December 4, 2011
BOOK OF THE WEEK: WEEK FORTY-NINE, 2011
Lawrence Lessig, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It (New York & Boston: Twelve, 2011) ("The aim of this book . . . is to convince you that a much more virulent, if much less crude, corruption does indeed wreck our democracy. Not a corruption caused by a gaggle of evil souls. On the contrary, a corruption practiced by decent people, people we should respect, people working extremely hard to do what they believe is right, yet decent people working with a system that has evolved the most elaborate and costly bending of democratic government in our history. There are good people here, yet extraordinary bad gets done." "This corruption has two elements, each of which feeds the other. The first element is bad governance, which means simply that our government doesn't track the expressed will of the people whether on the Left or on the Right. Instead, the government tracks a different interest, one not directly affected by votes or voters. Democracy, on this account, seems a show or a ruse; power rests elsewhere." "The second element is lost trust: when democracy seems a charade, we lose faith in its process. That doesn't matter to some of us--we will vote and participate regardless. But to more rational souls, the charade is signal: spend your time elsewhere, because this game is not for real. Participation thus declines, especially among the sensible middle. Policy gets driven by the extremists at both ends." Id at 8-9. "As a former young Republican--indeed, Pennsylvania's state chairman of the Teen Age Republicans--I don't mean to rally anyone against the rich. But I do mean to rally Republicans and Democrats alike against a certain kind of rich that no theorist on the Right or the Left has ever sought seriously to defend: The rich whose power comes not from hard work, creativity, innovation, or the creation of wealth. The rich who instead secure their wealth through the manipulation of government and politicians. The great evil that we as Americans face is the banal evil of second-rate minds who can't make it in the4 private sector and who therefore turn to the massive wealth directed by our government as the means to securing wealth for themselves. The enemy is not evil. The enemy is well dressed." Id. at 7. " 'There is only one issue in this country,' former MSNBC commentator Cenk Uygur told Netroots Nations, in June 2011, 'Campaign finance reform.' " "For the vast majority of America, Uygur's comment is obscure. For a small minority, it is obvious. This book is written for that vast majority, drawn from the insights of that small minority." "As I have struggled to craft it, I have become driven by the view that practically every important issue in American politics today is tied to this 'one issue in this country,' and that we must find a way to show the connections. For both the Left and the Right, until this 'one issue' gets fixed, there won't be progress on a wide range of critically important public policy issues. Until it gets fixed, governance will remained stalled." Id. at xi. After reading this, go back a re-read Friedman & Mandelbaum, That Used To Be Us (2011), last week's 'BOOK OF THE WEEK'. The issues discusses there and here are intimately connected.).