Review: Billionaires – Reflections on the Upper Crust

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Economics
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Darrell M. West

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb overview, illuminates not just the negatives, but the positives as well, October 5, 2014

I bought this book in part because I have noticed a number of billionaires giving away $100 million to $500 million “chunks” to universities and non-profits that in my view are perpetuating what Rusell Ackoff would call “doing the wrong things righter;” in part because I myself am looking for someone to fund a School of Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance and a World Brain Institute; and in part because I have been utterly fascinated to see the 1% breaking ranks in the last three months, with a few of them, notably the Mars Family in the USA (Mutuality Economics), a few black sheep billionaires on the West Coast (Redemptive Economics) and Lady Rothschild in London (Inclusive Economics), all realizing that 100% corrupt governments are not working as they anticipated.

For me, this ia five star work. Certainly more can be done in this area, but in terms of researched detail and a coherent construct for the book over-all, I find nothing lacking.

The central focus of the book is not on the fact that the 1% have achieved their goal of assuring 100% corrupt governments (the USA and the UK being right at the top of that list) but rather on illuminating how the 1% have “pioneered new activist models of political involvement that combine electioneering, issue advocacy, and [directed] philanthropy.” What this means is that the super-rich are controlling not just the media, but state and local government, university departments and secondary school curricula, and most civil society discourse.

I find the diplomatic tone of the author admirable, and his findings incontrovertible — the super-rich are polarizing societies, destroying economies, neutering governments, dumbing down the schools and the public, and generally threatening the larger ecology of humanity on Earth with extinction. The author documents quite clearly the chasm between the policy views of the super-rich (that I would point out are rooted in privileged ideology, not ethical evidence-based decision-support of which I am a champion) and those of the 99%.

I learn from this book. Three small points — there are many others — are these:

01. Buying one single Senator can put the entire US Government into grid-lock on any issue, with secret holds and other measures essentially short-circuiting all of the checks and balances.

02. The legalized tax loopholes and subsidies are roughly, at 925 billion a year year, equivalent to the one trillion a year that the US Government borrows in our name instead of creating our own credit.

03. The estate tax aka the death tax has been practically eliminated with new loopholes that exclude up to $5 million, at the same time that the super-rich have legalized almost 100% tax avoidance on all of their wealth through various means.

Amidst all this negativity — no more than 50% of the book — are many positive stories of billionaires trying to do the right thing, rooted in their general sense, as discussed by the author, that the “status quo” is simply not good. This is consistent with recent findings from Oxford University, as reported to The New Story Summit at Findhorn in Scotland where I was this past week, to the effect that an astonishing (my word) number of CEOs are disheartened, know they need to shift their empires a 180 degrees, but feel helpless and unknowing about how to do that.

My own notes pull out sixteen specific billionaires, led by Tom Steyer who is spending $100 billion on climate change education, who merit respect for trying to the right thing. Many others are listed throughout the book and documented in the notes; the author has engaged many of his subjects directly and woven an excellent story.

HOWEVER, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg and all others including Bill Gates — are completely lacking in their approach to policy and philanthropy one issue at a time. Not a single one of them has come to grips with the need to integrate holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering (visit Earth Intelligence Network and Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog for insights into that emergent transformative game changing tri-fecta). In passing I would note that there are no schools teaching this tri-fecta, and the business schools are especially remiss in failing to focus on the urgency of communicating to their students the need for a craft of intelligence able to produce ethical evidence-based decision-support.

The author also falls to this limitation; his call for changes in education and health care are delimited by his failing to see that meta-design changes are needed such that we eliminate weapons of mass instruction being used to deliberately dumb down the public, while also eliminating the 50% waste that characterizes how we do everything from agriculture to energy to health to the military. That is my only critical comment.

Normally I would conclude with links to other related books I have read and reviewed (e.g. Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History and Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, but there are just too many of them, instead I will point the reader to my Review Page at Phi Beta Iota, where my lists of lists are easily exploited. Below are books the author recommends that I have not read but am considering purchasing.

Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World
The Political Economy of Human Happiness: How Voters' Choices Determine the Quality of Life
Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What It Means for Our Economic Well-Being

I strongly recommend this book for citizens, students, and anyone interested in understanding both why the US and global economies are subject to what the Argentine President has just called the “economic terrorism of the 1%,” and how *much* money could be mustered from good-hearted billionaires who simply lack integral consciousness and a coherent construct for rescuing all of us from our own apathy.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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