Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust

Brookings Institution Press
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Meet the Billionaires: the 1,645 men and women who control a massive share of global assets worth $6.5 trillion. Darrell West reveals what the other 99.99998% of us need to know.

With rich anecdotes and personal narratives, West goes inside the world of the ultra wealthy. Meet U.S. billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, David and Charles Koch, George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Donald Trump—as well as international billionaires from around the globe.

The growing political engagement of this small supra-wealthy group raises important questions about influence, transparency, and government performance, and West lays bare the wealthification of politics, including:

• How billionaires can block appointments and legislation they don't like

• Why the supra-wealthy moved into policy advocacy and referenda at the state level

• Why billionaires run for office in more than a dozen countries around the world

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About the author

Darrell M. West is the vice president of Governance Studies and the director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. He is the author of 19 books on American politics and the recipient of several book awards.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Sep 18, 2014
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Pages
269
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ISBN
9780815725817
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Economy
Political Science / Political Process / General
Political Science / Political Process / Political Advocacy
Social Science / Social Classes & Economic Disparity
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Nearly a century ago, famed educator John Dewey said that "if we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." That wisdom resonates more strongly than ever today, and that maxim underlies this insightful look at the present and future of education in the digital age.

As Darrell West makes clear, today's educational institutions must reinvent themselves to engage students successfully and provide them with the skills needed to compete in an increasingly global, technological, and online world. Otherwise the American education system will continue to fall woefully short in its mission to prepare the population to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

West examines new models of education made possible by enhanced information technology, new approaches that will make public education in the post-industrial age more relevant, efficient, and ultimately more productive. Innovative pilot programs are popping up all over the nation, experimenting with different forms of organization and delivery systems.

Digital Schools surveys this promising new landscape, examining in particular personalized learning; realtime student assessment; ways to enhance teacher evaluation; the untapped potential of distance learning; and the ways in which technology can improve the effectiveness of special education and foreign language instruction. West illustrates the potential contributions of blogs, wikis, social media, and video games and augmented reality in K–12 and higher education.

Technology by itself will not remake education. But if today's schools combine increased digitization with needed improvements in organization, operations, and culture, we can overcome current barriers, produce better results, and improve the manner in which schools function. And we can get back to teaching for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

#1 National Bestseller

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.
Big, unexpected changes are here to stay.

Slow, incremental change has become a relic of the past. Today's shifts come fast and big, what Darrell West calls megachanges, in which dramatic disruptions in trends and policies occur on a regular basis.

Domestically, we see megachange at work in the new attitudes and policies toward same-sex marriage, health care, smoking, and the widespread legalization of marijuana use. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and then collapse of the Arab Spring, the emergence of religious zealotry, the growing influence of nonstate actors, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the rise of new economic and political powers in Asia, and the fracturing of once-stable international alliances.

Long-held assumptions have been shattered, and the proliferation of unexpected events is confounding experts in the United States and around the globe. Many of the social and political institutions that used to anchor domestic and international politics have grown weak or are in need of dramatic reform.

What to do? West says that we should alter our expectations about the speed and magnitude of political and social change. We also need to recognize that many of our current governing processes are geared to slow deliberation and promote incremental change, not large-scale transformation. With megachange becoming the new normal, our domestic and global institutions must develop the ability to tackle the massive economic, political, and social shifts that we face.
Nearly a century ago, famed educator John Dewey said that "if we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." That wisdom resonates more strongly than ever today, and that maxim underlies this insightful look at the present and future of education in the digital age.

As Darrell West makes clear, today's educational institutions must reinvent themselves to engage students successfully and provide them with the skills needed to compete in an increasingly global, technological, and online world. Otherwise the American education system will continue to fall woefully short in its mission to prepare the population to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

West examines new models of education made possible by enhanced information technology, new approaches that will make public education in the post-industrial age more relevant, efficient, and ultimately more productive. Innovative pilot programs are popping up all over the nation, experimenting with different forms of organization and delivery systems.

Digital Schools surveys this promising new landscape, examining in particular personalized learning; realtime student assessment; ways to enhance teacher evaluation; the untapped potential of distance learning; and the ways in which technology can improve the effectiveness of special education and foreign language instruction. West illustrates the potential contributions of blogs, wikis, social media, and video games and augmented reality in K–12 and higher education.

Technology by itself will not remake education. But if today's schools combine increased digitization with needed improvements in organization, operations, and culture, we can overcome current barriers, produce better results, and improve the manner in which schools function. And we can get back to teaching for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

Looking for ways to handle the transition to a digital economy

Robots, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars are no longer things of the distant future. They are with us today and will become increasingly common in coming years, along with virtual reality and digital personal assistants.

As these tools advance deeper into everyday use, they raise the question—how will they transform society, the economy, and politics? If companies need fewer workers due to automation and robotics, what happens to those who once held those jobs and don't have the skills for new jobs? And since many social benefits are delivered through jobs, how are people outside the workforce for a lengthy period of time going to earn a living and get health care and social benefits?

Looking past today's headlines, political scientist and cultural observer Darrell M. West argues that society needs to rethink the concept of jobs, reconfigure the social contract, move toward a system of lifetime learning, and develop a new kind of politics that can deal with economic dislocations. With the U.S. governance system in shambles because of political polarization and hyper-partisanship, dealing creatively with the transition to a fully digital economy will vex political leaders and complicate the adoption of remedies that could ease the transition pain. It is imperative that we make major adjustments in how we think about work and the social contract in order to prevent society from spiraling out of control.

This book presents a number of proposals to help people deal with the transition from an industrial to a digital economy. We must broaden the concept of employment to include volunteering and parenting and pay greater attention to the opportunities for leisure time. New forms of identity will be possible when the "job" no longer defines people's sense of personal meaning, and they engage in a broader range of activities. Workers will need help throughout their lifetimes to acquire new skills and develop new job capabilities. Political reforms will be necessary to reduce polarization and restore civility so there can be open and healthy debate about where responsibility lies for economic well-being.

This book is an important contribution to a discussion about tomorrow—one that needs to take place today.

Many of America's greatest artists, scientists, investors, educators, and entrepreneurs have come from abroad. Rather than suffering from the "brain drain" of talented and educated individuals emigrating, the United States has benefited greatly over the years from the "brain gain" of immigration. These gifted immigrants have engineered advances in energy, information technology, international commerce, sports, arts, and culture. To stay competitive, the United States must institute more of an open-door policy to attract unique talents from other nations. Yet Americans resist such a policy despite their own immigrant histories and the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits of welcoming newcomers. Why?

In Brain Gain, Darrell West asserts that perception or "vision" is one reason reform in immigration policy is so politically difficult. Public discourse tends to emphasize the perceived negatives. Fear too often trumps optimism and reason. And democracy is messy, with policy principles that are often difficult to reconcile.

The seeming irrationality of U.S. immigration policy arises from a variety of thorny and interrelated factors: particularistic politics and fragmented institutions, public concern regarding education and employment, anger over taxes and social services, and ambivalence about national identity, culture, and language. Add to that stew a myopic (or worse) press, persistent fears of terrorism, and the difficulties of implementing border enforcement and legal justice.

West prescribes a series of reforms that will put America on a better course and enhance its long-term social and economic prosperity. Reconceptualizing immigration as a way to enhance innovation and competitiveness, the author notes, will help us find the next Sergey Brin, the next Andrew Grove, or even the next Albert Einstein.

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