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July 05 , 2008

The Good Rich and What They Cost Us


This timely book holds up for scrutiny a great paradox at the core of the American Dream: a passionate belief in the principle of democracy combined with an equally passionate celebration of the creation of wealth. Americans treasure an open, equal society, yet we also admire those fortunate few who amass riches on a scale that undermines social equality. In today's era of "vulture capitalist" hedge fund managers, internet fortunes, and a growing concern over inequality in American life, should we cling to both parts of the paradox? Can we?
To understand the problems that vast individual fortunes pose for democratic values, Robert Dalzell turns to American history. He presents an intriguing cast of wealthy individuals from colonial times to the present, including George Washington, one of the richest Americans of his day, the "robber baron" John D. Rockefeller, and Oprah Winfrey, for whom extreme wealth is inextricably tied to social concerns. Dalzell uncovers the sources of contradictory attitudes toward the rich, how the very rich have sought to be perceived as "good rich," and the facts behind the widespread notion that wealth and generosity go hand in hand. In a thoughtful and balanced conclusion, the author explores the cost of our longstanding attitudes toward the rich.
Among the case studies in America's Good Rich:
Puritan merchant Robert Keayne
George Washington
Manufacturers Amos & Abbot Lawrence
Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller
Bill Gates
Warren Buffet
Steve Jobs
Oprah Winfrey
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