Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
a book by Anand Giridharadas
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that 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.
Anand Giridharadas—Photo by Mackenzie Stroh
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.
The system—in America and around the world—has been organized to siphon the gains from innovation upward
Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions they erode 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.
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 because right now, we are being screwed! (elites eat and then toss us the scraps)
“Impassioned . . . That Giridharadas questions an idea that has become part of the air we breathe is alone worth the price of the book, and his delicious skewering of the many who exalt their own goodness while making money from dubious business practices makes for entertaining reading.”—Bethany McLean, The Washington Post
“Provocative and passionate . . . This damning portrait of contemporary American philanthropy is a must-read for anyone interested in ‘changing the world.’”—Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred review)
“In Anand’s thought-provoking book his fresh perspective on solving complex societal problems is admirable. I appreciate his commitment and dedication to spreading social justice.”—Bill Gates
"But for all the power of Giridharadas’s critique of elite do-goodery, does he have better answers to the problems they’re trying to solve?—Vox
His answer: obviously, he wants elites to stop having societal problems circumvent government and jump instead to elite philanthropy. Rich elites are not the right fixers. They got rich from being part of the problem, and the author would ask them to cease being part of the problem. Elites want us to abandon the idea of government as solution since that means progressive tax structures that rely heavily on elites to kick in substantial sums, and Giridharadas would support this wholeheartedly; elites—not so much. The author supports building more robust, egalitarian institutions that aren't dysfunctional (most are: Congress, politics, the presidency, families, education, communities, immigration, elections, etc.).
". . . prepare for a new genre: books gently and politely skewering the corporate titans who claim to be solving such problems. It’s an elite that, rather than pushing for systemic change, only reinforces our lopsided economic reality — all while hobnobbing on the conference circuit and trafficking in platitudes." (Source: Meet the ‘Change Agents’ Who Are Enabling Inequality, Anand Giridharadas, NY Times)
Here come Big Pharma, bringing medical miracles to a drugstore near you!
Giridharadas uses the Sackler family as an example: they got rich off selling OxyContin and then millions of people got addicted to it. "Now, in precisely the kind of the 'win-win' model that Giridharadas reviles, the family’s patriarch, Richard Sackler, is working to fight the opioid epidemic – and make money doing it – by patenting a new drug to help wean people off" the opioids he just sold them!" (Source: Anand Giridharadas on elite do-gooding: 'Many of my friends are drunk on dangerous BS', Lucia Graves, the Guardian)
"Give a hungry man a fish, and you get to pat yourself on the back—and take a tax deduction"—Kirkus Reviews
Teach a man to fish and you'll have squandered valuable time that could have been spent at an Aspen conference, patting yourself on the back and patting others on the back and feeling good about yourself.—The Big Answer
Teach a man to fish and you'll have squandered valuable time that could have been spent at an Aspen conference, patting yourself on the back and patting others on the back and feeling good about yourself
The ladder of class mobility has been rigged so the nonrich can never climb it See the best book of the 21st century: Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
In Giridharadas's words, "Many millions of Americans, on the left and right, feel one thing in common: that the game is rigged against people like them. Perhaps this is why we hear constant condemnation of 'the system,' for it is the system that people expect to turn fortuitous developments into societal progress. Instead, the system—in America and around the world—has been organized to siphon the gains from innovation upward, such that the fortunes of the world's billionaires now grow at more than double the pace of everyone else's, and the top 10 percent of humanity have come to hold 90 percent of the planet's wealth."
The gap between the haves and the have-nots keeps widening; feudalism, here we come!
The system—in America and around the world—has been organized to siphon the gains from innovation upward, such that feudalism—serfs carrying royalty—cannot be far off
Giridharadas says "It is no wonder that the American voting public—like other publics around the world—has turned more resentful and suspicious in recent years, embracing populist movements on the left and right, bringing socialism [Bernie Sanders] and nationalism [Trump] into the center of political life in a way that once seemed unthinkable, and succumbing to all manner of conspiracy theory and fake news. There is a spreading recognition, on both sides of the ideological divide, that the system is broken and has to change. . . . All around us, the winners in our highly inequitable status quo declare themselves partisans of change. They know the problem, and they want to be part of the solution. Actually, they want to lead the search for solutions. They believe that their solutions deserve to be at the forefront of social change. . . . 'thought leaders' . . . confine their thinking to improving lives within the faulty system rather than tackling the faults."
The author asks us to ponder the question of whether meaningful democracy, in which we all potentially have a voice, is worth fighting for. This book is an attempt to understand the relationship between these elites’ social concern and their predatory actions, between their helping and their hoarding. These corporatocracy oligarchs find themselves milking the citizens as they benevolently find extra grass for them to dine on. Exactly how much hypocrisy are we willing to bear?
