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. Read More