Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It by Lawrence Lessig
"Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How to End It" is a compelling plea for action. It's a concise explanation on the nature of corruption in Congress today, and what we can do as citizens to correct it.
Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig provides the readers with a very good complementary piece to his TED Talk on this very important topic. This provocative 102-page book includes the following unnumbered chapters: Lesterland, Worse, Corrupt, Known and Ignored, Fixes, Farm Leagues, How, 2do@now, Possible, and Great. orgs you can help now.
1. A well-written succinct narrative. Lessig is engaging and provides strong support for his arguments.
2. An important topic that Lessig masters. A fair and even-handed treatment.
3. An excellent complement to Lessig's TED Talk on this very subject. This succinct book serves to fill some of the gaps.
4. Establishing the foundation of "Lesterland" as a democracy. The three things to see now.
5. Excellent use of facts to support arguments. "The average amount raised by winning Senate candidates was $10.4 million; losing candidates raised $7.7 million."
6. Enlightening information. "Members of Congress and candidates for Congress spend anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or get their party back to power."
7. Interesting history. "But the House, as Madison described in Federalist 52, was to be 'dependent on the people alone'."
8. The spotlight on the "Funders". "Our Lesters, the Funders, use their power to advance their own private good."
9. Examples of Funders using private interest over the public good.
10. Defining who the Funders truly are. "The Funders are the cronies in the epithet of 'crony capitalism'."
11. Putting Congress in perspective. "The United States Congress is not filled with criminals. The United States Congress is filled with people who have allowed a system of influence to develop that has corrupted the institution they have the honor to serve."
12. Understanding our political system. A Republic, "representative democracy".
13. The important issue of funding campaigns. "The existing system for funding campaigns tilts Congress away from a simpler tax system -- in part because complexity makes it easier to raise money."
14. The root of the problem. "Corruption is thus the root that all of us must strike at, if we're ever to achieve any progress against the many 'branches of evil.'"
15. A concise plea for action, "we cannot ignore the corruption anymore. We need a government that works."
16. Pragmatic fixes. "We solve the problem by embracing 'citizen-funded elections'."
17. Exposing life after government.
18. The keys to change. "Every fundamental change has happened when the proponents have found a way to unite the country across political divisions."
19. Lessig does a good job of providing readers with tools to a path forward.
20. Solid endnotes.
1. Does not link endnotes.
2. No formal separate bibliography.
3. Though succinct it is repetitive.
4. Tables, charts would have added value.
5. It seems to me that President Obama has tried in vain to find common ground with Congress but has failed to make any progress. Lessig doesn't address this at all.
In summary, an excellent complement to his excellent TED Talk on "Corruption in Congress and How to Fix It". Lessig is an engaging author and has great command of the topic. His arguments are provocative but well-grounded. He makes it very clear what has corrupted Congress and what we can do as ordinary citizens to fix it. Watch the TED Talk and proceed to fill the gaps with this solid complement, I recommend it.
Further suggestions: "Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It" by the same author, "The Price of Inequality" by Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Corporations Are Not People" by Jeffrey D. Clements, "Double Down: Game Change 2012" by Mark Halperin, "Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (Studies in Postwar American Political Development)" by Geoffrey Kabaservice, "That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing" by Michael Austin, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism" by Thomas E. Mann, "Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't" by Robert G. Kaiser, and "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson.