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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,685 ratings  ·  264 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
Feb 03, 2012 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
Natali
Dec 18, 2011 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
Ms.pegasus
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: Goodreads friend Rob B.
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Too often, thoughtful expression has been replaced by memes and taglines. The concept of corruption is one of the casualties of this trend. Author Lawrence Lessig impresses on the reader the gravity of that kind of fuzzy thinking. By corruption, he does not mean the shameless quid pro quo of the Gilded Age. Instead, he focuses on what he calls “dependence corruption,” a dynamic he likens to that of substance abuse.

Imagine this. Senator X has a choice. He can call a thousand prospective donors a
...more
Converse
Oct 29, 2011 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
A.
Mar 08, 2012 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
Keith Swenson
Nov 24, 2011 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
...more
Murray
Nov 25, 2013 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
Matthew
Oct 17, 2011 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
Adam Ross
Jan 20, 2012 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
Nathan Sloan
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is boring. Hear me out, though, because the reason it's so important is partially because its subject matter isn't dramatic, sexy, horrifying enough to hold the attention of the general public, but the subject of how money has corrupted our government deserves all of our attention. I could say a lot about how well Lessig dissects and presents to the general public the case for our republic being sick and off-course, but a review will never do that fascinating work justice.

This should b
...more
Bill Pardi
Apr 22, 2013 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
Peter
Feb 24, 2012 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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens...

I appreciate most of Lawrence's des
...more
Dan
Jan 13, 2012 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
...more
Adam
Mar 19, 2013 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
...more
Rustin
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
"The biggest fundamental problem in congress is that lobbyists donate to campaigns and congressmen earmark government money back to the donor. It is a corruption that good congressmen cannot avoid.

Campaign contributions from lobbyists is bad for several reasons:
- It persuades congressman to vote in ways that the lobbying donors want them to vote
- It forces congressman to spend half of their time fundraising when they should be focusing on bills
- Even if the congressman agrees entirely with the l
...more
Scot
Nov 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I can't say I share much in the way of political perspective with the author and thus found myself often disagreeing with his analysis, but there's a lot of common ground in terms of values here, and Republic Lost makes some important points and makes them well. I particularly appreciated the sweep of history that he covers. While one must read between the lines to draw out the connection between racist backlash against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement to the current crisis in our economy ...more
Peter Kahn
Oct 23, 2011 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
...more
Luaba
Oct 07, 2011 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.
Matt McMahon
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book should come with a warning that you will never look at American Politics the same after reading. Professor Lessig does a wonderful job at making a complicated subject easy to understand with riveting examples. He pinpoints what could be considered the greatest threat to the freedom of ordinary American's and gives suggestions to correct it. A must read!!!!! ...more
C. Scott
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tremendous... it's rare that I agree so much with what I'm reading. Lessig does a terrific job of illuminating how money warps the American system of government. I agree that this is one of the most pressing problem's of our time and share his hope that we the people can do something about it. ...more
Gregory
Mar 14, 2012 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
...more
The Bean of
Great content, mediocre writing and delivery.

Some quotes:

"Let’s start with the numbers.15 In 2014, 5.4 million Americans gave at least something to any congressional campaign or political party or PAC. That’s about 1.75 percent of America. But of that 5.4 million, the top 100 gave almost as much as the bottom 4.75 million.16 The top 100 individuals and organizations gave 60 percent of the super PAC money given." (p. 15).

"So if we assume that $5,200 is not too low, if we assume it is a good me
...more
Ollie
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Republic, Lost was a book that’s been on my watchlist for years. I don’t know exactly how I became interested in it but I’m kind of disappointed I never got around to it until now. Maybe Lawrence Lessig was on the Daily Show back in the day and I thought I’d check it out? But anyway, it took just a few pages (or a few dozen) for me to realize what an essential book this is for anyone interested in American politics and why American democracy is at risk.

Now, unfortunately Republic, Lost has that
...more
Derek
I've long been a believer that there is a great deal of fundamental corruption in our federal government (and state government as well). I was an enthusiastic supporter of people like Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and most recently Bernie Sanders, because of this concern. I think this problem is a root cause of many of the ills we see in politics, the lack of action on critically important issues, a problem (along with redistricting reform) that must be addressed before we can have any hope for ...more
Ryan Mcclure
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I knew going into this book that it would be preaching to the choir. I hoped, though, to gain some better insight into the nature of the problem, rather than the fact of its existence, and that hope was certainly met and exceeded. Lessig thoroughly makes the case for and defends the central thesis of the book, drawing on examples and citations from numerous sources across the political spectrum and mixing it with his own particular breed of expertise and experience. He also does so without vilif ...more
Andrew
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
If I were coming to this book as an introduction to the problem of corruption in politics, I would have absolutely loved it. It's thorough, logical and well-argued.

As it is, however, I'm a long-time singer in the choir of political corruption, maybe even as high-ranking as 1st tenor. This made the first 3/4 of the book overly familiar. The last quarter, comprised of a notably elaborate solutions section, made it a valuable read nonetheless.

I have two major takeaways: 1) a constitutional convent
...more
Grommit
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ever wonder why Congress can get nothing done? Especially on issues that seem to make perfect sense. The answer is MONEY. Take a peek at this book: a careful explanation of how money influences our government.
The author takes the professorial approach: lays out the facts and lets us decide whether money speaks louder than any one of us.
The approaches have varied a bit over the decades. Currently, the famous (infamous?) K-Street lobbyists lead the charge. The funny part is that there are lobbyi
...more
Louis
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It proposes that the United States Congress has become corrupted by money. However, Lessig suggests that this corruption of Congress is not of the quid pro quo variety, affecting the Members of Congress themselves--Lessig seems to believe that most Members of Congress get elected with sincere intentions. Rather, Lessig suggests that the corruption is of the institution of Congress itself. Lessig proposes a set of r ...more
Ross
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
~60% of our electorate thinks the system is broken in favor of the wealthy and 67% of people think the system is working for them - these statistics, and many others pointed out by Lessig, are fundamentally at odds. As he puts it, we are all equal just those with money are more equal in the days leading up to elections. Great read - dense, packed with thorough research and insightful thinking.
Tom
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The strongest aspect of this book is that it covers every single aspect of campaign finance. The weakest aspect of this book is that it covers every single aspect of campaign finance. After reading it, no activist would have an excuse for failing to persuade the resistant. But the bloatedness of many chapters will likely repel curious readers.
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Lawrence "Larry" Lessig 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 rejoining Harvard, he was
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