Wealth and Democracy

This is a very interesting work of economic history.  In part it examines the rise of the ultra-rich within the USA and their increasing influence over the political system.  At the same time, it examines other societies that were equally dominant in their time, such as Spain in the C16, Holland in the C17 and Britain in the C19 and draws out the similarities between them.

Although published in 2002, the book has particular relevance to today.  In each of the countries he studies, the author argues that economic dominance usually came to an end as wealth concentrated among the ultra-rich, who in turn stopped investing in the ‘real economy’ and became drawn into financial speculation and investment bubbles.  Sounds familar?

The author has many interesting things to say in passing.  Regarding the Great Depression of the 1930s, for example, he points out that this was preceded (in the US) by a consumer boom funded by easy credit.

This book is written for the general reader, rather than for an academic economist (thank god!).  All the same, it is probably of most interest to people who have some general understanding of economics and who are interested in relating economic concepts to real historical times.  Unlike many other books on economics, it is written by someone who recognises the corrupting influence of power and who is concerned about social justice.

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