on January 18, 2013
Many of Phillip's books have a "notebook" quality: it is as if they have been rushed to press before the themes and information have been thoroughly synthesized because of the topicality of the content. This quality is both a strength (contemporary pertinence) and a weakness (apparent sloppiness). "Wealth and Democracy" is more of an academic work that covers hundreds of years of economic history. Sometimes Phillip's organization and narrative are plodding, but often after stumbling through a few paragraphs of trivialities (often lists of rich people and companies) you'll hit either stunning insights, excellently synthesized historical commentary, or a return to the main narrative. If Phillip's arguments about American's adherence to the pattern of imperial/financial dominance and decline set by Spain, Holland, and Britain are not fully compelling at all times, those arguments are at least specific enough imply possible further explanation or argument (a virtue academics often avoid by resorting to theoretical frameworks or rhetorical equivocation). It is safe to assume that the one-star reviews are from (presumably paid) trolls at right-wing propaganda mills.
on July 5, 2004
While I do agree with some of the things that Phillips presents here, I think that if Phillips is truly concerned about inequality of wealth here in America, he should go after these senators, congressmen and other government employees who want to "fix social security" but refuse to contribute to it yet have their own super retirement programs that will provide a million dollar retirement income and they (the senators, congressmen etc) never have to pay a dime into it and never contribute to social security (or is that social insecurity?)
I think it's time to shake up America and history has shown that Kevin Phillips is the man who can do that. So c'mon Mr. Phillips. Why not write a book and expose the great social security scandal that is going on in this great country. Expose these politicians who talk out of both sides of their mouths. Expose these Senators and Congressmen who claim they are working for the common good but could care less about anybody but themselves. Do a book on social security before it truly does become social insecurity and leaves millions of Americans, our elderly pennyless and possibly homeless as well.
Great job on Wealth & Democracy. I have read it several times.
on July 1, 2004
I'm giving this book by Kevin Phillips 2 stars because he is partially correct; the government is helping the rich get richer by offering tax breaks, the lowest income people are paying the most in taxes..BUT...Phillips conveniently forgets to mention that anyone, even minimum wage street cleaners, housekeepers, telemarketers etc can start a small home based business, consulting, child care center, even network marketing and enjoy the same tax breaks as the wealthy. Employees always pay the absolute most in taxes. So Phillips is correct in his analysis but deserves jeers for not mentioning how the average income earner can reduce by 50%-100% his taxes.
The other thing that ticked me off is that Phillips again conveniently forgets to mention that the Asians have achieved great wealth in terms of net worth by saving 30% of their income while Americans save less than 5% even though their incomes are higher than the Asians. Could this be part of the problem why so many Americans are falling behind?
The wealthy also save or invest a major portion of their income. I know some broke people who always say; "Well if I was rich, I would save or invest too!" I don't know about that! What I see is more and more people spending money on their extravagant lifestyles, living beyond their means. If they made more, they would spend more.
Why 2 stars? Phillips did I believe an above average job of researching historical data for this tome and is a good writer. However, he sends out the wrong message and leaves out way too much fact. He even takes a poke at the still best selling book "The Millionaire Next Door." Interesting is that the people covered in that book became millionaires in the same country and under the same conditions that Phillips insists only benefits the ultra wealthy. Well, once again, these people, just like the ultra wealthy, became rich by taking advantage of the opportunities available in America. Also interesting is that one of the top producers of millionaires in the late 80's and early 90's was dry cleaning! I couldn't think of a more dull business to start but now wish I had!
People should walk away from Wealth & Democracy (and any other book by Phillips) and read quality, fact filled books on building wealth like The Millionaire Next Door, The Automatic Millionaire, The Millionaire Mind and Rich Dad Poor Dad.
I also found it interesting that while Kevin Phillips was promoting this book, he was on late nite tv talk shows that were aired right beside the "get rich quick" informercials. The only difference between Phillips and those get rich quick informercial guru's is that occasionally somebody makes money on one of those get rich quick schemes. I have yet to hear of anyone who has made any money (save book distributors) following Kevin Phillips.
Democrats will probably like this book, but then again, look at their track record. Sen John Kerry says he has a plan to help social security but refuses to contribute to it himself. Instead he gets one of these super retirement plans that will pay him a million dollars even though he doesn't have to contribute a dime to it. No senators or congressman do. Meanwhile average people like you and I have to contribute to social security, will get a small smidget of a return (if it is still around) while these guys get a million dollar gift and pay nothing! Now there is an issue about inequality that Phillips should address.
on June 20, 2004
People who sit in front of the tv set all day interspersed with session on the internet, believe in the buy lottery tickets and wealth without work; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; watch Dynasty and Dallas reruns; belive those democrat commercials and change their lifestyles after watching a 60 minute soap opera will absolutely love this book and that is the audience that Phillips attempts to and does in fact reach.
