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

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,469 ratings  ·  203 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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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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Andrew
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
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...more
Peter Meyers
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Max D'onofrio
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
Elaine
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
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.
Jeanne Thornton
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
Alex
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...more
Paul McNeil
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
Lydia
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...more
Dave
Feb 16, 2012 Dave rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Mark
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...more
Andy
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
André Spiegel
Compelling diagnosis, eloquently written. An eye-opener for me in many respects — for example, what does rampant obesity among Americans have to do with political campaign funding? Maybe more than meets the eye.

The US political system has become deeply flawed, corrupt, ineffective — all because politicians need to raise hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in order to get elected, and thus become dependent on their donors.

I particularly appreciate Lessig's take that there are no evi...more
Mark Roth
I learned about this book after listening to a talk given by the author. I found his talk compelling enough to want to learn more, so I picked up the book. I'm glad I did.

While I didn't really need to be convinced of the author's thesis -- that special-interest money corrupts Congress -- he makes the argument in a compelling way. He comes at it from several perspectives, citing a great deal of existing research of which I was unaware, and highlights the problem in a way that is extremely accessi...more
Tim
The topic covered by 'Republic, Lost'--how campaign contributions compromise the integrity of congressional representatives, and proposals for what can be done about it--peaks my interest. For me the author's writing style was not powerful worthy of the topic. There are very specific cases, like the one 60 minutes reported involving Nancy Pelosi's husband taking advantage of VISA IPO stock offering, that clearly show the type of corruption we are facing. A few of these cases specified in detail...more
Doug Stotland
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...more
Paul Hinman
This is my favorite book of Lessig's since The Future of Ideas The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World.

I think his initial review is spot on - the problem with our Government is not directly quid pro quo bribery. We haven't elected a room full of evil individuals to fill Congress. It's not even the lobbyists and special interests that are necessarily evil.
Instead, the "evil" is in the system itself. Congress is dependent on the funders, rather than on the people. Its t...more
Malrubius
Audiobook. Morally pretentious and condescending. Extremely slow developing. Basically the first half can be summed up in one sentence: Even if the system of congressional campaign funding does not corrupt congress, the mere appearance of corruption that it presents is bad enough to cause the large majority of Americans to not trust their government and become politically disengaged. Okay now you can start about halfway through, track 15 in the audiobook. After that the book is very insightful i...more
Andrew Mackie-mason
Lessig's approach in the first part of this book is a bit pedantic. Maybe it's necessary to convince some people that money is corrupting, but it seems like overkill for his likely target audience. But the point he draws out (however slowly) is still vitally important to understand: money, even in the hands of good people, is a drug that distracts the government from the voters it should be paying attention to. Like most insights, it's blindingly obvious but extremely well put, and important to...more
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Dont bother 4 25 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
More about Lawrence Lessig...
Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World Code: Version 2.0 One Way Forward: The Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic

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“Politics is that rare sport where the amateur contest is actually more interesting than the professional.” 1 likes
“But sometimes they're just oblivious, and their obliviousness brings out the worst in me. I remember once talking to one about the principle of 'one person, one vote' -- the Supreme Court's doctrine that forces states to ensure the weight one person's vote is equal to the weight of everyone else's. He had done work early in his career to push that principle along, and considered it, as he told me, 'among the most important values now written into our Constitution.' 'Isn't it weird then', I asked hime, 'that the law would obsess about making sure that on Election Day, my vote is just as powerful as yours, but stand blind to the fact that in the days before Election Day, because of your wealth, your ability to affect that election is a million times greater than mine?' My friend -- or at least friend until that moment -- didn't say a word.” 0 likes
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