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In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government-driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business inte In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government-driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business interests wield control over our legislature. With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts the issues in terms that nonwonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness. While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In REPUBLIC, LOST, he not only makes this need palpable and clear-he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.


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In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government-driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business inte In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government-driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business interests wield control over our legislature. With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts the issues in terms that nonwonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness. While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In REPUBLIC, LOST, he not only makes this need palpable and clear-he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.

30 review for Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I remember when, in 2007, Larry Lessig, trailblazer and articulate champion of the movement for balanced copyright, announced he was retiring from the copyfight and instead would begin to work on the topic of political corruption. I wasn't alone in feeling perplexed: that he was abandoning us, that he was tackling a boring and unfixable subject, and that he was basically going to waste the rest of his life tilting at academic windmills. It was like Jesus hadn't ascended to heaven, but instead ha I remember when, in 2007, Larry Lessig, trailblazer and articulate champion of the movement for balanced copyright, announced he was retiring from the copyfight and instead would begin to work on the topic of political corruption. I wasn't alone in feeling perplexed: that he was abandoning us, that he was tackling a boring and unfixable subject, and that he was basically going to waste the rest of his life tilting at academic windmills. It was like Jesus hadn't ascended to heaven, but instead had announced to his disciples over dinner that he was going to give up public life and work on his art, and left the restaurant. Lessig's change of tack wasn't the non sequitur we all thought. In fact, it was highly sequitur: Lessig's key insight is that the reason copyright (and tax, and bureaucracy, and balanced budgets, and welfare, and healthcare, and ...) reform was stalled was that members of Congress are no longer being paid to do the right thing for the public, they're paid to do the right thing by monied interests. Congress's addiction to that money, used for election campaigns, is what perverts and distorts the political system. In this book, Lessig lays out his case with ruthless and relentless vigor. He has example after example of distortion caused by this money, and traces with clinical precision the paths of money and influence, the feedback loops of incentives and career paths which ensure the public interest is the last thing anyone on Capital Hill thinks about. Best of all, he goes out of his way to identify the way Republicans are just as harmed by this as Liberals: that the dearly-held Republican causes of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, simpler tax codes, and so on are all being thwarted because such things are not in the interests of a Congress that takes money from people who benefit from larger wasteful government and its complex tax codes. Listening to Lessig describe the problems (and when you read this book, you will read it in his voice for it is unarguably drawn from his powerful presentations) is like West Wing at its best: he believes in the Constitution, that Government doesn't have to be as obstructive and parasitic as it is today, people are good at heart, and this is the single issue whose resolution will restore the Republic and America's glory. I'm all for that. I believe America's origins were great, that the framers did a brilliant job of turning noble ambition into pragmatic execution, and that the current American implementation of democracy is a degraded and corrupted form of what the framers intended. Where Lessig falls down, the point where you find yourself frowning, is when he turns to solutions. For, and make no mistake about it, the solution is the hard part. Problems with governance are notoriously difficult to fix: who watches the watchers, etc. He offers four paths out of the current venal tarpit of self-service and mutual gratification, but it's not immediately obvious just how any of them can be brought to reality. Give him credit, though, he's trying all of his solutions to see which work: his corruption project does not end with this book, it ends when America is reclaimed by the people. Amazing book. Read it and love it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Natali

    Brilliant and upsetting all at the same time. No one explains the simple truth of what ails our political system better than Lawrence Lessig. Even though he tries to write a prescription for how to fix it, I can't help feeling a bit fatalistic about the possibility of his ideas being implemented. He explains how the entire lobbying industry has too much power and interest in perpetuating the system we have now. I feel so discouraged by this book but I am really glad that he wrote it. There is ho Brilliant and upsetting all at the same time. No one explains the simple truth of what ails our political system better than Lawrence Lessig. Even though he tries to write a prescription for how to fix it, I can't help feeling a bit fatalistic about the possibility of his ideas being implemented. He explains how the entire lobbying industry has too much power and interest in perpetuating the system we have now. I feel so discouraged by this book but I am really glad that he wrote it. There is hope, however dim.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    Too often, thoughtful expression has been replaced by memes and taglines. The concept of corruption is one of the casualties of this trend. Author Lawrence Lessig impresses on the reader the gravity of that kind of fuzzy thinking. By corruption, he does not mean the shameless quid pro quo of the Gilded Age. Instead, he focuses on what he calls “dependence corruption,” a dynamic he likens to that of substance abuse. Imagine this. Senator X has a choice. He can call a thousand prospective donors a Too often, thoughtful expression has been replaced by memes and taglines. The concept of corruption is one of the casualties of this trend. Author Lawrence Lessig impresses on the reader the gravity of that kind of fuzzy thinking. By corruption, he does not mean the shameless quid pro quo of the Gilded Age. Instead, he focuses on what he calls “dependence corruption,” a dynamic he likens to that of substance abuse. Imagine this. Senator X has a choice. He can call a thousand prospective donors and ask for $1 each or he can accept a lobbyist's contribution of $1000, no strings attached. Example 2: Congressman Y received a $50,000 contribution to his winning campaign. Now the donor is requesting some one-on-one time to argue his viewpoint about a tight vote in the House. Example 3: Senator Z has been ambivalent about confirming Nominee W. He gets a call from a lobbyist he has worked closely with in the past. The lobbyist prevails on their past relationship to trust his opinion and vote to confirm. Senator Z's subsequent confirming vote is the deciding vote. None of these are cases of corruption. Yet, they do suggest the existence of an inside track, paved and protected by big money. Lessig argues that a political “gift economy” encourages a very human sense of obligation, despite the absence of any overt promises. He points out the biased subtext of industry sponsored research lobbyists offer to support their positions. Money affects deliberation over the scope and placement of earmarks and paralyzes the impulse for reform, even when conditions have changed. Money cements personal contacts providing access to lucrative post-government careers in the ever-expanding lobbying industry. All of these activities promote a dissipation in public trust. Why is public trust important? Loss of that trust normalizes unethical behavior. Lessig provides compelling statistics, concrete examples, and candid confirmations from insiders across the political spectrum to support his arguments. This book could easily stand as a primer on how government works. The clarity of Lessig's writing even suggests that all of this should be obvious, so obvious that by the time he analyzes Justice Arthur Kennedy's use of language in the Citizens United decision, even Kennedy's supporters should react to the Justice's disingenuous assumptions. Kennedy's decision includes the phrase: “It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies.” (p.242) [Lessig added the emphasis]. Why contributors? Kennedy also maintains: “The appearance of influence or access...will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” (p.243) Lessig is flabbergasted. Where is the evidence for this assumption? Lessig criticizes Kennedy for his focus only on quid pro quo corruption and unsupported dismissal of the kinds of corruption discussed in this book. Anyone with respect for precise language should read this book. Lessig cuts through the smoke-screen of ideological rhetoric by bluntly labeling tariffs and price supports as corporate welfare. He points out that pro-business arguments ignore “externalized costs” — a valid and much examined field of study by economists. Externalized costs like pollution do not appear on a company's balance sheet unless regulations force responsibility and accountability. The concept should give anyone concerned with the public well-being pause for consideration. Lessig's extensive research opens the door to other intriguing avenues for exploration. He relies heavily on the book WINNER-TAKE-ALL: HOW WASHINGTON MADE THE RICH RICHER AND TURNED ITS BACK ON THE MIDDLE CLASS, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson (2010); and the book THE CRISIS OF CAPITALIST DEMOCRACY, by Richard Posner (2010). Posner weighs in with colorful language on then Fed. Chairman Alan Greenspan's faith in the self-regulation of the banking industry. “...commenting upon Alan Greenspan's confession that he had expected the self-interest of Wall Street firms to be enough to induce them to behave properly, Posner writes: 'That was a whopper of a mistake for an economist to make. It was as if the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, criticized for not enforcing federal antipollution laws, had said he thought the self-interest of the polluters implied that they are best capable of protecting their share holders and their equity.'” (p.78) (Yes, there was a time when believing that was unthinkable and ridiculous!) One of Lessig's major points in his examination of corruption is that the individuals themselves are not evil or conventionally corrupt. His focus is on a corrupt system, a system that all but insures an addiction to money. Nevertheless as I read this book, I could not avoid thinking, what about Mitch McConnell? I was therefore gratified when I found this clip in which Lessig actually calls McConnell “evil.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btkVs... (“Lawrence Lessig explains the unique evil of Mitch McConnell,” Dec. 13, 2018) Lessig's book does not just preach to the choir. He recaps his own political history: a Goldwater Republican who became a Democrat; an ardent supporter of Obama but nevertheless critical of many of that administration's short-comings. He quotes extensively from both Democrats and Republicans. He extols the grassroots origins of the Tea Party Movement (an error, in my opinion. See: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/30/581730...). He presents a historical macro-analysis of how we got where we are and singles out two key turning points: The fracture of the Democratic coalition when LBJ pushed through Civil Rights legislation; and 1994 when the Republicans recaptured control of Congress. The second half of this book offers a detailed plan for change. There were two issues that the book does not discuss. As I read, I wondered if term limits would be part of the solution. Second, the book discusses “dependence corruption” in terms of money, but does not directly confront that corruption in terms of power. (See: http://theconversation.com/the-neuroc...). Nevertheless, this is a thought-provoking book that forms the foundation for an on-going discussion. Lessig is as articulate and persuasive in his speeches as he is in this book, and I will pay careful attention to his ideas in the future.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Converse

