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Book group - "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else"

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:30pm

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland (2013). We know that income inequality is increasing in America, but how much? How rich are these new super-rich? How do they justify their privilege? Do they spend their money creating jobs, or perhaps making charitable contributions? What is their politics? Why do they profess to experience so much stress? Should we by sympathetic? Apathetic? Or what?


We have recently read Stiglitz, now this book Plutocrats, and Hedrick Smith is on the list. Assuming that there is interest in this subject, here is some additional information. Two publications are currently causing quite a stir: Thomas Piketty's 700 page dense brand new hardback, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page's study available free pre-publication on the internet, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens." Thomas Edsall of the New York Times describes Piketty's book as "arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism." And, "[Piketty] contends that capitalism's inherent dynamic propels powerful forces that threaten democratic societies." See also 7-page review in the Guardian. The 42-page work by Gilens and Page, two professors of politics, is also important. They "took a dataset of 1,779 policy issues, ran a bunch of regressions, and basically found that the United States is not a democracy after all[!]" See the review in ROAR Magazine 4/17/2014 and the Washington Post article by Larry Bartels 4/8/14 (for free access link). Also of interest: Two more recent books: The Creation of Inequality: How our Prehistoric Ancestors set the stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire, by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus (2012); The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, by Angus Deaton (2013). Speaking of health, see also the new study in the journal Population Studies: "Income Inequality and Population Health: An Analysis of Panel Data for 21 Developed Countries, 1975-2006," by Mikko Myrskyla and Roberta Torre (2014). They found rising income inequality to be associated with increasing mortality.--Ed Budge