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Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else Paperback – September 24, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143124064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143124061
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Even Alan Greenspan is worried about the troubling trend of income inequality. International financial reporter Freeland looks beyond worries about the 1 percent to the even more troubling trend of the 0.1 percent of the world’s most wealthy having more in common with each other than their countrymen and acting on those interests, guaranteeing even more inequality. Is the gap between the superrich and everybody else the product of impersonal market forces or political machinations? Freeland offers an engaging and deeply analytical look at the history, politics, and economics behind the rise of the plutocrats. She draws parallels between current inequality and the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, when the top 1 percent of the U.S. population held one-third of the national income. Globalization and the technology revolution are the major factors behind what she sees as new and overlapping gilded ages: the second for the U.S., the first for developing nations. Drawing on interviews with economists and the elite themselves, Freeland chronicles lavish parties, hubris, and hand-wringing over the direction of the global economy. As she laments, The feedback loop between money, politics, and ideas is both cause and consequence of the rise of the super-elite. Readers will appreciate the broader political and economic implications of Freeland’s penetrating examination of growing global income inequality. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize

*


“Just in time – if not too late – comes this definitive examination of inequality in our time. I think it’s the bookend to the Hacker-Pierson book, Winner-Take-All Politics. These two are essential reading for anybody who wants to understand where we are.”
—Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

“Freeland is an insightful and indefatigable reporter…  Freeland concludes by reminding us of Venice, which 700 years ago made itself a wealthy imperial power through commerce. The city fell into decline when its own plutocrats tried to cement their advantages, thereby stifling the openness that accounted for the society’s dynamism. Today, of course, Venice is sinking. Freeland’s book will make people wonder if we are, too.” --Bloomberg Businessweek

Timely and absorbing... this is no voyeuristic glimpse into the fabulous lifestyles of the rich and famous. Freeland charts the rise of this class by examining global trends and exploring the consequences of the creation of such a money-laden elite, shifting smoothly from dense academic studies and interviews with George Soros to grappling with the success of Lady Gaga… Her findings are fleshed out with fine research, strong statistics and neat nuggets of information.” --The Guardian (UK)

Plutocrats isn’t a book about the lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy, but rather the global trends the book’s titular class surfed to success… it’s rife with impressive analysis. In a chapter on the so-called superstar effect—“the tendency of both technological change and globalization to create winner-take-all economic tournaments”—Ms. Freeland glides from the writings of Soviet intellectuals, MIT and Princeton economists and the apostle Matthew to the careers of 18th century diva Elizabeth Billington, Lady Gaga, white-shoe lawyer David Boies, Yves St. Laurent, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Albert Einstein… the thoroughness with which Ms. Freeland surrounds the ideas is satisfying.” --The New York Observer

A portrait of the ultra-rich that few other journalists have had the access to capture… Unlike some critics on the left, Freeland does not vilify her super-rich protagonists – a nonpartisan approach that helps make Plutocrats harder to ignore.” --USA Today

“Rising inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Chrystia Freeland's Plutocrats provides us with a glimpse of the lives of America's elites and a disquieting look at the society that produces them. This well-written and lively account is a good primer for anyone who wants to understand one extreme of America today."
    --Joseph Stiglitz, author of The Price of Inequality; University Professor, Columbia University

"Mix crisp economics, ripe history, and two pinches of salty gossip, and you have the flavor of Chrystia Freeland’s entertaining book. From the opulent Bradley Martin ball of 1897 to its modern echoes in Sun Valley and Davos, Plutocrats chronicles the habits of the workaholic overclass—its taste for British public schools, its immodest philanthropy, its fundamental rootlessness. Even as she describes this gilded tribe, Freeland advances a paradoxical warning. Open societies may allow super-achievers to pile up extraordinary riches—and to feel that they have more or less deserved them. But the more these meritocrats succeed, the more likely they are to entrench their own offspring at the top of the heap, negating the very meritocracy that afforded them their chances. Already in the United States, graduating from college is more closely linked to having wealthy parents than to grades in high school. When class matters more than going to class, Freeland’s message must be treated with the utmost seriousness."
    --Sebastian Mallaby, author of More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite

"Our world increasingly revolves around global elites who not only have an oversized effect on our politics but also set the trends and furnish us with the dominant discourse. In this delightful book, Chrystia Freeland tells the story of how we got here and what distinguishes our elites from those of previous epochs. Most importantly, she explains why the elites' dominance, even when it appears benign, is a challenge to our institutions and gives us clues about how we can overcome it."
    --Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail; economics professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“The world’s wealthy elite, is more wealthy, more knit together, more separate from their fellow citizens and probably more powerful than ever before. This very important  book describes their lives and more important how their lives affect all of ours. It should be read by anyone concerned with how their world is being shaped and how it will evolve.”
    --Lawrence Summers, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary; Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University