    Actually Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, offers at least 4 different plans of varying but low probability of accomplishment. He describes the problem as "dependency corruption," meaning that there is a constant interchange of political actions and campaign cash, or threat of contributions to opposing candidates, between members of the United States Congress and various interested parties. As there is no explicit trade of campaign contributions for a particular vote, the process is legal and Actually Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, offers at least 4 different plans of varying but low probability of accomplishment. He describes the problem as "dependency corruption," meaning that there is a constant interchange of political actions and campaign cash, or threat of contributions to opposing candidates, between members of the United States Congress and various interested parties. As there is no explicit trade of campaign contributions for a particular vote, the process is legal and has become so ubiquitious that those involved have difficulty seeing how things could be different. Proving that there is a clear link between campaign contributions and votes has been something political scientists have had difficulty documenting. Lessig argues, convincingly to me, that some of the reasons they have trouble making the connection are 1) most of the important politicking has been done before a vote on the floor of the House or Senate, 2) members adjust their views in advance before asking for contributions, so there is no explicit evidence of a change in a member's view as a result of asking for contributions, 3) and that often the contributions are given to avoid a bill being passed or to preserve the status quo, as when a "sunset" provision for a tax loophole is due to expire. Lessig also argues, convincingly in my view, that even if nothing that a layperson would consider corruption occurs, the agenda and time devoted to actual legislating suffer under the current campaign finance system. Lessig gives numerous examples of regulatory, agricultural, and tax policies that to me seem inexplicable without reference to campaign contributions. For example, the high price of sugar in the United States benefits both the tiny number of American sugar growers and the rather larger number of persons involved in producing corn syrup, a substitute. Lessig tries to come up with examples that will convince both big-government Democrats and small-government Republicans that something is very wrong and that neither would suffer a partisan disadvantage as a result of campaign finance reform. It is not always a matter of individuals, corporations or unions asking for favors, and later (or earlier) contributions to a campaign; it can be a member of Congress asking for a contribution, with an implied "or else something bad will happen to a law or regulation you depend upon." Lessig's proposed solutions strike me as at best long term propositions. One option he favors a system when candidates voluntarily agree to take only small ($100 max) contributions and what looks like an improved federal tax payer campaign check off, but this time for specific Congressional candidates of the voter's choice rather than for the President. He also suggests a constitutional convention. He also has less plausible options, such as both presidential candidates from the major parties declaring they will veto all legislation until campaign finance is passed, whereupon they will resign the Presidency. Lessig does have some favorite words that struck me as odd. He constantly refers to individuals as "souls," some good, some bad. He also occasionally refers to those who share his conviction that reducing the influence of money on politics as "rootstrikers" apparently mimicking a quote from Thoreau.

  5. 4 out of 5

    A.

    There are very few legislators who are corrupt in the way we think of corruption - there aren't suitcases of money changing hands on shadowy street corners. What we have instead are lawmakers with a systemic dependence (much like alcoholism) on campaign contributions (and other forms of support) from lobbyists and their clients. These lawmakers aren't necessarily bad people: they simply require this support if they expect to be a viable candidate, because they can be sure that their opponents wi There are very few legislators who are corrupt in the way we think of corruption - there aren't suitcases of money changing hands on shadowy street corners. What we have instead are lawmakers with a systemic dependence (much like alcoholism) on campaign contributions (and other forms of support) from lobbyists and their clients. These lawmakers aren't necessarily bad people: they simply require this support if they expect to be a viable candidate, because they can be sure that their opponents will have the support of *other* lobbyists. Despite the fact that this dependence is in tension with a legislator's appropriate dependence (on his constituents and ONLY his constituents), our campaign finance laws do not regulate the kind of indirect reciprocity that lobbyists and legislators *actually* share. Until we as citizens take action to limit the effects of "money in the wrong places" on our national political deliberation, we cannot with a straight face claim to live in a constitutional republic. As it stands now, the United States exists as a plutocracy disguised as a constitutional republic. Absolute must read, if you care at all about politics or the future of our country.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    Excellent, careful analysis of the problems of our government, what causes them, why they are dangerous, and then at the end some suggestions on what to do. Careful analysis is important, because this is not traditional corruption, but a special kind of corruption which is legal, but nevertheless carries disastrous unintended consequences. It is a nuanced discussion which helps me to understand why things that would on the surface seem acceptable turn out to be insidious. What I find interesting Excellent, careful analysis of the problems of our government, what causes them, why they are dangerous, and then at the end some suggestions on what to do. Careful analysis is important, because this is not traditional corruption, but a special kind of corruption which is legal, but nevertheless carries disastrous unintended consequences. It is a nuanced discussion which helps me to understand why things that would on the surface seem acceptable turn out to be insidious. What I find interesting is how I am writing this in late November, the Occupy Wall Street movement has blossomed into a world wide phenomenon in a few weeks. In this book Lessig seems almost to anticipate the movement. Uncanny! The book does provide a lot of context for the OWS movement, and I would highly recommend reading for anyone who is having a hard time understanding the movement. If any fault can be found in the book, it lies in how Lessig always turned to immaculately reasoned argument without evoking the emotional slogans that will motivate the masses. This is not a flaw, instead it is one of the great things I like about Lessig, but many may see it instead as dry and unexciting. And yet it is not difficult to read: clear, flows well, and held my deep interest all the way to the end.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Murray

