The Good Rich and What They Cost Us

Robert F. Dalzell, JR., Author
Robert E. Dalzell, Jr. . Yale Univ., $28 (216p) ISBN 978-0-300-17559-2
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 01/01/2013
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Dalzell (The House the Rockefellers Built), professor of history at Williams College, presents an intriguing but uneven portrait of America's rich in this slim yet complex study. Starting with the 17th Century's charitable Robert Keayne, to morally-troubled George Washington, on through the sprawling Rockefeller clan and into the modern era, readers are afforded glimpses into the ways and means of the rich and powerful. Dalzell spends much of the book building up the people he covers, concentrating on their philanthropic works and continuing legacies, and only later segues into a critique of the growing financial inequality in America. It's an odd transition, to go from extensively covering the Rockefeller legacy to dissecting the meaning and implications of the Forbes 400 list. Dalzell makes some good points about how philanthropy and public image are intertwined, but the overall message is mixed. On one hand, he seems to admire the rich; on the other, he condemns them for not being more generous. This book wants to be two things—a history and a socio-economic study—but the topic is too complicated for such a short treatment, leading to a less than satisfactory examination of both. Agent: Geri Thoma, Markson Thoma Literary Agency. (Jan)
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