Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality
Beacon Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780807003398, 280pp.
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
The concentration of wealth today in such a small number of hands inevitably created a dynamic that led to freewheeling financial speculation—a dynamic that produced similarly disastrous results in the last great age of inequality, in the 1920s. Such concentrated economic power reverberates throughout society, threatening the quality of life and the very functioning of democracy. As McQuaig and Brooks illustrate, it's no accident that the United States claims the most billionaires but suffers from among the highest rates of infant mortality and crime, the shortest life expectancy, and the lowest rates of social mobility and electoral political participation in the developed world.
In Billionaires' Ball, McQuaig and Brooks take us back in history to the political decisions that helped birth our billionaires, then move us forward to the cutting-edge research into the dangers that concentrated wealth poses. Via vivid profiles of billionaires—ranging from philanthropic capitalists such as Bill Gates to hedge fund king John Paulson and the infamous band of Koch brothers—Billionaires' Ball illustrates why we hold dearly to the belief that they "earned" and "deserve" their grand fortunes, when such wealth is really a by-product of a legal and economic infrastructure that's become deeply flawed.
Author of three books, Neil Brooks is director of the Graduate Program in Taxation at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He has participated in building projects relating to income tax in Lithuania (through the Harvard Institute for International Development), Vietnam (Swedish International Development Agency), Japan (Asian Development Bank), China (AUSAid), and Mongolia (AUSAid).
“Lively, tough-minded, and impeccably researched, Billionaires’ Ball powerfully demonstrates how ruthless political opportunism—as opposed to talent, hard work, or innovation—is helping the rich get richer. The current system, unjust and socially destructive, McQuaig and Brooks argue, sacrifices the interests of the bottom 99 percent (as the Occupy Wall Street movement has described it) to ensure unprecedented wealth and privilege for the 1 percent at the top.”—Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power and Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children
“A devastating exposé of the real-world impact of extreme wealth concentration, from two of our most rigorous, knowledgeable, and humorous chroniclers of corporate excess.”—Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
“A blistering yet utterly entertaining account of the rampaging growth in economic inequality that is America’s defining feature in the twenty-first century.”—Robert W. McChesney, coauthor of Dollarocracy
“In this breezy and lucid tale of the rise, fall, and return of plutocracy in America, Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks make a compelling case for taxes, especially on the inheritance of great fortunes that could renew American society from one generation to the next.”—James K. Galbraith, author of Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis
“McQuaig and Brooks give a fascinating account of how many of the country’s super-rich made their fortunes and why they do not deserve them. Billionaires’ Ball will leave readers both better informed and infuriated.”—Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of False Profits