It tastes sweet like a candy bar. MAke you feel better to think that the wealthy are corrupt. Makes a strong case to raise taxes on the rich (did anybody listen to Ronald Reagans speecehes that aired the week following his death?) and attack our current President who has almost miraculously taken this country out of the recession brought on by his predecessor (who instituted the biggest tax hike in history by the way) and has taken a strong stannd against terrorism (anybody catch the news clip on CNN on Friday stating that a anti-Bush movie, directed by a overweight American and noted Bush basher is being subsidized by Terrorists? Hello??)
This is like candy for the brain. It may make you feel a little better, but the long term results are a rotted brain, and permanent mental malnutrition.
Think I'm kidding? Just look at the five star reviews. Hello??
on June 4, 2004
Kevin Phillips presents and old and very tired theory of why the rich g et richer and the poor get poorer. Phillips may not know much about facts, but he certaintly knows how to present a subject that will sell books.
Look at how many people were thrilled with the Martha Stewart scenario. Despite the fact that recent evidence shows Martha may have been a victim and supposedly responsible people lied, people still have Ms. Martha guilty. Why? People love to see the big guys (or gals) fall. And it doesn't matter if it is based on truth or not.
Phillips presents that the rich are getting richer at the expence of the poor. Bull! The rich have and continue to create opportunities for the poor.
One reader wrote that we need to slow down the wealth of the rich. Does that tell you something? Why would you want to slow down the wealth of the rich? How about if we slow down the wealth of your employer. Then what happens? That's right, no more employer. No more raises. No more job.
And let's not forget that Phillips was a friend of Richard Nixon, possibly the worst president in recent times (some say Clinton was--close call) Do you really want to take advice and buy a book from a Nixon-ite? Where is the trust? Where is the credibility? Does Phillips raise his two hands in the air throwing peace signs and saying "I am not a crook (yeah right tricky Dicky)" Can you realy trust this guy. I know I don't. He's the reason I turned democrat. It's well known that Phillips is a republican ala Tricky Dicky Richard Nixon.
The best use of this book would be to swat flies or to use as a paperweight. I understand it's available in used book stores for fifty cents. But even that is too much.
SAVE YOUR MONEY. Buy a real book.
on December 24, 2003
It would be hard to write a clearer indictment of the dynamics of politics and money that this history-expose. It covers not only in American history, but the entire sequence of cutting edge economies-empires, from sixteenth century Spain, seventeenth century Holland, nineteenth century England, and finally twentieth century North America. Laid out in a series the Faustian game of prosperous nations finally declining is grim, and the entire question ends off key with the case of the American economy and what it has been up to in the last twenty-five years. It's hard to resist the conclusion, given the facts, that the business class left to its devices is a menace to living populations of citizens, who they leave in the lurch after the cresting of the tide. Let us hope that current crop of economic hyenas can be stopped in time so that the great American democracy might survive into the next century. In the meantime, by the reckoning of the author, the dry rot was more than begun to set in. At least, given the clear history, we can learn, and react to the fleecing going on even now.
Filled with a lot of good data, and historical snapshots from the entire era of the modern, this book is well worth reading for its convincing portrait in slow motion of the economic plight of nations.
on October 27, 2003
It is hard to imagine someone who has a better grasp of the issues related to the implications of economic policy and overall economic health than Kevin Phillips. From "The Politics of Rich and Poor" onwards, Phillips continues to distinguish himself both with regard to the breadth of his knowledge and his ability to avoid falling into either "right wing" or "left wing" ideologies. "Wealth and Democracy" is thoroughly researched, carefully presented, and the implications of the trends he analyzes are "musts" for anyone who wants to get their "arms around" this complex of issues. The main thesis of this book is that repeated economic cycles have demonstrated that as wealth concentrations grow (the amount of wealth held by few families/persons), democracy suffers as the political landscape becomes increasingly skewed by those concentrations of wealth. (To suggest, for example, that Phillips is "anti-well-to-do" would be a gross over-exaggeration that largely misses the point.) One could easily expect a book with so many charts, graphes, and other analytic tools to be boring or hard to follow, but Phillips keeps one's attention from beginning to end with a serious, yet entertaining style. Frankly, one can only wish our contemporary policy makers had half Phillips' grasp of economic policy implications. Whatever criticisms one might have of Phillips' work in general, his works are always remarkably well researched, and "Wealth and Democracy" is no exception to that general observation. It will take some concentration to follow all the details of "Wealth and Democracy," but the time necessary to avoid a "thin" understanding of the material will be well worth the effort. While, say, a book of anecdotes (perhaps like "The Lexus and the Olive Branch"), or books about "get rich quick" schemes might be easier to follow, they do not begin to compare to the analytical nature of Phillips' work, and the rewards would be nowhere near as great. If one is determined to bring "laissez faire" presuppositions to the reading of this book, one might prefer to avoid "Wealth and Democracy" as it will be difficult to maintain both those presuppositions and one's integrity in light of Phillips' thorough analysis.
