Book Review: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

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This is an insightful and dangerous book. Its ideas have wormed their way into my consciousness and changed the way I see things. I will never again watch a TED Talk, listen to an Aspen Idea NPR broadcast, the Clintons, Trump, Bill Gates, or Joe Biden without them being colored by what I learned from this book.

The rich and elite believe they should run the world, that representative democracies and, in fact, most governments are at best irrelevant, and usually in the way. Gates can solve the health problems of the world, The Clinton Global initiative will network and teach the elite how to take control. Nationalism is the enemy. We can fix the world without needing to change anything fundamental.

In Giridharadas’ view, Brexit and Trump were, in a significant part, reactions to the neo-liberal, billionaires’ anti-nationalism. He has, for the most part, convinced me.

The much-heralded TED Talks, idea festivals and book tours are carefully controlled to offer only solutions that are in interest of the elite. It’s good to encourage women and minorities to take their power, be strong, and strive for success. Not allowed is to talk about wealth disparity, racism and the patriarchy.

Here is an excerpt from the Intro:

“Among the kinds of issues being sidelined, the OECD leader, Ángel Gurría, wrote are “rising inequalities of income, wealth and opportunities; the growing disconnect between finance and the real economy; mounting divergence in productivity levels between workers, firms and regions; winner-take-most dynamics in many markets; limited progressivity of our tax systems; corruption and capture of politics and institutions by vested interests; lack of transparency and participation by ordinary citizens in decision-making; the soundness of the education and of the values we transmit to future generations.” Elites, Gurría writes, have found myriad ways to “change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.” The people with the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change, often with the passive assent of those most in need of it.”

If you want to understand today’s world, this book is a place to start.

Dave T.

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