Library book: Republic Lost
I see that I haven’t posted since the semester started, and I assure you that is no coincidence. Add classes and the hubbub of a fully operational college town to an already full schedule and lo! my blogging energies disappear. I’ve got a few posts simmering on a backburner, but today I’m going to try and make good on an idea I had a couple months back to post about library books I’ve checked out as they’re recalled.
Today that book is Republic Lost, by Lawrence Lessig. Unlike the books I talked about in the last post of this kind, I actually read the whole book this time. But I did so a while ago, and I can’t say the content is fresh in my mind. My interest in this book came early last spring, when I was reading online about Aaron Swartz, and suddenly found myself all amped up about digital democracy and “the man” threatening it. This led me to Lawrence Lessig and a Ted Talk he gave outlining his Mayday PAC. Next stop, naturally, was to get his book.
I’d recommend Republic Lost (and the Mayday PAC) to anyone interested in concrete efforts to get money out of politics. That said, the book itself wasn’t the fervent call-to-arms I was expecting. Lessig’s pitch is far more conservative than it could have been, laying out the bare minimum one could logically conclude was wrong with the status-quo political system. I understand his motives–I’m clearly not his target audience, but chances are most of his readers were of like mind already. I found myself wondering, though, if his insistance that “hey, it’s at least this bad.” might sound more like “I want you to think it’s bad, but this is the best I could come up with” to readers in need of convincing. I enjoyed his bit about dependence corruption, an insidious force that turns elected representatives from being representatives of the people alone to being representatives–at least in part–of their financiers. His account is filled with evidence pointing to the conclusion he states and restates throughout the book, that big money in the political system prevents it from operating as the Founders intended–that is, as serving the interests of the people, and nobody else.
The final part of the book lays out his plans for what has since become the Mayday PAC. Since I’m no political strategist (though House of Cards may be changing that…) I didn’t give too much scrutiny to these plans, assuming that learned people had read them and deemed them reasonable. I also haven’t seen much lately on how these plans are proceeding, but I was encouraged a month or two back when I saw some national coverage of Mayday, including the New York Times and NPR’s Planet Money. Here’s hoping something real can come of this.