Democracy At Risk: Rescuing Main Street From Wall Street

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9780738204833: Democracy At Risk: Rescuing Main Street From Wall Street
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"A bible for a powerful populism that will arise after the latest Gilded Age is over. Read it and run, or read it and recover your sense of what it could mean to actually live in a democratic society."-Paul Hawken, author, Natural Capitalism and The Ecology of Commerce"[Gates] offers an ambitious "populist vision." You may not like its answers, but you can't ignore the questions."-Cheryl Dahle, Fast Company"A political-economic manifesto for the new millennium....This persuasive and well-documented work will generate thoughtful discussion."-Library JournalCiting alarming statistics, Jeff Gates convincingly argues that the current economic boom is largely a mirage, buoyed by policies that continue to reward the wealthy and punish the poor. With equal measures of passion and incisive reasoning, he proposes an ambitious yet practical program of financial, political, and economic reform.

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"We've created a mean economy--a sumptuous heaven for some, an ungodly struggle for most, and a living hell for many," writes Jeff Gates in Democracy at Risk. The United States, he says, suffers from "affluenza." It is a democracy in name only: "Who would vote for a system in which just three Americans--Microsoft cofounders Bill Gates and Paul Allen plus Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett--have a net worth larger than the combined GDP of the forty-one poorest nations and their 550 million people?" What's more, American capitalism has been a global disaster: "The United States should begin this new century of capitalism with a mea culpa. Our stature in the world community would be much enhanced if we simply concede what everyone already knows--that our pell-mell worldwide pursuit of profit has been accompanied by considerable human, political, and ecological damage."

And yet it would be wrong to call Democracy at Risk a standard left-wing appraisal. Gates considers himself a capitalist, and he calls for sharing the fruits of capitalism with all workers through stock ownership. Conservatives will regard Gates as a quasi Marxist with his calls for imposing "a capital commons user fee" on international trade, a foreign policy whose main concern is "the worldwide alleviation of poverty" rather than national security, and his near-obsession with concentrations of wealth. Democrarcy at Risk is, at its heart, a progressive book, but one not beholden to the Democratic Party. Gates's criticism of Social Security, for instance, would spring from the mouth of few politicians of any stripe. He lambastes it as "an income transfer funded with a job tax." At times, the book seems unfocused, with its 19-point plan in the first chapter. But nobody can doubt Gates's commitment to reducing the inequality of wealth or his passion for fighting plutocracy. The book includes endorsements from Noam Chomsky, William Greider, and Ralph Nader; for readers who admire these minds, Democracy at Risk will be a volume. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Jeff Gates is a lawyer, investment banker, political advisor, and consultant to government, union, and industry leaders worldwide. As counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance during the 1980s he was a leading fiture of the federal legislation encouraging employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).

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