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You Say You Want a Revolution : A Story of Information Age Politics Hardcover – March 17, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Reed E. Hundt tells his version of what happened during the rapid development of the information economy during the 1990s, witnessed from his perch as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for four years. This is, of course, a political post--and Hundt has written a political book about Washington, D.C.'s wars over deregulation, education, and technology. Hundt won his job because he was so well connected to the Clinton-Gore administration: he knew Al Gore in high school and attended law school with Bill Clinton. As might be expected, then, You Say You Want a Revolution is a frankly partisan book: "Our central effort, based on a vision articulated by Al Gore, was to have the federal government guarantee that new communications technology would be at the fingertips of every child in every classroom.... The self-styled Republican Revolution of 1994 intensified the degree of difficulty for my group's ambitions, as the new leaders of Congress insisted vehemently on a narrow vision of the uses of government." This tone may limit the book's appeal, but it would be a mistake to think Hundt has written an arid manual only a policy wonk could love--as might be expected of a former top bureaucrat.

He packs his book with humor and offbeat stories: When he walked into his FCC office for the first time, it was a dusty mess--the staff wanted to see if he would be confirmed before ordering a cleaning crew. And then there's the FCC's version of the Batmobile: a high-tech, high-cost "vinyl and blackwalls job chockablock with antennae, tuners, and radar equipment worthy of a Tom Clancy novel" used to track down pirate-radio operators. Hundt faced enormous pressures and demands on his job--there were about 200 lawyers and lobbyists in the Federal Communications Bar for every member of Hundt's staff. He also encountered dozens of famous personalities, including Clint Eastwood, George Gilder, George Lucas, and Nick Negroponte--all offering advice or seeking favors. Bill Gates came by his office, but, writes Hundt, his staff was more excited about the visit from Quincy Jones. Hundt was also satirized on the cartoon show Animaniacs "as a regulator named 'Reef Blunt,' who forced kids to watch shows they did not like." You Say You Want a Revolution simply crackles with this kind of nifty detail. It's a bit self-congratulatory, and the Republicans always seem to wear black hats, but it's a surprisingly entertaining memoir. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

The Wall Street Journal branded him a "French bureaucrat," and cable television magnate John Malone famously quipped that he should be shot. But it was all in a day's work for former FCC chairman Hundt, who served as chief regulator and de facto architect of the New Economy from 1993 to 1997. In this insightful and good-natured memoir of his experiences at the helm of the "deep-inside-the-Beltway" regulatory agency, Hundt recounts the savage battles he waged to help introduce competition and technological change into America's communications markets, all the while shielding consumers from profit-hungry cable and telephone lobbies. The former lawyer was propelled to center stage with the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which empowered the FCC to interpret the thousands of regulatory decisions required by the law. As vulturelike lobbyists swooped down to win concessions on everything from digital television to long-distance rates, Hundt kept to a high-minded mission to connect the Internet to every classroom in America and called for more public programming on broadcast media. While his consistent poise amid roiling market forces is commendable, Hundt's narrative occasionally gets waylaid when justifying a certain policy decision or waxing piously about Al Gore. Such digressions, however, are compensated for by a welcome sense of humor, evident in one anecdote about a trip to discuss communications policy in Ireland: after Hundt laid out his master plan for a globally networked society, one member of the Irish contingent shot back, "Can you pour Guinness by e-mail? Then there will always be an Ireland!" (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Second Printing edition (March 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300083645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300083644
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,752,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "francesco_f_b" on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book opened my eyes to the dealings of large telecom and media corporations and their lobbying in Washington.
Reed Hundt is clearly partisan in his views but he is an insider who writes clearly and incisively. This book is fun!
You might disagree with Mr Hundt political views or the effects of his influential chairmanship but you got to give him credit for disclosing facts that would have otherwise been unknown. "You Say You Want a Revolution" is refreshing; Reed Hundt's book opens the door for controversy and contributes a thriving democracy in America.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a disappointment. Mr. Hundt missed a wonderful opportunity to provide the American public with an accurate, balanced and analytical tour of the most important moment in telecommunications history. Mr. Hundt's recollection of his days at the FCC is analogous to writing a history of the LBJ presidency and failing to mention Vietnam. Instead, the author wasted the chance, and takes the reader on a trip focused on the exercise of paritisan political partisanship and ego gratification.
