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

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

Lawrence Lessig

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0446576441

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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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the end of the dinner, Clinton gave some remarks. He then asked the guests to give him their remarks about what he should be doing, and how he should be governing. One by one, the guests stood and offered their ideas. The president listened and took notes. The evening appeared to be having its intended effect: the fat cats were being attended to; their purr was warming up nicely. Hiatt was the last to speak. Sitting two seats from the president, he stood, looked the president straight in the

require people to connect the dots. Rootstrikers.org asks citizens to help others see the connection, and spread this understanding. It also asks people from many different political perspectives to contribute to this common understanding. I recognize that the issues that upset friends on the Right will upset me less, and vice versa. But if we can begin to see that there is a common root, we might begin to address that common root. So the first most important thing that you can do is to make it

individuals in providing contributions encourages parties to move their platforms closer to those individuals’ preferred positions”). 55. I am not aware of any other work drawing upon Hyde, to model the lobbying behavior of Congress, but Phebe Lowell Bowditch does use it to understand the patronage system in Ancient Rome. See Horace and the Gift Economy of Patronage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). 56. Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

change legislators’ minds but to assist natural allies in achieving their own, coincident objectives.”75 But what is this “nature”? How is it begot? How nourished? When a Republican member of Congress votes to raise the sugar tariff (as 35 Republican senators and 102 Republican members in the House did with the 2008 Farm Bill),76 is that because that member ran on the platform that eight domestic sugar manufacturers should be protected from the free market? Or when frontline Democrats—meaning

marketing accordingly. In this simple example, we have all the elements of the kind of corruption I am concerned with here. The institution of medical education has a fairly clear purpose—Harvard’s is to “create and nurture a diverse community of the best people committed to leadership in alleviating human suffering caused by disease.” That purpose requires doctors to make judgments objectively, meaning based upon, or dependent upon, the best available science about the benefits and costs of

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