Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

Not sure where to begin with this one because it’s so well constructed and thought out. Giridharadas basically just eviscerates elite, well-to-do philanthropists who think that they are changing the world by giving away all of their money. He makes a compelling case that these philanthropists — I’m not gonna name names, but those names are pretty darn familiar — are essentially hoarding all of the wealth in the world and try their best to achieve seemingly “win-win” scenario’s where the rich stay rich and look good while doing it. For decades now, we have thought that folks such as the Rockefeller’s and Carnegie’s were benevolent game changers who truly wanted to have a positive impact on the lives of the citizens around them. This is evident, no doubt, in the buildings and statues and non-profits that exist because of their wealth, but this isn’t the whole story. Some, but not all of these folks believed that inequality and poor people are inevitable so why not just let the rich make as much money as they can so they can try to help? But the system is what matters, and it endures to this day to benefit those at the top. This book definitely made me think twice about the nature of giving and how we all need to be more discerning when we give money to a cause that we believe in.

  • fortunate people have also tried something both laudable and self serving — to help by taking ownership of the problem
  • winners of an unjust status quo are the secret to redressing the injustices
  • elites have continued to hoard the overwhelming share of progress, the average American’s life has scarcely improved
  • todays elite may be among the more predatory in history
  • monopolize progress and then give symbolic scraps to the forsaken
  • not only fails to make things better but also serves to keep things as they are
  • Oscar Wilde’s words about elite helpfulness being not a solution but an aggrevation of the difficulty
  • how can there be anything wrong with trying to do good? when the good is an accomplice to even greater, invisible harm
  • social change is to present something that should never threaten winners
  • people with the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change
  • much of what appears to be reform in our time is in fact the defense of stasis
  • Pikkety — Capital in the 21st century — since 1980 = bottom half of americans had over this time span seen their average pretax income rise from 16K to 16,200
  • one hundred seventeen million people had been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970's
  • do good by doing well
  • ventures people wanted to start up was more power in building up what was good than in challenging what was bad
  • David Harvey — neoliberalism = theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, free trade
  • founding parents = Regan and Thatcher
  • lower taxes, weaker regulation, reduced public spending on schools, job training, parks, commons at large
  • Clinton = “era of big government is over”
  • if you really want to change the world you must rely on the techniques resources and personnel of capitalism
  • management consulting firms and wall street financial houses have offered highly portable training for doing whatever you wish down the road
  • US govt reduced to being a single actor among actors, one inadequate to modern problems
  • todays problems were too hard for the government — new deal was easy — had to be solved through partnerships among rich donors, no’s, public sector
  • putting moneyed into power gave them the power to thwart solutions that threatened them
  • entrepreneurial spirit is the solution to some of th worlds most pressing problems
  • more than 40% of Georgetown graduates from the class of 2012 who found full time work had gone into consulting or financial services
  • MarketWorld is an ascendant power elite defined by the concurrent drives to do well and do good, to change the world, while also profiting from the status quo
  • network and community, culture and state of mind
  • elites believe and promote the idea that social change should be pursued principally through the free market and voluntary action
  • entering the world of money in order to master the tools to help those it has forsaken
  • white house grew dependent on the special talents of consultants and financiers in making decisions on how to run the nation
  • how to optimize everything, which made supply chains leaner and their income statements less volatile
  • new problem to solve — the one that we causes
  • whoever treats a disease recasts it — with their own diagnosis, presrcipti9on and prognosis
  • market world problem solver does not tend to hunt for perpetrators and is not interested in blame
  • if hedge funders hadn’t been creative in dodging taxes, the income available for foreign aid would have been greater (example)
  • vulture funds — routinely buy bad debt at a steep discount and then sue African governments to repay them in full with taxpayer money, threatening their foreign assets if they contest
  • market world — change things without changing a thing
  • win win approach
  • Stephen Covey — 7 Habits — mutual benefit in all human interactions
  • approach is rise of social enterprises, venture capital
  • help people in ways that let you keep living your life as is, while shedding some of your guilt
  • stagnation in wages for half of americas despite remarkable growth in productivity
  • since 1973, hourly compensation has almost stopped rising at all
