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Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government--and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead [Kindle Edition]

David Rothkopf
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The world's largest company, Wal-Mart Stores, has revenues higher than the GDP of all but twenty-five of the world's countries. Its employees outnumber the populations of almost a hundred nations. The world's largest asset manager, a secretive New York company called Black Rock, controls assets greater than the national reserves of any country on the planet. A private philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spends as much worldwide on health care as the World Health Organization.

The rise of private power may be the most important and least understood trend of our time. David Rothkopf provides a fresh, timely look at how we have reached a point where thousands of companies have greater power than all but a handful of states. Beginning with the story of an inquisitive Swedish goat wandering off from his master and inadvertently triggering the birth of the oldest company still in existence, Power, Inc. follows the rise and fall of kings and empires, the making of great fortunes, and the chaos of bloody revolutions. A fast-paced tale in which champions of liberty are revealed to be paid pamphleteers of moneyed interests and greedy scoundrels trigger changes that lift billions from deprivation, Power, Inc. traces the bruising jockeying for influence right up to today's financial crises, growing inequality, broken international system, and battles over the proper role of government and markets.

Rothkopf argues that these recent developments, coupled with the rise of powers like China and India, may not lead to the triumph of American capitalism that was celebrated just a few years ago. Instead, he considers an unexpected scenario, a contest among competing capitalisms offering different visions for how the world should work, a global ideological struggle in which European and Asian models may have advantages. An important look at the power struggle that is defining our times, Power, Inc. also offers critical insights into how to navigate the tumultuous years ahead.

Editorial Reviews


“What is the appropriate balance between the market and the state in providing both opportunities and protections for its citizens?. . . For an idea of why the major economies have yet to converge around an answer, a brilliant, ambitious new book provides penetrating insights...Rothkopf's basic premise is that nation states, most of them at least, cannot make sovereign decisions about the financial, economic and global policies their citizens require without contending with the enormous market power of large global businesses whose corporate profit and autonomy far outstrips most national GDPs. . .Rothkopf's message is especially relevant for the United States, where the market fundamentalism of the 1990s fed a deregulation frenzy of explosive consequences for the decay of today's middle class, and of the country's infrastructure and human capital. . . Decades before the Occupy Wall Street movement, the slogan 'Capitalism with a Human Face' captured the aspirations of the socially-minded. Last weekend's IMF and World Bank meetings showed the many faces of Rothkopf's competing capitalisms, democratic countries nearly all of them. Yet none seemed very happy. Is the gloom permanent? The 800 years of history covered in this courageous, learned, and timely book suggests that we still have a choice.”—Julia Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations


“In his new book, Power, Inc., David Rothkopf sounds an alarm.  He argues that thousands of private actors who he calls "super citizens" now hold greater power than most countries in the world.  He notes, for instance, that corporations have grown to the point where roughly the richest two thousand are more influential than 70-80 percent of the world's nations. Walmart, for example, has revenues higher than the GDP of all but 25 nations.  He correctly notes that these gargantuan players now prevent us from dealing with the pressing issues of our day such as global warming, growing economic inequality and embracing cleaner forms of energy. He examines watershed years of yore, such as 1288, when the world's first stock certificate was issued to Sweden's Stora, the world's oldest corporation, now a huge multinational.  The point he is making is that the struggle between private and corporate power is hardly a new phenomenon. . . The story comes to life when he hones in on events which took place in the United States starting at the end of the 19th century.  He recounts the time when JP Morgan literally rescued the United States government from bankruptcy in 1896.  He also tells the sorry story of how corporations gained legal protections and rights in the Supreme Court starting in 1886 and ending most recently with the infamous Citizens United case in 2010. In Rothkopf's view, the world has shifted from a 'battle between capitalism and Communism to something even more complex: a battle between differing forms of capitalism in which the distinction between each is in the relative role of each is in the relative role and responsibilities of public and private sectors.' The extremes of both Soviet communism and free-market financial excesses have been discredited.  American capitalism initially triumphed but has since receded: and competition between different capitalisms will continue.” —Roy Ulrich, The Huffington Post


“In his new book, Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government--and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead (Viking), David Rothkopf explains how the United States, once viewed as the model for a mixed-market economy, is increasingly held captive by the avarice of private interests.  Power, Inc. is an undeniably ambitious book--attempting to put the current U.S. situation into a global and historical context. . . The takeaway is profound: that relations between the state and competing interests (be it church or private enterprise) have always been strained, yet the state--and its power to enforce the fundamental social contract it has with its citizens--has never been weaker. Rothkopf is a realist at heart. He recognizes that some form of capitalism is the only way forward--be it a more activist capitalism (being pushed by the emerging powers of India and Brazil), the welfare-state capitalism of northern Europe, or what he calls the "entrepreneurial small-market" capitalism of countries like Singapore and Israel.  But for the first time in more than a century, Rothkopf argues, it will not be the Americans leading the way.”—Matt O'Grady, Canadian Business


