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Are the Rich Necessary?: Great Economic Arguments and How They Reflect Our Personal Values Hardcover – August 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Axios Press (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975366203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975366202
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,903,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Investment advisor and author Lewis (A Question of Values) presents a number of prescient arguments that seek to answer the title question and others, exposing in the process alternate approaches to solving everyday economic problems. Lewis utilizes a relatively novel approach: he presents a succinct, yes-or-no economic question ("Does the profit system glorify greed?") and then analyzes rationally the arguments behind both answers. Lewis begins with an econ overview before diving into queries, looking first at reasons to believe the rich aren't necessary (they "do not share adequately," they "stand in the way of democracy") and that they are ("There cannot be too much saving if it is invested properly"). He goes on to cover topics like market depression, global free trade, inequality and government intervention; regarding the latter ("Can government protect us from the excesses of the profit system?"), he looks at both Alan Greenspan in the 1990s and Han emporer Wu-di in 100 BCE.. Lewis is skilled at boiling down arguments to their most concise, and his sharp analysis employs highly accessible prose; as such, this makes great reading for anyone interested in quickly expanding their knowledge of today's political-economic issues, though Lewis's punchy point-counterpoint approach may turn off more knowledgeable readers.
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"His ideas for helping the problems we face are radical, thought provoking and should be considered by as many people as possible." -- Lord Rothschild (Jacob)

"Are The Rich Necessary? is both a highly provocative and a highly pleasurable read." Harry Hurt, III -- The New York Times, October 21, 2007

More About the Author

Hunter Lewis was born in Dayton, Ohio, USA, in 1947 and graduated from the Groton School and Harvard University (AB 1969). After working at the Boston Company, then one of the largest investment managers, first as assistant to the president and then vice-president, in 1975 Lewis co-founded and served as co-chief executive and then chief executive of Cambridge Associates LLC, an investment advisor to research universities and colleges representing over three-quarters of U.S. higher education endowment assets, foundations, cultural organizations, international organizations and other non-profit institutions as well as families. Cambridge Associates is now a global firm with offices and clients around the world.

In addition to his work at Cambridge Associates, Lewis has served as treasurer and president of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, a graduate research institute affiliated with 150 American colleges and universities, president of the Alliance for Natural Health-USA, chairman of the National Environmental Trust, chairman of Dumbarton Oaks (affiliate of Harvard University), founder and chairman of the Trearne Foundation, which provides educational assistance to foster children, chairman of the Worldwatch Institute, chairman of Shelburne Farms, treasurer of the World Wildlife Fund (World Wide Fund for Nature), trustee of World Wildlife Fund International, member of the Advisory Board of Environmental Health Sciences, trustee of the Morgan Library, trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello), trustee of the Peabody School, trustee of the Groton School, trustee of the Core Knowledge Foundation, and member of the World Bank Pension Finance Committee.

Lewis has contributed to many newspapers and periodicals including the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as He is also an author and editor of books on economics and moral philosophy. His works include: Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why World Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts (Axios Press; September 25, 2009), Are the Rich Necessary?: Great Economic Arguments and How They Reflect Our Personal Values (Axios Press; September 25, 2007; Rev Updated PB edition October 30, 2009), A Question of Values : Six Ways We Make the Personal Choices That Shape Our Lives (Harper Collins, 1990, Axios Press, Rev Updated edition May 25, 2000), The Beguiling Serpent (Axios Press; August 31, 2000), Alternative Values: For and Against Wealth, Power, Fame, Praise, Glory, and Physical Pleasure (Axios Press; July 25, 2005) and The Real World War (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan/Putnam; 1982).

Customer Reviews

An excellent handbook on economics for beginners.
Dr. John G. Eoll
Lastly, the strange font size and pagination (where there are only about 7 words per line) make the book more like reading a very long Biblical passage or something.
Joseph C. Kusnan
I bought this book after reading the very positive New York Times review a few weeks ago.
C. B. Cornish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Are the Rich Necessary?" was probably written in 2006, given that it was publsihed in 2007. But having read it at the end of 2008, after the stock market collapse, mortgage scandals, and immense government financial bailouts, I found that some of the ideas had even more resonance than the author probably intended. Chapters about government intervention in the marketplace and the benefits of central bankers really jump out at a time when the government is literally kicking trillions of dollars into the economy in unprecedented ways.

