Second Guilded Age

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Has anyone got ahold of Kevin Phillip's new book Wealth and Democracy? Phillips is a very perceptive, and renown nonfictional writer. Interestingly, he characterizes us as living in the "Second Guilded Age." We are starting to re-visit the kinds of wealth and poverty divisions, and political and social disenfrancisement of poor and middle class people characteristic of the original Guilded Age, i.e., that the of the Titanic. I've said elsewhere on this site that the relevance of Titanic's story is more than in the tragic sinking of a ship --- it lies in the fact we are re-visiting that epoch each day with our lives in the 21st century. I look forward to acquiring and reading this book.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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This book is really hot. I got one of the last two left at Barnes & Noble. On page 297, Phillips describes the "Twelve Shared Characteristics" of the Guilded Age with contemporary society.

1. Conservative politics, ideology, with mostly Republican presidents (he compares Bill Clinton as a conservative Democractic president akin to Grover Cleveland).

2. Skepticism of government, with an emphasis on markets and the private sector.

3. Exaltation of business . . .

4. Emphasis on private interest politics . . .

5. Aspects of survival of the fittest thinking (in the 21st Century, Phillips sees this reflected in so-called "welfare reform" and globalization of enterprises).

6. Labor union weaknesses, and membership declines . . .

7. Major economic and corporate restructuring . . .

8. Obstruction, reduction or elimination of taxes . . .

9. Pursuit of disinflation . . . in response to prior inflation.

10. Two-tier economy . . . with stronger prosperity along the coasts and Great Lakes . . .

11. Rising levels of inequality . . .

12. Bull markets and increasingly precarious levels of speculation, leverage and debt.

Phillips states in his afterword: Whether twenty-first century Americans can again revitalize politics, stymie plutocracy, and confine market theory to commerce depends on how successfully the critical distrinctions between capitalism and democracy can be brought back into focus. Markets, in short, must be reestablished as adjuncts, and criteria, of democracy and representative government . . . As the twenty-first century gets underway, the imbalance of wealth and democracy in the United States is unsustainable . . .