"Chrystia Freeland has written a fascinating account of perhaps the most important economic and political development of our era: the rise of a new plutocracy. She explains that today’s wealthy are different from their predecessors: more skilled and more global; and more often employees than owners, notably so in finance and high technology. By putting together stories of individuals with reading of the scholarly evidence, she gives us a clear view of what many will view as a not so brave new world."
    --Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator for the Financial Times

Customer Reviews

Very interesting, well written and informative.
T D Thomas
Freeland very clearly explains the development of the world's super elite.
Darius Smith
I have read this book and it is very insightful.
mimi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 137 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Lee on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Plutocrats" is a very interesting and well-written look at soaring income inequality in the U.S. and world wide. The book focuses especially on the people at the extreme top: the .01 (or even .001) percent and delves into the staggering differences between the lives of these people and average members of the population.

The book is full of interesting facts and insights. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet together control as much wealth as the 120 MILLION Americans at the bottom of the distribution. Most people have no idea how unequal our society has become. In one survey, Americans where shown unlabeled graphs of the income distribution in Sweden (the top 20% has 36% of the wealth) and the U.S.(the top 20% has 84%), and nearly everyone (92%) chose Sweden as the place they would prefer to live.

The book takes a balanced, pro-capitalism approach. It does not preach, nor does it conduct class warfare; it simply seeks to analyze the reasons for inequality and also its implications. The book looks at factors including political influence (a feedback loop where wealth begets influence which in turn begets even more wealth), as well as advancing technology and globalization

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is its coverage of the lives, culture and attitudes of the super rich. This is important because it has implications for society. In many cases the plutocrats withdraw into gated communities. They do not need public schools or libraries and do not have to worry about paying for college. In many cases, they rely very little on the public services and infrastructure that are vital to the rest of us, and that may partly explain their reluctance to support higher taxes to pay for these things.
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165 of 176 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on October 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Real per-capita GDP has tripled in America since 1950, and 23X in China. Inequality, however, is becoming a major issue in both nations. From the mid-1920s til 1940, the share of income going to the top 10% was 45%, then falling to 33% until the late 1970s; by 2006 it had reached 50%. However, the greatest income gap is not between the 1% and the 99%, but within the wealthiest 1% of Americans. The 70 richest members of China's National People's Congress have more wealth than all of America's members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and our president and vice-president - combined. Explanations for this relatively recent phenomena tend to either emphasize the impact of new technology and globalization, or to politics. Author Freeland presents a case that both have contributed.

Freeland reports that last August Alan Greenspan, lifelong Ayn Rand devotee, made a forceful case on 'Meet the Press' that America's economy has become 'very distorted.' High-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations have experience 'significant recovery,' the rest - including small businesses and most of the labor force have been left stuck and struggling. Greenspan concluded that were now seeing 'two separate types of economy.' Greenspan, of course, if not the first to draw this conclusion. The idea of 'two Americas' was a central theme of John Edwards, and three analysts at Citgroup reported in 2005 that 'the World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest.' And Larry Summers, not known for criticizing free markets has said 'for the first time . . . focusing on redistribution makes more sense than focusing on growth.
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133 of 151 people found the following review helpful By S. Spilka on November 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Exhaustive research, interviews and visits to the plutocrats' homes and their global lecture circuit have made Freeland exceptionally qualified to inform us on the life-styles of the super-rich and their long and deep tentacles that hold most of us--plain mortals--in their deadly embrace. Among her most stunning--and scary--revelations is the fact that the plutocrats--aided by technology and globalization--are "increasingly a nation unto themselves" (5). This is a new phenomenon requiring our most focused attention. The plutocrats have numerous passports and homes in different countries across the globe. Thus they can fold up their sophisticated wares and move to sunnier places if their own native lands become too troublesome in their demand for taxes. These plutocrats really don't need us. They have their own star lawyers and doctors, star stylists and designers, star Internet gurus, and even their own star dentists and chefs. The life-style and philosophy of the new global high rollers are coming "straight out of the pages of Ayn Rand," Freeland writes. In another chapter, she further explains: "Tired of being dragged down by the parasitic, envious, and less talented lower classes, Galt [the hero of Rand's Atlas Shrugged] and his fellow capitalists revolt, retreating to 'Galt Gulch,' a refuge in the Rocky Mountains" (249). In their absence, the world collapses. The metaphor of Galt's Gulch is important, for it brings into sharp relief the new plutocrats' isolation from the rest of us and their terrifying ability to crush us. In her last chapter, Freeland reminds us of another plutocracy--in 14th century Venice--that collapsed after they imposed La Serrata.Read more ›
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