Techdirt Reading List: Larry Lessig's Republic, Lost

from the worth-a-read dept

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts, of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also help support Techdirt.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Larry Lessig is may be running for President if he’s able to raise $1 million by the end of this weekend — positioning himself as a 100% referendum candidate focused on political corruption and money in politics. His plan is to pass campaign finance reform, and then resign from the Presidency. He’s currently right around $750,000, which makes me think he’ll make it over the line with a last minute bump.

I’m still not entirely sure what I think of the campaign. As I said in my original post about it, it feels gimmicky and a little nutty. Others have raised more serious concerns, some of which Lessig just tried to respond to, which is worth a read. However, equally worth reading is Lessig’s 2011 book about money in politics (and how to fix it): Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It.

As with the fundamentals of Lessig’s campaign, I don’t agree with the entire book, and I still worry about the serious unintended consequences that may occur based on campaign finance laws that sound good, but may create free expression concerns. That said, Lessig still makes a very compelling argument about just how corrupt the system really is, and how that undermines nearly everything in government. At the very least, if you’re considering supporting Lessig (or, even hating on Lessig), you at least owe it to yourself to read his book, in which he lays out his ideas in a very thorough manner. And, yes, if you don’t wish to buy the book from Amazon, Lessig also allows for free downloads from his own website, though (obviously) getting it that way doesn’t help support Techdirt.

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Comments on “Techdirt Reading List: Larry Lessig's Republic, Lost”

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Mason Wheelersays:

Lessig still makes a very compelling argument about just how corrupt the system really is, and how that undermines nearly everything in government

Yeah, that’s one of the most important points that almost nobody understands. The Constitution states that the Government is established and organized by We The People. If it’s someone else–anyone else–establishing and organizing our government, then the entire system breaks down, because that is literally the most fundamental principle that the entire system is built upon.


Okay, I've read enough Lessig. When your first chapter glosses 20th century history without mentioning "capitalists" as central problem, it's definitely WRONG.

I got the PDF for FREE! Though did have to un-host-out for ten seconds.

It’s NOT “good souls, corrupted”, it’s “EVIL SOULS, EMPOWERED BY TOO MUCH MONEY”. … That’s just basic human nature. Only way I can explain the blindness of young and/or privileged people like Lessig to that basic fact is they’ve never actually known hardship, had to slave away to enrich someone else, or come face to face with people who delight in arbitrary power. Sheer evil is easily visible today when police shoot people for no cause. That’s what The Rich do full time, only they have more resources and can hide their crimes because own the media. All wars, including the class war, start with The Rich; they’re the only ones who profit from wars.

Oh, and second chapter starts on bisphenol-A (think that’s right for BPA), which is likely dangerous, but WHAT THE HELL IS IT DOING in a political screed?

“Why don’t we have free markets?” — Because The Rich OWN THE MARKETS.

Lessig is a nutter, but since doesn’t blame The Rich, Masnick thinks he just may be profound.

Michael J. Evanssays:

Re: Re: Okay, I've read enough Lessig. When your first chapter glosses 20th century history without mentioning

That’s not entirely true. The ‘least bad’ systems we currently know of (due to real world experiments) are /not/ pure capitalism; any more than notable strawman alternatives (the corrupted form of socialism that festered in Russia/the USSR) are pure socialism/communism.

The best systems tend to be ones that are more moderate; systems that have social safety nets, regulations to dissuade externalizing costs to the commons or others. I think, for example, that you would agree public roads, walkways, plumbing and even power systems are generally quite beneficial and necessary to a modern standard of living. The same is true for other ‘basics’ within a system. There are simply some elements that are too urgent, or based on physical locality, for competition to be an effective solution at an end user level. For other systems competition is better focused on various contractors servicing a platform’s needs.


Re: the best systems.

Could you point out an example of such a system?

I’ve always though of capitalism as the “least evil” system as well. (I assume from context, the flagged comment said something about that- can’t see it due to no-script)

If there’s arguably better systems out there I’d like to learn about them.

Aaron Wolfsays:

Re: Re: the best systems.

We don’t live in a pure capitalist system. Everyone continually confuses capitalism and markets. Markets and competition have great value. Capitalism isn’t about whether there are markets, much less free markets. The definition of capitalism is whether the basic capital, the means of production, are privately owned. That’s it. Socially owned enterprises and public commons of all sorts are not capitalism. Every single successful anything that doesn’t have private owners is not capitalism.

You can have markets and competition without private ownership of basic resources. And we can have completely dysfunctional market failure and monopolies while having everything be privately owned, i.e. capitalism.

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