Winners Take All

Winners Take All

The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Book - 2018
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An insider's groundbreaking investigation of how the global elite's efforts to "change the world" preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve.

Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can--except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity.

Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, ©2018.
ISBN: 9780451493248
Characteristics: 288 pages ;,25 cm.

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j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

There is no denying that today’s elite may be among the more socially concerned elites in history. But it is also, by the cold logic of numbers, among the more predatory in history. By refusing to risk its way of life, by rejecting the idea that the powerful might have to sacrifice for the common good, it clings to a set of social arrangements that allow it to monopolize progress and then give symbolic scraps to the forsaken — many of whom wouldn’t need the scraps if the society were working right.
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But there is still another, darker way of judging what goes on when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change: that it not only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are.
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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.

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

Trump is the reductio ad absurdum of a culture that tasks elites with reforming the very systems that have made them and left others in the dust.
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The only thing better than controlling money and power is to control the efforts to question the distribution of money and power. The only thing better than being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over hens.
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The best way to bring about meaningful reform was to apprentice in the bowels of the status quo.
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Kinkaid School in Houston, a preparatory academy founded on a philosophy of educating the “whole child” and of “balanced growth — intellectual, physical, social, and ethical.” Her father dropped her there most mornings with a reminder to “learn something new.”
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“The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion,” Aristotle says,“and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking ; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

MarketWorld is a network and community, but it is also a culture and state of mind. These elites believe and promote the idea that social change should be pursued principally through the free market and voluntary action, not public life and the law and the reform of the systems that people share in common; that it should be supervised by the winners of capitalism and their allies, and not be antagonistic to their needs; and that the biggest beneficiaries of the status quo should play a leading role in the status quo’s reform.
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Accountancy, medicine, education, espionage, and seafaring all have their own tools and modes of analysis, but none of those approaches was widely promoted as the solution to virtually everything else .
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In 2009, the Economist had declared it “McKinsey’s turn to try to sort out Uncle Sam,” suggesting that “ Obama may favour McKinseyites in much the same way as his predecessor seemed addicted to hiring alumni of Goldman Sachs. ”

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

It goes without saying, for example, that if hedge funders hadn’t been enormously creative in dodging taxes, the income available for foreign aid would have been greater.
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“Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.”
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Trickle-down economics. A rising tide lifts all boats. Entrepreneurs expand the pie. Smith tells the rich man to focus on running his business on the assumption that positive social consequences will occur automatically, as a happy by-product of his selfishness. Through the magic of the “free market” — an oxymoron ever since the first regulation was imposed on it — he unwittingly arranges for the common good.

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

In Silicon Valley, “people interpret social justice different ways,” often as win-lose thinking. “Some people say social justice is taking from the rich and giving to the poor,” Carson said. “Some people say social justice is giving to people who didn’t earn something.” And so Carson started using the word “fairness.”
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Perhaps they had a feeling “that I’m being targeted because I’ve been successful, I’ve worked hard, I made it; and because I made it, I am now the target, that you think you deserve some of my success that you haven’t earned.”
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Even’s attempt to address a massive social problem: the growing volatility of millions of working-class Americans’ income, thanks to the spreading practice of employing people erratically, the rise in part-time jobs and gigs, and the new on-demand economy that left many eternally chasing work instead of building livelihoods .

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

It is no fun if half of your high school friends are on the other social network, so Facebook becomes a de facto monopoly.
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Gentlemen investors decide what ideas are worth pursuing, and the people pitching to them tailor their proposals accordingly. The companies that come out of this are no longer pursuing profit, or even revenue. Instead, the measure of their success is valuation — how much money they’ve convinced people to tell them they’re worth.
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These rich and powerful men engage in what the writer Kevin Roose has called “anarchist cheerleading,” in keeping with their carefully crafted image as rebels against the authorities .
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A famous statement of that finding came from the feminist writer Jo Freeman, who in her 1972 essay “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” observed that when groups operate on vague or anarchic terms, structurelessness “becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

Someone always rules; the question is who. In a world without a Leviathan, which is to say a strong state capable of making and enforcing universal rules, people will be ruled by thousands of miniature Leviathans closer to home — by the feudal lords on whose soil they work and against whom they have few defenses ; by powerful, whimsical, unaccountable princes .
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history was not a line but a wheel; that sometimes astonishing new tools were used in ways that worsened the world; that places of darkness often persisted even under new light; that people had a long habit of exploiting one another, no matter how selfless they and their ideas seem; that the powerful are your equals as citizens, not your representatives.
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Revolution after revolution over the ages had called for the cancellation of debts and the redistribution of land. “We might change that now to cancel the debts and redistribute the platform,” Martin said.

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

An essay he wrote to promote his book on resilience argued that the world should focus less on rooting out its biggest problems, including poverty and climate change, and more on living with them. The message had reassuring implications for those who were perfectly content with the status quo and preferred the kinds of changes that essentially preserved it.

