Journalist Chrystia Freeland’s book about the super rich: Plutocrats:The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

Just in case you aren’t certain of the meaning of plutocrat (and plutocracy), according to the OED: a “plutocrat” is “a person whose power derives from their wealth,” and a “plutocracy” is “government by the wealthy.”

The second of these definitions gives me the heebie-jeebies because, as I see it, this is already a reality, although we still have elections and other democratic institutions.The rise of the plutocrats (the .01 per cent of everyone else); how they became so rich and powerful; and, perhaps even more important, how they see their role in the world—is the subject of Canadian journalist Chrystia Freeland’s 2012 book, which was awarded the Gelber Prize this month.  Freelandis the Managing Director and Editor of Consumer News at Thomson Reuters, She was the deputy editor of The Globe and Mail and has written for the Financial Times, The Economist, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Atlantic.

The most comprehensive review I have found about this book comes fromThe Guardian, November 1, 2012. According to The Guardian, “Freeland charts the rise of this class by examining global trends and exploring the consequences of the creation of such a  money-laden elite. . . . Her findings are fleshed out with fine research, strong statistics and neat nuggets of information. She argues that technology and globalisation are creating winner-take-all superstars in many sectors who join a cosy, conformist bubble. These people flit round the world attending the same events and using the same services; they freely admit to having more in common with one another than their fellow citizens, whether coming from Africa, Asia or the West.

“Freeland highlights the danger when a small, self-serving and self-satisfied group dominate public discourse, then seek a system tilted even more in their favour. ‘I think the ultra-wealthy actually have an insufficient influence,’ says one billionaire Republican donor. Another says taxes should be virtually abolished, arguing that the government should pay the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for their contributions to society. ‘It’s that top 1% that probably contributes more to making the world a better place than the 99%,’ he concludes outrageously.”

Macleans Magazine offers this insight: “Freeland’s book is at its strongest providing a window into the thinking of this new class. She claims that, unlike past generations, today’s ultra-wealthy are true global citizens and have far more in common with each other than with their own countrymen. They also work for a living and, as a result, firmly believe they deserve their success. They were not ‘born rich.’ This mindset helps explain why many plutocrats are skeptical of government attempts to redistribute wealth and have no qualms backing incredibly self-serving policies. Though such lobbying is usually cloaked in the garb of being ‘pro-capitalism,’ Freeland argues many plutocrats honestly believe that what’s best for them and their companies is also best for everyone else. It’s also a belief that gets reinforced by politicians who inevitably look up to the plutocrats and aspire to one day join their ranks—if they’re not there already.”