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The American political system has been foundationally weakened by a corrupt campaign funding system, creating a dangerously unstable and inequitable design that could destroy our republic — if we let it. In Le$terland: The Corruption of Congress and How To End It, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes on the deep flaws in our campaign finance system and lays out a pl The American political system has been foundationally weakened by a corrupt campaign funding system, creating a dangerously unstable and inequitable design that could destroy our republic — if we let it. In Le$terland: The Corruption of Congress and How To End It, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes on the deep flaws in our campaign finance system and lays out a plan for fixing it. Lessig describes a place called Lesterland, a fictional land with a population of 311 million people of whom the 144,000, or 0.05 percent, named Lester are the people really in charge. It’s the United States, of course, and Lesters are the people who fund the election. Lessig notes that just 132 Americans gave 60 percent of the SuperPAC money spent in the election cycle. It’s these few, he says, who are our Lesters, and our dependence on them is perverting the democracy of the country. After all, if candidates have to spend 30 to 70 percent of their time trying to raise funds to get back to Congress, which they do, might that not affect their principles, their beliefs, their ideals, and what they’re prepared to fight for on behalf of the people? It's time to change the system. Here's how.


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The American political system has been foundationally weakened by a corrupt campaign funding system, creating a dangerously unstable and inequitable design that could destroy our republic — if we let it. In Le$terland: The Corruption of Congress and How To End It, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes on the deep flaws in our campaign finance system and lays out a pl The American political system has been foundationally weakened by a corrupt campaign funding system, creating a dangerously unstable and inequitable design that could destroy our republic — if we let it. In Le$terland: The Corruption of Congress and How To End It, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes on the deep flaws in our campaign finance system and lays out a plan for fixing it. Lessig describes a place called Lesterland, a fictional land with a population of 311 million people of whom the 144,000, or 0.05 percent, named Lester are the people really in charge. It’s the United States, of course, and Lesters are the people who fund the election. Lessig notes that just 132 Americans gave 60 percent of the SuperPAC money spent in the election cycle. It’s these few, he says, who are our Lesters, and our dependence on them is perverting the democracy of the country. After all, if candidates have to spend 30 to 70 percent of their time trying to raise funds to get back to Congress, which they do, might that not affect their principles, their beliefs, their ideals, and what they’re prepared to fight for on behalf of the people? It's time to change the system. Here's how.