    Lessig is right in the premise that money corrupts politics, although to be more basic one can paraphrase Lord Acton that Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I worry that if even if we could get money out of politics we would still be left plenty of corruption. Without important restraints (our founders called them checks and balances) there will still be great men (Acton also said that great men were almost always bad men) who were powerful and corrupt. In fact, money might a Lessig is right in the premise that money corrupts politics, although to be more basic one can paraphrase Lord Acton that Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I worry that if even if we could get money out of politics we would still be left plenty of corruption. Without important restraints (our founders called them checks and balances) there will still be great men (Acton also said that great men were almost always bad men) who were powerful and corrupt. In fact, money might assuage the worst possible corruption as long as there was plenty of it distributed around widely enough to many different factions. Without money as a counter-balance great men can corrupt by virtue of their power alone. I’ve long given up on Utopias. As a youth I was a 20th century liberal. I guess now I’m a 21st century libertarian although I think that makes me a 19th century liberal. (Fear not--I don’t believe in libertarian utopias either.) Humans act in their own self-interest, and the last time I looked most politicians are humans, so I suppose that’s why Kenneth Arrow and other public choice economists want us to consider that as part of the decision making calculus. I was elected and reelected to (municipal) office a couple of times and I know to what pressures politicians are exposed. So while I agree with Lessig’s analysis of the problem I really can’t buy into his solutions. Lessig quotes the phrase apparently misattributed to the Scotch philosopher Andrew Tytler, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the treasury—with the result that democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy.” Lessig worries about the problem but doesn’t really address it in his 4 proposals to correct current corruption. Lessig didn’t discuss the second half of Tytler’s quote “The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.” Many of us in this country are kind of stuck between complacency and dependency. Large government programs create wholesale industries dependent upon politicians, which is why big programs foster big polarized vocal voting blocks that want to defend the programs long after their usefulness is proven lacking (think subsidies to large farmers in our agricultural sector. Consider how much more dependent Big Pharm, Big Medicine, and individual patients will become when and if the Affordable Care Act ever really materializes.) There never will be a perfect society composed of imperfect humans. Hopefully the ideals of the American Constitution, written by imperfect, self-interested, practical people who at least were trying their best to create a good society in spite of man’s imperfections, will prevail. The answer to our problems is a more educated electorate. Let’s hope that government gridlock slows down the lock-step march to some kind of Progressive Utopia that will in retrospect be worse than what we have now. Here’s one proposal: A law should be applied equally to all individual citizens—no matter their race, religion, gender, or income. Of course I’m sure that the phrase “equally to all citizens” would be interpreted differently depending upon whose ox was being gored. But it might slow down new legislation that runs to thousands of pages and it potentially reduces the number of lobbyists we need to protect our piece of the pie.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book considers the impact of special interests upon United States politicians, political parties, and institutions, such as Congress and the selection of the judiciary. The early part of the book considers the impact of lobbyists on various issues - such as financial regulation, intellectual property, education, and climate change. While there are strong points,its somewhat too sweeping for its own good - covering too much regulatory territory. The middle of the book is strongest - looking This book considers the impact of special interests upon United States politicians, political parties, and institutions, such as Congress and the selection of the judiciary. The early part of the book considers the impact of lobbyists on various issues - such as financial regulation, intellectual property, education, and climate change. While there are strong points,its somewhat too sweeping for its own good - covering too much regulatory territory. The middle of the book is strongest - looking at the 'corruption' of Congress by campaign fundraising and corporate lobbyists. It charts how corporate funding and lobbying results in distraction, distortion, and distrust in United States politics. The end of the book considers the limitations of transparency and anonymity - and calls for some unconventional, quirky strategies to reform Congress. On the whole, its an uneven book. It has a strong thesis. Yet, the arguments of the text are sometimes let down by a curious, idiosyncratic rhetoric - with appeals to the children of tomorrow; a loose definition of 'corruption'; an odd enthusiasm for Reagonite economics; and some strange analogies to Boris Yeltsin, and the end of Cold War Communism.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    Lessig's main point is that the presence of money in politics destroys our confidence in the entire process. He makes the point with several cases where the majority of studies funded by corporations tend to side with the corporations where public and independently funded studies rarely agree with the corporations. He next shows that - whether there is real corruption in the studies - there is the perception that there is a negative influence on the corporate-funded studies. There is "reasonable Lessig's main point is that the presence of money in politics destroys our confidence in the entire process. He makes the point with several cases where the majority of studies funded by corporations tend to side with the corporations where public and independently funded studies rarely agree with the corporations. He next shows that - whether there is real corruption in the studies - there is the perception that there is a negative influence on the corporate-funded studies. There is "reasonable doubt" as to the accuracy of the studies. Taking this insight into the broader arena of politics, he proceeds to show how corporate money in politics poisons and colors our perception of our political figures, spawning conspiracy theories and wild speculations about what is "really" going on. Bit by bit he unravels the system of money in politics (and a sordid tale it is) and paints a way forward. A really solid read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Sloan

    This book is boring. Hear me out, though, because the reason it's so important is partially because its subject matter isn't dramatic, sexy, horrifying enough to hold the attention of the general public, but the subject of how money has corrupted our government deserves all of our attention. I could say a lot about how well Lessig dissects and presents to the general public the case for our republic being sick and off-course, but a review will never do that fascinating work justice. This should b This book is boring. Hear me out, though, because the reason it's so important is partially because its subject matter isn't dramatic, sexy, horrifying enough to hold the attention of the general public, but the subject of how money has corrupted our government deserves all of our attention. I could say a lot about how well Lessig dissects and presents to the general public the case for our republic being sick and off-course, but a review will never do that fascinating work justice. This should be required reading for every disaffected, apathetic about the government American (most of us), so that we have a chance of reclaiming our republic of the people, as the founders intended, and eliminate the rot of monied interests in Washington. One last note, I listened to the audio book, which is very good, and if you think you might fall asleep reading this type of book, I'd suggest going the listening route.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill Pardi