"Are the Rich Necessary?" doesn't really answer the core question. Instead, it presents point-counterpoint arguments about the benefits of a capitalist system (which the author calls a "profit" system). For a person with a beginner's understanding of economics, the book is probably thought-provoking to a great degree. For a person with a stronger background -- I have an undergrad degree in economics -- the book is a bit elementary. Still, it's nice to have the "big" arguments neatly compiled into one place and to have such pithy quotes an anecdotes from economists and political thinkers through the ages.

Definitely worth buying and reading if you like economics at all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
The title is pretty funny and I think I would think so even if I were rich, which I'm not (but I'm doing okay, thanks). The title reminds me of the placard held by an Occupy Wall Street protester some months ago, "Eat the rich."

Well, you know this sort of thing may not be all that funny to some people. The rich are still shaking in their polo boots about the communist threat even though it is as passé as mutton chop whiskers. However if the rich aren't careful they may see a new threat arise in the next decade or two that will make the communist manifesto seem like an invitation to a tea party.

(Uh...never mind.)

The rich need to keep in mind that trickle down really means something has to trickle down. You can't hire the Pinkerton Guards and hole up in your palatial estate and expect to feel cozy by the fire any more. You have to actually relinquish some of your ill-gotten gains just to keep the hoi polloi from the ramparts. In the US we used to do that with a progressive tax code. Since it is very, very difficult for anyone (except Warren Buffet) to vote themselves more taxes, we need to help the rich out.

As President Hoover famously observed, economists are in the very disconcerting habit of saying "on the one hand..." and then "on the other hand...." And so he longed for a one-handed economist. Here Lewis gives us both a "no" and a "yes" (and some "yes/no's and no/yes's) to nine economic questions beginning with the title question and covering such areas as globalism, government's role in the economy, greed, the role of banks, etc. He quotes various economists on both sides of the issues. The effect is similar to taking a broad-based first course in economics at a college or university.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. B. Cornish on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading the very positive New York Times review a few weeks ago. I had also seen Mr Lewis on Bloomberg TV and thought he seemed extremely knowledgeable. He is and the book is a real treat - it's provocative because it makes you think about why you think what you think (and I was surprised at the direction these answers led me) and it's pleasurable because Lewis quotes from as many unlikely sources - Jane Goodall and Al Sharpton, to name just two - as likely sources such as John Maynard Keynes.

With a title like Are the Rich Necessary? you have to surmise there will be curves ahead - and there are, and they're fun, but the best curve for me was the learning curve. I learned so much.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By EWC on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author gives the impression of arguing both sides of the question, but what he really does is set up strawmen, so that he can knock them down. He makes a strong case for why the rich are necessary but he doesn't cover any new ground nor add to the debate. This is really an argument for liberals who don't understand economics. Frankly, I bought the book hoping to find a more compelling argument for why the rich aren't necessary. The quotes and facts are, however, a useful compendium of information for those more knowledgeable.

Unfortunately, the author misses perhaps the most compelling argument for not taxing the rich more heavily - the benefits from investments are largely captured by the consumers through lower prices and not by investors who compete against one another to earn the cost of capital. Only the rich can afford to defer consumption and expose their fortunes to the risks of investing. The other 95% of the population is rightly consuming everything they have.

Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, realize that their constituents are compelled by consumption and not saving and investment, (otherwise voters would already be saving and investing on their own,) and that they, therefore, must promise and deliver legislation that satisfies their constitutes' objective (of increased consumption) if they want to get elected. The Democrats propose that we tax the rich, in effect, redistributing society's saving to consumers for consumption. The Republicans propose to lower everyone's taxes, regardless of government spending.

In the end, we need the rich to save and invest on behalf of society because there is no viable alternative. Consumers "tax" society with 99 cents of consumption for every dollar they agree to save whereas the rich "tax" us much less. We need savings and investment, so it's cheaper to give the incremental dollar to the rich, precisely because they don't need it!
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