Review: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Invoking Upton Sinclair's sentiment that one's understanding of a problem is not likely to happen if their salary is based upon them not understanding it, Giridharadas explores how today's elite--benefactors of increasing market-driven forces and ideologies increasingly claim that they have the know-how to fix the world's worst problems. However, so many of these problems (poverty, environmental degradation, racial/gender tension, crime) are often created, sustained, or aggravated by the viewpoint that the unregulated market can solve all problems. But Giridharadas does more than just lay the argument and the evidence out. Rather, he interviews some of the successful and vocal in this realm (the elites advocating for social change, but not so much social disruption that it affects their bottom line or personal activities) and draws out the tensions in their ideas and even their own doubts about what they are doing. His most powerful critique comes in the form of comparing the present elite with that of Carnegie and his declaration of the importance to do charity and foundational work. In both instances, you have leaders of major organizations that invest in preventing governments from regulating them (or taxing them for that matter) and then they use their money for charity. And while that seems fair, their solutions are often in market-type approaches (the saying about when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail comes to mind) that continues to exacerbate and cause new problems. Secondly, he notes that it's problematic for private individuals to set about their own agendas about how to fix social ills and in fact, that was one of the key criticisms of monarchy--a singular, unelected person deciding what was the right way to address social problems. However, it's not a cry for big government but rather a recognition that the entire villainization of government has allowed for the overtaking of a mentality of market-forces to solve everything and the result has been a growing and disproportionate amount of wealth accumulating in a smaller percent of the population, coupled with solutions to societal woes that rarely do much to solve those woes but sufficiently pay dividends for the elites.

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