    My first exposure to Lawrence Lessig was as Special Master in the Microsoft anti-trust case in the mid-90s. As a Microsoft employee, to say Lessig was not my favorite person after his role in that case is putting it mildly. Since then however, I've followed more and more of his writing and watched with interest his approach to IP law and public policy. The result has been an increased respect for him and his work. I think Republic, Lost and Lessig's activism related the topic of the book are wit My first exposure to Lawrence Lessig was as Special Master in the Microsoft anti-trust case in the mid-90s. As a Microsoft employee, to say Lessig was not my favorite person after his role in that case is putting it mildly. Since then however, I've followed more and more of his writing and watched with interest his approach to IP law and public policy. The result has been an increased respect for him and his work. I think Republic, Lost and Lessig's activism related the topic of the book are without question his most important efforts to date. Republic, Lost details how corrupting the impact of money and influence has been to American politics, and how it has crippled the ability of our system to function as a Republic. Lessig makes a strong case that while the system and the people in it are not necessarily corrupt in the sense of deliberately breaking the rules or being outright evil, the rules have evolved to the point where the whole system is based on how well politicians play the money game. This forces good people to play that corrupting game, or face the almost certainty of not being in the game at all. The most dangerous aspect of this system, Lessig argues, is that it's not operated in a lawless underground, but that it's played out in the open, "by the rules." It's become honest politics. As such it's corruption can be a challenge to detect, and incredibly difficult to change. Lessig is writing as an activist, not a dispassionate analyst, so his arguments can be one-sided and hyperbolic at times. But that doesn't take away from the overarching premise of the book, in which I think his case is very convincing. He shows that the current system where political campaigns are funded almost entirely by special interests through well-connected lobbyists puts politicians in a mode of "permanent campaigning." This means they are not only catering to a very small (and mostly wealthy and powerful) segment of the population, but that they have to spend most of their time with these interest groups raising money, not solving problems or working for the "the people alone." The true value of the book for me was that it's conclusions are very much in line with a lot of other analysis I've been reading on why our government is so dysfunctional. But Lessig offers a plethora of new insights that get to the root of the problem, and he offers some valuable (if not depressing) ideas on how to fix things and opines on the chances that anything substantive will actually work. I highly recommend Republic, Lost. You don't need to be a political wonk to get a lot from the book, just a concerned citizen.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Politicians pay attention to influential people. Especially rich ones. The power capture by these few is magnified by the apathy of the general voting public. Instead of blaming the voters the author then goes on a tirade of how to raise money (clean elections) to combat the problem. Essentially fighting fire with fire. He discusses his dislike of the supreme court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens... I appreciate most of Lawrence's des Politicians pay attention to influential people. Especially rich ones. The power capture by these few is magnified by the apathy of the general voting public. Instead of blaming the voters the author then goes on a tirade of how to raise money (clean elections) to combat the problem. Essentially fighting fire with fire. He discusses his dislike of the supreme court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens... I appreciate most of Lawrence's description of the problem but I am completely uninterested with his proposed solutions. Most of his propositions to fixing campaign finance corruption seem more targeted at weakening political opposition then anything else. Forcing the public to contribute won't force them to be involved. The world is run by those that show up. Sure it is hard to take control from those that already have it but if we are going to let Congress pick winners and losers then those most interested in winning are going to do everything they can to control those regulators. Either through thinly veiled campaign bribes, promises of highly paid future employment, funding the opposition, or funding their own employees to get elected to these positions. Essentially turning those groups intended to regulate for pubic good into authoritative branches of a corporation with the power to shut down competition and impose their will on the public. My interest isn't to force the politicians onto a forced funded system. If congress has billions in tax loopholes and other goodies to sell then the'll find a way to make sure they go to the highest bidder. Campaign finance doesn't need reform as much as Congress needs their power to direct funds to targeted companies and or individuals. What we truly need is tax reform. If everyone can play by different tax rules goverened and manipulated by congress over and over again every few years then that is all congress will be able to do. Pick and choose tax rates and bank debit card fees. They'll never have the time, will, or organization to do anything else. I do like his idea of a one issue campaign to take congress hostage to fix a single identified problem. A campaign platform promise of nothing but reform and then resignation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I was surprised by the balance of this book. Not overly liberal or conservative. This is a good thing because US corruption transcends even the microscopically thin line between republican and democrat. Lessig lays out the problems and the types of corruption that exists and then gives us four possible plans to fix the problems and remove the corruption. Sadly, none of the plans have a high likelihood for success (in both my view, but more importantly Lessig's). Lessig states that this may not be I was surprised by the balance of this book. Not overly liberal or conservative. This is a good thing because US corruption transcends even the microscopically thin line between republican and democrat. Lessig lays out the problems and the types of corruption that exists and then gives us four possible plans to fix the problems and remove the corruption. Sadly, none of the plans have a high likelihood for success (in both my view, but more importantly Lessig's). Lessig states that this may not be the most pressing matter of the United States but it is the matter than needs to be dealt with first. He does however have hope, and says that any change needs to come from a grassroots movement and not from within the beltway. So maybe its time for the occupy movement and the tea party movement and any other reformers to stop screwing around with political issues and work to change the political system.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Teton County Library Call No: 328.73 Lessig L Adam's Rating: 4 Stars I picked up this book and persevered through 14 chapters of how incorrectly use money corrupts, how money's influence in anything can create doubt of integrity, and how politician's addiction to it for funding their campaigns has basically eroded the United State's democracy, so that I could get to the last 4 chapters of Lessig's plan to fix it. It was worth the perseverance. He outlines a few different ideas of campaign finance Teton County Library Call No: 328.73 Lessig L Adam's Rating: 4 Stars I picked up this book and persevered through 14 chapters of how incorrectly use money corrupts, how money's influence in anything can create doubt of integrity, and how politician's addiction to it for funding their campaigns has basically eroded the United State's democracy, so that I could get to the last 4 chapters of Lessig's plan to fix it. It was worth the perseverance. He outlines a few different ideas of campaign finance reform. Most are radical, and most are unlikely to happen(a point he readily makes, with likelihood percentages), but at least he's putting ideas on the table. It's a table that desperately needs ideas because as Lessig points out, the current dependency politicians have on lobbyists and interest groups is the root of all of our other political problems. This book makes you want to be a rootstriker!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rustin

    "The biggest fundamental problem in congress is that lobbyists donate to campaigns and congressmen earmark government money back to the donor. It is a corruption that good congressmen cannot avoid. Campaign contributions from lobbyists is bad for several reasons: - It persuades congressman to vote in ways that the lobbying donors want them to vote - It forces congressman to spend half of their time fundraising when they should be focusing on bills - Even if the congressman agrees entirely with the l "The biggest fundamental problem in congress is that lobbyists donate to campaigns and congressmen earmark government money back to the donor. It is a corruption that good congressmen cannot avoid. Campaign contributions from lobbyists is bad for several reasons: - It persuades congressman to vote in ways that the lobbying donors want them to vote - It forces congressman to spend half of their time fundraising when they should be focusing on bills - Even if the congressman agrees entirely with the lobbyist, it forces him to focus on the issues that are important to the lobbyist and at least partially ignore constituent issues - While lobbyists don't change congress's vote on major issues, congressmen only run for office on platforms of two or three issues. On other more obscure issues lobbyists can persuade them to vote their way"