Realistically, oil, pharmaceutical, chemical industries will do exactly the same regardless of Gates' investments, so we can look at all this as trying to repair as much harm as they can from pollution caused in part from the entities in which they invest
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing billions of dollars in Africa to help turn their health situation around. The good works of this foundation are undeniable, but some say many of the corporations [oil, pharmaceutical, chemical] it invests in are part of the problem in the world, not part of the solution, polluting the air and water and increasing the chances of diseases being contracted as this pollution lowers overall health and disease resistance.
Let's see: they invest in polluters that mess up African health, and then they give billions to African health. Realistically, oil, pharmaceutical, chemical industries will do exactly the same regardless of Gates' investments, so we can look at all this as trying to repair as much harm as they can from pollution caused in part from the entities in which they invest. Even more realistically, everyone who uses planes, cars, or trains to go and help anyone is polluting the air, but this is not a good reason to stop the philanthropy. Anyway, Giridharadas "presents a scathing insider's report on the realities of the global elite's efforts to tackle important world issues through philanthropy and free enterprise while ignoring their direct role in creating the problems."—NPR
These corporatocracy oligarchs find themselves milking the citizens as they benevolently find extra grass for them to dine on
As Giridharadas tells it, "There are many ways to make sense of all this elite concern and predation. One is that the elites are doing the best they can. The world is what it is; the system is what it is; the forces of the age are bigger than anyone can resist; the most fortunate are helping. This view may allow that this helpfulness is just a drop in the bucket, but it is something." The elite-led helpfulness treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us. Elites are pulling the wool over our eyes and avoiding their duty of leading more meaningful reform. Elites would bristle at such a characterization, believing that if the needy are going to be rude, perhaps they will forget about helping them. The cows should be grateful for the extra grass, not snippy and insulting. He says that you can inspire the rich to do more good, but never tell them to do less harm. You can inspire them to give back, but not to take less. You can inspire them to join the solution, but never accuse them of being part of the problem.
Propaganda keeps us obedient, distracted, consuming, but never questioning the CW, the media, the authorities
Fast-talking elites hit us with fake solutions that crowd out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone. As elites assume leadership of social change, they reshape what social change is in order to present it as something that should never threaten winners. The author is saying that in the age of fake news, it is seen as okay to make changes that are "fake change." Keep fixes superficial in order to throw the sheep an extra pile of grass—keep them pacified at all costs. Throw them a bone. Keep them distracted and consuming—the eternal covert message from the media.
The liberals' main covert goal is to keep the pretense going so effectively that the dumb sheep buy into it, never letting the sheep see through the scam as they fleece them
The liberals' main stated goal is keeping democracy strong, implement progressive solutions, and give our fellow citizens health, security, and dignity in old age. The liberals' main covert goal is to keep the pretense going so effectively that the dumb sheep buy into it, never letting the sheep see behind the curtain or hear how social engineers actually view the sheep, and finally, KEEP THE POOR BEASTIES SO DISTRACTED CHASING SHINY OBJECTS THAT THEY NEVER SEE THE GIANT RIP-OFF OCCURRING RIGHT BEFORE THEIR EYES. Enter the digital age, infotainment, endless stuff to buy that they do not need, video games, the eternal political circus, and, of course, escaping in the black hole called social media. This keeps their minds from thinking. Above all, don't let them think, or they'll detect the humongous scam and all hell will break loose.
Elites' highest goal: keep the poor beasties so distracted chasing shiny objects that they never see the giant rip-off occurring right before their eyes
Government is dysfunctional at present, the author tells us. "But that is all the more reason to treat its repair as our foremost national priority," he says. He offers a series of portraits of this elite-led, market-friendly, winner-safe social change—"fake change." In his book, there are people who ardently believe in this form of change and more thoughtful people who are starting to question it.
Like an alien parasite in a science fiction film, the massive media machine is dead set on taking over the minds of as many people as possible
The end result of all these mind take-overs is that the viewers turn into mindless TV zombies
Mark Dice (The True Story of Fake News: How Mainstream Media Manipulates Millions) notes that in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, he says things started going south for our culture when people transformed from newspaper and book readers to TV watchers. Or as we like to say, "We used to read and think. Now we just stuff our faces with junk as we stuff our minds with junk TV as we emit an occasional giggle or guffaw or fart, never noticing that we have become mindless sheep seeking the next sensationalistic visual cream puff to baaaa over."
