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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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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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Axios Press (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975366203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975366202
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,109,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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 500 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Richard Hall on January 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm an economist by interest, and this book gave me a very good overview of many of the hidden mechanisms behind the economy as a driver of society and progress. It also provided a fairly good critique of the pros and cons to our capitalistic / government regulated system.

The only reason I lacked the final star was that it just seemed to end abruptly, without pulling it all together into a comprehendible system. It left me wanting more, and left me to my own prognosis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John G. Eoll on March 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent handbook on economics for beginners. Presented in the form of "yes" or "no" questions followed by short discussions from well-known contemporary economists. Wish they offered a pocket-sized leather bound edition of this great little book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Foxtrot on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The service from the Seller, Bargain Books, was excellent.

My review of the text is limited because I have put it aside because I found it to be pretty superficial and simplistic and I have other books of much greater interest. The author is apparently an investment adviser to charitable foundations so it is not surprising that he comes up with the recommendation that there be less government and more donations to charity to do the nation's social work. The problem with this is, a part from his and his clients' vested interests, is that the social needs of the country will then be determined based on what wealthy individuals and foundation boards determine is necessary (or maybe just based on their personal interests) rather than on a more balanced approach which presumably is better determined by elected representatives. Congress and most state legislatures have been doing a lousy job in the last three-four decades. See, e.g., The Broken Branch. Moreover, the recent budget proposal from the Obama administration to eliminate charitable deductions makes the proposal even more problematical.

Granted, the wealthy have done many worthwhile things (and sometimes have filled in where government has failed to act thus shifting what properly should be a public burden to the "willing" few) such as Gates, Ford, Pew, MacArthur, etc., but that is reflective of political hubris and poor management. For example, Social Security has been well managed and at much less cost that private investment. Its only problem is the depredation of the fund by Congress and failure to adjust as necessary. Where government has failed is usually 1) poor management and failure of oversight sand consequences or 2) poor structure and an unwillingness to make changes when the need is identified.
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