The American Lie: Government by the People and Other Political Fables

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George Washington is fabled to have said, "I cannot tell a lie." But lie he did, and politicians have been lying ever since. Despite assurances to the contrary, politics is not about truth, justice, and principle. It is about money, power, and status. As astute political commentator Ben Ginsberg convincingly shows, politicians pretend to fight for principles in order to conceal their true selfish motives. Thus, in this new political season, Ginsberg encourages citizens to think outside the ballot box, finding new ways to act on behalf of their interests and the public good. But if they do vote, their motto should be when in doubt vote them out." The elections of 2008 are a good time to begin.

About the Author:
Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Ginsberg (political science, Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State) here revisits a topic echoed in his previous work: the myriad forces, both public and private, that shape the U.S. government and political process. The result is an easy-to-read and well-cited book seeking to explode the myths of political participation. His bleak view of U.S. politics focuses on the wholesale misleading of citizens by corporations, bureaucrats, legislative officials, presidents, political parties, and anyone with a financial or strategic stake in government. The author enumerates historical and modern evidence of how the selfish motives of the elite and not selfless regard for the electorate decide the course of the country. He concludes that individual participation in the political process is moot when compared with the forces within, pulling the strings. "When in doubt, vote them out" becomes the prescribed motto. Little is offered, however, to guide the reader in reforming the wrongs so engagingly revealed. This fact, and the author's propensity to insult the citizens who would find this book enlightening, diminishes its overall impact. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.
—Elizabeth White

From the Publisher
"Ben Ginsberg s engaging jeremiad about the absence of truth in political discourse is in itself based on a big lie the author s claim that he is a dedicated cynic. His own words betray him as one of the few idealists remaining among us. And his trenchant analysis of America s mendacity-ridden politics demands our attention and respect." —Robert Shogan, author of Backlash: The Killing of the New Deal

"With the acerbic wit of an H.L. Mencken and a dash of Machiavellian cynicism, Ginsberg has written an iconoclastic must read book for political junkies, and just about everyone else." —Hon. Bill Clinger, former Member of Congress

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594514135
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author or coauthor of a number of books including Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced, Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public, and Politics by Other Means. Ginsberg is a frequent political commentator from his perch in Potomac, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

1. Interests and Principles in Political Life
The Principles of Cynical Realism
Altruism and Interests
Interests and Principles
Principles as Political Weapons
Becoming Realistically Cynical

2. Public Opinion: Myths and Realities
Measuring Opinion

3. Elections and the Limits of Popular Government
Voting as a Means of Regulating
Popular Political Activity
The Limits of Voting
Political Marketing

4. Private Interests and Public Policies
Mobilization Bias
Organizational Bias
Private Capture
Pathologies of Government

5. Popular Influence and State Power
Who Governs?
Delegation of Power
Presidential Power
The Citizen and the State

6. Conclusion: Why Participate in Politics?
The Myth of Political Leadership
Public Lies and Private Purposes
State Secrets
Practicing Defensive Politics

About the Author

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