Make America Great Again is the cover story, while those of us whose eyes are actually open realize that the REAL Trump motto is Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again
What these various figures have in common is that they are grappling with certain powerful myths—the myths that have fostered an age of extraordinary power concentration, such as neoliberalism with its infamous trickle-down economics myth that trickled all over the have-nots.
The doddering mouthpiece for the curse of Neoliberalism, Ronnie Reagan
The free market policies that are Neoliberalism at its worst were not the answer for citizens but were found to be a peachy keen answer for rich, greedy elites, in spite of the great public relations efforts which have propagandized this into the public consciousness as a panacea. And the idea that neoliberalism's benefits will eventually trickle down to the have-nots was a covertly mean-spirited scam from day one. The have-nots did not get trickled TO—they got trickled ON. See Trickle-down economics.
The idea that neoliberalism's benefits will eventually trickle down to the have-nots was a covertly mean-spirited scam from day one. The have-nots did not get trickled TO—they got trickled ON
The very rich, the gatekeepers they employ, and their political allies have intentionally worked to limit the viability of our public sector since the Reagan presidency installed the mega-scam Neoliberalism, which robbed the nonrich in other countries as well as in the U.S., but spinning it so it looked like it would do wonders for the economy. (It did wonders for the elites but it was set up so that the nonrich would end up as "social problems" that would cause the elites to magnanimously aid the nonrich.) In fact, as Giridharadas notes, this has been done in various ways since the early part of the 20th century when the first large foundations were created by Rockefeller and Carnegie. These were created so elites could work off their guilt for robbing the nonrich, so elites could have a way to avoid most taxes, and so elites could feel superior to those poor sheep that they helped.
As Mal Warwick says, "Bill Clinton's 'Third Way' between left and right effectively reversed the Democratic Party's commitment to helping the less fortunate in our society. Remember mass incarceration? Financial deregulation? So-called welfare 'reform?' Bill Clinton [traitorously] institutionalized the [toxic] neoliberal consensus that Ronald Reagan had brought to the White House a decade previously—and the consequences were devastating, years before Donald Trump entered the political scene. On this point, Giridharadas is right on the money." [This was the Democrats figuring out that they too could profit wildly from the Republican elites' mega-scam, much to the detriment of us non-elites] (Source: Do the Davos and Aspen set really call the shots in America?, Mal Warwick, Amazon reviewer)
Once Democrats like Bill Clinton figured out that they too could profit wildly from the Republican elites' mega-scam, they suddenly saw the evil neoliberal scam as benevolent
Elites put a gloss of selflessness on the protection of their privileges; and they propagandized that more meaningful change was wide-eyed, radical, and vague—therefore untrustable. The people with the most to lose from real change are placing themselves in charge of change, using such lies as Make America Great Again, while those of us whose eyes are actually open realize that the REAL Trump motto is Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again—and this explains why he ran for office in the first place.
As Giridharadas mentioned in his book, Trump's contention that elites were screwing over the have-nots plugged right into citizens' fears that this was exactly what was going on. Trump—a billionaire but not one of the elite—was exposing the cynical nature of the elite's scam, and this infuriated them—which Trump enjoyed. But then he followed Hitler's demagogic playbook and directed non-elite rage at the most marginalized and vulnerable people like immigrants. The author says that the only thing that trumps being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over the henhouse—which happened to Trump. In essence, then, Trump saw the elites' scam and decided he could do it too, only his scam would be even more greedy and egregious, and even more beneficial to scammers like Trump, although even more harmful to the country—since he got his G.O.P. flunkies to apply wrecking balls to our democracy, with the Koch brothers' aid.
First Trump got his G.O.P. flunkies to pass a tax bill to lavish even more wealth on the greedy elites, then he got them to apply wrecking balls to our democracy, with the Koch brothers' aid
The author says that the only thing that trumps being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over the henhouse—which happened to Trump
In summary, the author tells us that government is there to fix societal problems, and rich elites are not the right fixers. They got rich from being part of the problem. They want us to abandon the idea of government as solution since that means progressive tax structures that rely heavily on elites to kick in substantial sums. It is much cheaper for them if we listen to philanthropists and elites who say the government doesn't have the money to solve social ills, so rely on them instead. But of course the amounts that philanthropists and elites can give is relatively small, but they can get tax writeoffs for giving, so it's win-win—right? No, because the elites got rich by running companies that screw the little guy, pollute, and even get various forms of corporate welfare. The amounts needed to significantly alleviate societal problems is more than is available from any source, because we have let things fester for decades. So the elites want to convince us to settle for tokens. Take this extra bale of grass and smile, you sheep.
Hey, sleepyhead, once I get my month's salary to the bank I'll be back to lay a $10 bill on you so you can get a meal. And you probably thought us rich guys were cheap bastards!