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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read about the uber richies
This is an interesting book, it has a contents, index and the chapters are well laid out, about the right length for the established pace and the narrative manages to be interesting throughout.

The introductions does a good summation of the book itself and you will be able to tell from reading it whether or not you want to proceed through the book itself,...
Published 4 months ago by Lark

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of insight into the details but lacking perspective
Chrystia Freeland takes us on a detailed tour of the world (in fact global village) of the super-high-net worth individuals that are growing in wealth and power in today's economy. She evidently knows the Davos set rather well and her access to their world allows insights that others would be hard pressed to discover. On the flip side, knowing this elusive and massively...
Published 9 months ago by bomble


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of insight into the details but lacking perspective, 3 Jan 2014
By 
bomble "bomble" (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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Chrystia Freeland takes us on a detailed tour of the world (in fact global village) of the super-high-net worth individuals that are growing in wealth and power in today's economy. She evidently knows the Davos set rather well and her access to their world allows insights that others would be hard pressed to discover. On the flip side, knowing this elusive and massively influential group of people - the unelected powers behind much of the `democratic' decision making process - she also seems to lack some more fundamental perspective that might come of not being so closely entangled in their lives.

She states that we live in unprecedented times of growth when compared to previous times of wide disparity between rich and poor; she states that much of the wealth of the newly-minted plutocrats comes from their salaries rather than their properties and yet I don't believe she once mentioned the simple mathematics of exponential (percentage) growth and how it can widen the rich-poor divide. She also falls into the classic pitfall of assigning too much agency to the results. Yes there are some super-rich individuals and they did leave many of their peers behind. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they did `something right'. Most entrepreneurial ventures will fail (statistically speaking) and those that fail don't often get asked what they did wrong simply because they don't feature on the journalistic radar. In fact, if you did ask them, those that failed will cite external difficulties - those that succeeded will cite their cunning and guile, grit and determination or whatever `special sauce' they believe they possess. Of course I'm not suggesting it's all luck. But once you find a set of people possessing the necessary drive and skills to succeed in their respective businesses, only a few of them actually will and what discriminates one from another is rarely more than chance circumstances.

Nevertheless, there's a lot to learn from this well compiled and clearly written compendium, or who's who, of the ultra-wealthy. For one thing, it could help the rest of us understand the way they think and that could help businesses and policy makers to make the most of what they have to offer us and minimise their costs to society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read about the uber richies, 16 Jun 2014
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This is an interesting book, it has a contents, index and the chapters are well laid out, about the right length for the established pace and the narrative manages to be interesting throughout.

The introductions does a good summation of the book itself and you will be able to tell from reading it whether or not you want to proceed through the book itself, despite this being the point of an introduction not every book and certainly not every book of this kind can manage that. Freeland clarifies that she wishes to provide an account which is not simply a kind of magazine piece on the lives of the rich and famous but which also takes into account the wider implications for politics, economy, society and the world of there existing a plutocracy or plutonomy.

The basis for there being a plutonomy, are memos circulated within the world's key finanical institutions the that effect, the conclusion is that the economy or social structure is neither pyramid, nor diamond shaped but has become like an hourglass with the uber rich at one end and the rest of the population catered for at the base. So growth markets are those tailoring to either end, roughly stated yachts for one and pound stores the other.

I am not sure that, while decrying the negative consequences of the plutocrats and the plutonomy that Freeland makes much in the way of suggestions for restructuring the economy or society, her explanation as to how the status quo came into existence is fine, the outlining of the negative consequences likewise but beyond a sort of appeal to the ethics of responsibility elitism there's not much. I know that will turn some readers off immediately so I mention it, on the other hand there's not any of the hackneyed thinking that the eve or advent of a social upheavel will provide all remedies.

Personally I liked reading this book to see the total and absolute disconnect that there is between people of different, very different, social classes but also the sorts of similarities there are too. Attitudes to taxation for instance, I thought it was shocking that there are people who are considering their tax bill with a willingness to pay whatever is asked provided they could keep the second mansion, yachts and private staff, that's so far removed from anything in my immediate life or experience but then I know the same sort of thinking does exist in a more modest frame, when taxes threaten a mortgage repayment, car ownership etc.