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scot

    I can't say I share much in the way of political perspective with the author and thus found myself often disagreeing with his analysis, but there's a lot of common ground in terms of values here, and Republic Lost makes some important points and makes them well. I particularly appreciated the sweep of history that he covers. While one must read between the lines to draw out the connection between racist backlash against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement to the current crisis in our economy I can't say I share much in the way of political perspective with the author and thus found myself often disagreeing with his analysis, but there's a lot of common ground in terms of values here, and Republic Lost makes some important points and makes them well. I particularly appreciated the sweep of history that he covers. While one must read between the lines to draw out the connection between racist backlash against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement to the current crisis in our economy to the corrupt state of our politics, it's all there and presented in a way that I found refreshingly different than much of what is being written on the left about the same subject matter. Nice to see a new twist on an old story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peter Kahn

    A must read. Lessig clearly states the problem of Congressional addiction to fundraising, shows its impact on our government's ability to meet the needs of citizens and describes how we can fix the problem. His analogy of addiction is powerful and useful. If you are on the right or the left and feel unserved by your government, read this book. If you are part of the 99% and want to know how to return to a government that listens to you, read this book. If you are part of the 1% (I could use a loan A must read. Lessig clearly states the problem of Congressional addiction to fundraising, shows its impact on our government's ability to meet the needs of citizens and describes how we can fix the problem. His analogy of addiction is powerful and useful. If you are on the right or the left and feel unserved by your government, read this book. If you are part of the 99% and want to know how to return to a government that listens to you, read this book. If you are part of the 1% (I could use a loan) and understand that your undo influence doesn't lead to the best solutions, read this book. This is a very worthy read and not just a make-me-wiser-and-less-happy book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Luaba

    Professor Lessig present is both problems and solutions in such a concise and precise way, shows how great he is as communicated and share his knowledge. An easy read and an important one at that, specially in these day and age. With the 99% demanding changes on Wall St. this book could be the methods by which we bring the changes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt McMahon

    This book should come with a warning that you will never look at American Politics the same after reading. Professor Lessig does a wonderful job at making a complicated subject easy to understand with riveting examples. He pinpoints what could be considered the greatest threat to the freedom of ordinary American's and gives suggestions to correct it. A must read!!!!! This book should come with a warning that you will never look at American Politics the same after reading. Professor Lessig does a wonderful job at making a complicated subject easy to understand with riveting examples. He pinpoints what could be considered the greatest threat to the freedom of ordinary American's and gives suggestions to correct it. A must read!!!!!

