I Wanna Be Literated #226

I Wanna Be Literated #226

Monday, 27 July 2020

Republic, Lost
by Lawrence Lessig

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 annoying sub-header that tries to tell you what to think. I’m talking of course about the part that says “How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It.” Maybe it was recommended by the publisher? Anyway, it’s just barely a giveaway, but it is accurate in summarizing what this book is about.

And Republic, Lost is just that. Lessig was (apparently) a right wing economist who has since moved to the left, and this book is a meticulous and interestingly written dissection of all the ways money has corrupted the interests of congresspeople. Money in congress has been a fact from the very beginning, and with time it’s only gotten worse. With Citizens United, there is now no limit to the amount of money lobbyists can donate to a candidate so it’s easy to understand who’s going to win out in a battle of interests. Lessig actually makes an effort to see it from the congresspeople’s perspective: how raising money is what most of their bandwidth is dedicated to because campaigning is so ruthless. Also, Lessig portrays congresspeople as dummies who need direction about what the issues are and they rely on lobbyists to inform them on how to solve these problems. Most of them are good people, but they have limited access to information. With so many people and organizations vying for attention, sometimes congresspeople have no choice but to triage. And who gets preferential treatment? Those who’ve donated the most.

The US government is basically a slave to big corporations because money is so important to the elections. Lessig is nice enough to stick it to Obama as well and explains the handout he gave the insurance companies when planning the Affordable Health Care act (not to mention him going back on his promise of being hard on wall street). So really, it’s clear that there are no Democrats and  Republicans, but the Money Party with slight differences.

The only weakness in Republic, Lost is when Lessig tries to provide solutions to this problems. He is so stuck on doing this by the book and constitutionally and meticulously probes the document for complicated avenues that maybe he doesn’t understand that most people don’t really care about the constitution that much or don’t understand it. Also, Bernie’s campaign might be an example showing that a populist movement that’s legitimate might be all we need. He didn’t win, of course, but he got close.

I like Republic, Lost so much that I’m willing to let the last 90 pages of boring constitution-under-a-microscope slide. The rest of this book is expertly written, clearly presented, and really gets at the heart of an important issue that effects everyone in this country. Highly recommended.

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