I consider this to be much more a work of journalism or a lifestyle magazine piece, the social commentary is in the background rather than the foreground, although its not tagged on as an afterthought or in order to calm any qualms about reporting on enviable and sometimes obscene inequalities of wealth. Recommended.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The super-rich and the dramatic and increasing wealth inequality, 28 Nov 2012
By 
Serghiou Const (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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In order for the reader to gain an appreciation of what exactly means 'dramatic wealth inequality', I present results of research both in terms of absolute numbers and as income multiples. I also draw the attention of the reader that the super-rich occupy the very apex of the wealth pyramid that is the 0.01 percent rather than the 0.1 percent much less the top 1 percent of the population.

Respected Berkeley professor of Economics Emmanuel Saez presents the following research findings on income inequality for the U.S. in 2010: Families at the top 0.01 percent made $23,846,950; that dropped sharply to $2,802,020 for those in the top 0.1 to 0.01 percent. Those at the top 1 percent made $1,014,089; those in the top 10 percent made $246,934. While the bottom 90 percent made an average of $29,840.

Meanwhile Winters, a U.S. political scientist, has created a 'material power index' (MPI), which measures the income of the 10 percent of Americans as a multiple of the average income of the bottom 90 percent. His material power index shows that income polarization in America gets sharper the richer you are: the top 10 percent have an MPI of 4 - meaning their average income is four times that of the bottom 90 percent - while the top 1 percent have an MPI of 15. But when you get to the top 0.1 percent, the MPI jumps to 124.

But who are the individuals that comprise this class of super-rich? what are their characteristics? and what catapulted them to fabulous riches?

The author dubs this class the second 'gilded age' as a parallel to the first 'gilded age' which related to the 'robber barons' of the industrial revolution. They are the multibillionaires of the present era corresponding to the multimillionaires of the industrial era.

I shall briefly and parenthetically discuss the industrial revolution and the multimillionaires it created in the process. The beginning of the industrial revolution concerned the mechanization that put the hand-loom weavers out of work and was a tragedy for these individuals, but it was part of a broader economic transformation that greatly enriched the country as a whole. The industrial revolution eventually lifted all boats, but it also widened the social divide.

The fundamental drivers of the rise of the present super-rich and the second 'gilded age' are the technology revolution and globalization - and the worldwide economic growth they are creating.

The present super-elite are overwhelmingly not individuals of inherited wealth but self-made men who had the right education - Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, or say a Harvard MBA - and happened to be at the right place, at the right time and had the risk taking personality to take advantage of the technological revolution.

To-day's era can be more correctly defined as the one of the twin 'gilded ages' because the triumph of the intellectuals is not confined to the West but comprises a truly global phenomenon. It is true that in the U.S. we have such iconic super-elite like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergei Bryn, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberk but the highly educated are also in the vanguard of India's outsourcing miracle; the intellectuals, essentially their 'technical' branch, are very much in command in Communist China; and even the Russian oligarchs overwhelmingly have advanced degrees in maths and physics.

But the above, their 'embarrassment of riches' notwithstanding add value and wealth to the economy. By contrast there are elites who use their political muscle to increase their share of the preexisting pie, rather than adding value to the economy and thus increasing the pie overall. If the mind of the reader goes to the usual suspects that is the bankers and financiers, then he is absolutely right. As a prime example the author cites the Wall Street bankers who in 2008 and 2009 pushed for and got a massive bailout to save their companies - the biggest intervention in a national economy, as a percentage of GDP, since Lenin's nationalization!

So far we have spoken about the dramatic wealth inequality. I shall conclude the review by considering the 'increasing' part of the subject title:

The Great Depression inflamed the American masses, who imposed further constraints on their plutocrats: the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking, FDR's New Deal social welfare program, and ever higher taxes at the very top - by 1949 top tax rate was 94 percent.

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, in the United States the gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else shrank: the income share of the top 1 percent fell from nearly 16 percent in 1940 to under 7 percent in 1970. In 1980, the average U.S. CEO made forty-two times as much as the average worker. By 2012, that ratio had skyrocketed to 380.

I enjoyed reading the book by the brilliant journalist author, her sparkling prose, impeccable statistics and her insight into the nature of the super-rich.
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47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book will not bring on the economic or any other revolution.........., 7 Nov 2012
By 
redbigbill (bristol, uk) - See all my reviews
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Don't call the rich rich - because the rich don't really like it - it rhymes with bitch!