American consumers (and those of us in the telecom world) would have also enjoyed to read about Mr. Hundt's assessment of his entire legacy as chairman of the FCC, including, for example, 1)some insight on the genesis of those numerous surcharges he created that are now common on our inflated telephone bills; 2)how before Congress he had to defend his proposal to have the government provide pagers to homeless people (funded by another proposed surcharge on the American consumers telephone bill) and 3) how his professed reverence for public service, as outlined in the book, is consistent with the Wall Street Journal's front page article regarding the author's recently amassed wealth ($30-40 million) achieved by sitting on the corporate boards of the those same companies he once regulated. We look forward to a more sober assesment in volume two.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bret Marr on November 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
looking for a little inside info on how the FCC operates and some background on some of their more controversial decisions of the clinton era, i incorrectly assumed that the memoirs of the FCC Chair would shed some light. all i got was inside the huge, some could argue enormous, head of Reed Hundt, an egomaniac looking for someone to spin. i can't even finish the book it's so poor. all the politics aside, this book is really very poorly crafted. it's not insightful and just plain upsetting to read the machinations about how, through regulatory rules, reed hundt and al gore single handedly spurred the economic resurgence of the US economy. how absurd!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Thomson on July 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Former Chairman of the Federal Communications Communications Commission Reed Hundt is far too enamored of activist government. This unfortunate mindset severely hindered the author's legitimate opposition to the excesses of the Republican controlled U.S. Congress. Hundt rightfully wished to draw "attention to the contradictions between sound conservative ideology and (actual) Republican behavior." Many right-wing Republican elected officials indeed talked the talk about encouraging free economic activity in the telecom industry while hypocritically kowtowing to the wishes of the powerful and wealthy Baby Bells. Capitalist godfather Adam Smith long ago warned that businessmen are inclined to collude together to defraud the consumer. A logically consistent conservative opposes both the careless welfare given to financially disadvantaged individuals and the corporate classes. Also, the Baby Bells originally benefited from the monopoly status granted to them by the government. They therefore have obligations unlike those corporations that never received such special favors. These truths are readily ignored by many conservatives especially when tempted by the not so subtle bribes offered by the rich corporations. "Al Gore's agenda was clearly," added Hundt "to promote competition, stimulate investment and innovation, and guarantee social benefits." Please note the very last item---enbracing this goal did a tremendous amount of harm.
Having your heart in the right place is not always a guarantee of splendid results. The author muddled his core message with extraneous pursuits best left off the agenda. Effective politics require a focussing upon the priorities of your limited time in either elected or appointed office.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Don't buy this book if you want to learn about the Internet's influence on US politics, the machinations of the FCC and congress around telecommunications in general, or for insights into the politics of the digital economy. No, dear reader, the star of this book is none less than Reed Hundt!
Hundt portrays himself as a radical revolutionary battling political foes and the media to unleash the power of the Internet. Unfortunately, Hundt just can't seem to get over the main character and love of his life: Reed Hundt.
Hundt's zealous ego stroking (more a sort of political frottage) and incessant name dropping is so distracting that it is very hard to plough through many chapters and learn something about his period at the FCC. The self aggrandisement is so relentless that after a while you wonder how much Hundt has embellished his accounts to make himself look better.
The reader is left in no doubt where Hundt's political future lies, as he piles on the praise for Clinton, Gore etc. While political partisanship itself doesn't necessarily make any book a disaster, in this case it just makes the reader squirm with embarrassment. This does lead to episodes of comic relief as Hundt veers across the line into inadvertant self parody: for example, Hundt musing egocentrically on his political future while drawing parallels with his position in a conga line lead by Gary Hart at a Democractic party.
If "Al" (Gore) is as much of a buddy as "Reed" (Hundt) makes out, then it is hardly any wonder that Gore really thought he invented the Internet with the constant attention of Hundt's busily lapping tongue.
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