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Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich
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Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  47 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 th ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by Broadway Books (first published 2002)
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Leftbanker
A must read for anyone interested in hanging on to the fragile democracy we are left with after 25 years or so of allowing the rich to pretty much get away with anything and everything. The growing economic inequalities in America should scare the living shit out of anyone who makes less than about $500,000 a year. Of course, all of the neo-con trailer trash in America think that they are a lottery ticket away from joining that club. Good luck, assholes.
Nick Huntington-Klein
A book that tries to track the existence and status of the very-wealthy in the United States over time, and how they interacted with the political system.

Absolutely has some high points. The book may be worth picking up for some very interesting statistics about wealth at the very upper end, however believable those figures are. The changing relationship between politicians, the populus, and the wealthy is also interesting to see.

Not a book with particularly strong analytic muscles to flex, tho
...more
Troy
Jan 20, 2009 Troy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: theory
A poorly written, but absolutely amazing book! If I could, I would give the information in this book five stars, and the writing one star. Phillips, who used to be a prominent conservative, has turned into a wild-eyed Bush-hating populist. He's still roughly a fiscal conservative, but he's also become a scholar who is deeply interested in the history of wealth and money. This is the finest book I've read on the subject, but it is NOT fun reading.
Sam
This book was published in 2002 and in it (the end of Chapter 2) Kevin Phillips basically predicted the too-big-to-fail bailout Great Recession:

"The industrial policy debate of the early 1980s had long since ended. But in retrospect, the United States did adopt a kind of 'industrial policy,' one that bowed to the mounting national importance of both private finance and the treasury and Federal Reserve Board. Instead of seeking to restore the older manufacturing industries or build the new techno
...more
Jim Parker
Kevin Phillips is an insightful analyst of the destructive economic and social agenda of the Republican right, and his voice is especially important since he was the first commentator to report its emergence, as both a GOP electoral strategist and author of The Emerging Republican Majority in 1969.

Phillips has since done some emerging of his own, and become one of the right's most pereceptive and profound critics. And in Wealth and Democracy he details how the "Southern Strategy" which he helpe
...more
Jim Pfluecke
The title of this book says it all: this book looks at wealth formation and the relationship of money to politics. Its strength is in the former, showing how most of the early American fortunes were made in some relationship to the state (supplying the continental army, privateering, etc), and how wars and major political re-alignments (New Deal, election of Reagan) shift where and how the richest fortunes are accumulated. On the whole, the book shows the powerful effect of the Federal governmen ...more
David Abramowitz
Phillips highlights the dangerous and sometimes absurd trail of political and financial corruption from the colonial era to the present. With some great exceptions, American policy has been affected by the wealthy's undue influence and all too close relationship to elected officials. To my knowledge, Clinton taking that hedge fund position marks the first time a former President has entered the financial sector after his term (though this is common place for legislative figures). This should pro ...more
James
The title of this book says it all: this book looks at wealth formation and the relationship of money to politics. Its strength is in the former, showing how most of the early American fortunes were made in some relationship to the state (supplying the continental army, privateering, etc), and how wars and major political re-alignments (New Deal, election of Reagan) shift where and how the richest fortunes are accumulated. On the whole, the book shows the powerful effect of the Federal governmen ...more
Ned
Feb 12, 2009 Ned rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: blue dog pundits
timely reading this year of election.
It got me hot.
This contains Reams of data of cycles of economic periods of the mercantile states of the west since the Renaissance but focusing of course on America and it's cycles in economic boost-and-bum.
Of the several periodic growths of the US economy, in Jackson's time, and after the civil war thru the time of the plutocrats by 1890, again is paralleled the mighty 20th century cycle of growth which on the one hand both took on and then floated the world
...more
James Igoe
I found Phillips writing of wealth and democracy illuminating, not because I was unaware of the degree to which wealth controls the government, but how it has changed over the years, and the degree to which war profiteering creates wealth. Reading this book, one can't help but notice that the past is repeating, and what it is repeating is ugly, corrupt, and wrong-headed.

