The Lost Republic? A Review of Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost
8 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2016
Date Written: April 1, 2012
Lawrence Lessig's book Republic, Lost argues that a new type of corruption has overcome the modern Congress. Unlike the venal corruption of earlier periods, for example the gilded age, the 21st Century Congress has become corrupt in entirely legal ways. The pressures of campaign finance, and of making connections in the influence economy, distract and distort elected officials from serving the public interest. Voters perceive the electoral system to be corrupt, losing trust in government. Lessig proposes reforms remove elected officials from having a role in campaign finance. Through mechanisms such as the "democracy voucher", Lessig proposes to spend more in aggregate on elections, but have the composition be much less concentrated. This review critically reviews Lessig's argument by comparison to the received empirical literature in the social sciences. While drawing attention to important yet underappreciated aspects of these problems, Lessig book warrants a strong audience. However, the corruption narrative is not supported by the literature, and the reform proposals like previous reforms can be strategically circumnavigated.
Keywords: Corruption, Campaign Finance, Congress
JEL Classification: D72, H7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation