New e-books from Edmond J. Safra Research Lab

June 30, 2015

Today marks the final day of the Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption. As this project comes to an end, we are very pleased to announce two new e-books by Lab Fellows Norm Alster and Daniel Weeks.

Norm Alster, Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates

Available as a free PDF on our website, or on Amazon for $0.99

Ever wonder who really runs Washington? Ever have the sense that the agencies which are supposed to regulate industry actually report to it? Ever get angry that Washington lawmakers and regulators seem more interested in protecting corporations than in protecting public health?

Read Alster's fascinating account of how corporate technology interests have won inordinate access to – and power over – a major regulatory agency. The Federal Communications Commission sits at the heart of a bipartisan Washington web of institutional corruption that has for many years championed corporate interests, typically at public expense. Echoing industry, the FCC has ignored the growing evidence that wireless technologies pose serious health risks. It has indirectly taxed consumers billions to pay for the pet projects of tech executives and lobbyists. FCC policies have enabled cable companies to charge the highest rates in the world while forcing consumers to pay for channels they don't want.

How can all this happen in a system where elected representatives approve and supervise regulatory officials? An online survey conducted for this project suggests that corporate interests have a huge ally in public ignorance of their most damaging (but obscure) triumphs and tactics.

Daniel Weeks, Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below

Available as a free PDF on our website, or on Amazon for $0.99

What is the connection between poverty and politics today? Does money determine a person's political voice? Is poverty a democracy problem? To tackle these thorny questions, political reformer Daniel Weeks traveled 10,000 miles through thirty states by Greyhound bus, speaking with hundreds of fellow citizens living in poverty and recording his experiences on a poverty-line budget of $16 a day. From benches on Capitol Hill to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, from the desert colonias of New Mexico to Skid Row in L.A., his profiles and careful analysis put a human face on poverty and political inequality in the 21st century.

Building on the 2014 "Poor (in) Democracy" series for The Atlantic, this book explores the complex relationship between institutional poverty and political power, including how economic inequalities enter the political sphere and undermine political equality; how political arrangements deepen and entrench poverty; and what it means in real life to be poor and (seek to) participate in politics.

The stories Weeks recounts from "second-class citizens" across the United States challenge our cherished assumptions about the American dream. Consumed by the daily demands of subsistence and excluded from political participation by both formal and informal means, the people profiled are struggling to make their voices heard where it matters most: in politics. Their poverty is a problem – a moral outrage, in fact – but it's not the kind of problem we think. More than an economic or social concern, their poverty is political: it is embedded in the very structures of society and maintained by an unjust distribution of political power. To counteract systemic poverty and political inequality, Weeks proposes a slate of reforms aimed at strengthening American democracy, so that all citizens can make their voices heard.

You can find a full list of the Lab's e-books here. As the Institutional Corruption Lab comes to a close, the archives of our Fellows' incredible work on this issue will continue to live online. We encourage you to explore blog posts, working papers, podcasts, lecture videos, and seminar summaries. Our thanks to the hundreds of Fellows, faculty, and affiliates who have contributed to this impressive body of work over the last five years.