The sub title of this book is "The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else" Trouble is the book bangs on about the mega rich and pretty much ignores the rest of us, the ones who create the immense wealth that keep the objects of Ms Freeland's book in yachts, jets and three million dollar birthday parties. I could not afford a birthday present for my unemployed son (unemployed because so many UK jobs have been 'outsourced' to low wage economies) on my miserable state pension - as I spent most of my working life in low paid work, sustaining the one tenth of one percent of our population that reap the rewards of our labour and give back the absolute minimum in the form of wages, pensions,social benefits and spend half their working life scheming how to avoid paying taxes. So their average working day is 15 hours, poor things, so was mine when I was working on the cross channel ferry boats. In fact it was more like 19 hours a day for three weeks at a time with two x two and a half hour breaks for sleep, yet the mega rich shipowners thought that a zombie like crew was safe and secure to run their ships across the busiest stretch of water in the world on an average of five hours sleep/rest per day. No wonder they used to sink!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous, just very, very angry.

This book does little to abate my anger about a system that leaves a few in control of the economic lives of billions, unelected, undemocratic and working only for their own self-gain. The author throws out the odd comment such as "Capitalism was not meant to be like this" but all in all seems very uncritical.I guess all the time the author spends rubbing shoulders with and peeking into the lifestyles of the so called "plutocrats" has maybe affected her objectivity?

I really cannot fathom out the main message (assuming there is one?) of this book, absolutely packed full of figures, statistics and quotes from economists, politicians, and other 'experts' that the author constantly mixes into her own narrative.

If you are interested in peeking into the lifestyle of the super wealthy (apparently 'wealthy', 'affluent' are acceptable terms to the over sensitive billionaires) then this book might hold some interest but you could do just as well looking at 'Hello' or some other celebrity and wealth obsessed magazine. "Dissecting" the lives of a few mega rich I personally think does little to add to the debate about the inequality of wealth or the vast decline in distribution of wealth especially in the USA, Western Europe, the Oil Kingdoms and Japan. Inter-spacing these potted biographies with tons of statistics and figures does not keep the narrative flowing, it fact it can become quite annoying. At least Ms Freeland does not just keep to the usual suspects (Bill Gates et al), she does introduce some of the relatively 'new' super rich from the BRIC economies and countries like Ukraine.

The book claims to show us the "New Wealth and it's Consequences" but in my mind it falls well short on the consequences and on the question of what (if anything) can be done about it?

Some may ask if we should even worry about the mega-rich? My feeling is yes we should, at least whilst half the world exists on a couple of dollars a day and the mega rich and huge corporations wield massive, totally undemocratic, economic and political power.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting although a little long winded in palces, 26 Feb 2014
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This book writes of the very wealthy (the super-rich). There is a good balance of statistics and the more personal sides of the super-rich. It shows why there are problems within society as the super-rich have so much control over everyone else. It shows the way that the super-rich can get even richer through manipulation and extension of power.

On the downside, I found parts of the book to be repetitive and the points that were made in the book could have been made in far less pages with less repetition.

Worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing, albeit sickening, study of the world's wealthiest men, 6 Aug 2013
By 
Andrew Sutherland "Sutho" (Surrey outposts) - See all my reviews
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The subject of this timely analysis by former FT deputy editor Chrystia Freeland is a new, unimaginably wealthy transglobal elite of mainly self-made men who've carved out utterly ridiculous fortunes. Not so much the top 1% as the top 0.1%. Don't be mislead by the gimmicky book cover: this isn't a gossipy look at their glamorous lifestyles . Rather, Freeland draws on fine research to examine the global trends that have led to the creation of such a money-laden elite, as well considering the grotty social consequences of the creation of this new assemblage of winner-take-all billionaires. Highly insightful in a deeply depressing kinda way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "Rags to riches", 9 April 2013
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This is a well written, easy to read social narrative on the life styles of the super-rich. It is clearly evident that it is well researched and presents a series of portraits of the super-rich, whilst commenting on the disproportionate imbalance, but without going into an analysis of the consequneces or the solution. This book collates a plethora of vignettes on plutocrats which offers an interesting read and behind the scenes look at their lifes and lifestyles. Definitely interesting, imminently readable, but no real life lessons....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful yet shallow., 21 Mar 2013
By 
Ken Raus "Ken Raus" (Lugdunum) - See all my reviews
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This book will be of interest to several demographics,indeed,to most of us who aren't globalist billionaires given the power of great wealth to shape the worlds destiny through the ages.

The writer does seem to be a fan rather than a critic of the characters delineated and discussed in this book and this isn't a technical treatise about economics,it's bent is more sociological although that doesn't mean she is a hireling,either.

Her style is clear and even witty and I'd call it an easy read,even populist but quite palatable intellectually for all that and books aren't films whose plots can easily be given away but she discusses all the big and rich names in some detail as you'd expect,so you'll have to read it or not.

There is enough about the Russian oligarchs and Bill Gates to keep the interest of those curious enough about these Masters of the Universe but in fairness it wouldn't matter if the writer was for or against these plutocrats as their existence is a fact just as the existence of millions of starvelings worldwide is and is a simultaneous fact,too...I would say she is careful in her political and philosophical conclusions so this book wouldn't appeal to radical Libertarians or Communists much less Nationalists of any nation.

'Unpretentious' and readable,a good primer, would be my conclusion if you like this sort of relatively superficial analysis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An insightful read, with plenty of anecdotes and history, but it won't be on everyone's "must read" list., 8 Mar 2013
By 
Mr. S. R. Dhain "shekhardhain" (leicester) - See all my reviews
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Chrystia Freeland really goes all-out, in giving a very detailed account of the super rich, in terms of their ascension, their mindsets, and even a glimpse of the lifestyle. In short, not only are most of them harvard ( or very similar ) graduates, but they have that magic "x factor" blend of very high real world intellegence, high level risk taking and phenomenal luck, insofar that they have all been at the right place, at the right time. They have an influence & power that stretches into governmental levels, that isnt easily detectable, simply because it's semi-subtle, and owes a lot to a quasi-closed loop of networking.

In effect, the whole system is based on this kind of semi-closed loop, where the powerful are influenced by, and in turn also influencing, other power players. Up to a point, this has, and still does, work, but the global near-collapse of the financial system, has shown that there needs to be a bit more laxity in this "invisible gatekeeping", to allow fresh impetus and new blood to come into the fray.

So why only three stars? The trouble arises in that many people will miss the rich mine of information in this book, simply because its style is very rhetorically intense and "thesis like", which even someone like myself, who studied economics and marketing at GCSE, A LEVEL and even at graduate level ( i studied Industrial Business Systems, and gained a 2:1 honours classification), can see how chunks of it are, for want of a better phrase, stodgy and even a bit arrid. A better style of rhetoric for something like this, is perhaps closer to malcolm gladwell's OUTLIERS, which i also own, which makes the retelling of some potentially dry and even slightly boring facts and figures, an absolute joy to read.

Overall, this is a useful tome, as in times to come, books like this will very effectively snapshot the zeitgeist very effectively. However, with some careful editorial polish and a more warmer approach - not easy, perhaps, with such a potentially cold and literally calculated subject matter - this would have been a 5 star winner, in my view. As it is, it's more suited for the hard thinkers and future pacers.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware superficiality, 29 Jan 2013
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I very much looked forward to reading this book. If one has been following the issue of the "1%" for more than just the past year or so, there is much
to be examined and considered in the terrible disparity of the super wealthy vs the rest of us. It's been coming since the Reagan/Thatcher years; moreover, the 1% seem pretty unabashed about their position of extreme advantage over everyone else and apparently will do whatever is necessary to maintain their status.

So this book was a big disappointment. I had hoped for more history of the emergence of the plutocrats and how global markets have for example modified marketing strategies to appeal to these people; what are the major reasons for this huge divide; what the implications are for generalized economic recovery in light of the self-acceptance of plutocrats; who represents them, how and why. It is a good "intro" book e.g., if you have read nothing on the subject but have seen an article or two in the newspaper and would like to learn more. For me, it lacked depth, analysis and conclusions. Ultimately, a rather long op-ed piece that is well documented but investigative journalism ought to be more interesting than this book was. Sorry to the author!
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