on July 30, 2003
Kevin Phillips book, for all the wrath it seems to inspire in these reader reviews, is actually a tremendously sensible and well-supported book, without any alarmism, or any of the bitterness or class-warfare that might hurt his argument. In fact, Phillips gives one of the best explanations for why class warfare has never worked in America--beyond the simplistic Horatio Alger myths. In short, Phillips is not attacking the system, so much as showing its current predicament, and describing how America has faced such challenges before. If anything, much of his information is comforting, in that it shows seasonal shifts in America's distribution of wealth.
True, Phillips does suggest that the current plutocracy in America is similar to that which occurred in England, Holland, and the Spanish Hapsburg Empire during their eras of decline, but he stops well short of predicting the same fall from exceptionalism for America. Rather, WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY is a cautionary tale, one written with admiration and affection for the American system, not with scorn. He is a Republican who dislikes Republican free-market utopianism as much as the Democrats' social-program utopianism; and this is a refreshing approach.
Phillips is just the sort of social and economic critic America needs in a time when most books of this kind seem polarized--either with Howard Zinn and Michael Moore, or Catherine Coulter and Bill O'Reilly. What results is a wonderfully sober book--a political history of America that seems virtually untainted by politics.
on July 18, 2003
In Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips does provide a lot of interesting information culled from a range of primary and seconday sources but overall the book is disjointed and repetitious, thin on analysis and somewhat baffling as to conclusions and recommendations.
The author covers the economic history of, mostly, Holland, England and the United States, primarily (I think) to make the point that wealth concentrates into the top 1% of the population that then becomes too politically powerful and corrupt and prone to rampant speculation in the stock markets, excessive rent-seeking behavior and overseas investment, while the middle class stagnates (at best) and the bottom quintile sinks ever lower into misery. Fair enough and hardly a revelation but the actual causality i.e. wealth concentration=excessive power, corruption and speculation=suffering for everyone else=economic decline is hardly original. Okay, its not fair for so few to have so much - but what is his recommendation to change this? Income redistribution? Fine, but how and to what likely effect? Okay, rampant and manic stock speculation is stupid and certainly creates serious problems when bust follows boom and late (often middle class) investors take a beating. But what is the point and what does he recommend we do about it? Okay, tax cuts that favor the top 1% are a bad idea, but again what is the point? And, since he appears to be saying that all wealth concentration results from technology booms (canals, railroads, electricity, computers) does he mean we shouldn't have had any new technologies?
Although he doesn't explicity state it, it would appear he advocates income and wealth redistribution and strong regulation of everything but without stating how or why this would have stopped the ultimate loss of economic power by Holland and Britain or why it would stave off the same loss in the U.S. which he asserts is following suit.
And, not to be too nitpicky, but the editor should be spanked real hard for producing, or allowing the author to produce, one of the most user unfriendly books of all time. The 'notes' section is by chapter but notes are not numbered so it is difficult to follow from text to notes and a lot of the text seems to be inadequately referenced. The 'bibliography' is also by chapter but not alphabetized nor listed in any order I can divine and thus utterly incoherent. For example, a book is referenced in chapter 9 but does not appear in the chapter 9 bibliography, rather it appears in the chapter 3 bibliograpy but it is not referenced in the chapter 3 text. The only book I've seen produced this way and I hope the last. There is also an appendix of data that is never referenced so why is it included? And, the section, chapter and sub-section titles are toooo long and often confusingly repetitous as well. And why does every chapter have to open with several pages telling me what he's going to tell me and how it all fits together?
Despite the above rant, I read the entire book and learned several things from the data and information provided but can only give it a luke warm recommendation overall. It should have been only half as long.
on July 14, 2003
I figure that 95% of the readers of this book will think "We're really getting used." The remaining 5% - the wealthiest 5% of Americans - will no doubt think "We've got it made!" In short, Phillips thoroughly documents the ways that the wealthiest interests in this country pretty much get all they want, often at the expense of the rest of us.
Despite the subtitle of the book, this book is really only nominally a history. After the first couple of chapters, history takes a back seat as Phillips gets more involved with economics and political science. The book's organization is a limited success and there is more than a little redundancy. In addition, the book's principal ideas have a certain hopelessness about them as he puts forth the problem and poses no real solution (other than to ride out things until we get to a more progressive era). To have this same message repeated over and over again from different angles makes this a downbeat book.
Phillips does deserve credit for presenting a good case, backed by a lot of supporting evidence and even if his organization isn't the greatest, he can write well in his limits. And despite the depresssing nature of his book, it is information that needs to get out.