30 review for Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It by Lawrence Lessig "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It" is a compelling plea for action. It's a concise explanation on the nature of corruption in Congress today, and what we can do as citizens to correct it. Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig provides the readers with a very good complementary piece to his TED Talk on this very important topic. This provocative 102-page book include Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It by Lawrence Lessig "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It" is a compelling plea for action. It's a concise explanation on the nature of corruption in Congress today, and what we can do as citizens to correct it. Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig provides the readers with a very good complementary piece to his TED Talk on this very important topic. This provocative 102-page book includes the following unnumbered chapters: Lesterland, Worse, Corrupt, Known and Ignored, Fixes, Farm Leagues, How, [email protected], Possible, and Great. orgs you can help now. Positives: 1. A well-written succinct narrative. Lessig is engaging and provides strong support for his arguments. 2. An important topic that Lessig masters. A fair and even-handed treatment. 3. An excellent complement to Lessig's TED Talk on this very subject. This succinct book serves to fill some of the gaps. 4. Establishing the foundation of "Lesterland" as a democracy. The three things to see now. 5. Excellent use of facts to support arguments. "The average amount raised by winning Senate candidates was $10.4 million; losing candidates raised $7.7 million." 6. Enlightening information. "Members of Congress and candidates for Congress spend anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or get their party back to power." 7. Interesting history. "But the House, as Madison described in Federalist 52, was to be 'dependent on the people alone'." 8. The spotlight on the "Funders". "Our Lesters, the Funders, use their power to advance their own private good." 9. Examples of Funders using private interest over the public good. 10. Defining who the Funders truly are. "The Funders are the cronies in the epithet of 'crony capitalism'." 11. Putting Congress in perspective. "The United States Congress is not filled with criminals. The United States Congress is filled with people who have allowed a system of influence to develop that has corrupted the institution they have the honor to serve." 12. Understanding our political system. A Republic, "representative democracy". 13. The important issue of funding campaigns. "The existing system for funding campaigns tilts Congress away from a simpler tax system -- in part because complexity makes it easier to raise money." 14. The root of the problem. "Corruption is thus the root that all of us must strike at, if we're ever to achieve any progress against the many 'branches of evil.'" 15. A concise plea for action, "we cannot ignore the corruption anymore. We need a government that works." 16. Pragmatic fixes. "We solve the problem by embracing 'citizen-funded elections'." 17. Exposing life after government. 18. The keys to change. "Every fundamental change has happened when the proponents have found a way to unite the country across political divisions." 19. Lessig does a good job of providing readers with tools to a path forward. 20. Solid endnotes. Negatives: 1. Does not link endnotes. 2. No formal separate bibliography. 3. Though succinct it is repetitive. 4. Tables, charts would have added value. 5. It seems to me that President Obama has tried in vain to find common ground with Congress but has failed to make any progress. Lessig doesn't address this at all. In summary, an excellent complement to his excellent TED Talk on "Corruption in Congress and How to Fix It". Lessig is an engaging author and has great command of the topic. His arguments are provocative but well-grounded. He makes it very clear what has corrupted Congress and what we can do as ordinary citizens to fix it. Watch the TED Talk and proceed to fill the gaps with this solid complement, I recommend it. Further suggestions: "Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It" by the same author, "The Price of Inequality" by Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Corporations Are Not People" by Jeffrey D. Clements, "Double Down: Game Change 2012" by Mark Halperin, "Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (Studies in Postwar American Political Development)" by Geoffrey Kabaservice, "That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing" by Michael Austin, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism" by Thomas E. Mann, "Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't" by Robert G. Kaiser, and "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    It's a wonderful manifesto-like book(ette) about political corruption in the U.S. But NOT quid pro quo (e.g. cash in a brown bag under the table to a Senator) corruption. Professor Lessig uses "Lesterland" to illustrate a second type of corruption: "dependence corruption". Lesterland is like the U.S., a representative democracy. In Lesterland elections, there is first a primary in which only people named "Lester" can vote; Lesters constitute .05% of the population. After this "Lester primary", th It's a wonderful manifesto-like book(ette) about political corruption in the U.S. But NOT quid pro quo (e.g. cash in a brown bag under the table to a Senator) corruption. Professor Lessig uses "Lesterland" to illustrate a second type of corruption: "dependence corruption". Lesterland is like the U.S., a representative democracy. In Lesterland elections, there is first a primary in which only people named "Lester" can vote; Lesters constitute .05% of the population. After this "Lester primary", there is a general election in which everyone can vote. At this point, Lessig argues that the U.S. is Lesterland. The first primary is the "money primary" in which candidates need to do extremely well (although not necessarily win) to compete in the general election. Using data from the Federal Elections Commission, Lessig shows that the number of relevant Funders in American politics is At Most .05%. So The Funders = The Lesters. Except it's worse. The Funders are not randomly chosen from the population like the Lesters. In fact, they are much, much wealthier than almost everyone, and spend money to advance their private interests. Because the elected officials need to do well in the "money primary", they bend slightly towards The Funders' positions on issues. Not necessarily on front page issues, but on the below-the-radar ones, e.g., tax breaks, subsidies. Lessig terms this type of improper dependency "dependence corruption". Again, Not a quid pro quo type corruption, in which dollars are directly exchanged for specific legislative actions, but one in which Congress becomes dependent on two sets of people: The Funders (first) and The People (second). These dependencies are competing and thus corrupting if The Funders' interests are not identical with those of the People. This divergence isn't difficult to show. These competing dependencies are a problem if, as e.g. The Federalist states, Congress should be dependent on The People Alone. The book(ette) is a follow-up to his TED talk, here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_les... It's well written and especially well researched (fascinating endnotes).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Irizarry

    Great read. Puts today's issues of America into a understandable and clear narrative. Must read for everyone!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Felipe Borges

    This is one of these books which tell you things you already knew but were somehow "disconnected" from each other. The author manages to subtly portray the American political environment tieing it all up. It is "a trigger to get you to recollect what you have already recognized a million times over", in the writer's words. As a non-US citizen living outside the US I have come to feel that crony corruption is a global problem. Professor Lawrence Lessig could easily replace "Le$terland" with most This is one of these books which tell you things you already knew but were somehow "disconnected" from each other. The author manages to subtly portray the American political environment tieing it all up. It is "a trigger to get you to recollect what you have already recognized a million times over", in the writer's words. As a non-US citizen living outside the US I have come to feel that crony corruption is a global problem. Professor Lawrence Lessig could easily replace "Le$terland" with most of the world's republics -- I can guarantee my country (Brazil) would be on the list. It is astonishing to notice that the per capita influence of the top 1% of American voters is more than 10 times the per capita influence of the bottom 99%, and that, once again, you could replace "American voters" with " voters". Targeting ilegal corruption is not enough. The legal corruption lies on the root of our congresses. A congress which depends upon extorting the targets of its regulation to help it fund its campaigns has little interest in reducing the number of targets for its extortion. We, "the people", have that influence only after "The Funders" have had their way with the candidates who wish to run in the voting election. A pivotal point raised by the author is that every fundamental change has happened when the proponents have found a way to unite the country across political divisions. That's what we should do now as well; globally! o/* The writer makes it clear that the most dangerous dynamic in capitalism is the one in which capitalists use their power over politics to protect themselves from the next generation of capitalists. When they use government to protect themselves from competition (and that's not "liberal mythology"). :) The hardest struggle is to convince people that corruption is a root. Quoting the author: "Thirty-second ads on TV don't change the way people think about an issue so fundamental". We need to become comfortable defending our own political views but welcoming and encouraging others.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Sleeman

    “Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It” by Lawrence Lessig was my first TED e-book. While the book starts off very, very slowly with a much belabored (to the point of almost making me give up on the book after only 40 pages) comparison of ‘Lesterland’ and the United States. I actually found myself talking back to my Nook‘YES, I GET IT, COULD WE PLEASE MOVE ON?’ Happily the work does eventually take off and readers who stick with it will, once Lessig gets into the meat of his p “Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It” by Lawrence Lessig was my first TED e-book. While the book starts off very, very slowly with a much belabored (to the point of almost making me give up on the book after only 40 pages) comparison of ‘Lesterland’ and the United States. I actually found myself talking back to my Nook‘YES, I GET IT, COULD WE PLEASE MOVE ON?’ Happily the work does eventually take off and readers who stick with it will, once Lessig gets into the meat of his position, be glad they did so. There are so many fantastic ideas and connections in this work that I wonder that it is not required reading in the various civics initiatives that are so popular now (hey ALA this means you) If not, this book should be as Lessig’s ideas on ending the corruption of our national government (though his concerns could easily be applied at the state and local levels as well) are exciting and provocative. “Lesterland’ is a challenging read but it proves itself to be well worth the effort. One aspect of Lessig’s approach that I found interesting was his call to go beyond our familiar comfort zone in reaching out to others to proclaim the gospel of anti-corruption. His arguments were the same ones that are often heard in mainline Protestant churches when it comes to reaching out to “unbelievers” or, in this situation, those who may hold political viewpoints different from our own. Lessig of course sees his approach as a ‘republican’ revolution or perhaps a ‘re-revolution’ but it could easily have been cast as a Christian call to evangelize. He doesn’t seem to make a connection there – either purposefully or otherwise – between a religious view of good government and his solely secular approach, which is too bad. One small quibble about the book itself – it was very disappointing to not have the references hyper-linked in the text. This is easily done and I hope that other TED books do so.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Koby

    This books is about the corruption within politics in the United States. This isn't about bribery, lobbyists, or those kinds of corruption, instead it's about .05% of the top 1% choosing who we (The People) get to vote for in general elections. It's about who Lessig calls "The Funders" and how the politicians that are suppose to represent us (The People) instead pander to these "funders" because they're the ones that can give large coffers of cash to fund campaigns. Said even shorter, this book This books is about the corruption within politics in the United States. This isn't about bribery, lobbyists, or those kinds of corruption, instead it's about .05% of the top 1% choosing who we (The People) get to vote for in general elections. It's about who Lessig calls "The Funders" and how the politicians that are suppose to represent us (The People) instead pander to these "funders" because they're the ones that can give large coffers of cash to fund campaigns. Said even shorter, this book is about election and election fund raising reform. Lessig spends a good amount of the first half of the book describing the problem, putting emphasis on this problem not being solely a Left or Right problem but rather a problem that effects everyone on the political spectrum. The second half of the book is spent on discussing actual real solutions to to the problem. There is no "do this and we can fix the problem" rather the book talks about what problem we need to fix (focus on). Some specific ideas are given to help start the conversation. If you're interested in the problems plaguing politics in the United States and you'd like to know about organizations that are focusing on this problem, this book is a must read. Truthfully, it's a must read for all citizens.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dallas Hockley

    It's an informative and eye opening book by Lessig about the state of the Union in the USA. I do not envy them the challenge they face. I hope they succeed in righting the Republic back to being responsible to the people alone. I worry that Canada can too easily slip further down this path. We have limits on contributions. $1200 per person and non-living beings like corporations and unions cannot donate. But the current 2014 government eroded the equality by removing a per vote stipend to electe It's an informative and eye opening book by Lessig about the state of the Union in the USA. I do not envy them the challenge they face. I hope they succeed in righting the Republic back to being responsible to the people alone. I worry that Canada can too easily slip further down this path. We have limits on contributions. $1200 per person and non-living beings like corporations and unions cannot donate. But the current 2014 government eroded the equality by removing a per vote stipend to elected parties that had over 10% of the popular vote. The Conservative government here in Canada is wishing they could create a northern Lesterland I think and we must stop them. First past the post is inequitable as it is. We don't need further tools of distortion in our democracy. Be vigilant. Guard your freedom from the government that would take it from you.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Though I wouldn't say it's fun to read, it's an Important Book (capitalization and all). You can think of Lesterland as a kind-of extended magazine article that deftly dissects the cadaver of our current political system, highlighting that, while there is sickness ("corruption," not in the illegal sense, but in the sense that its purpose to serve the common good has become corrupted) everywhere, it is concentrated among how campaigns are funded, and the economic incentives in place for congressp Though I wouldn't say it's fun to read, it's an Important Book (capitalization and all). You can think of Lesterland as a kind-of extended magazine article that deftly dissects the cadaver of our current political system, highlighting that, while there is sickness ("corruption," not in the illegal sense, but in the sense that its purpose to serve the common good has become corrupted) everywhere, it is concentrated among how campaigns are funded, and the economic incentives in place for congresspeople. I was excited enough by this tract to seek out aspects of this movement online, and while The Unwinding made me incredibly pessimistic about our government's capacity to provide an even playing field for average Americans, Lessig's Lesterland is a picture of one way out of the moral and political quagmire that our broken institutions have created.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Doran

