For more than thirty years, Kevin Phillips' insight into American politics and economics has helped to make history as well as record it. His bestselling books, including The Emerging Republican Majority (1969) and The Politics of Rich and Poor (1990), have influenced presidential campaigns and changed the way America sees itself. Widely acknowledging Phillips as one of the nation's most perceptive thinkers, reviewers have called him a latter-day Nostradamus and our "modern Thomas Paine." Now, in the first major book of its kind since the 1930s, he turns his attention to the United States' history of great wealth and power, a sweeping cavalcade from the American Revolution to what he calls "the Second Gilded Age" at the turn of the twenty-first century. The Second Gilded Age has been staggering enough in its concentration of wealth to dwarf the original Gilded Age a hundred years earlier. However, the tech crash and then the horrible events of September 11, 2001, pointed out that great riches are as vulnerable as they have ever been. In Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips charts the ongoing American saga of great wealth–how it has been accumulated, its shifting sources, and its ups and downs over more than two centuries. He explores how the rich and politically powerful have frequently worked together to create or perpetuate privilege, often at the expense of the national interest and usually at the expense of the middle and lower classes. With intriguing chapters on history and bold analysis of present-day America, Phillips illuminates the dangerous politics that go with excessive concentration of wealth. Profiling wealthy Americans–from Astor to Carnegie and Rockefeller to contemporary wealth holders–Phillips provides fascinating details about the peculiarly American ways of becoming and staying a multimillionaire. He exposes the subtle corruption spawned by a money culture and financial power, evident in economic philosophy, tax favoritism, and selective bailouts in the name of free enterprise, economic stimulus, and national security. Finally, Wealth and Democracy turns to the history of Britain and other leading world economic powers to examine the symptoms that signaled their declines–speculative finance, mounting international debt, record wealth, income polarization, and disgruntled politics–signs that we recognize in America at the start of the twenty-first century. In a time of national crisis, Phillips worries that the growing parallels suggest the tide may already be turning for us all. From the Hardcover edition.
Phillips was educated in the Bronx, Colgate University, Edinburgh, and Harvard Law School. He practiced law as an Assistant to the US AG, and then became a Republican Party strategist. He served as President of the American Political Research Corp, and Editor of the American Political Reporter. He is respected by academics--historians and economists-- and this work reflects documentation, with an Appendix of Price Indices, 1790-1991, charts of US Income distribution, and detailed "Notes" on sources, as well as an Index.
The volume charts the efforts of the super-rich to use political power to perpetuate their usurpations at the expense of the middle class, the poor, and our national interest. Rich in historical underpinnings, the analysis is a bold description of the present ongoing rush to impoverish what was at one time the largest source of wealth on the planet--the American Middle Class.
The money-culture corrupts not only politics, but the free market as well. Tax policies, national security, and competition, are all threatened by the power of the monopolists.
The author turns to the history of England and other world powers, to examine their declines. With the Reagan-Bush-Cheney-Rove era, we recognize the parallels in America -- unregulated speculations, mounting public and consumer debt, income polarization, and stolen elections.
As for others' criticisms that times are better for everyone, and that everyone does better when we all do better, that allowing egregious accumulation of wealth allows society to grow, well that is nonsense. I'm not an economics professional, although a member of an international economics honors society and a regular reader of economics books, but my own research indicates that such ideas, justifying gross inequality and the invisible hand, are false.