A new book by a French economist and a nearly-book length report by two American political scientists, the first on who controls the wealth of the world and the second why the powerful are, well, powerful, have catapulted into the limelight in both academic and public discourse on who runs what and why. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first look at this evolving debate.
Over the past couple of years or so, a debate over the relationship between money and influence over political decisions has come back into a sharper focus than it has been for many years. Partly as a result of the bitter after-effects of the Great Recession/financial crisis of 2008 and the flatlining of any growth in individual incomes for many people after the immediate crisis was over, even as the reimbursement of senior corporate officers around the world reaches stratospheric heights, inequality has become a new buzzword for politicians, academics and activists. Simultaneously, the locus of real political influence has come under closer scrutiny as well.
The recent publication (in English) of Thomas Piketty's study, "Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century" and the research report, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," by...