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WITH A NEW FOREWORD ABOUT THE 2020 ELECTION
“This urgent book offers not only a clear-eyed explanation of the forces that broke our politics, but a thoughtful and, yes, patriotic vision of how we create a government that’s truly by and for the people.”—DAVID DALEY, bestselling author of Ratf**ked and Unrigged
In the vein of On Tyranny and How Democracies Die, the bestselling author of Republic, Lost argues with insight and urgency that our democracy no longer represents us and shows that reform is both necessary and possible.
America’s democracy is in crisis. Along many dimensions, a single flaw—unrepresentativeness—has detached our government from the people. And as a people, our fractured partisanship and ignorance on critical issues drive our leaders to stake out ever more extreme positions.
In They Don’t Represent Us, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig charts the way in which the fundamental institutions of our democracy, including our media, respond to narrow interests rather than to the needs and wishes of the nation’s citizenry. But the blame does not only lie with “them”—Washington’s politicians and power brokers, Lessig argues. The problem is also “us.” “We the people” are increasingly uninformed about the issues, while ubiquitous political polling exacerbates the problem, reflecting and normalizing our ignorance and feeding it back into the system as representative of our will.
What we need, Lessig contends, is a series of reforms, from governmental institutions to the public itself, including:
- A move immediately to public campaign funding, leading to more representative candidates
- A reformed Electoral College, that gives the President a reason to represent America as a whole
- A federal standard to end partisan gerrymandering in the states
- A radically reformed Senate
- A federal penalty on states that don’t secure to their people an equal freedom to vote
- Institutions that empower the people to speak in an informed and deliberative way
A soul-searching and incisive examination of our failing political culture, this nonpartisan call to arms speaks to every citizen, offering a far-reaching platform for reform that could save our democracy and make it work for all of us.
With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts theissues in terms that nonwonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness.
While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In Republic Lost, he not only makes this need palpable and clear-he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.
In Fidelity & Constraint, legal scholar Lawrence Lessig explains that one of the most basic approaches to interpreting the constitution is the process of translation. Indeed, some of the most significant shifts in constitutional doctrine are products of the evolution of the translation process over time. In every new era, judges understand their translations as instances of "interpretive fidelity," framed within each new temporal context.
Yet, as Lessig also argues, there is a repeatedly occurring countermove that upends the process of translation. Throughout American history, there has been a second fidelity in addition to interpretive fidelity: what Lessig calls "fidelity to role." In each of the cycles of translation that he describes, the role of the judge -- the ultimate translator -- has evolved too. Old ways of interpreting the text now become illegitimate because they do not match up with the judge's perceived role. And when that conflict occurs, the practice of judges within our tradition has been to follow the guidance of a fidelity to role. Ultimately, Lessig not only shows us how important the concept of translation is to constitutional interpretation, but also exposes the institutional limits on this practice.
The first work of both constitutional and foundational theory by one of America's leading legal minds, Fidelity & Constraint maps strategies that both help judges understand the fundamental conflict at the heart of interpretation whenever it arises and work around the limits it inevitably creates.
So begins Lawrence Lessig's sweeping indictment of contemporary American institutions and the corruption that besets them. We can all see it—from the selling of Congress to special interests to the corporate capture of the academy. Something is wrong. It’s getting worse.
And it’s our fault. What Lessig shows, brilliantly and persuasively, is that we can’t blame the problems of contemporary American life on bad people, as our discourse all too often tends to do. Rather, he explains, “We have allowed core institutions of America’s economic, social, and political life to become corrupted. Not by evil souls, but by good souls. Not through crime, but through compromise.” Every one of us, every day, making the modest compromises that seem necessary to keep moving along, is contributing to the rot at the core of American civic life. Through case studies of Congress, finance, the academy, the media, and the law, Lessig shows how institutions are drawn away from higher purposes and toward money, power, quick rewards—the first steps to corruption.
Lessig knows that a charge so broad should not be levied lightly, and that our instinct will be to resist it. So he brings copious, damning detail gleaned from years of research, building a case that is all but incontrovertible: America is on the wrong path. If we don’t acknowledge our own part in that, and act now to change it, we will hand our children a less perfect union than we were given. It will be a long struggle. This book represents the first steps.