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Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It [Hardcover]

Lawrence Lessig

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Book Description

Oct. 5 2011
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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (Oct. 5 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446576433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446576437
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #199,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for REPUBLIC, LOST

As an academic, Lessig has the research chops to find the anecdotes that best fit the narrative case he's making, and to lay them out in wonderful detail. But his real gift is in the art of stringing them together into a story. That means that this book is as persuasive as it is enjoyable to read.—Alesh Houdek, The Atlantic

REPUBLIC, LOST is a powerful reminder that this problem goes deeper than poor legislative tactics or bad character. As progressives contemplate how best to pick up the pieces after recent setbacks, a robust agenda to change how business gets done in the capital needs to be part of the picture. This time, we'd better mean it.—Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect

Praise for Lawrence Lessig

"Lawrence Lessig gets things changed not for the benefit of corporations but to unleash the creative potential of ordinary people in a digital age."
The Guardian

"Lessig is one of those rare legal scholars with both a clear narrative voice and a fine eye for historical irony."
The Washington Post

"A bright and spark-filed polemic... combining legal sophistication with a storyteller's knack."
Wall Street Journal, on Free Culture

"A powerfully argued and important analysis... it is also surprisingly entertaining."
The New York Times Book Review, on Free Culture

"Once dubbed a 'philosopher king of Internet law,' he writes with a unique mix of legal expertise, historic facts and cultural curiosity, citing everything from turn-of-the-century Congressional testimony to Wikipedia to contemporary best-sellers like Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. The result is a wealth of interesting examples and theories on how and why digital technology and copyright law can promote professional and amateur art."
M.J. Stephey, Time Magazine

"More than anything, Lessig understands and often wrestles with a rather understated theory: common sense."
Derek Bores, PopMatters

"As an initial matter, Lessigian thought is deeply critical in nature... Perhaps it is the luxury of academia, or his nature generally, but Lessig is not afraid to say (loudly) at times: This doesn't work! We need to change. He says it often, and people are listening."
Russ Taylor, Federal Communications Law Journal

"No one is more skilled at making arcane legal and technological questions terrifyingly relevant to everyday life than Lessig."

Sonia Katyal, Texas Law Review

Without a doubt, the Lessig plan . . . would be a vast improvement over the current system."—Washington Monthly

"Mr. Lessig's analysis of the distorting effects of money is . . . dead on."
New York Times

About the Author

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school's Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Lessig serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MapLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and iCommons.org, and on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries.

Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  103 reviews
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worried About Our Country? Read This Book. Nov. 2 2011
By goddess18 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lawrence Lessig has written a timely book for anyone who is concerned with the state of Our Union. There is no way around it, the subject matter is depressing. Our Country is in a bad way and most regular Americans are not really sure what to do about it. This book is a good place to start. Not only do you get a clear understanding of the major problems with excellent historical context, you get suggestions on how to effect change. This book which clearly articulates a problem and then offers solutions resolves the depressing aspect. There are things all Citizens can do, starting today. The book offers suggestions on how to begin with many resources and links. Whatever level your time, energy and resources allow, You will be able to do something to help. Do not be put off by the enormity of the problem. At this point our only choices are to accept our broken, corporate controlled government or as American Citizens have done at critical times in our history stand up and remind others that our Republic is responsible to "The People" alone. This is not a Liberal or Conservative issue. This is not even the 99% vs the 1%, although the 99% are suffering more from the current state of Our Union. I found this book to be an easy and enjoyable read despite the serious subject matter. I strongly encourage everyone to read this important book. As one of the 99% we have to do something. This is a great place to start.
98 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bleak, but ultimately hopeful, vision for restoring democracy Oct. 22 2011
By Olin Sibert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lessig explores the concept of a government responsible to the PEOPLE, as the Constitution calls for, and how the current system of campaign finance has warped it so much toward being a government responsible to the CONTRIBUTORS that even the Supreme Court used those words (in the infamous Citizens United corporation-as-a-person decision). The picture he draws of moneyed influence is truly appalling--all the more so as the influence is almost never overt bribery, but often just hints and signals (as in "if you aren't able to vote for X, I'll have to contribute $1,000,000 to your opponent").

Can it be cured? Lessig offers several possible prescriptions, the most serious of which is calling for a Constitutional Convention, and at least while I'm reading the book, I can believe that maybe there's some hope for our republic. There are many good ideas here, and the arguments are rich and comprehensive.

