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

In This Review

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
By Chrystia Freeland
The Penguin Press HC, 2012
336 pp. $27.95

Income and wealth in the United States today are less evenly distributed than at any time since the 1920s. One result is the emergence of a new class of plutocrats. The phenomenon is not limited to the United States: China, India, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom, and other states have witnessed similar changes. Freeland, a journalist and editor at Thomson Reuters, examines how this fairly diverse new class came to be and explores some of the consequences and potential implications of its rise. In a world of mass consumption, successful innovations can result in great wealth, as can any rapid social and political change, at least for those well placed or lucky enough to take advantage of new opportunities. More ominous, individuals can become fabulously wealthy at the expense of other citizens, by securing privileges from powerful government officials -- sometimes through influencing the decision-making process, sometimes through outright bribes or offers of lucrative future employment. Freeland worries about the increasing political influence of the superrich and the growing social distance between them and ordinary people. But she has surprisingly little to say about the most traditional route to plutocratic status: inherited wealth.

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