America’s “Wealth Culture” is Democratic, Diverse, and Resilient


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. W6) . . . “Rich” contains an interesting argument, if only one can find it. Mr. Samuel contends that the 20th century has seen the creation of a distinctly American “wealth culture” that is more democratic and more diverse than anything the world has seen before, and consequently more resilient.
. . .
The Reagan revolution, thanks to its lowered taxes and deregulated economy, ­produced a flood of new ­millionaires; it also removed some of the guilt that had come to cling to wealth. ­(President ­Reagan said that he wanted America to remain a country in which people could dare to be rich.) More than the ­Reaganauts, though, it was the computer geeks of Silicon ­Valley who both stimulated and legitimized wealth- ­creation. They not only ­pioneered a productivity ­miracle, they also embodied the “American” values of ­meritocracy and democracy, earning big rewards for big ­innovations and scattering stock options among their ­employees. America Online, Mr. Samuel ­observes, created 2,000 ­millionaires during the 1990s.
The road from the top-­hatted John D. Rockefeller to the be-chinoed Bill Gates is undoubtedly a long one, and yet, remarkably, much of the landscape of American wealth remains the same. The U.S. has a genius for producing entrepreneurs who can turn the latest technology into piles of gold. Less than 10% of today’s rich inherited their wealth, for example, and many are ­”instapreneurs,” transformed in an instant from ­penury to prosperity.

For the full review, see:

ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE. “Review; The Evolution of Wealth; Discerning a distinctly American style of affluence.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 31, 2009): W6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

Reference to the reviewed book:
Samuel, Larry. Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture. New York: AMACOM, 2009.

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