  20. 5 out of 5

    C. Scott

    Tremendous... it's rare that I agree so much with what I'm reading. Lessig does a terrific job of illuminating how money warps the American system of government. I agree that this is one of the most pressing problem's of our time and share his hope that we the people can do something about it. Tremendous... it's rare that I agree so much with what I'm reading. Lessig does a terrific job of illuminating how money warps the American system of government. I agree that this is one of the most pressing problem's of our time and share his hope that we the people can do something about it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    “we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it” ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 39“We have lost somethin “we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it” ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 39“We have lost something profoundly important to the future of this republic. We must find a way to get it back.” ~ Lawrence LessigAmericans are not happy with their government. Congress’ approval rating is at an all time low. The usual reason given for this high level of dissatisfaction is partisan gridlock, the perceived inability of Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass important, or any, legislation; a “do nothing” Congress where members of the opposition party are self-righteous and mean-spirited, thwarting the high ideals and good intentions of one’s own party. Seemingly, for the average citizen, it is this attitude that fuels ill will toward politicians, and voter disaffection. But there is also the judgment among many that politicians are doing the bidding of the rich and powerful for their own selfish ends and at the expense of their constituents’ best interests. For Lawrence Lessig this is a malignancy that is at the heart of the nation’s troubles and is, more ominously, a threat to the republican ideals of the Founders and the future of our representative democracy. Partisan bickering has been a feature of our politics since the beginning, and will no doubt remain so, but the indirect yet unconcealed use of political influence as a source of funding for electoral campaigns, effected by lobbyist middlemen, is a recent, and with regard to the conduct of the peoples’ business, a crippling phenomenon. Republic, Lost examines this state of affairs and offers strategies to put a stop to it.Voters elect their representatives with the expectation that their concerns will be addressed within the halls of Congress. It is to be rightly assumed that Senators and Representatives will look out for the interests and concerns of the citizens of the state that elected them, and of the nation as a whole, and in the process honor the Constitution they swore to support and defend. This was certainly the intent of the Founders. Mr. Lessig quotes Mr. Madison in Federalist No. 57: “the House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.”* Lessig adds, “This is the work of sophisticated constitutional architects all aimed at a single end: to establish and protect a link between Congress and ‘the People alone.’ A link. A Dependency. A dependency sufficiently strong to ensure the independence of the institution.” This dependency is key to the author’s assertion of a corrupt Congress. If that dependency shifts away from the people, if the independence of Congress is thus compromised, this perhaps is indicative of a corrupt institution, one certainly that has lost its republican principles. Lessig refers to this as “dependence corruption” to distinguish it from the more venal, and outright illegal, forms.Money, money, money; it takes huge sums of the stuff to run for public office. You and I quite simply can’t pony up; we’re broke. It’s got to come from someone (or somewhere) else. Fortunately for members, and aspiring members, of Congress, America is still the land of opportunity, populated with buyers and sellers, and overpopulated with middlemen. Politicians need money to fund their campaigns. CEOs and financiers and fat cats of every stripe crave influence over the doings of Congress. K Street is happy to act as intermediary, for a price. Politicians can get their campaigns funded with an expectation that, should the campaign be successful, the funders may wish to have a chat. No quid pro quo. Not a bribe. Nothing so crass as that and certainly nothing illegal. It is, as Lessig describes it, a gift economy. He writes, “A gift economy is a series of exchanges between two of more souls who never pretend to equate one exchange to another, but who also don’t pretend that reciprocating is unimportant—an economy in the sense that it marks repeated interactions over time, but a gift economy in the sense that it doesn’t liquidate the relationships in terms of cash.” In other words, this is “the gift that keeps on giving”. And it is enough to induce in the members of Congress a forgetfulness of their dependence on the people.That sets out the dependence component of “dependence corruption”. What of the corruption part? Lessig is at pains to advance the notion that members of Congress are, in the very most part, honest, sincere, dedicated and hard working. These are not bad people behaving badly. The ethics may be a bit stretched but not intentionally so. Lessig again, “[P]ractically every single member of Congress is not just someone who seems decent. Practically every single member of Congress is decent. These are people who entered public life for the best possible reasons. They believe in what they do. They make enormous sacrifices in order to do what they do. They give us confidence, despite the fact that they work in an institution that has lost the public’s confidence.”The problem then is not one of personal malfeasance but instead institutional breakdown. The corruption is systemic. It is a product of the manner in which contemporary political campaigns are conducted. To get and keep one’s job as a Senator or Representative, one has no choice but to accede to the demands of incessant fundraising. Those seeking or brokering influence take advantage and the system obliges. The institution of Congress becomes corrupt because the focus of Congress shifts away from its primary business, that of serving the people. Republic, Lost details a set of proximate causes and the many adverse consequences of this state of affairs, but the net result is that everyone loses except the wealthy and powerful. Democracy itself is corrupted. We have become a plutocracy in fact. Republic lost indeed!The big question then becomes what can we do to regain our lost republic? Lessig suggests four strategies. The first of these involves a change in election law. The Fair Elections Now Act (currently House bill H.R.1404.IH and Senate bill S.750.IS), which is similar to “clean election” laws in several states and municipalities, would provide for public funding of a candidate’s campaign in exchange for certain restrictions on private fundraising. Strategy 1 is passage of the Fair Elections Now Act. Lessig discounts the probability of that happening in the current political environment because those charged with passing it, your Senators and Representatives, and the special interest lobbyists on whom they depend, benefit enormously from the status quo. Strategies 2 through 4 suggest plans of action to circumvent congressional reluctance to bring about Strategy 1.On Election Day those voters who support the idea of clean elections may wish to elect a candidate who will back the Fair Elections Now Act. Lessig’s second strategy, which he calls “peaceful terrorism”, is a tactic to stand such a candidate for Congress. This candidate would run in several districts (permissible under the Constitution) against incumbent candidates; must be a prominent but disinterested citizen, not a politician; and must “remain in the race so long as the incumbent does not commit publicly to supporting citizen-owned elections”. That is, the candidate’s sole purpose is to provide a challenge to incumbent candidates who have shown opposition or lack of commitment to the Fair Elections Now Act or other clean election efforts and force a reversal, at which time the candidate will withdraw from the race. These citizen-candidates would be non-politicians playing a political game. There are at least three possible outcomes from Strategy 2. Voters seldom take single-issue candidates seriously and the candidate’s non-politician status will only reinforce this predilection. The astute incumbent will use this to his advantage. If the challenger is not perceived as a thoughtful and committed future member of Congress, willing to tackle all the issues that that job entails, then the wary voter is not likely to assent, and the risk to the incumbent is neutralized. The second possible outcome has the challenger actually wining the election. Now what? Part of the candidate’s commitment was to be “a disinterested citizen whose only objective is to change the system” and not have “the objective of becoming a congressman or other politician.” What we need least of all are public officials who are not fully committed to their constituents. (This is an even bigger issue when considering Strategy 3 below.) The third possible outcome would be the intended one. The incumbent changes her tune and the “peaceful terrorist” goes home. Lessig gives this strategy about a 5% chance of success. Small reward for what needs be a considerable effort.The third strategy is a corollary of the second, this time involving the presidential race. According to this strategy, the ideal candidate for the White House, again a non-politician, would pledge if elected to “hold Congress hostage until it passes fundamental reform” and “resign once that reform is enacted.” In Lessig’s imagination this commitment would put any challengers on the defensive and encourage the opposition party to adopt an identical strategy. The American public being fully engaged in the ensuing debate and hungry for reform would overwhelmingly approve. Both parties would acquiesce to voter sentiment, and we would, in the end, elect an instant lame duck president. (I have, of course, left out many important details of this bizarre plan. I will leave it to the interested reader to suss these out.) This strategy presents the same problems as Strategy 2. Will the electorate support a single-issue candidate for president, especially one that does not intent to fulfill the duties of that office? Will the opposition party really promote a like candidate or will they use the shortcomings of this strategy to their advantage? But the most important pitfall of Strategy 3 is that it involves what is universally regarded as the “most powerful office in the world”. I think that the American people would recognize that to trifle with the presidency in such a way in a time of global chaos would be deeply irresponsible. To leave the world in the lurch while we play domestic political games is dangerous business. Lessig briefly touches on this issue but does not resolve it satisfactorily. But there is another related matter that must be addressed. Regardless of the occupant, the Office of the President of the United States commands respect. To put it to such a use would be regarded by many, most I think, as demeaning. The respect that the presidency engenders is an important national asset that when lost, as history has shown, weakens the president’s authority and may portend grave consequences. That is a high price for any reform. There must be a better way.Finally, Strategy 4 invokes the untested convention clause of the Constitution. Article V provides two alternatives for proposing amendments to the Constitution. The first, which has been used successfully twenty-seven times when you include the Bill of Rights, requires a two-thirds approval of the House. The second option, which has never been utilized, requires two-thirds of the states to call for a constitutional convention. In either case an amendment doesn’t become part of the Constitution until ratified by three fourths of the states. The Constitution was itself a product of a constitutional convention whose stated purpose was to amend the Articles of Confederation, the original organizing document of the United States, but whose efforts instead resulted in an entirely original and, one should add, enduring federal government. That the founders did not restrict themselves to the stated purpose of their convention should give us pause. Nobody knows where a new constitutional convention would take us. Thomas Jefferson believed that a constitution should be a generational document, a concept that is still a subject of debate. Perhaps the times are ripe for the current generation to revisit our Constitution with an eye toward fixing its perceived flaws or, taking Mr. Jefferson’s famous words to heart, altering or abolishing it. Perhaps not! Except for the example of the current document itself this is unexplored territory. And that example suggests caution; that it worked out well the first time is no guarantee. We live in different times and liberty is still a point of contention. Lessig addresses these concerns and for that I refer you to his book.Mr. Lessig’s deep anxiety over the current state of our politics is nothing if not sincere. And he has obviously given his four strategies a great deal of thought. But are they feasible? He freely admits that none are likely to succeed on their own. But I think he misses the most obvious and realistic strategy. The consent of the governed is the foundational philosophy of our republic. The vote is the most powerful tool each of us has to ensure that consent. (In a recent essay I outlined some ideas about how to make the most effective use one’s vote.) On Election Day you and I get to do the hiring and firing of our elective office holders. Each of the strategies outlined above would require a huge effort on the part of many in and out of government. Consider instead one humongous grassroots effort to simply vote out of office any member of Congress who has not made a high priority commitment to passage of the Fair Elections Now Act. Give all incumbents the boot unless their support for clean elections is already on record. Put all challengers on notice that campaign reform is not just an issue, it is the issue. If our Senators and Representatives start losing their jobs because they refuse to address this issue with complete and unreserved seriousness then perhaps the message will finally sink in. The threat of a pink slip is powerful incentive. No successful challenger is likely to second-guess the voter knowing that her predecessor’s career was cut short because of opposition or indifference to reform. There are many examples to follow to make this a successful grassroots effort. Rock the Vote, MoveOn.org, the Occupy Movement, the Tea Party, even the Arab Spring provide contemporary models. Unlike Lawrence Lessig’s top-down strategies, involving as they do political party deal-making, stifled candidates and constitutional tinkering, a voter revolt would be bottom-up, a revolution of and by the people.First things first. The consent of the governed. If we the people could bring about campaign reform using the power of the vote Mr. Madison would be proud. As I’m sure would Mr. Lessig. * Until 1913, when the 17th Amendment was ratified, Senators were appointed by each state’s legislature.