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“Shifting your attention to the victim makes you more empathetic, increasing the chances that you’ll channel your anger in a constructive direction. Instead of trying to punish the people who caused harm, you’ll be more likely to help the people who were harmed. ”
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“There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. ”

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

ARSONISTS MAKE THE BEST FIREFIGHTERS No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. — DONALD J. TRUMP
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How could they foster fast-growing economies that also promoted justice, governance, empowerment, social cohesion, and equality? How could traditional tools of economic progress be changed to help rather than harm the most vulnerable and marginalized people?
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Soros meeting, when the talk turned to farm supply chains in a remote region of India, the lingua franca was business language. It was said that there were too many intermediaries in the supply chain: too many traders and brokers and such between the Indian farmer and the Indian dinner plate. The corporate answer was to “disintermediate.” What did not appear to cross anyone’s mind on West 57th Street was the possibility of being wrong about rural India.

j
jimg2000
Apr 07, 2019

“I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”
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A man beating a woman wasn’t just one man beating one woman; he was part of a system of male supremacy and laws and a culture of looking away that put the problem beyond solution by the woman in question.
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The shame one felt in getting an abortion wasn’t a feeling cooked up by the feeler; it was engineered and constructed through public policy and the artful use of religious authority. The feminists helped us to see problems in this way.
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The feminists wanted us to look at a vagina and zoom out to see Congress. The thought leaders want us to look at a laid-off employee and zoom in to see the beauty of his feeling his vulnerability because at least he is alive. They want us to focus on his vulnerability, not his wage.

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r
ranXerox
Oct 19, 2019

A fairly sound indictment of the attempt to remake society at all levels through the beneficence of the ultra wealthy. His take-down of the TED Talk paradigm is especially pointed.
The author has undoubtedly paid a social/economic price for this book, as a former insider who was once rewarded with a Fellowship at the Aspen Institute. Readings for the workshops there included the typical Western Canon; Plato, Aristotle Gandhi and ... GE CEO Jack Welch! The author also does a nice critique of McKinsey & Company and the whole 'consultancy' field.

i
Indoorcamping
Oct 09, 2019

This is one of those books that you feel as if you should read, especially after hearing the author on numerous podcasts and TV. It looks like one of those dull and difficult reads - the kind of book that your angry but brilliant niece would be reading off to the side instead of celebrating her sister’s birthday. It’s not.

With examples and research from history and the present day, the evidence is overwhelming that philanthropic rich people who we worship for their benevolence are rich because they underpay employees - or rather they pay as little as they can - and give “back” by donating to charities.

This gives them the appearance of doing well by doing good, but really, they are amassing this ridiculous wealth by hoarding way more than necessary.

Andrew Carnegie, for example, cheated his employees out of wages that he could have easily paid. Instead, he thought poor people weren’t good with money so he kept as much of their wages as possible and gave some of the excess back in the form of libraries. So condescending. Thank you for the libraries but this nonsense has got to stop.

Rich people now can pay employees enough to live on, but don’t. Because they don’t have to. Because they can set up foundations instead and have their name displayed everywhere and get love in exchange for a paltry percentage of their take.

One of those books that explains a complicated situation in simple terms that even non-economists can discuss with their smarter-than-you niece.

m
moraggunn
Oct 08, 2019

Well, this book was infuriating, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The title appealed to me on account of the growing irritation I’ve been feeling with giant corporations and wealthy “thought leaders” who pay no taxes, but then take up the mantle of messiah on various causes through philanthropy. Their charitable contributions are truly a drop in the bucket compared to the tax liabilities they’re avoiding, the harm they’re doing to individuals and economies with their disruptor businesses, where that income would do real good by being spent by democratically-elected governments on matters that are ultimately the remit of government: regulation, creation and maintenance of public infrastructure, public education, laws to limit inequality on the basis of gender, race, etc., and most importantly, just simple freaking redistribution of wealth. This book would have been nothing except a screed like mine without the elegant writing of Giridharadas, and his access to insiders who embody the problem. I fear he may end up only preaching to the choir, but I hope not.

d
dnk
Sep 09, 2019

This book was recommended to me because I've been on about speculative philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism for over a decade; there is no greater exercise in vanity than giving away money so you can dictate what should be public policy (that such people get eye-watering tax breaks to do so makes it much worse).

Naturally I found myself nodding in agreement with Giridharadas' points. For those who feel that he didn't go far enough, the value of what he offers are the intimate case studies that he wouldn't have been able to access were it not for his own immersion into MarketWorld; most of us won't be able to have tea with Laurie Tisch, or spend up close and personal time with Bill Clinton as he presides over the final week of the Clinton Global Initiative.

