would almost certainly have grown louder had Malala been chosen this year.

Malala said herself that she hasn’t done enough to deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. I agree. But she’s still young and she will no doubt go on to do even greater things. And she may yet win the prize in coming years.

As I made my way back to the hotel last night, I walked past Oslo’s City Hall. At the top of both towers, a large-scale projection with the words “Because I am a girl” marked the International Day of the Girl. It seemed fitting that for all the talk about advancing peace and doing away with chemical weapons, at the end of the day the conversation came back around to that Pakistani schoolgirl, the one who has captured the world’s imagination and emerged as one of its most compelling symbols of freedom and courage.

announcement at the Nobel Institute

Here I am (in the front row with a gray jacket) at the Nobel Institute in Oslo

A Decade of Burning Man Photography

By Scott London — September 24, 2013

I’m back from an enchanting week at Burning Man. It was my tenth consecutive year, which seems hard to believe. 2013 marked the 27th anniversary of the event and it was more massive than ever. The sheer energy and intensity seems to have been ramped up several notches this year. One of the most common refrains on the playa was that the party seemed to be in full swing even before the gates opened. Many of us felt as if we barely caught our breath all week and came home more ragged than usual. But what a beautiful week it was!

Last year I shot on assignment for RollingStone.com and I was happy for the chance to do that again this time. The editors were wonderful to work with and gave me wide latitude to cover the event much as I’ve always done. They published two slideshows of 25 images each — one focusing on the installations, the art cars, and the event as a whole (Burning Man 2013: The Scene), and the other devoted to the beautiful and amazing faces of Black Rock City (Burning Man 2013: The People).

People have been asking me whether the Rolling Stone editors or I myself picked the final selection of images. The answer is both: I sent them about 80 photos and they narrowed it down to 50. I found it interesting that they passed on a lot of the usual Burning Man stuff, like aerial photos of Black Rock City, twilight shots of the temple, and the man engulfed in flames. I guess those have become something of a cliché at this point. Which can only mean that for better or worse Burning Man is now part of the cultural mainstream.

In addition to working for Rolling Stone, I’ve teamed up with fellow photographer Sidney Erthal and writer Jennifer Raiser, both dear friends, on a book that’s slated for publication next summer. It will be a richly illustrated coffee table book with some trenchant writing (and extensive captions) devoted to Burning Man as a cultural phenomenon.

One of the highlights of the week was having our book editor fly in from New York to experience Burning Man for a few days (something I wish more assignment editors would do!). Seeing her take it all in for the first time helped me to remember a time ten years ago when it was all new to me. It also helped me to see the event with greater objectivity.

This was also my fifth year on the Burning Man documentation team, a small group of photographers invited to capture the event for the organization. Every year we set out to document the full range of art installations, theme camps, mutant vehicles, and scheduled performances. The task seemed more impossible than usual given the scale of the event this year. But we gave it our best.

My photography has changed and evolved over the decade that I’ve been shooting at Burning Man. But the basic impulse has remained the same — to try in some small way to capture the beauty, the creativity, the whimsy, the madness and the sheer outrageous good fun of it all. I’m always gratified when non-burners appreciate the photos, but my primary goal has always been to share them with those who were there and, to whatever extent I can, contribute a little of my own creativity to the mix.

As in previous years, I shot all the images using a pair of trusty Canon DSLRs. If you’re interested in the equipment I carry, have a look at What’s In the Camera Bag. I shot about 4,000 frames over the course of a week. Just two days into the event, I broke my primary lens — the 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. It was brand new and I had purchased it specifically for shooting on the playa, so this was a setback. It meant that I had to adopt a somewhat different lens strategy than I’m used to, shooting “wide” and “long,” instead of “normal.” You can judge the results and tell me what you think.

I get a lot of questions about my gear and how I protect it in such a harsh environment. The answer is I don’t. I think people spend too much time worrying about heat and dust. For an interesting discussion about this, have a look at the thread on Flickr titled How do you keep your camera from getting dusty at Burning Man? See also playa photographer Curious Josh’s Short Camera Tips for Burning Man.

For more on my Burning Man photography — what first inspired me to get into it, how my approach has evolved over the years, and what gear I use — you can read an interview I did a while back with Paul Caridad Sanchez in Visual NewsScott London Captures the Magic at Burning Man. Another couple of interviews appear in It’s Nice That and Ignite.me.

