Book Club

Discussion Guide for Plutocrats

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Several weeks ago we announced that Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Chrystia Freeland, is the first book we’re reading in our book club.

Freeland will be doing a live chat with us on Tuesday, November 27 at 7 PM ET, in which she will be available to answer your questions.

In the meantime, here are some questions for you to use to guide your own book club discussion of Freeland’s book.

1. What surprised you most about plutocrats?

2. The book gave several different scholars’ perspectives on income inequality — some think it is terrible, others don’t. Some even celebrate inequality. Did the book leave you with the impression that rising income inequality hurts social mobility?

3. When the original Wall Street movie came out in 1987, bankers made $2 to $3 million a year and that was thought of as an exorbitant amount of money. Now, the super-rich can expect to earn $20 to $30 million a year. In fact, those making $5 or $10 million probably don’t feel like they are making enough. As overheard at a Manhattan dinner party, an elite wife commented: “You know, the thing about 20″ — by this, she meant $20 million a year — “is 20 is only 10 after taxes.” Do you think the Gordon Gekkos of today are the same as those of the Reagan years, or are they different?

4. If you were a plutocrat, would you feel victimized by President Obama’s rhetoric and policies?

5. Breaking down the politics of income disparity: the left blames it on sociopolitical change (decline of unions, lower taxes for the rich), while the right blames it on deep structural factors (globalization and technology). Why do they take such different stances and where is the root of the problem? What do you think the biggest driver of growing income inequality is?

6. Why are Americans reluctant to talk about income inequality? Why wasn’t it a bigger issue in the 2012 presidential race?

7. Why are there so few female plutocrats?

8. Is Venetian-style crony capitalism inevitable in the United States?

9. Given the growing economic power of the plutocrats, how can the state, and state servants like regulators, be independent?

Thanks to Chrystia Freeland for her help in developing this discussion guide.

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