Meet the Billionaires: New Book By Darrell West

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


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1,645 men and women control a massive share of global assets worth $6.5 trillion. In Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust, Darrell M. West reveals what the other 99.99998% of us need to know.

The top one percent own about one-third of the assets in America and 40 percent of assets around the world. This concentration of financial resources in many countries gives the ultra-rich extraordinary influence over elections, public policy, and governance.

In Billionaires, West analyzes the growing political activism of billionaires and how they have created more activist forms of politics and philanthropy based on their net worth. With this “wealthification” of politics and society, it is important to understand how this concentration of wealth affects system performance as well as social and economic opportunity.

Darrell West is vice president and director of Governance Studies at Brookings, where he is the founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation. His previous books include Digital Schools: How Technology Can Transform Education and Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy.

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Darrell M. West, Vice President & Director of Governance Studies at Brookings Institution

Billionaires is being published by Brookings Institution Press and will be available at all major book retailers on September 18.   

Billionaires has received praise from Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne who said:  

"F. Scott Fitzgerald taught us that the very rich are different from the rest of us. Now Darrell West has taken us on a thoughtful romp through the world of our new billionaire class. At a moment when we have read both glorifications and denunciations of those with unimaginably large fortunes, West has set out to understand and explain who they are and what they do. He couples a moral concern for the cost of rising inequality with a scholar's commitment to telling the story straight. This is both an important book and a good read."

Billionaire Political Power Index

There are 1,645 known billionaires in the world today, including 492 in the United States. American billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, George Soros, Tom Steyer, Peter Thiel, and Donald Trump have had a major impact on politics and society. Yet who are the most powerful billionaires?  

See West's Billionaire Political Power Index at to understand who the most influential people are.   West lists the top 20 billionaires by political power and explain how they use campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, and policy thought leadership to influence the country.  

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