Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich

Front Cover
Broadway Books, 2003 - History - 473 pages
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, includingThe 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.

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User Review  - James.Igoe - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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User Review  - keylawk - LibraryThing

In 2002, Kevin Phillips documented the vector of economic disparities, the increasing abuses of corrupt white collar criminals with extreme wealth concentrations, and predicted they would take center ... Read full review


American Fortunes
SIX Technology and the Uncertain Foundations
SEVEN Wealth and Politics in the United States
EIGHT Wealth MoneyCulture Ethics and Corruption
TEN Great Economic Power Decline
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About the author (2003)

KEVIN PHILLIPS has been a political and economic commentator for more than three decades. He is currently a regular contributor to theLos Angeles Times and National Public Radio, and also writes for Harper's Magazineand Time. The author of nine other books, most recently The Cousins' Wars, he lives in Litchfield, Connecticut.

From the Hardcover edition.

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