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Are the Rich Necessary [Paperback]

Hunter Lewis
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Jan 2009
This updated and expanded edition of Are the Rich Necessary? is an ideal introduction to economics at a time when economics is on everyone's mind. Lewis is always objective, fair, and fun to read. Rich is also an ideal adjunct to an economics textbook. The New York Times called this book both highly provocative and highly pleasurable.

Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Axios Press; Upd Exp edition (10 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604190167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604190168
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 12.5 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,763,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative title; familiar text 30 July 2012
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The title is pretty funny and I think I would think so even if I were rich, which I'm not (but I'm doing okay, thanks). The title reminds me of the placard held by an Occupy Wall Street protester some months ago, "Eat the rich."

Well, you know this sort of thing may not be all that funny to some people. The rich are still shaking in their polo boots about the communist threat even though it is as passé as mutton chop whiskers. However if the rich aren't careful they may see a new threat arise in the next decade or two that will make the communist manifesto seem like an invitation to a tea party.

(Uh...never mind.)

The rich need to keep in mind that trickle down really means something has to trickle down. You can't hire the Pinkerton Guards and hole up in your palatial estate and expect to feel cozy by the fire any more. You have to actually relinquish some of your ill-gotten gains just to keep the hoi polloi from the ramparts. In the US we used to do that with a progressive tax code. Since it is very, very difficult for anyone (except Warren Buffet) to vote themselves more taxes, we need to help the rich out.

As President Hoover famously observed, economists are in the very disconcerting habit of saying "on the one hand..." and then "on the other hand...." And so he longed for a one-handed economist. Here Lewis gives us both a "no" and a "yes" (and some "yes/no's and no/yes's) to nine economic questions beginning with the title question and covering such areas as globalism, government's role in the economy, greed, the role of banks, etc. He quotes various economists on both sides of the issues. The effect is similar to taking a broad-based first course in economics at a college or university.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick Trip Through Socioeconomics 3 Jan 2009
By Avid Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Are the Rich Necessary?" was probably written in 2006, given that it was publsihed in 2007. But having read it at the end of 2008, after the stock market collapse, mortgage scandals, and immense government financial bailouts, I found that some of the ideas had even more resonance than the author probably intended. Chapters about government intervention in the marketplace and the benefits of central bankers really jump out at a time when the government is literally kicking trillions of dollars into the economy in unprecedented ways.

"Are the Rich Necessary?" doesn't really answer the core question. Instead, it presents point-counterpoint arguments about the benefits of a capitalist system (which the author calls a "profit" system). For a person with a beginner's understanding of economics, the book is probably thought-provoking to a great degree. For a person with a stronger background -- I have an undergrad degree in economics -- the book is a bit elementary. Still, it's nice to have the "big" arguments neatly compiled into one place and to have such pithy quotes an anecdotes from economists and political thinkers through the ages.

Definitely worth buying and reading if you like economics at all.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative title; familiar text 30 July 2012
By Dennis Littrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The title is pretty funny and I think I would think so even if I were rich, which I'm not (but I'm doing okay, thanks). The title reminds me of the placard held by an Occupy Wall Street protester some months ago, "Eat the rich."

Well, you know this sort of thing may not be all that funny to some people. The rich are still shaking in their polo boots about the communist threat even though it is as passé as mutton chop whiskers. However if the rich aren't careful they may see a new threat arise in the next decade or two that will make the communist manifesto seem like an invitation to a tea party.

(Uh...never mind.)

The rich need to keep in mind that trickle down really means something has to trickle down. You can't hire the Pinkerton Guards and hole up in your palatial estate and expect to feel cozy by the fire any more. You have to actually relinquish some of your ill-gotten gains just to keep the hoi polloi from the ramparts. In the US we used to do that with a progressive tax code. Since it is very, very difficult for anyone (except Warren Buffet) to vote themselves more taxes, we need to help the rich out.

As President Hoover famously observed, economists are in the very disconcerting habit of saying "on the one hand..." and then "on the other hand...." And so he longed for a one-handed economist. Here Lewis gives us both a "no" and a "yes" (and some "yes/no's and no/yes's) to nine economic questions beginning with the title question and covering such areas as globalism, government's role in the economy, greed, the role of banks, etc. He quotes various economists on both sides of the issues. The effect is similar to taking a broad-based first course in economics at a college or university.

I think the book is okay as far as it goes and certainly I am not qualified to authoritatively debate the various issues; but I would like to point to what I think is a puzzling failure in the question in Part Three, "Are the Rich Compatible with Democracy?"

The way the arguments are presented it appears that what is at issue is who is boss, the producers (the rich) or the consumers who buy the products and services. Furthermore, the "democracy" that Lewis is referring to is not a political democracy but an economic one. Thus Lewis refers to "The free-market democratic system of one dollar, one vote." Putting aside the non-reality of "one-dollar, one vote" politically speaking, the real question is the effect that wealth can have on the democratic process--on the very fact of our elections being democratic.

If this book had been written after the Supreme Court's ruling on campaign financing in the "Citizen's United" case instead of before, perhaps Lewis would have realized that what really needs to be addressed is whether money can so pervert the democratic process as to turn our democracy into an oligarchy.

With the enormous power of television and other advertising to sway uninformed voters my feeling is that it's possible that we already have become a one-party nation (an oligarchy of the rich and influential) with two slightly differing branches, both seemingly long and loud on rhetoric but both very much the same in legislative and executive behavior. This has come about because no person seeking higher office has much of a chance of winning (or even getting the nomination of one of the two dominate parties) without considerable financial backing. You might gain a congressional seat for a term or two as a person of modest means without corporate backing, but you have no chance of winning a senate seat or the presidency.

The most obvious case in point are the positions taken by President Obama who talked of change but once in office continued most of the economic policies of his predecessors. He appointed Wall Street regulars to his team and continues to accept massive amounts of campaign funds from Wall Street firms. One can say that the differences between Obama and Romney are mostly superficial and that we can expect that whoever wins in November will continue in much the same way as before.

Anyway, this book is perhaps a less painful way of getting introduced to economic issues than having to read a textbook.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learned so much! 6 Nov 2007
By C. B. Cornish - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book after reading the very positive New York Times review a few weeks ago. I had also seen Mr Lewis on Bloomberg TV and thought he seemed extremely knowledgeable. He is and the book is a real treat - it's provocative because it makes you think about why you think what you think (and I was surprised at the direction these answers led me) and it's pleasurable because Lewis quotes from as many unlikely sources - Jane Goodall and Al Sharpton, to name just two - as likely sources such as John Maynard Keynes.

With a title like Are the Rich Necessary? you have to surmise there will be curves ahead - and there are, and they're fun, but the best curve for me was the learning curve. I learned so much.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Timely, very Readable! 8 Mar 2014
By Dr. John G. Eoll - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent handbook on economics for beginners. Presented in the form of "yes" or "no" questions followed by short discussions from well-known contemporary economists. Wish they offered a pocket-sized leather bound edition of this great little book!
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful view of the purpose of an economy 2 Jan 2013
By Richard Hall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm an economist by interest, and this book gave me a very good overview of many of the hidden mechanisms behind the economy as a driver of society and progress. It also provided a fairly good critique of the pros and cons to our capitalistic / government regulated system.

The only reason I lacked the final star was that it just seemed to end abruptly, without pulling it all together into a comprehendible system. It left me wanting more, and left me to my own prognosis.
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