“In his new book, Power, Inc., David Rothkopf offers a provocative analysis of the push-pull between big business and big government. He says the rift has gone far past simplistic political rhetoric to a larger battle: pitting American capitalism against other forms of capitalism that have emerged on the world’s stage in the past decade or so."  —Maureen Mackey, The Fiscal Times


“Rothkopf’s book is astonishingly ambitious. It traces the relationship between state and market—a relationship that, he says, has succeeded the relationship between church and state as the dominant conflict in societies—from the thirteenth century to the present. During the past thirty years, he says, we’ve adopted the view that politics and markets were actually allied: freedom in one realm meant freedom in the other. The result of this idea, along with the increasing influence of business within both political parties, was a series of policies that deregulated national currencies and banking systems and enabled the globalized economy of the Superclass. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of people still live in specific places and depend on local and national governments for social benefits, beginning with items as basic as stable currencies. Globalization, in its present form, strengthens a cadre of very large businesses that Rothkopf calls 'supercitizens,' and diminishes government, which is becoming, in his nice phrase, 'too small to succeed.'… he makes it clear that he thinks that political decisions created the present situation and that only different political decisions will alleviate it.”—Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker


“The problem for the right in Britain and its big brother in the US is that, after 30 years of the conservative revolution, it is now wedded to the premodern view that risks in a market economy and society should be run as individualistically as possible… But, as a growing number of us are arguing – David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy and author of the recently published Power, Inc is but the latest to sign up – the propositions ignore reality…This is a worldwide debate, as Rothkopf outlines, a bid to define what 21st-century capitalism could be.” —Will Hutton, The Guardian


“A sharp rebuke of free markets run amok and a loud call for rebalancing public needs and corporate interests.”—Greg Hanscom, Grist


“An enlightening account.” —Mary Whaley, Booklist Review


“Rothkopf…uses a wide-angle lens to examine the relation between public and private power…[He] delivers a lively, accessible treatment of a multifaceted, complex subject.” —Kirkus Starred Review

“This should be read by serious students of politics, economics, or business and will be of interest to anyone invested in our country's economic history and, especially, future.”—Bonnie A. Tollefson, Library Journal

“The story of Kare the Goat…serves as a kind of creation myth for David Rothkopf’s sprawling new book, Power, Inc.  Stora Kopparberg, the business established in 1288 to mine for copper in the hills above Falun (Sweden), still exists making it the “oldest continuously operating corporation in the world.”  Rothkopf argues that the evolution of Stora from a scrappy, goat-founded outfit to a $20 billion multinational business is emblematic of a tectonic shift in international relations, in which global corporations today wield greater power than all but a handful of nation-states.  Rothkopf is an energetic story-teller...the story of Stora is fascinating…The most eye-popping sections of Power, Inc., detail how decolonization, globalization and financial deregulation have subverted the prerogatives states have traditionally reserved for themselves.”—Romesh Ratnesar, Bloomberg Businessweek

“As David Rothkopf points out in his incisive and timely new book, Power Inc, the pendulum has swung sharply from public to corporate in the last generation. That has changed the character of the US economy. 'In the past there was a tight connection between economic growth leading to jobs creation, which in turn led to broad wealth creation,' Mr Rothkopf says. 'Those links no longer seem to work.'” —Edward Luce, Financial Times

“David Rothkopf…has a smart new book out, entitled Power, Inc., about the epic rivalry between big business and government that captures, in many ways, what the 2012 election should be about … the future of 'capitalism' and whether it will be shaped in America or somewhere else. Rothkopf argues that while for much of the 20th century the great struggle on the world stage was between capitalism and communism, which capitalism won, the great struggle in the 21st century will be about which version of capitalism will win, which one will prove the most effective at generating growth and become the most emulated. Rothkopf’s view, which I share, is that the thing others have most admired and tried to emulate about American capitalism is precisely what we’ve bee...

About the Author

David Rothkopf is the internationally acclaimed author of Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making and Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power. He is the president and chief executive of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and CEO and Editor-at-Large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy Magazine.

Product Details

  • File Size: 783 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374151288
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 28, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005N8Y6QS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,212 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! February 28, 2012
Appropriate balancing of public and private power is a central issue that helps determine the success of societies. About 15 years ago Americans celebrated the triumph of American capitalism and the defeat of state power by the focus of the marketplace - we'd shown that our balancing of the two was superior, if not optimum. Today, it is clear that our celebrating was premature. The freewheeling market model promoted by America is now reeling from self-inflicted wounds, while new models developed elsewhere (eg. China, Brazil, Israel, Singapore, the UAE) are providing better outcomes.

