“In these days a great capitalist has deeper roots than a sovereign prince,
unless he is very legitimate.”
Appearing just in time for the Enron and WorldCom scandals and the ensuing stock-market plunge, Kevin Phillips’ harsh new scrutiny of the trends toward the concentration of wealth and power in the emerging American social and economic order has been greeted with glee in quarters where Phillips, the onetime advisor to Richard Nixon and prophet of the Republican Majority, has seldom been welcome. The reviewer in the leftish New York Review of Books called Mr. Phillips “one of our most valuable political and economic thinkers,” while the (rather more than leftish) Nation recently published an article by him recapitulating some of the major claims of the book. Conservatives have been somewhat more muted, having read Mr. Phillips out their ranks years ago when he failed to boom the new Golden Age of globalization, free trade, universal affluence, and the End of History that has now become the animating vision of the American mainstream right; if they have had anything to say about his latest work, I have managed to miss it, but their silence is hardly surprising. Wealth and Democracy, if it accomplishes nothing else, is certain to puncture a good deal...