    Great dissection of institutionalised corruption in the U.S. government and what to do about it. Feels like a very important work. Based on what has been happening so far with the next U.S. election I cannot see that anything has materially moved forward. Interesting to read this whilst the Labour Party in the UK have been going through their leadership election and contrasting the U.S. process with how U.K. political parties end up with candidates for the general election. I listened to the audio Great dissection of institutionalised corruption in the U.S. government and what to do about it. Feels like a very important work. Based on what has been happening so far with the next U.S. election I cannot see that anything has materially moved forward. Interesting to read this whilst the Labour Party in the UK have been going through their leadership election and contrasting the U.S. process with how U.K. political parties end up with candidates for the general election. I listened to the audiobook version of this which is a free download on iTunes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ari

    A great concise summary of Republic, Lost, plus a few updated points. I'd still recommend the full book since it gives more context and data behind the current era of corruption, but this is a much easier read and a great companion to the TED talk of the same name. This is also freely redistributable under CC-BY-NC. A great concise summary of Republic, Lost, plus a few updated points. I'd still recommend the full book since it gives more context and data behind the current era of corruption, but this is a much easier read and a great companion to the TED talk of the same name. This is also freely redistributable under CC-BY-NC.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Denton

    The most nail-on-the-head book about government and politics I've read in the last 5-10 years. Lawrence Lessig sees the big picture problem and makes petty political dispute look like chickens in a coop. He explains the corruption of the American government step-by-step, illustrates how it affects every person equally, regardless of ideology, how it makes us all paralyzed and unable to do anything about changing politics.. and how we can get around all that and actually do something.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian Wilcox

    A brief manifesto on our corrupt campaign financing system and how it is at the root of most of the problems confronting our policy making apparatus. It may not sound like a sexy topic, but it is the core problem that must be fixed before any of the "big" policy issues such as tax reform, immigration, financial system regulation, etc. can be dealt with in a manner that reflects public sentiment rather than corporate interests.

  13. 5 out of 5

    I

    Simple, clear, urgent, and correct! Watch the TED talk Other than expanding on the substantive points in the talk, the ebook has a lot of interesting consideration of how the scaling of a p2p reform movement would work. Simple, clear, urgent, and correct! Watch the TED talk Other than expanding on the substantive points in the talk, the ebook has a lot of interesting consideration of how the scaling of a p2p reform movement would work.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave Lefevre

    This is a book a hope a lot of people read and think about. Corruption of Congress (the institution, not individual members) is the issue behind every issue we see in our political lives today. You wonder why everything coming out of Congress is irrational (to everyone by the lobbyists) this is it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pavel

    Good short book that makes you think; many topics not covered in great depth, but that was done to avoid a book that would be over 1000 pages. A good introduction to the problems and a potential solution.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dominik

    Great book, full of really interesting concepts. Unfortunately most of them can only be applied in US. After TED talk I hoped book would be more universal (as Lessig works on open culture). Anyway it's must-read for anyone even slightly interested in politics or political science.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    You can just watch his TED talk - it's the same topic. A bit more information/elaboration in the book but main points are the same.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andy Tischaefer

    Sickening, but also hopeful. Lessig doesn't just push a screed against money in politics, he offers up real paths ahead and pushes the reader for true action. Highly recommended

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I needed to read this, think of it as a game plan for fixing democracy!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I think every one should read it. He does a nice job of explaining what's wrong with our government, and he's proposing a solution that might work if enough folks get on board soon.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allen Baranov

    Amazing book and very worth while reading. It really makes one think.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trey Hunner

    Powerful summary of the systemic corruption plaguing the U.S. with a call-to-action for all political reformers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  24. 5 out of 5

    Toni Travis

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jakob Edvardsen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barry Solow

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Krug

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Brown

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

  30. 4 out of 5

    David J Martin

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