UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper: May 1, 2006, 7:00 p.m.
Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich
(New York: BroadwayBooks, 2002).Preface.
The roots of this book lie in developmentof earlier interests, but also “in my increasing turnto history, not least economic history, during the1990s” (vii). The Republican Party used to be fear the domination of the rich, but the party is nowguilty of “a narrow-gauge betrayal of the legacy of the two greatest Republican presidents, Lincoln andTeddy Roosevelt” (viii).
In 2001, concerns about “areemergent plutocracy” and “[t]he increasingreliance of the American economy on finance (xi).U.S. history has alternated between suspicions of the rich and “optimal periods of broad-based prosperity in which economic opportunities far outweighed these qualms” (xi-xii). U.S. nowreturning to the former due to developments thatwere already visible when Phillips published
The Politics of Rich and Poor
(1991) (xii-xiv). Claimsthis is “the first political history of the Americanrich. Gustavus Myers’s
History of the Great American Fortunes
is now a century old” (xv).Polls show that the public senses the danger of plutocracy (xvi-xvii). Structure of the book (xvii-xxii). Notes that the fading from the Americanvocabulary of words like
, show Americans wereunduly optimistic about the danger of plutocracyhad been evaded (xxii).
PART I: THE GREAT WAVES OF AMERICANWEALTHCh. 1: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries:From Privateersmen to Robber Barons.
Thegrowth of great fortunes in the U.S. to 1900 (3-46).
Ch. 2: Serious Money: The Three Twentieth-Century Wealth Explosions.
Autos & oil; oil,commodities, and real estate; and technology (47-107).
Ch. 3: Millennial Plutographics: AmericanFortunes and Misfortunes at the Turn of theCentury.
Who is winning (millionaires, financiers,corporations, technology) and who is losing(ordinary American households) as the 21
century began (108-68).
PART II: THE ORIGINS, EVOLUTIONS, ANDENGINES OF WEALTH: GOVERNMENT,GLOBAL LEADERSHIP, ANDTECHNOLOGYCh. 4: The World Is Our Oyster: TheTransformation of Leading World EconomicPowers.
Historical theories of the economicevolution of great powers (Brooks Adams) (171-74). Spain, Holland, Britain (175-89). Earlier periods of globalization (189-91). Weaknesses inU.S. economic ascendancy: debt (191-94).Internationalism (and dependency on foreign powers) as the Achilles’ heel of world economic powers (194-98).
Ch. 5: Friends in High Places: Government,Political Influence, and Wealth.
Government hasoften been “harnessed to shift wealth from onegroup, sector, or region to another” (204). Analysisof the series of wealthiest individuals over 1,000years (205-10). “Wealth realignments” in Americanhistory (210-14). The influence of wealth on tax policy (214-29). WTO (229-32). Industry’srelation to politics in the early Republic (232-36).The lock millionaires had on the U.S. Senate in theGilded Age (237-42). Technology as a source of wealth (242-48).
Ch. 6: Technology and the UncertainFoundations of Anglo-American Wealth.
Therole of technology in upsetting established patternsof wealth (249-90).
PART III: WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY: THERHYTHM OF POLITICS ANDCONFRONTATIONCh. 7: Wealth and Politics in the United States.
Twelve common characteristics of periods of wealthaccumulation (295-303). Banking, railroads,monopolies, and “the money power” as politicalwhipping boys (303-13). American leaders havegenerally resisted these forces, but this tradition is