Synopses & Reviews
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 wealthhow 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 Americansfrom Astor to Carnegie and Rockefeller to contemporary wealth holdersPhillips 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 declinesspeculative finance, mounting international debt, record wealth, income polarization, and disgruntled politicssigns 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.
"With a grand historical sweep that covers more than three centuries, Phillips's astute analysis of the effects of wealth and capital upon democracy is both eye-opening and disturbing....Lucidly written, scrupulously argued and culturally wide-ranging, this is an important and deeply original analysis of U.S. history and economics." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"[Phillips'] sense of moral outrage over this fundamentally undemocratic gulf...is well placed and effective....Even more valuable...is Phillips's careful analysis of the political boom-and-bust cycles in American history....Sturdy economic history with a heavy dash of social criticism and...excellent ammunition for liberals." Kirkus Reviews
"The figures on the financial worth of famous American aristocrats through the years are impressive." David Siegfried, Booklist
"[Phillips] richly details the broad scope of wealth and the wealthy in U.S. history, employing his sardonic wit to record the excesses of his subjects....Though forceful and passionate, Phillips's argument is weakened by its sprawling scope and frequent repetition....Still, this is a big book from a major political observer and is hence a necessary purchase." Library Journal
"Wealth and Democracy is filled with intellectual and political dynamite. Kevin Phillips has wide scope, historical flair and an original mind, and in this bold book he challenges the American Republic to live up to its self-image as a land of equal opportunity." Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., noted American historian
"Most Americans believe or at least suspect that money, wealth and the political power they purchase are destroying the American ideal of equal opportunity. Kevin Phillips proves it again, with facts, logic and chilling persuasiveness. He warns us that what the terrorists haven't won from us, we may be surrendering from inadvertence." Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo
The latest runaway bestseller from Phillips gives readers a major history of big money and political power in America--and an uncannily timely report on why this unholy alliance may lead to widespread corruption.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 447-455) and index.
About the Author
has been a political and economic commentator for more than three decades. He is currently a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times
and National Public Radio, and also writes for Harpers Magazine
. The author of nine other books, most recently The Cousins Wars
, he lives in Litchfield, Connecticut.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
THE GREAT WAVES OF AMERICAN WEALTH
The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: From Privateersmen to Robber Barons 3
Serious Money: The Three Twentieth Century Wealth Explosions 47
Millennial Plutographics: American Fortunes and Misfortunes at the Turn of Century 108
THE ORIGINS, EVOLUTIONS AND ENGINES OF WEALTH:
Government, Global Leadership and Technology
The World Is Our Oyster: The Transformation of Leading World Economic Powers 171
Friends in High Places: Government, Political Influence, and Wealth 201
Technology and the Uncertain Foundations of Anglo-American Wealth 249
WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY:
The Rhythm of Politics and Confrontation
Wealth and Politics in the United States 293
Wealth, Money-Culture Ethics, and Corruption 317
The Cup Always Runneth Over: Greed, Speculative Bubbles and Reform 347
Great Economic Power Decline and the Politics of Resentment 373
Wealth and Democracy: The United States and The New Century 405