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

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  2,121 Ratings  ·  231 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 03, 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 ha ...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 ho ...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 Andrew 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 wi ...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 a ...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
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 wit ...more
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
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
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
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 c ...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 govern ...more
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. Le ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it
Out right corruption -- bribery is rare in U.S. politics. It does happen but it is not the status quo as people may believe. It is not necessary as a legal form of it exists, the lobby system provides all the grease required for the wheels of self interest and greed to turn and nothing of substance gets done in Washington. A "do nothing" Congress is busy enriching itself with little care of any concerns the electorate may actually have. “In the 1970s, 3 percent of retiring members became lobbyis ...more
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.
Jack Landry
Jan 06, 2015 Jack Landry rated it liked it
Pretty good case for campaign finance reform. While brief, it also treats rebuttal arguments. However, Martin Gilens Affluence and Influence I think is the definitive volume and research on this topic, which, unfortunately, was published after the release of this book. Furthermore, I think Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres agenda for campaign finance reform is the best and most practicable campaign finance reform. Lessig's rebuttal is extremely weak, claiming the American people wouldn't understand s ...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
David Cooke
Oct 20, 2014 David Cooke rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
After a rough start to the book, I think it ends strong, albeit a little bit quixotic.

The biggest downside of the book is that it is extremely fuzzy. He uses the fact that you have an emotional reaction to what he is presenting to show how faith in the system can be and is broken. This is not terrible, but it means that if you really dig into the claims, it is difficult to necessarily agree with the strength of his point, especially early on when he's introducing his fuzzy concepts and uses rese
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 gi ...more
Arthur Kyriazis
May 30, 2016 Arthur Kyriazis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Prof. Lessig is essentially tenured, brilliant, but way off the reservation.

he wants to abolish patents, copyrights, private property, and the system of donating to candidates, not recognizing that ever since Buckley v Vallejo, 1976, donating is the same as free speech, a first amendment fundamental right.

it's going to take a constitutional amendment, and probably also a divestment of supreme court jurisdiction over that amendment, to effect change here.

In short, something more radical than was
Jeanne Thornton
Jan 03, 2014 Jeanne Thornton rated it liked it
I bought this book basically because I was depressed about climate change and the total inability of the US political process to ever do anything about it ever, or to reform its own hideous campaign financing process. My expectation was that Lessig would aptly diagnose the problem and provide sly solutions that one might follow as both an Average Citizen and a Rich Person with Moxie. He did aptly diagnose the problem, if in a pretty repetitive, okay-we-get-it kind of way. He didn't particularly ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics-finance
Lets get this out of the way... Lessig is a Democrat and was an Obama supporter in the 08 campaign. He was, however, disspointed with Obama's failure to follow through on a lot of the "change" promises that never materialized (IOW, no catering to special interests, etc.). The book, however, is fair and neutral, and is critical of policies on BOTH sides of the aisle.

He not only covers a lot of the major issues of the day (healthcare, the stock market/wall street/financial collapse, campaign finan
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
Aug 29, 2012 Lydia rated it it was amazing
The best policy book I’ve read - hands down. Lessig is an incredible author who builds his arguments carefully. In Republic Lost, he does not simplify a complex topic; rather, through examples and antidotes, Lessig gradually develops a framework to explain the difficult topic of a government corruption that isn’t actually illegal. This framework ensures his audience can understand the problem, its wide-reaching effects, and his proposed solutions.

Outside of Lessig’s writing style, the book is a
Feb 16, 2012 Dave rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: citizens
Shelves: non-fiction
A very informative book that provided me with a much better understand of why our government/politics are the way they are.

It explains about why our congress is corrupt (but not in the typical bribery sense) and gives tons of facts and arguments to back it up. It's not liberal or conservative (though the author is a liberal who used to be a conservative), but should appeal to the views of all Americans.

In some places it's very academic, attempting (and succeeding in my view) to provide unassaila
Sep 14, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Lessig makes a convincing argument on how our leaders are failing us and Democracy. Although, his writing style is unnecessarily befuddling the message still hits home. This is rather interesting because Lessig is an extremely well spoken man and clearly conveys information verbally during interviews. It is the prime reason I picked up his book... I was mesmerized listening to him speak on NPR. So, I find it interesting his writing style is so jolting.

His solution might work but it doesn't appea
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
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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
More about Lawrence Lessig...

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“Politics is that rare sport where the amateur contest is actually more interesting than the professional.” 3 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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