Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig investigates the most vexing problem in American democracy: how money corrupts our nation's politics, and the critical campaign to stop it.
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 theissues 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.
You may call it "dependence corruption," but it's still corruption the dependence of Congress on campaign contributors to get their message out and the dependence on the voters to elect them on that message. Lessig (Remix) distinguishes between a commercial economy (or quid pro quo), and a gift economy that cements a relationship of obligation. He argues that campaign finance reform will never work as long as politicians know who is donating to their cause, and sometimes even if they know someone is donating, or even threatening to donate, to their opponent's cause. In Washington's vicious circle, a lobbyist has a fundraiser for a candidate because (s)he serves on a certain committee and a Congressional representative knows which lobbyist and which corporation to ask for contributions because (s)he knows they share interests. Lessig proffers interesting solutions, but grants only a 10% chance that one or all of them might help. Though parts of the book are bogged down in lawyerly rhetoric, it will reward readers with insight into the morass that is Washington, though not necessarily hope.