Chrystia Freeland (Author), Visit Amazon’s Chrystia Freeland Page
The closest mirror to our own time is the late nineteenth century Gilded Age–the era of powerful ‘robber barons’ like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Then as now, emerging markets and innovative technologies collided to produce unprecedented wealth for more people than ever in human history. Yet those at the very top benefited far more than others–and from this pinnacle they exercised immense and unchecked power in their countries. Today’s closest analogue to these robber barons can be found in the turbulent economies of India, Brazil, and China, all home to ferocious market competition and political turmoil. But wealth, corruption, and populism are no longer constrained by national borders, so this new Gilded Age is already transforming the economics of the West as well. Plutocrats demonstrates how social upheavals generated by the first Gilded Age may pale in comparison to what is in store for us, as the wealth of the entire globalized world is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
Cracking open the tight-knit world of the new global super-rich is Chrystia Freeland, an acclaimed business journalist who has spent nearly two decades reporting on the new transglobal elite. She parses an internal Citigroup memo that urges clients to design portfolios around the international “Plutonomy” and not the national “rest”; follows Russian, Mexican, and Indian oligarchs during the privatization boom as they manipulate the levers of power to commandeer their local economies; breaks down the gender divide between the vast female-managed ‘middle class’ and the world’s one thousand billionaires; shows how, by controlling both the economic and political institutions of their nation, the richest members of China’s National People’s Congress have amassed more wealth than every branch of American government combined–the president, his cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress.
Though the results can be shocking, Freeland dissects the lives of the world’s wealthiest individuals with empathy, intelligence, and deep insight. Brightly written, powerfully researched, and propelled by fascinating original interviews with the plutocrats themselves, Plutocrats is a tour-de-force of social and economic history, and the definitive examination of inequality in our time.
The author is eminently qualified (as the editor of a number of top flight financial magazines) to comment on the subject of the dominance of our global economy by a very few hyper-rich entities.
Her thesis is that the 99% are dominated not just by the other 1%, but, by the upper .1% who control most of the resources in our global economy. Examples include the Red Chinese government, the top five oil companies, and the consortiums of health care finance companies.
What she points out is that these hyper-wealthy entities and consortiums serve only their own interests. They have no sense of responsibility to anyone other than themselves. In addition, although they control most of the resources of our race, they have no social responsibilities. The result is that these hyper-wealthy are more powerful than any of the governments on our planet. The hyper-wealthy have more economic power than any government precisely because, unlike governments, the hyper-wealthy have no responsibilities to ordinary people. Her conclusion is that the hyper-wealthy are really the entities that are “calling the shots” on our planet, instead of the people who inhabit it.
She has some fascinating insights such as her insight that “trickle-down” economics cannot work. The hyper-wealthy are not trickling down anything to the people. They are loaning back the resources of this planet to the people, at oppressive interest rates and under oppressive terms. This puts them in complete control of the world and our global economy.
She also points out that the hyper-wealthy did not gain their wealth by making contributions to the people of this planet – they acquired their wealth simply by manipulating markets to funnel wealth to themselves, without returning much of value to the people. This market manipulation does not provide additional water, food, shelter or transportation. The manipulation simply makes the hyper-wealthy, more wealthy, so that they can impose more and more oppressive terms, in their own favor, over the resources of our race and our planet.