As for others' criticisms that times are better for everyone, and that everyone does better when we all do better, that allowin
...more
Brian Ridge
It's easy to dismiss talk of "wealth inequality" as socialist claptrap, but this book demonstrates the real dangers that America's rising rate of inequality can lead to. The author convincingly draws worrisome parallels between today's America and the state of pre-economic decline mid-18th century Holland and late 19th century England. In short, the same factors that brought the mighty Dutch and English economies to their knees are abundantly at play in America today. For the sake of long-term A ...more
Beth Barnett
This book is full of information about inequality and extreme wealth in the United States. Some chapters go into more detail than I needed (for example, detailing the origin of great fortunes and the names of the top wealth owners in Britain and the United States in the 18th-19th centuries), but I can't hold it against the author, the book is, after all 400+ pages long. Phillips discussion of wealth inequality, and the relationship between money and political power is timely and fascinating. His ...more
Jeff
Even though the detail Mr. Phillips provides in this tomb can get a bit thick at times, the historical perspective it provides gives one ample reason to doubt all of the Republican apologists who praise the so called "job creators." Especially is this now Romney speak for don't tax the wealthy. But as Phillips points out, we are already well down the road already traveled by the Dutch and the British; the path where the wealthy become more entrenched and risk averse. Where investment strategy i ...more
Diane C.
This excellent book is not one you will read cover to cover in a few weeks. It's dense with historical facts and data and the writer's own analysis of these. I got it from the library, will BUY the book and read a bit almost every day.

Kevin Philips goes all the way back to the inception of our country to analyze the dangerous interplay between government and the rich (and how the government usually IS the rich). How it has always been thus, with brief and blessed periods of time when we had a h
...more
JP
I can't tell whether his main point is that wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top and that this is bad, or that the concentration of wealth at the top is a sign of ecomic decline -- and that this is bad. He does make a convincing case that the boom times where anythimg but laissez faire and he does show the extent to which the rich control democracy. But his work is also loaded with subjective opinions. He clearly has an agenda that wouldn't be possible in a free democracy. I wonder if ...more
Anthony Faber
A look at the growing divide between top and bottom through an historical lens by a conservative Republican. If the trends of the past hold true, he seems to be saying that the U.S. is on the downside. Long, but very interesting. It was finished not long after 9/11/2001.

Dawn Lamm
A good read given the times and the source.
Heather
This is a pretty dense book about American democracy and politics, but specifically with the rich. It's an interesting topic but the book itself took awhile for me to get through. It is dense and therefore can get tedious from time to time. However, there is a great deal of information in there and the author makes some interesting conclusions so if you are interested in the topic, you should read it.
Matt
I was gonna give it 5 stars, but I knocked it down to four because it is a little dry and repetitive. None-the-less, this book gives an incredibly thorough and unique accounting of much of what we take for granted as our American History. And most of it is not dry at all. Think of it as a less radical, more reasonable version of Zinn's "People's History"
chimneyswift
Phillips writes for those familiar with the terrain of economic history. I had started this book some time ago and put it down. After taking a class on econ hist US 1880-present, I picked it back up. MUCH better the second time around. Lesson: it takes much better writing than this to make this subject interesting for anyone not passionate about it.
Val
Noted economist Kevin Phillips "follows the money" from Greater Spain of the mid 1500s,through the Dutch and British empires and on to the U.S. He documents similiarities in the fall from economic power and layes a road to follow to the future. Great foundational economic and political read.
Joe
An excellent historical perspective of economics systems from the Spanish Inquisition, the first modern stock exchanges of the Dutch, British Imperialism, and the rise of American economic and financial dominance as well as indicators of its waning power.
G
Phillips predicted the current loss of American jobs accurately due to grinding globalization. What Americans think is a new development has actually been going on for centuries, as described by the author. those jobs are not coming back anytime soon.
M.R.
Kevin Phillips, a conservative himself, does a much more effective job of disabusing us of the worship cult of the rich than liberals ever could. A must read for political junkies and folks too caught up in celebrity.
Jrobertus
this book is loaded with facts. it shows, over and over, that the super rich 1% control income and wealth in this country. the pattern follows closely on that seen in england, holland, and even spain before us.
Michael Bryan
Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose... A masterful work of political economy. You may think that you understand the history of class in the United States, but unless you've read Phillips' book, you are simply wrong.
sologdin
Former Nixon strategist adopts a critique of "plutocracy," which I'm not sure is a leftwing or rightwing topos--but the strength is the rigorous presentation of economic history of the United States.
Nirmal
Answers the question being debated now - is Obama going to reditribute the Wealth - according to this book we have histroical done that and the current woes may be related to the lack of that redistribution
Dave Peticolas

A history of the wealthy class in the United States, focusing on their political influence and similarities to previous global powers (Spain, the Netherlands, and Great Britain).

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