Book Review: Democracy, Inc. 📚

I saw this book on sale on the iBooks Store and was immediately drawn into the content. We’ve heard stories over the years of Members of Congress increasing their personal net worths over their terms in office, and so my expectation was that this book would explore that topic. The book was a waste of time, which can be perfectly summed up by the authors themselves,

The Post analysis did not turn up evidence of insider trading. Instead, the review shows that lawmakers routinely make trades that raise questions a bout whether members of Congress have an investing advantage over members of the public.

The book itself is a compilation of news stories published in the pages of The Washington Post in 2012. The reporters conducted extensive reviews of public records and financial disclosures, uncovering dozens of examples of lawmakers personally benefiting from information that they had and earmarks they requested.

When it came to the stock trades, universally, each story had the same ending. The Member of Congress didn’t make or request the specific trade, but rather their investment broker executed the transaction. This section of the book was the weakest.

The earmarks section was a bit more compelling. In many cases, Members of Congress secured earmarks for projects in their districts that appeared to directly benefit them. For members of the House, whose congressional districts are limited, often with only one or two main areas of population, I found the earmarks to not pose a particular problem. For Senators, the earmarks that improved infrastructure or economies where they lived, there was an appearance of impropriety.

The main thrust of the article is that Congress sets the rules for personal disclosure for itself and all other members in federal public service. Time and again, they hold others to a much higher standard than then do themselves. The authors used their reporting to suggest that an equal standard of disclosure be applied to all members of government. In that respect, they were persuasive.

Rating: ★ ★

ISBN: 9781626810044

© 2019 Chet J. Collins