There has always been some gap between rich and poor in this
country, but in the last few decades what it means to be rich has
changed dramatically. Alarmingly, the greatest income gap is not
between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, but within the wealthiest
1 percent of our nation--as the merely wealthy are left behind by
the rapidly expanding fortunes of the new global super-rich. Forget
the 1 percent; "Plutocrats" proves that it is the wealthiest 0.1
percent who are outpacing the rest of us at break-neck speed.
What's changed is more than numbers. Today, most colossal fortunes
are new, not inherited--amassed by perceptive businessmen who see
themselves as deserving victors in a cut-throat international
competition. As a transglobal class of successful professionals,
today's self-made oligarchs often feel they have more in common
with one another than with their countrymen back home. Bringing
together the economics and psychology of these new super-rich,
"Plutocrat"s puts us inside a league very much of its own, with its
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. Intelligently 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
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