The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and What the World Really Needs Today

Chrystia Freeland

In most Capitalist societies, you aren’t going to avoid the gap between rich and poor, it’s an inevitability, but this inevitability has grown out of control in this day and age as the wealthiest 0.1 percent are simply getting ever richer and leaving us all behind.

In her book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters,  examines the wealth disparity, income inequality and the new global elite in the 21st century.

A large part of Freeland’s examination includes holding a mirror up between the economy today and that of the late 19th century when the most powerful men around were ‘robber barons’ like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. During that time, much like ours, innovations in technology and new emerging markets created an unprecedented amount of wealth for a few people, people who used that wealth to exercise power in their countries.

Progress and Poverty

During this Gilded Age of the 19th Century, there was at least one economist who saw the problem, Henry George. George has become one of the most famous Americans in history. His most important book, Progress and Poverty sold over three million copies at the time and was translated into a variety of languages. He was admired by many, including men like Albert Einstein and it was his work which influenced those who came after him like George Bernard Shaw.

Henry George was thrilled with the progress that was made during the 19th century; it was an era of amazing transformations. Despite the industrial revolution and the reality that it was delivering, George was perplexed by the fact that it wasn’t delivering completely. The economic prosperity that came with the revolution simply funnelled to a small percentage of people while many were battling to make a living at all. His response wasn’t like Marx; he did not want a communist utopia. George believed in capitalism but he wanted to take it from the hands of the ‘robber barons’ and return it to “the democracy of Thomas Jefferson.”

It was his ideals that made George so popular. Much like the Occupy Wall Street movement of today, he won support among the working class voters and small businessmen thanks to his line of thinking and it was this line of thinking that nearly won him the Mayorship of New York when he ran in 1886.

One 21st century Henry George Required

According to Freeland, this is what America needs now: a 21st century Henry George. The U.S. is facing a dangerous future and Freeland says that a thinker who embraces the possibilities of capitalism, but also faces the inequity of its current state is what can drive the country forward.

George helped influence powerful men during his time; he helped bring about social and political change which would go on to serve the whole of the U.S. society and not just a 0.1% at the top. Freeland says this is what we need today – new social and political institutions to make this new crippled economy work for everyone.

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