Author Rothkopf also points out this battle between Main Street and Wall Street is not unique to recent years, nor even to the U.S. - it has both raged years ago (Standard Oil vs. the trust-busters, Upton Sinclair/government vs. the filth, in-humaneness, and dangers of slaughterhouses, etc.) and across both oceans (England - 'Britain has the best democracy that money can buy;' China - moving from Mao's revolutions against businessmen to today's 'socialism with Chinese characteristics).

Unfortunately, since 1980 any semblance of proper balance between big government and big business has been lost - undermining our economy, politics, and international legitimacy. What drives this ongoing conflict? Markets find and exploit scale economies; scale economies, in turn, ease access to political and economic power. Another factor - confusing efforts to reign in alleged overreaching government power with supporting personal freedom. Reality, is that instead these 'victories' simply allow power to accrue to even less accountable private institutions whose interests do not align with those of most people. (Eg. Higher auto manufacturers' profits via emphasizing poor-mileage SUVs.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A MUST READ. The author is a master of explaining complex and important global policies and "plans" that affect us all, in a way that are both entertaining and enlightening. Frankly, if I hadn't read "Running The World" or "Superclass", I wouldn't have anticipated this next book with the same zeal. Fact is, I was looking forward to this (his) latest effort because there's always a tremendous amount of timely and vital information that is interspersed with humor--sometimes, even in a layman's lingo -- that hits home to the core of the issues and to the soul of the reader. That may sound corny, but it's very effective as a way of communicating the thoughts and concepts, and something I need in a book like this to keep me engaged. The author Pulls-No-Punches and shows no ambiguity whatsoever in his descriptions of the subject matter. Some of the scenarios I've already shared with colleagues and friends include the bankruptcy of GM and Saab, and the revelations I garnered from Rothkopf's evaluations of the way things happen differently between governments and businesses here in the US and in Sweden (and other stories from around the world, some approaching time immemorial). There are a lot of real, and dynamic perceptions that make you want to say, "HUH?"... information that will keep you hooked. From human rights issues to corporate hocus-pocus and everything in between, historically documented. Funny? Maybe. Scary? Potentially. Accurate? I think, absolutely. Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
David Rothkoph has written what should be a "must read" for anyone in a public policy position, journalist, and any voter who wants to be well educated on the balance of government, personal freedom, and business. In Power Inc, he shows the 1000 years of history of the relationships of corporations as we know them today to governments.

In fact, he makes a compelling case that when seen through the lens of corporations and money, many of the religious wars of the last 1000 years, religious changes, and the important debate of religion's relationship to government take on a whole new depth. He also offers a good reminder that the current balance of power in the world with the US as the leading democracy and leading economy are extremely different than the majority of history which saw two much more populous countries in China and India as the world's dominant economies for centuries.

His historical ramp-up is at times a bit overwhelming but well worth the effort. As he makes the connection between the power and privilege enjoyed by the British East India Company centuries ago to the power exercises by money managers and multinationals today, you'll appreciate the historical context. You'll also see how much power governments worldwide but especially in the US has been ceded to corporate interests in the last few hundred years. You'll understand how money managers who control investments larger than the reserves of any nation on earth can have a larger impact on the global economy than anyone in government and yet be largely unknown.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by C L Geigner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's a excellent book! I recommend!
Published 5 months ago by RAPHAEL ROCHA
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Great book!
Published 9 months ago by Camila Nader
5.0 out of 5 stars Consequences of imbalance between the state and the "have's".
This book provided a clear picture of the consequences of "unregulated / unguided / careless" decision making by private business. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ntime Samson Mokhine
2.0 out of 5 stars Northern Lights on an Age-Old Dilemna
In “The Mines of Falun”, German author E.T.A. Hoffmann tells the story of a young Swedish miner who gets trapped and buried alive in a mine accident. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Finish
An excellent example of liberal ethno-western nonsense. This is the kind of distorted thinking that gives aid and comfort to the worst crazies in the Tea Party.
Published 18 months ago by S. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
tells it like it is what can I say, read it (nine more words required) just get the book and read it
Published 19 months ago by Running Man
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful work
David Rothkopf is a rare genius, transcending the partisan acrimony of current political debate to reveal the incestuous relationship between the corporation and the state. Read more
Published 20 months ago by PeterP
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great--yet Incomplete--Book About The Evolution of Power...But Not...
I want to start out by pointing out what this book is not: Power, Inc. cannot be characterized as being about the reckoning that lies ahead between corporations and governments. Read more
Published 22 months ago by E. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew the biggest rivalry in history was governments vs. big...
The biggest rivalries in the world include some of the most recognizable names/brands. Coke vs. Pepsi. iPhone vs. Android. Redskins vs. Cowboys. Read more
Published 22 months ago by David Gaines
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