Read this book if you want to understand what's really wrong with government, why nothing gets done, why the posturing and pandering grows and grows, and why life is getting steadily worse for the 99% of the population who aren't rich. And--especially--read it if you want to know what you can do to make things better.
137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for our democracy. Oct. 14 2011
By Marvin Ammori - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have written a review on my blog and will cross-reference, [...]
This is a book about one of the biggest challenges we face, and the root cause of many of our problem--the dependence of politicians on money, which skews our political debates and outcomes towards big government and big corporation, and against the people themselves.
Reading the book, you understand more about the enormity of the problem, how it hurts our country and our loved ones, and why it is so difficult to solve--though why we must try.
If you've seen one of Lessig's presentations, available online, you probably already realize that Lessig can address hard issues in an informal, easy-to-understand way, making this an easy read, though full of ideas.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Time for Us to Take Action... May 29 2012
By Bob Magnant - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When it took Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to bring to my attention the fact that Lawrence Lessig had written a new book, I suddenly realized how apathetic I had become to the politics of the day. In his sixth book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It, Lessig has examined the issue of corruption in our government and the loss of trust in our institutions and in Congress specifically. Corruption in this instance refers to the fact that money appears to define access to our politicians and to their influence.

In the same way that Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, his first book, gave me an understanding of how law and government regulation and control works within our Internet world of electronic commerce, 'Republic Lost' tells us how the framers of the Constitution attempted to protect us from the influences of bribery and of corrupt practices from the very beginning and goes to great length to show us how our legal system has continued to work to accomplish this, at least up until recently. Lessig's perspective exposed me to the realities of our subsidized market economy and he colored his discussions with a wonderful assortment of facts to show the 'unprecedented dependence' on absurd campaign funding of our elected officials that exists today.

His quote of the chairman of Archer Daniels Midland, "the only place you will see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country," captured my full attention and set the stage for Lessig's extended market education, using free markets, market efficiency, effective education and safe financial markets as examples, more information than I ever wanted to know. He has also coupled this with the realities of the market sizes, the extensive lobbying activities that are now common and unlimited campaign contributions, thanks to 'Citizens United'.

Building upon this foundation, Lessig describes our democracy as something that's been deflated by special interests, an economy of influence that draws our democracy away from the will of the people in favor of itself. We have institutionalized a system of funding dependence and corruption composed of bad governance and lost trust, which feeds upon itself and is both self-sustaining and self-protecting. When you add to this the results of a poll commissioned for this book, where three out of four Americans believe that "campaign contributions buy results in Congress", we have sufficient reason to at least look further for solutions to reform the heart of this corruption, the perceived 'influence' of money.

In the last section of this book, Professor Lessig has fearlessly taken on the task of looking for ways to solve this 'unsolvable problem' that he has so eloquently laid out. Unfortunately, our politicians by themselves are incapable of ridding the systems of the 'influence peddlers' that support them. But the system can be changed and corrected by the people who are fed up with bloated government, tax inequities, poor healthcare, the high costs of living, our failing financial systems and a changing climate. Lessig explains to us how the mechanisms of constitutional law are already in place to allow for the wrongs in the system to be addressed, which makes this very much worth the read for anyone who lives in and loves this country. Lessig makes a great case by offering us shocking facts of how the system is broken for everyone and is already far beyond repair. He has presented us a sobering picture that provides a focus for our anger, unfortunately not a very optimistic picture but it is a real eye opener for readers! The solutions will need to be apolitical but as you will learn, it is not impossible to do... but it will be difficult. I for one am ready for change...

Bob Magnant is a novelist who writes about technology, globalization issues, Internet security and US policy in the Middle East. He is the author of "The Last Transition...", a fact-based novel about Iran and "Domestic Satellite: an FCC Giant Step", a study of competitive telecommunications policy.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone concerned about the problems facing America Nov. 3 2011
By Walter Alvey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a must-read for anyone, conservative or liberal, concerned about the problems facing America.

The author shows that large campaign contributions from special interest groups encourage Congressional action (or inaction) that is contrary to the will and interests of the general public. The corrupting influence of this money is one of America's core problems because it blocks effective action on the other problems such as the lack of free and efficient markets, poor schools, high health care costs, and the financial crisis of 2008. There are less obvious effects as well: Congress people spend too much time fund raising and not enough time focusing on priorities, which leads to public mistrust and a lack of participation in our democracy.

The author is a self-described former Reaganite who is now a liberal/libertarian. Several chapters are devoted to showing how this corruption defeats the agendas of both conservatives and liberals: Conservative Congress people vote against free markets when it benefits their contributors. Liberal Congress people vote against reasonable regulation when it benefits their contributors. The book, however, is not a diatribe against Congress people. The author often quotes them to support his arguments. He believes that most go in with good intentions, but get quickly caught up in the system and focused on the interests of their large contributors.

The book ends with four strategies to end the corruption.

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