My one criticism is that Giridharadas' focuses on one aspect of the 2016 election - Trump called out the rich people claiming to work for the rest of us as the phonies they are while convincing people that he wasn't one of them - and glossed over the other things that contributed to his win, such as misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and the general phenomena of hearing what we want to hear. Still, an important book to read if you've been convinced that only the rich can save us but are wondering why they haven't yet.

l
lynelliot
Sep 07, 2019

The book effectively critiques the efforts of the wealthy and powerful to "change the world" primarily through business and philanthropic ventures that leave their own wealth and power untouched, and unquestioned. A powerful secondary argument this book makes is for the primary place of democratic processes--everyone in society working together as equals to debate, devise, and implement collective solutions through policies and laws--as the only truly effective, and just, way to make change. I came away convinced that it is up to ordinary citizens to demand a stronger public and governmental sphere, and to work to keep government accountable to all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.

a
AaronAardvark1940
Jul 23, 2019

This book explains how rich people can feel good by pretending to care about the problems they cause.
The intro and the acknowledgements tell the whole story, but 200 pages of case studies in between demonstrate the insidious effects the "win-win" philosophy behind the "thought leaders" can have on presumably well-intentioned moneyed elites.
One should read Piketty's "Capitalism in the 21st Century" to more fully understand where capitalism has taken us.

l
lukasevansherman
Jun 22, 2019

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it."-Upton Sinclair
An intelligent, crucial, and trenchant critique of the philanthropy of the very rich. One's initial reaction may be, "Wait, you're excoriating the rich for giving away money? Why won't you let the rich be great??" Former New York Times correspondent Anand Giridharadas looks at how the very wealthy use their money not just for good, but to influence public opinion, public institutions, and to advance their ideology and politics. Maybe most compelling are the lords of Silicon Valley who act like free wheeling outsiders, but whose ideas are deeply anti-democratic. A book that everyone should read. Also, "The Givers" and Robert Reich's "Just Giving."
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."-Audre Lorde

j
jimg2000
Apr 09, 2019

The author nailed it (in the chapter citing Chiara Cordelli, an Italian political philosopher at the University of Chicago): "When a society helps people through its shared democratic institutions, it does so on behalf of all, and in a context of equality. Those institutions, representing those free and equal citizens, are making a collective choice of whom to help and how. Those who receive help are not only objects of the transaction, but also subjects of it—citizens with agency. When help is moved into the private sphere, no matter how efficient we are told it is, the context of the helping is a relationship of inequality: the giver and the taker, the helper and the helped, the donor and the recipient."

f
frealasruadh
Apr 06, 2019

This is an incredibly important book to have been written by someone who comes from within MarketWorld and the other pervasive entrepreneur "change agent" environments. Only by having first been an engaged participant coming slowly to realize that he was only contributing to the existing problem and not changing it (despite doing well for a selected part of society) could Giridharadas have written this as he did. His exposure of showing how the business world 'thought leaders' of the U.S. especially are willfully ignoring our existing institutions in an updated form of the benevolent slaveholder is eye opening. Even more than his words, those of the Italian political philosopher, Chiara Cordelli, whom he quotes extensively at the end of the book, ring powerfully with what must be done to restore our commonwealth. Common wealth versus what we have now, which is insane wealth inequality to the degree which in the historic past often met with beheadings and blood running in the streets.

If I were in charge, this would be a must read for all students going into business in order to truly use business to assist our existing civic institutions, not *through* business. "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" wrote Audre Lorde, which is the underlying message through this book. Read, digest, and spread the word!!!

r
ramjaccorporation
Mar 30, 2019

Winners Take All is an important and challenging take on modern capitalism. Specifically, that the global elite of do-gooders that gather in places like Davos are more interested and equipped to promote their own profits than solve social problems. Giridharadas says it’s not simply that this Emperor has no clothes, but that our collective fawning over the imaginary duds distracts us from seeing the emperor’s subjects are in rags.

It’s a worthy topic to explore, told entertainingly – a story of power replete with colourful characters, dubious morals and rationalizations, and devious motivations. Giridharadas’ opinions are put forward clearly. And yet there is the untold ‘on the other hand...’ Just because the elites are not dismantling the capitalist system itself, is there nothing valuable in what they do to alleviate societal problems?

An enjoyable and stimulating book, asking important questions with more than a kernel of intuitive truth. But also a book that undermines its case. By whole heartedly embracing the role of antagonist, he chooses an approach of black and white over nuance, confrontation over collaboration, belief over data, and win/lose over win/win.

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j
jimg2000
Apr 09, 2019

A major source of the author's arguments came from extensive interviews of many, more so from:

***Darren Walker’s letter, “Toward a New Gospel of Wealth,” can be found at the Ford Foundation website: www.fordfoundation.org/​ideas/​equals-change-blog/​posts/​toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth

***The good and not so good "Clinton Global Initiative." I interviewed Bill Clinton twice for this book. The first instance was in September 2016, via email. The second was in May 2017, a ninety-minute conversation conducted in person at his foundation’s offices in New York.

***Quotes liberally from "Philanthropy in Democratic Societies: History, Institutions, Values" Edited by Rob Reich, Lucy Bernholz, and Chiara Cordelli. The trio of thinkers have been discussing "Democracy and Philanthropy - How private giving can contribute to the needs of American democracy." for quite some time, e.g Feb. 19, 2013:
https://ssir.org/articles/entry/democracy_and_philanthropy

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