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Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich Paperback – April 8, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The thesis of "Wealth and Democracy" is that wealth inequality is bad for democracy, and viewed historically has always presaged the decline of previous world powers: Hapsburg Spain, the 17th and 18th century Dutch, 19th century Britian. Of course, our current leaders and their supporters make strong arguments that our political and economic systems are superior and therefore less likely to experience detumescence. The author warns that this argument is not unique. "Cocksure Americans were hardly the first to think themsleves immune from prior history."
In "Wealth and Democracy," Phillips takes us through that history and examines the paralells to the modern American dependence on financial institutions and the ways in which money limits access to all three branches of government. It is both enlightening and disheartening. The author says the U.S. can now be called a plutocracy. "The United States remain[s] what comparisons ha[ve] clearly shown: the most polarized and inequality-ridden of the major Western nations."
In fact, what is most troublesome about the myriad statistics in this book is our comparison to other economically advanced nations.Read more ›
As some others have said, much of it is dry reading. There are extensive charts, facts and data. I am annoyed that there are citations (notes) at the end of the book -- with numbers for each -- but the cite does not appear in the text [like this].
This is "economics" in that Phillips examines Money and Wealth. This is not "economics" in the sense of collegiate econ101 (I have a master's degree in economics).
As someone who once-upon-a-time worshiped Ayn Rand and the "free-market" ... I have evolved to become a skeptic. I no longer believe that the philosophical prerequisites for "free market" economics exist (if they ever did - and if you don't know what I'm referencing and think you believe in "the free-market" I suggest you do some reading).
The book suggests that wealth breeds both more wealth and _political access_ ... and that technological innovations (munitions, railroads, autos, aerospace, mass production, pharmaecuticals, computers/internet, etc) are aided and abbetted by the hand of government ... and, while they _may_ serve to create new wealth, it seems that more often "wealth" becomes entrenched wealth.
If the following data don't cause you consternation -- then save your pocketbook (and aspirin!) and forgo this book:
-- begin dry facts --
1870: top 1% of Americans own/control ~20% of the country wealth
1912: top 1% of Americans own/control 56.Read more ›
The book recounts, at two different scales, the history of wealth and the elites to which it has accumulated. The shorter scale is that of American political cycles, with revolving eras of conservative wealth concentration and progressive wealth distribution. The longer scale concerns the cycle of rise and fall of the four great economic empires of modern history: Spain in the 17th century, Holland in the 18th, Britain in the 19th, and the U.S. in the 20th. He returns to each series of cycles repeatedly, with an emphasis on different aspects of the cycles: the roles of technology, of wars, of speculative bubbles, of fashions in legislation and ideology. The repetition occasionally threatens tedium, but fresh details rise up to relieve it. Along the way, he provides a feast of specifics and statistics, in easily accessible charts which the reader will find useful whether or not he agrees with Phillips' conclusions.
The message he gleans from the shorter scale is a familiar one, if something of a minority report in the current era. Money flows. In hard times, it trickles; in boom times, it roars in cataracts. At no time, as he richly documents, has its motion ever been determined primarily by "market forces." It has always been pumped from pocket to pocket by the grace of government.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author draws some very interesting parallels between modern-day America and the Gilded Age, as well ad the rise and fall of other 'empires' and economies. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Linda
Amazingly articulate in describing the effects of wealth and power on economies. I found the book to be captivating and informative.Published on May 22, 2014 by James Barrett
This book provides a broad perspective of economic trends describing the interaction of politics, greed and business. Read morePublished on April 14, 2014 by John Frech
The book opened my eyes of how the tricks by interplay of the wealthy and power hurt people in general. Excellent detail and order of explanation.Published on February 11, 2014 by John A.
Kevin Phillips always has hi s facts and arguments lined up. sometimes a bit difficult to follow the threads he weaves, but worth the effort.Published on January 5, 2014 by Eugene S Casey
Phillips' Wealth and Democracy seems written like a series of lengthy magazine articles about wealth makers and wealth takers. Read morePublished on January 27, 2013 by Will Reed
The author presents interesting empirical parallels between the economic and class characteristics of the British empire during its decline and similar empirical characteristics in... Read morePublished on August 27, 2012 by Tom
I can't add much to what's already been said. However once you read this book you will understand only too well how the Rich get rich and how they get richer. Read morePublished on November 19, 2011 by EASY TRAVELER