As always, I’m grateful to the many wonderful people of Burning Man who freely consented to let me photograph them in the act of dancing, stilt-walking, hooping, making art, or simply being beautiful. I don’t take that permission for granted. It requires a special patience to put up with tiresome photographers sticking their equipment in your face — pointing lenses at your tattoos, your necklaces, your derriere. My art, such as it is, would not be possible without that open consent and participation. So thank you.

Here’s a set of 100 personal favorites from this year: Burning Man 2013.

 

Old Spanish Days

By Scott London — August 5, 2013

“Celebrating our heritage” can mean different things. For some, it’s all about confetti and sombreros, fish tacos and flamenco performances. For others, it’s about the pride of being a fourth or fifth-generation Californian. The kids, for their part, mostly love an excuse to dress up and parade down State Street.

For the complete set of images from Fiesta 2013, click here.

Solstice Celebration

By Scott London — June 30, 2013

Each year at the end of June, Santa Barbara, California, officially kicks off summer with a three-day Solstice Celebration. The highlight of the event is a downtown parade known for its whimsical floats, colorfully-costumed stiltwalkers, goofy performance artists, Brazilian drummers, and giggling kids donning masks, costumes, and painted faces—to say nothing of the amazing samba dancers wearing feathers and sequins and not much else. The annual event got its start in 1974 and now attracts about 100,000 spectators and some 1,000 participants from near and far. Here are some of my photos from this year’s festivities.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Donning a colorful solstice-themed head-piece, Mr. Sunshine led the way up State Street.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hilary Kleger was one of many beautiful dancers in the Hip Brazil dance troupe. Their elaborate headpieces and sexy sequined outfits conjured up images of the Rio Carneval.

Panzumo dance troupe at the 2013 Summer Solstice Parade: A Photo by Scott London

Panzumo, a high-energy drum and dance ensemble led by Lisa Beck (center), are longtime favorites at the Solstice Parade.

Robert Bernstein at the 2013 Solstice Parade: A Photo by Scott London

Unicyclist Robert Bernstein has been a part of the Solstice Parade since 1985.

Panzumo Dancers - A Photo by Scott London

 Taking inspiration from the 2013 theme “Creatures,” Emiliano Campobello played the part of a character from Avatar.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

All you need to participate, as twins Arran and Ethan will tell you, is some face-paint and neon hair dye.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hip Brazil dancer Naomi Broomberg.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

Hip Brazil dancer Missy Butler.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Dancers dressed as winged mermaids? Why not, it’s a solstice party!

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

Hungarian-born artist Pali-X-Mano is known for his eye-popping inflatable sculptures. This year’s creation was a giant 30-foot “solar creature” with aerial dancers inside. The float barely fit under the tree canopy of State Street.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hoopers Lindsey Mickelson and Veronika Petra.

Some of my images from the 2012 Solstice Celebration were featured on CNN last week. Check out Seven Strange and Wonderful Ways You Celebrate the Summer Solstice

For more of my photos from the Solstice festivities, go to:

How Do We Get American Politics Back on Track?

By Scott London — June 27, 2013

A healthy skepticism of government is built into the American character. But public attitudes have gone beyond mere skepticism in recent years. Surveys show that disaffection with government is at or near an all-time high. Many people have abandoned their faith in our elected leadership.

Some of the public’s frustration can be attributed to economic anxiety and uncertainty about the future. But it also reflects deep concerns about the forces shaping American politics—from partisan rancor and congressional gridlock to the high cost of political campaigns and the growing influence of special interest groups.

Any one of these problems taken in isolation would represent a serious challenge to our democratic process. But taken together, they make it almost impossible for government to address the nation’s most pressing issues.

In a new issue book, just published by the National Issues Forums, I write about how deadlock and dysfunction have become the new norm in American politics. I also explore a number of options for addressing the problems and getting the system back on track. The issue guide is part of a series of publications used to promote serious discussion in communities and on campuses across the country. Here’s an excerpt:

Art from 'Political Fix,' an issue guide for the National Issues ForumsToday Washington D.C. is home to a growing special-interest and lobbying industry, one that employs as many as 100,000 people, making it the third largest sector in the American capital after government and tourism.

