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Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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Freeland, a financial journalist, makes the case that there is alarming income inequality in most countries -- but you probably already knew that. She interviews a laundry list of the ultra-rich, determines how these men (almost always men) rose to the top, and speculates on what it all means for "everyone else," i.e., the 99 percent. Is vast income disparity the inevitable result of capitalism? Is it possible that the wealth chasm is actually a good thing?
"Plutocrats" documents how the actions of Big Business are benefiting, if not the American middle class, then certainly new middle classes in emerging world markets such as China and India. It's hard to argue that that's a bad thing.
But our billionaires and millionaires are not exactly selfless. Many of them, particularly in the United States, feel victimized by government regulation and taxes, and they don't understand why they are increasingly demonized by the 99 percent. They do contribute to charity, but those contributions treat the symptoms of inequality, not the problem itself.
Freeland doesn't come right out and say it, but she implies that only government can place checks on Wall Street and corporate America. That might be anathema to conservatives and libertarians, but after events of the past five years, isn't it common sense to everyone else? Apparently not, for as Freeland writes:
"That's the irony of superstar economics in a democratic age. We all think we can be superstars, but in a winner-take-all economy, there isn't room for most of us at the top."
"Plutocrats" is an insightful look at both the economics and politics of the super-elite class. Canadian writer, journalist and politician Chrystia Freeland provides the readers with an inside look at plutocrats. It's an interesting look at how plutocrats live their lives and how they earn their fortunes, and the impact it has on the rest of us. This interesting 335-page book includes the following six chapters: 1. History and Why It Matters, 2. Culture of the Plutocrats, 3. Superstars, 4. Responding to Revolution, 5. Rent-Seeking, and 6. Plutocrats and the Rest of Us.
1. A well-written, accessible and even-handed book.
2. A fascinating topic. Freeland should be commended for her ability to gain access to people from a very exclusive club.
3. Does a good job of explaining the rise of the plutocrats. "These three transformations--the technology revolution, globalization, and the rise of the Washington Consensus--have coincided with an age of strong global economic growth, and also with the reemergence of the plutocrats, this time on a global scale."
4. An interesting look at the rise of the Alpha Geeks. "The rise of the alpha geeks is most obvious in Silicon Valley, a culture and an economic engine they created. But you can find them everywhere you find the plutocracy."
5. Interesting perspectives on today's global economy. "Speaking at the same conference, Thomas Wilson, CEO of Allstate, told a similar story: "I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business. . . . American businesses will adapt."
6. The impact of women. "The year 2009 was a watershed for the American workplace--it was the first time since data was collected that women outnumbered men on the country's payrolls."
7. The power of intellectuals. "In the knowledge economy, more and more professions use a laptop rather than a steam engine, and that means that the superstars in these fields are earning ever greater rewards. The intellectuals are on the road to class power."
8. The three superstars of finance: Alfred Winslow Jones, Georges Doriot, and Victor Posner. "Hedge funds, venture capital, and private equity transformed finance--previously the dependable plumbing of the capitalist economy--into an innovative frontier where smart and lucky individuals could earn nearly instant fortunes."
9. When CEO salaries began to skyrocket. "The real takeoff was during the 1990s: by the end of that decade they were growing by 10 percent a year. As Roger Martin has calculated, for CEOs of S&P firms, the median level of pay soared from $2.3 million in 1992 to $7.2 million in 2001."
10. Good conclusions. "Pay for performance actually works, but only in companies where the board is strong enough to truly oversee the chief executive."
11. How to become a plutocrat. "Responding to revolution is how you become a plutocrat."
12. The changing economic landscape. ""It used to be that the big ate the small; now the fast eat the slow."
13. Great example of active inertia, Firestone.
14. The highest billionaire-to-GDP ratio. "Russia, with eighty-seven billionaires and a national GDP of $1.3 trillion, had the highest billionaire-to-GDP ratio. India, Rajan said, was number two, with fifty-five billionaires and $1.1 trillion of GDP."
15. Find out what was the largest transfer of assets in human history.
16. The richest person ever. "But all three are trumped by the man at the head of the 2012 Forbes global rich list, Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. Forbes put Slim's fortune that year at $69 billion, enough to earn an income equivalent to the average annual salary of more than 400,000 Mexicans."
17. The impact of deregulation. "One reason the preeminence of the financiers within the global super-elite matters is that it highlights how crucial financial deregulation has been to the emergence of the plutocracy."
18. Important research. "In Western countries with significant legal corruption, that financial gulf creates a revolving door between the regulators and the regulated. One study of the SEC found that, between 2006 and 2010, 219 former SEC employees had filed almost eight hundred disclosure statements for representing their new clients' dealings with the agency, their former employer. Nearly half of these disclosures were filed by people who had worked at the sharp end of the SEC's relationship with business, in its enforcement division."
19. The facts. "Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another, not to level it. Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition."
20. A bleak future? Find out. "Low taxes, light-touch regulation, weak unions, and unlimited campaign donations are certainly in the best interests of the plutocrats, but that doesn't mean they are the right way to maintain the economic system that created today's super-elite."
21. Formal bibliography included.
1. It's very hard to be too critical of the very people who were generous with their time. Overall, Freeland deserves credit and she did her best to be even handed but it's human nature to hold back after such exclusive access.
2. The eBook did not link the notes.
3. Tables, comparative charts, diagrams would have added value.
4. The impact of the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act was only mentioned once in passing.
5. Not as analytical as I would have liked.
6. Not convinced of the following argument, "The two gilded ages can also get in each other's way. As good an explanation as any for the 2008 financial crisis is that it is the result of the collision between China's gilded age and the West's--the financial imbalances that are an essential part of China's export-driven growth model also played a crucial role in inflating the credit bubble that burst with such devastating consequences in 2008."
In summary, this was an interesting look at the world of plutocrats. Freeland's contention is that to understand the changing shape of the global economy one must look at the very top. She does a wonderful job of providing insights into this exclusive club and discusses the ramifications it may have on the rest of us. Perhaps this book was not as analytical as I would have liked but nonetheless insightful and fun to read. I recommend it!
Further recommendations: "Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class" by Jacob S. Hacker, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" and "Globalization and Its Discontents (Norton Paperback)" by Joseph E. Stiglitz, "The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America--and What We Can Do to Stop It" by Thom Hartmann, "The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality" by Branko Milanovic, "Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America" by Martin Gilens, "Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It" by Lawrence Lessig, "The New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy" by Stephen Kraus, "Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty" by Daron Acemoglu, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, "ECONned" by Yves Smith, "The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It" by Timothy Noah, and "Bailout" by Neil Barofsky.
This is a must read for everyone, a great lesson to learn for all those that support the abuses of the economic system because they think they have a chance to become super-rich themselves. Capitalism, like any other system, needs regulation and moderation. Without rules it is very easy to abuse the game, and believe you got up there by your own merit, without taking into account the society that gave you the opportunity, and without which, none of us would be here, capable of reading these words. The system needs to be fixed and the abuses of the powerful amended, lest another series of revolutions be necessary to overthrow the plutocrats.
If people are making more than 2 or 3 million dollars per year, that is not possible for a human to work on his-her own. Such person is necessarily denying others from their right to gain a decent salary for their work. Just because you moved your company to Timbuktu, that does not give you the right to deny those people simply because they do not know better, just so you can hoard all the money you are not giving them.
All these abuses are exposed in this book, together with the extreme repercussions of following the doctrine of greed and rationalized abuse that characterizes our neo-feudal society. What I liked the most is that it is done without failing to be academic and properly research backed.