  22. 5 out of 5

    The Bean of

    Great content, mediocre writing and delivery. Some quotes: "Let’s start with the numbers.15 In 2014, 5.4 million Americans gave at least something to any congressional campaign or political party or PAC. That’s about 1.75 percent of America. But of that 5.4 million, the top 100 gave almost as much as the bottom 4.75 million.16 The top 100 individuals and organizations gave 60 percent of the super PAC money given." (p. 15). "So if we assume that $5,200 is not too low, if we assume it is a good me Great content, mediocre writing and delivery. Some quotes: "Let’s start with the numbers.15 In 2014, 5.4 million Americans gave at least something to any congressional campaign or political party or PAC. That’s about 1.75 percent of America. But of that 5.4 million, the top 100 gave almost as much as the bottom 4.75 million.16 The top 100 individuals and organizations gave 60 percent of the super PAC money given." (p. 15). "So if we assume that $5,200 is not too low, if we assume it is a good measure of how much you must give to matter to the candidates as they spend their time dialing for dollars, then we can identify the number of Americans who matter, in this way, in our democracy. In 2014, that number was 57,854. That is, 57,854 gave the equivalent of $5,200 to candidates running for Congress. 57,854 is .02 percent of America. .02 percent. You remember that number, right? .02 percent is the percentage of Hong Kong citizens that China said could sit on Hong Kong’s “nominating committee.” (p. 16). "And the struggle of ideals that is the story of America is the fight to achieve equality when inequality is finally recognized. Some always saw the inequality as inequality. Eventually, everyone came to recognize what only some originally saw. Yet the equality of citizens is an equality that our Framers saw then, but that we have forgotten now." (p. 22). "As Theda Skocpol has quipped, “Early United States may have been not so much a country with a post office as a post office that gave popular reality to a fledgling nation.” (p. 42). "In 1971, Hacker and Pierson report, there were just 175 firms with registered lobbyists in DC. Eleven years later, there were almost 2,500.98 In 2009, there were 13,700 registered lobbyists." (p. 102). "Suppose a special interest group contributes $2,000 to the stronger of two candidates in exchange for its support, while threatening to contribute $10,000 to her opponent if that support is denied. This $2,000 equilibrium contribution… can induce the same level of support from that candidate that a $12,000 would in a traditional bilateral contracting setting." (p. 120). "This is shape-shifting. It may well be unlikely that a lobbyist would waste his time trying to get a member to flip. There’s too much pride and self-respect in the system for that. There’s too much of an opportunity to be punished. But if a lobbyist is important, or influential over sources of campaign contributions, then the effect of her influence could well be felt ex ante: a member could take a position on a particular issue in anticipation of the need to secure that lobbyist’s support." (p. 135). "For income gains between 1979 and 2005, the top 0.1 percent received over 20 percent of all gains, while the bottom 60 percent received only 13.5 percent" (p. 143). "The question is not whether Congress sometimes gets it right, any more than the question with an alcoholic bus driver is whether he sometimes drives sober. The question is why we allow Congress so often to get it wrong." (p. 150) Gordon Wood "When the American Whigs described the English nation and government as eaten away by “corruption,” they were in fact using a technical term of political science, rooted in the writings of classical antiquity, made famous by Machiavelli, developed by the classical republicans of seventeenth-century England, and carried into the eighteenth century by nearly everyone who laid claim to knowing anything about politics." (p. 248).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ollie

    Republic, Lost was a book that’s been on my watchlist for years. I don’t know exactly how I became interested in it but I’m kind of disappointed I never got around to it until now. Maybe Lawrence Lessig was on the Daily Show back in the day and I thought I’d check it out? But anyway, it took just a few pages (or a few dozen) for me to realize what an essential book this is for anyone interested in American politics and why American democracy is at risk. Now, unfortunately Republic, Lost has that Republic, Lost was a book that’s been on my watchlist for years. I don’t know exactly how I became interested in it but I’m kind of disappointed I never got around to it until now. Maybe Lawrence Lessig was on the Daily Show back in the day and I thought I’d check it out? But anyway, it took just a few pages (or a few dozen) for me to realize what an essential book this is for anyone interested in American politics and why American democracy is at risk. Now, unfortunately Republic, Lost has that annoying sub-header that tries to tell you what to think. I’m talking of course about the part that says “How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It.” Maybe it was recommended by the publisher? Anyway, it’s just barely a giveaway, but it is accurate in summarizing what this book is about. And Republic, Lost is just that. Lessig was (apparently) a right wing economist who has since moved to the left, and this book is a meticulous and interestingly written dissection of all the ways money has corrupted the interests of congresspeople. Money in congress has been a fact from the very beginning, and with time it’s only gotten worse. With Citizens United, there is now no limit to the amount of money lobbyists can donate to a candidate so it’s easy to understand who’s going to win out in a battle of interests. Lessig actually makes an effort to see it from the congresspeople’s perspective: how raising money is what most of their bandwidth is dedicated to because campaigning is so ruthless. Also, Lessig portrays congresspeople as dummies who need direction about what the issues are and they rely on lobbyists to inform them on how to solve these problems. Most of them are good people, but they have limited access to information. With so many people and organizations vying for attention, sometimes congresspeople have no choice but to triage. And who gets preferential treatment? Those who’ve donated the most. The US government is basically a slave to big corporations because money is so important to the elections. Lessig is nice enough to stick it to Obama as well and explains the handout he gave the insurance companies when planning the Affordable Health Care act (not to mention him going back on his promise of being hard on wall street). So really, it’s clear that there are no Democrats and Republicans, but the Money Party with slight differences. The only weakness in Republic, Lost is when Lessig tries to provide solutions to this problems. He is so stuck on doing this by the book and constitutionally and meticulously probes the document for complicated avenues that maybe he doesn’t understand that most people don’t really care about the constitution that much or don’t understand it. Also, Bernie’s campaign might be an example showing that a populist movement that’s legitimate might be all we need. He didn’t win, of course, but he got close. I like Republic, Lost so much that I’m willing to let the last 90 pages of boring constitution-under-a-microscope slide. The rest of this book is expertly written, clearly presented, and really gets at the heart of an important issue that effects everyone in this country. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    I've long been a believer that there is a great deal of fundamental corruption in our federal government (and state government as well). I was an enthusiastic supporter of people like Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and most recently Bernie Sanders, because of this concern. I think this problem is a root cause of many of the ills we see in politics, the lack of action on critically important issues, a problem (along with redistricting reform) that must be addressed before we can have any hope for I've long been a believer that there is a great deal of fundamental corruption in our federal government (and state government as well). I was an enthusiastic supporter of people like Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and most recently Bernie Sanders, because of this concern. I think this problem is a root cause of many of the ills we see in politics, the lack of action on critically important issues, a problem (along with redistricting reform) that must be addressed before we can have any hope for change in our politics, a problem far more important than the success of any political candidate or party. I've read quite a number of very good works making this claim. *Republic, Lost* is by far the best I've yet read. Lessig argues his case rationally and simply, building from point to point in language accessible to the average citizen. He is empathic to the perspective of both sides of the political fence (or all three, if you count the libertarians he addresses), pointing issues of concern at turns to both liberals and conservatives. While very critical of the system, his statements are very sympathetic to the people who have accepted or embraced the system (more than I personally think they merit, but good for trying to persuade all sides). He covers a number of ways that this corruption distorts the political process that I hadn't considered before. The solution he offers is very compelling. It addresses most of the concerns I've ever heard over reform of campaign financing. Lessig admits that it might not be a magic solution to everything involving money and corruption, but he makes a very good case for it being a potentially consequential improvement, one that could continue to be refined over time. (as an aside, though he doesn't bother to suggest it should be part of the solution, knowing it would be very unpopular, he makes a very interesting case for significantly increasing compensation for elected officials and bureaucrats.) Recognizing that we cannot hope for the people who are enmeshed in the system to enact such changes, Lessig proposes a series of steps to implement this change through non-traditional means (what he calls "peaceful terrorism"): from running citizen candidates (not "politicians") in both party primaries and general elections--congressional and presidential--to calling for a constitutional convention to propose the necessary constitutional amendment. He does not don rose-colored glasses in his proposal: he is realistic about the chances of this working in the near future. But he ends with a very emotional and poignant plea to engage in the cause in spite of the uphill battle ahead, because it is necessary to win back a Republic--a representative democracy dependent on the people *alone.*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mcclure

