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

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Overview

Going all the way back to the time of George Washington, much of what we see and hear in the political world consists of lies and deceptions. 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 demonstrates, politicians habitually lie, pretending to fight for principles, in order to conceal their true selfish motives. Citizens who need the frequent injunctions to participate in politics and abjure political cynicism are likely to be duped into contributing their tax dollars and even their lives for dubious purposes. Most individuals gain little from political participation. Participants are the foot soldiers of political warfare, but even if their side is victorious, they receive few of the spoils of war. 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.

New! A podcast featuring Ben Ginsberg and Matt Crenson, his colleague and co-author at Johns Hopkins, is now available at http://www.jhu.edu/news/podcasts/index.html.

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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

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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

Chapter 1: Interests and Principles in Political Life

Chapter 2: Public Opinion: Myths and Realities

Chapter 3: Elections and the Limits of Popular Government

Chapter 4: Private Interests and Public Policies

Chapter 5: Popular Influence and State Power

Chapter 6: Conclusion: Why Participate in Politics?

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