There are no beggars, no factory workers, no coal miners, hospital nurses, outsourced office hands or middle school teachers who figure prominently in Plutocrats (Penguin Press, 336 pages, $27.95), Chrystia Freeland’s new book on rising income disparity. (Call-center workers at startup whiz Tony Hsieh’s Zappos do make a cameo.) That’s by design. It’s Ms. Freeland’s stated intent to examine the widening gap between the mega-rich and the rest of us through the lives and careers of the men—yes, men—at the top. (The book’s full, ominous title is Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.) That means, as her discussion of the distaste affluent Americans have for the word “rich” suggests, a study of the plutocrats on their own terms, and not, say, according to the 99/1 rhetoric posited by Occupy Wall Street.
And so the book is populated by financial, technological and emerging-market entrepreneurs peering down from their mountaintops, as well as the closest cousins of the fortunate few: the elite artists, artisans and thinkers who cater to, study or simply swim in the slipstream of the extremely rich.
The state of journalism is bad. Of course, Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria—high-profile writers at The New Yorker and Time, respectively—were recently exposed as frauds and plagiarists, but that’s not the worst of it. Not even close. The phone-tapping scandal that nearly imploded NewsCorp’s news division last year? Nope.
In fact, nothing illustrates the distressing state of affairs more clearly than the reaction to Judge William Alsup’s recent order that Google and Oracle turn over the names of the reporters and bloggers whom the two companies had paid for potentially positive coverage supporting their case in a high-stakes copyright lawsuit.
Wait, what reaction? Oh, you didn’t even hear about this?
According to an entry posted on the company blog on Sunday, online shoe and clothing giant Zappos has suffered a massive security breach compromising some data on as many as 24 million customer accounts. In an email to employees, CEO Tony Hsieh said the company was attacked by “a criminal who gained access to parts of our internal network and systems through one of our servers in Kentucky.” Hsieh also said the company was cooperating with authorities in an “exhaustive investigation.”