2013 Conference at Harvard Law School

Economists have long recognized regulatory capture as a phenomenon that undermines the public interest.  There is also a growing awareness of the harmful effects of money in legislative and executive electoral politics and state judicial elections, suggesting that monied interests have captured our democracy through campaign spending on many levels.

Those scholars and many others, however, have largely missed the fact that the same actors have the motive and ability to capture all of the important institutions that promote or impede their interests, from the media and popular culture to universities and opinion leaders.

Public relations firms, working on behalf of both governments and market actors, manage public opinion for their clients through all of those channels, effectively capturing the institutions important to our democracy and tilting the playing field in favor of a more stratified distribution of wealth and power.

Through a series of speakers and discussions, we hope to illuminate some of the phenomena at the heart of “deep capture,” from the psychological tendencies and assumptions that render humans vulnerable to manipulation to the history of public relations in the U.S. and the industry’s strategies and tactics.  The conference will also highlight some examples of how those processes and actors shape various institutions and policies.

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