A Growing Divide
Anand Giridharadas, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times, draws attention to the hypocrisy practiced among the “philanthropic” elites in his Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. I’ll share my thoughts on his take in this Winners Take All book review. Giridharadas introduces us to “MarketWorld,” the universe in which corporate executives, thought leaders, and globalists operate. While MarketWorld has grown aware of the fractures that have emerged in our society, they seek to find “win-win” solutions to our many problems. The elites believe themselves to be the agents of change who can usher in an era of global prosperity, assuming its on their terms. In MarketWorld, wage stagnation, growing inequality, and systemic racism can all be addressed through the free markets, strategic investments, automation, and revamped business models. What Giridharadas makes clear, though, is that those in MarketWorld must make sacrifices to repair these societal fractures. We learn that they have so far systematically ensured they won’t have to do so.
Bandaids Can’t Stop the Hemorrhage
Davos, the Aspen Institute, TED, and the Clinton Global Initiative. These are all gatherings of elites in which speakers share superficial solutions to our deep rooted problems. Those in attendance are told that we need to zoom in on the individual in order to empower him or her to speak up in the boardroom or find the perseverance to escape the cycle of poverty. The speakers who frequent these conferences tailor their presentations to the elites paying them. They make their messages as palatable as the bite sized tacos served by the waitstaff. With a focus placed on the individual, MarketWorld can avoid the scrutiny for creating a system in which the fortunate few can profit.
While Giridharadas does pull some punches, he doesn’t spare all of the MarketWorld operatives. Members of the Sackler family are known to many as philanthropists who donated millions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University. Giridharadas points out that their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, is largely responsible for the opioid epidemic due to its creation and aggressive marketing of OxyContin. Donating millions does not excuse the billions made from getting the nation addicted to your pills. Giridharadas also mentions philanthropic bankers, technology executives, and university professors by name in describing the injustices MarketWorld created.
Maintaining the Status Quo
While the elites spend money on “win-win” initiatives and donate to their pet causes, they also spend fortunes maintaining the status quo. Corporate lobbyists descend upon Washington to ensure labor unions don’t disrupt business as-usual and tax bills are kept to a minimum. MarketWorld feels it can implement change while preventing major change from occuring. The hypocrisy that Giridharadas so vividly illuminates kept me from putting his book down. Giridharadas proposes that increased government regulation, higher corporate and personal tax rates, and better access to healthcare may actually help our ailing nation realize the changes the elites so publicly state they support. This, of course, would slow the gravy train they so very much enjoy riding on.
Winners Take All offers a pointed explanation of why there is growing discontent with the elites in our society. With such vast resources being spent on maintaining the status quo, I fear we will grow increasingly more divided. I prepare for the moment when those who have been left behind assert themselves. One could only hope this assertion isn’t done violently.