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The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of Public Trustby John B Judis
Synopses & Reviews
Washington is big business. The era of civic-minded captains of industry and serious think-tanks has given way to the heyday of K Street, home to the lobbyists who now spend $2.4 million a year on each member of Congress.
John B. Judis, a senior editor for the New Republic, conducts an instructive tour through this corridor of money and power in The Paradox of American Democracy with eye-opening results. For example: Former foreign policy advisers now become lobbyists for foreign businesses. Former Senators call for privatizing social security while sitting on boards of investment banks that would benefit from the conversion. The bankers, lawyers, and business people who once devoted time to public service now confine their activity to lobbying for their firms.
The Paradox of American Democracy turns the conventional view of democracy on it's head. Judis shows that it's never been enough to have active political participation; American democracy has always depended on an enlightened political establishment-with only the nation's best interest in mind-to shape public opinion. Our political system suffers today because the lawyers, professors and former government officials who once made up of the establishment have put their minds and reputations at the service of moneyed special interests. Rather than balancing the interests of business and populists, the elites-and their money-are now firmly on the side of business.
With widespread cynicism so completely undermining our institutions, The Paradox of American Democracy cuts to the heart of today's debate on why our systems is broken, and what we can do to fix it.
"This lucid, frequently impassioned book enfolds horror stories about K Street malfeasance and business power in an impressive larger structure....This is a vigorous and important book." Todd Gitlin, The Washington Monthly
"Precise, perceptive, and immensely useful." Washington Post Book World
Judis offers a penetrating examination of democracy in 20th century America that illuminates the forces and institutions that once enlivened it and now threaten to undermine it.
John B. Judis, one of our most insightful political commentators, most rational and careful thinkers, and most engaged witnesses in Washington, has taken on a challenge that even the most concerned American citizens shrink from: forecasting the American political climate at the turn of the century. The Paradox of American Democracy is a penetrating examination of our democracy that illuminates the forces and institutions that once enlivened it and now threaten to undermine it. It is the well-reasoned discussion we need in this era of unrestrained expert opinions and ideologically biased testimony.
The disenchantment with our political system can be seen in decreasing voter turnout, political parties co-opted by consultants and large contributors, the corrupting influence of "soft money," and concern for national welfare subverted by lobbying organizations and special-interest groups. Judis revisits particular moments ? the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the 1960s ? to discover what makes democracy the most efficacious and, consequently, most inefficacious. What has worked in the past is a balancing act between groups of elites - trade commissions, labor relations boards, policy groups ? whose mandates are to act in the national interest and whose actions are governed by a disinterested pursuit of the common good. Judis explains how the displacment of such elites by a new lobbying community in Washington has given rise to the cynicism that corrodes the current political system.
The Paradox of American Democracy goes straight to the heart of every political debate in this country.
Washington is big business. John B. Judis, a senior editor for the New Republic, onducts an instructive tour through this corridor of money and power in this work. Cutting to the heart of today's debate, it recommends what we can do to fix our broken system.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 262-286) and index.
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