    I knew going into this book that it would be preaching to the choir. I hoped, though, to gain some better insight into the nature of the problem, rather than the fact of its existence, and that hope was certainly met and exceeded. Lessig thoroughly makes the case for and defends the central thesis of the book, drawing on examples and citations from numerous sources across the political spectrum and mixing it with his own particular breed of expertise and experience. He also does so without vilif I knew going into this book that it would be preaching to the choir. I hoped, though, to gain some better insight into the nature of the problem, rather than the fact of its existence, and that hope was certainly met and exceeded. Lessig thoroughly makes the case for and defends the central thesis of the book, drawing on examples and citations from numerous sources across the political spectrum and mixing it with his own particular breed of expertise and experience. He also does so without vilifying Left or Right, which speaks to just how pervasive and insidious the problem is. He's up front about his own political leanings on a given issue, but he always sets those leanings aside to drive home just how large a bipartisan a threat the money-driven influence in the legislature has become. While much of how Lessig presents the text contributes to it being a good, informative, disquieting read, it also prevents it from being a great one. There were numerous occasions throughout where it felt like Lessig was simply repeating himself, using different sentence or paragraph formulations to say the same thing as the previous sentence or paragraph, without actually clarifying or augmenting that predecessor point. When these instances arose, it made for laborious rather than captivating reading. It left me wondering if there's something Lessig has come to know from speaking to people in many different walks of life about various matters of public policy that gives rise to this pattern of repetition. Perhaps for some readers, what I perceive as repeated presentations of the same statement or conclusion will instead build to a single point that might not have otherwise clicked without those multiple approaches.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    If I were coming to this book as an introduction to the problem of corruption in politics, I would have absolutely loved it. It's thorough, logical and well-argued. As it is, however, I'm a long-time singer in the choir of political corruption, maybe even as high-ranking as 1st tenor. This made the first 3/4 of the book overly familiar. The last quarter, comprised of a notably elaborate solutions section, made it a valuable read nonetheless. I have two major takeaways: 1) a constitutional convent If I were coming to this book as an introduction to the problem of corruption in politics, I would have absolutely loved it. It's thorough, logical and well-argued. As it is, however, I'm a long-time singer in the choir of political corruption, maybe even as high-ranking as 1st tenor. This made the first 3/4 of the book overly familiar. The last quarter, comprised of a notably elaborate solutions section, made it a valuable read nonetheless. I have two major takeaways: 1) a constitutional convention is essentially the only thing that will allow us to rid politics of corrupting money, and 2) my dear old slogan to #EndCorporatePersonhood is sadly irrelevant, given that speech protection is not currently reserved only for people. This isn't to say that we couldn't simultaneously amend the constitution to a) define speech as specific to persons and also b) that corporations are not people. . . but my slogan isn't the cure-all I used to imagine. Overall, this is an important book in that it basically consists of an extremely intelligent Harvard-educated law professor brainstorming ideas on how to legislate against corruption. People who are novices to the discussion will get a lot more out of it, though professionals in the field can still take advantage of the solutions section. Not Bad Reviews @pointblaek

  27. 4 out of 5

    Grommit

    Ever wonder why Congress can get nothing done? Especially on issues that seem to make perfect sense. The answer is MONEY. Take a peek at this book: a careful explanation of how money influences our government. The author takes the professorial approach: lays out the facts and lets us decide whether money speaks louder than any one of us. The approaches have varied a bit over the decades. Currently, the famous (infamous?) K-Street lobbyists lead the charge. The funny part is that there are lobbyi Ever wonder why Congress can get nothing done? Especially on issues that seem to make perfect sense. The answer is MONEY. Take a peek at this book: a careful explanation of how money influences our government. The author takes the professorial approach: lays out the facts and lets us decide whether money speaks louder than any one of us. The approaches have varied a bit over the decades. Currently, the famous (infamous?) K-Street lobbyists lead the charge. The funny part is that there are lobbyists offering campaign contributions for BOTH sides of an issue. Consider: 50% of former Senators are lobbyists, making significantly more than what they earned as Senators. 42% of former House representatives are lobbyists. And staffers, who made little during their tenure, they too make lots more as lobbyists. Example issue: There are some policies that are supposed to "sunset" after a few years. But lobbyists fight hard to extend the sunset. After all, the policy was good for 2 years, why not extend it? Lobbyist contributions extend the sunset. Again and again...for more cash to campaigns. So, what I learned is to ask "who benefits financially from xyz issue?" Sadly, the lobbyist promising the most cash is going to win the issue. Sad.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It proposes that the United States Congress has become corrupted by money. However, Lessig suggests that this corruption of Congress is not of the quid pro quo variety, affecting the Members of Congress themselves--Lessig seems to believe that most Members of Congress get elected with sincere intentions. Rather, Lessig suggests that the corruption is of the institution of Congress itself. Lessig proposes a set of r Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It proposes that the United States Congress has become corrupted by money. However, Lessig suggests that this corruption of Congress is not of the quid pro quo variety, affecting the Members of Congress themselves--Lessig seems to believe that most Members of Congress get elected with sincere intentions. Rather, Lessig suggests that the corruption is of the institution of Congress itself. Lessig proposes a set of reforms that he believes are consistent with the intent of the First Amendment. While the amount of money flowing into national elections is troublesome, it's unclear how it exactly affects priorities. Lessig makes an intriguing case; however, it's not entirely clear whether his proposals would solve the problem.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    ~60% of our electorate thinks the system is broken in favor of the wealthy and 67% of people think the system is working for them - these statistics, and many others pointed out by Lessig, are fundamentally at odds. As he puts it, we are all equal just those with money are more equal in the days leading up to elections. Great read - dense, packed with thorough research and insightful thinking.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    The strongest aspect of this book is that it covers every single aspect of campaign finance. The weakest aspect of this book is that it covers every single aspect of campaign finance. After reading it, no activist would have an excuse for failing to persuade the resistant. But the bloatedness of many chapters will likely repel curious readers.

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