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

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  2,160 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 5th 2011 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2011)
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Feb 15, 2012 Nathan rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Converse rated it liked it
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 ...more
Feb 24, 2012 Natali rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Keith Swenson
Nov 24, 2011 Keith Swenson rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2012 A. rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Matthew rated it liked it
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 ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Murray rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Bill Pardi
Apr 22, 2013 Bill Pardi rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
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 ...more
Peter Meyers
Feb 24, 2012 Peter Meyers rated it liked it
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.

I appreciate most of Lawrence's des
Mar 19, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it
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
Adam Ross
Feb 25, 2012 Adam Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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 ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
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
Peter Kahn
Nov 06, 2011 Peter Kahn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society
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
Oct 07, 2011 Luaba rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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.
May 31, 2012 Gregory rated it liked it

“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
Oct 23, 2016 Jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the single most important book to read for those who feel disenfranchised by the American political system and the influence of corporate money. I took my time reading this book over the course of a few months during an interesting time. A time in which there was finally a candidate who could champion this cause (Bernie Sanders), funded entirely by small public donations. I was filled with hope following Bernie while digesting the early part of Lessig's thorough book. As I read on, the ...more
Dec 08, 2016 Nak rated it it was amazing
Both complex and distressing, "Republic, Lost" is one of those books that made me incredibly frustrated at the current system of government. An in depth look into the political sphere and how easily laws can be manipulated for one's own benefit, "Republic, Lost" gives analysis of lobbyists and special interests with solutions on how to improve the system, from citizen involvement to new bills.

This is definitely one of those books everyone with an interest in improving the American political sys
Feb 07, 2013 Eric rated it it was amazing
Corruption of Congress: Follow the Money

If you want to understand what is really wrong with American government and specifically Congress then you should read Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig. It is an important and surprisingly readable book.

Lessig cuts through politics to clearly and powerfully describe how, regardless of party affiliation, the current structure of campaign financing has caused the systematic corruption of Congress. He insists that we look beyond partisan issues to see how ca
Aug 16, 2014 Elaine rated it really liked it
At the beginning of the book, I felt like rolling my eyes because Lessig writes long explanations to identify and detail the "root" of our corrupt government system. However, he not only writes lengthy explanations, he also takes pains to define a particular kind of corruption that plagues our system. He argues that special interest money doesn't buy votes. Instead, a complex "gift economy" has developed in Congress, one that is driven by politicians' hunger for campaign cash for re-election. ...more
Matt Stearns
Nov 16, 2014 Matt Stearns rated it liked it
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I like Lessig and greatly enjoyed his TED talk on this subject. The book itself was both disappointing and motivating.

The writing is not what I expected from a constitutional law scholar. The syntax errors are jarring and distract from the great ideas being discussed. The number of clauses that lack a subject are astonishing. The language seems pandering and colloquial which, again, distracts from the great ideas being discussed. It's as if Les
May 13, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone with a pet cause
Recommended to Katie by: Lawrence Lessig
Shelves: nonfiction
As Lessig said when I heard him speak last year, whatever your number 1 issue is, this is the first problem. Seriously - you're into deficit reduction, or animal rights, or net neutrality, or education, or climate change - nothing useful is going to come from Congress on the issues you care about as long as Congress continues to operate under its current incentives. And it DOESN'T have to keep operating under those incentives.

I used to think maybe I was reading too much post-apocalyptic fiction,
Paul McNeil
Jul 04, 2012 Paul McNeil rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
In this book, Lessig takes the general opinion of most Americans- Congress is corrupted by money - and provides some insight and nuance into how that happens. In his view, bribery in the traditional sense is quite rare; our problem today is what he calls systemic corruption, and politicians are generally good people who find themselves in a system where they have the choice of receiving large amounts of donations from special interests and corporations, or finding themselves hopelessly outspent ...more
Hal Mahaffey
Jun 09, 2015 Hal Mahaffey rated it it was amazing
This book is depressing. And then it is uplifting, and you get excited over the possibility of fixing "Problem Number 1", how money influences congress and all politicians, the problem that must be solved first before any other problem can be reliably addressed. Climate change? Flat tax? Education vouchers? No matter whether you lean Right or Left (and Lessig does an amazing job of balancing these and presenting an amazingly unbiased argument), by the end of this book you will agree that money ...more
Chris Economon
Jul 08, 2013 Chris Economon rated it really liked it
I was an AVID supporter of Obama for most of his term so far in office. I think most of us were (well, those hoping for change.) Naively, I failed to recognize that he had fallen into the trap that he so advocated against during his campaign prior to November 2008. I even still have high hope to this point and VERY high expectations of a second term - one that does not need to rely so much on fundraising for a succeeding term. Well, this should not be review of the current presidency, but rather ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Andy marked it as to-read
Sounds like a great companion volume to Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto and Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America. This addresses the corruption problem, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto addresses the overcentralization of power which leads to corruption and the ceding of rights and responsibilities, and Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America sounds like its going to address the agendas and creeping growth of Statist government into all areas of our lives, which gives corru ...more
Crystal Marie
Mar 27, 2016 Crystal Marie rated it really liked it
Lessig confirms what we already know: money is at the core of corruption in congress. I think most of us are already aware of this, but he fleshes it out more fully. He describes a typical day for a person in congress and how the fundraising takes priority to just about everything else. He differentiates between a gift economy and a quid pro quo and how easy it is to operate discreetly in the gift economy in congress. He even breaks down in a bit of psychoanalysis how persons involved in this ...more
Max D'onofrio
Sep 21, 2014 Max D'onofrio rated it really liked it
The first way that this book appeals to me is the way author appeals to the reader on a very personal level by using the first person perspective to convey honesty about the authors position and goal of the book. Lessig makes a very compelling argument that though the quid pro quo corruption of the past may no longer be of serious concern, the elite are still using money in politics still to have a significant influence on the behavior and voting patterns of representatives in the federal ...more
Michael Koby
Nov 22, 2013 Michael Koby rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of reading this book after I'd read Lessig's Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It. This book and "Lesterland" cover similar material the target audience of the two books couldn't be more different. While "Lesterland" targets everyone, this book targets the more academic.

There is quite a bit of overlap between the two books but where "Lesterland" skims over some of the facts in favor of driving the point both books are looking to make, "Republic, Lost" goes
Doug Stotland
Jan 11, 2012 Doug Stotland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm dying for someone I know to read this book so we can discuss it. It's got a lot of the same observations as the Matt Taibi stuff only not as mean-spirited and not as fun to read. Lessig also goes deeper, is wonkier and harder to swallow but ultimately makes persuasive arguments and puts our current situation in a useful historical context.

I enjoyed the part where he dissects the system and what's wrong with it the most because I assumed there would be a proposal for addressing that was obvio
John Karabaic
Dec 18, 2012 John Karabaic rated it liked it
A supply-sider's view of the role of money in politics. Lessig ignores deliberate policy decisions, like the ending of the Fairness Doctrine, the relaxation of media ownership rules, the concentration of media power in a handful of corporations and the institutional destruction of Congresswide staff organizations like the Office of Technology Assessment, which have created the demand for partisan advertising and staffing that requires an ever-increasing supply of money. When Congresspeople have ...more
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Dont bother 4 29 Jun 14, 2013 09:44AM  
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Lawrence "Larry" Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.
He is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Prior to rejoi
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“Politics is that rare sport where the amateur contest is actually more interesting than the professional.” 2 likes
“In the 1970s, 3 percent of retiring members became lobbyists. Thirty years later, that number has increased by an order of magnitude. Between 1998 and 2004, more than 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of House members made that career transition.” 2 likes
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