The health care industry alone employs six lobbyists for every elected politician in Washington. On key issues like energy, defense and education, they exert an influence that is difficult to measure but undeniable.

Lobbyists advocate on behalf of organizations and constituencies, attempting to influence lawmakers and shape policies to suit their own interests. “The Catholic Church has lobbyists,” says American University professor James Thurber. “The Boy Scouts have lobbyists. The AFL-CIO has lobbyists. Apple does. Everybody has a lobbyist.”

Because lobbying firms represent special interests—those of the few rather than those of the many—their efforts tend to distort legislative priorities, sow contention and conflict, and compromise the government’s responsiveness to the public good.

As the number of lobbyists has grown, so has the influence of big money. With the soaring cost of political campaigns, lawmakers have to spend much of their time fundraising. Studies show that a typical senator working 40 hours a week would need to raise about $2,400 per hour to finance the cost of a re-election campaign.

Lobbyists and special interest groups have often proven willing, even eager, to contribute. But they expect a return on that investment in the form of access. That could mean personal invitations to parties, functions, or even meetings with legislators.

An analysis by Mike McIntire and Michael Luo of the New York Times found that most of the major contributors to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, especially those who gave $100,000 or more, were later invited to the White House to meet the president.

Of course, the Obama administration, like those before it, deny that there is a link between contributions and access to the White House. But the facts suggest a different story. Many of President George W. Bush’s biggest campaign contributors won ambassadorships or other special favors, and President Clinton famously invited big donors to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom, a guest suite on the second floor of the White House.

Cases of outright corruption are rare, but it’s well known that lobbying firms working on behalf of wealthy clients routinely gain access to politicians, lavish them with gifts and special benefits, and then sway them to make minor changes to legislation or offer tax breaks favorable to their clients.

Jack Abramoff, once one of Washington’s highest-paid lobbyists, was convicted in 2006 for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. After four years in prison, he wrote a book, Capital Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist, detailing how lobbyists go about buying powerful friends and influencing legislation.

“I think people are under the impression that the corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor, and that’s not the case,” Abramoff told 60 Minutes. In fact, members of Congress regularly accept gifts from influence-peddlers in what amounts to a form of legalized bribery. “It was done everyday,” he said, “and it’s still being done.”

The influence of money is nothing new in American politics. But not since the Gilded Age in the late 19th century has our political system been so inundated by corporate contributions and funding from secret sources. And the new era of big money has just begun.

The contributions that poured into the 2012 election—close to $3 billion, by some estimates—came largely as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In January 2010, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit spending by corporations or other entities in candidate elections, because such limits violate the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

A subsequent court ruling helped to create “super PACs,” a new kind of political action committee that can collect money from individuals, corporations, and other groups to support or defeat political candidates.

Super PACs act in much the same way as political campaigns do, running ads, making calls, and sending out mailings. But unlike conventional campaigns, there is no limit on the amounts of money they can raise and spend.

Super PACs are required to disclose the sources of their contributions. But that doesn’t stop them from accepting donations from outside groups with secret donors. As a result, many well-heeled super PACs buy campaign ads with “dark money”—funds that can’t be traced to their original source.

The 2012 election cycle was shaped to an unprecedented degree by campaign ads created and paid for by super PACs. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, close to $1 billion was spent by outside groups trying to influence races around the country—a full 25 percent of which was dark money.

This means that corporations and other moneyed interests can now spend unlimited amounts of money supporting candidates aligned with their agendas and opposing those who don’t, all the while hiding their identity behind front groups.

Wealthy individuals and organizations may not be able to buy a politician or dictate the outcomes they want, but they influence the electoral landscape like never before. “If we don’t find some way to respond to this,” says former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, “it’s going to turn us into a plutocracy, where a very few powerful people control the public agenda.”

Many Americans insist that we must curb the influence of special interests and restrict the flow of big money into government to ensure that the good of the few never takes precedence over the good of the many. But there are some drawbacks to consider. As the Supreme Court made clear in its controversial Citizens United ruling, restricting the ability of corporations, unions and other groups to broadcast political messages or otherwise participate in the marketplace of ideas can be interpreted as a form of censorship.

The question is to what extent we are willing to curb the rights of a few in order to protect the common good.