  • average american worker grew at 72 percent more productive between 1973 and 2014 but the median workers pay rose only about 9 percent in this time
  • problem of the gains from productivity to being captured by elites
  • further increase an abundant thing likely to be hoarded by the elites (productivity) instead of a scarce thing that millions need more of (wages)
  • business solutions could be more compassionate than the alternatives because the profits they paid the winners assumed their continued beneficence
  • solution is oriented around the solvers needs more than the worlds — win wins, purporting to be about the others, are really about you
  • Adam Smith — self love trickled down to others, win win ism
  • invisible hand — selfish pursuit of prosperity takes care of everyone just as well as actually attempting to take care of everyone — trickle down economics
  • new win win ism — rejected the idea of social good by as a product, a spillover — had to focus on social improvement directly and intentionally
  • business is the principal vessel for human betterment
  • new idea suggests that capitalists are more capable than any government could ever be of solving the underdogs problems
  • philanthrocapitalism — bishop and Green — salvation comes directly, when the winners assume leadership of social change
  • entrepreneurship synonymous with humanitarianism
  • Greg Ferenstein — reporter in the bay area — optimism — belief in the possibility of the win win and harmony of human interests
  • government works not as a check on capitalism but to make capitalism successful
  • the meek’s success can never be oppositional to that of the strong
  • claim of harmony of interests is hope masquerading as description
  • benefits of progress flowing primarily to the already fortunate
  • silicon valley, people interpret social justice different ways, win lose thinking
  • they prefer the term “fairness”
  • entrepreneurs were willing to participate if you pursued that goal in a way that exonerated and celebrated and depended on them. win win
  • redistribution — handle minimum stands of living for everybody where they work when they want to work, not because they need to work — higher taxes
  • individually powerless citizens potentially banding together to gain strength in numbers and stand up to powerful interests — political action
  • winners of the world deciding what and for how much largesse to give
  • once you believe that business is how you change things these days, a conference of entrepreneurs offers unlimited possibilities
  • by market world standards, what was good for business was good for mankind
  • advocacy that disguises itself as prophecy — masked the fact of their power in an age rattle by the growing anxieties of the powerless
  • in the valley, prediction has become a popular way of fighting for a particular future while claiming merely to be describing what has yet to occur
  • selecting one scenario among many possibilities and persuading everybody of its inevitability
  • Pishevar — casting venture capitalists and billionaire company founders as rebels against the estabilshement (what he was doing at a conference) fighting the powers that be on behalf of ordinary people
  • maligning the very institutions that are meant to care for ordinary people and promote equality — referred to unions as cartels, casted protests as a war zone
  • technological disruption was the venture capitalists way of making the world a better place for everyone’s benefit
  • Pishever spoke of he and his companies as the weak ones, in his mind he was the little guy
  • board an expensive invitation only cruse ship conference full of rich people and yet claim it was the taxi drivers who constituted an unjust cartel
  • powerful people who see themselves as underdogs in a world where instability and inequality are rampant fail to realize that they have a moral responsibility
  • Uber monitored, tracked, controlled and gave feedback on their service of its drivers amounted to a functioning of power
  • belief in market world — world may be cruel and unfair, but if you sprinkle seeds of tech on it, shoots of equity will sprout
  • Cooper Ramo, journalist — power is defined by both its profound concentration and by massive distribution
  • networks are those rare beasts that get healthier tough and faster the fatter they become
  • amazon et al, getting larger, more entrenched in their own sectors, more powerful in new sectors and better insulated against surprising competition from upstarts
  • measure of success is valuation
  • anarchist cheerleading — keeping with their careful crafted image as rebels against authority
  • hobbes — someone always rules, the question is who
  • in a world without a leviathan, people will be ruled by thousands of little leviathan’s closer to home by feudal lords on whose soil they work and against whom they have few defenses, by powerful whimsical unaccountable princes
  • a world without rules if force and fraud
  • a world that deny’s their power over the serfs around them by appropriating a language of community and love, movements and win wins
  • Goeth Insitute — platform cooperativism — ordinary people should have some say in how tech develops
  • market world speaks to the problems it wishes to solve
  • class warfare can really be about who gets to own it, a couple of us or all of us
  • who owns what no one has any choice but to use?
  • 62 billionaires possessed as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity, down from 300 billionaires a few years ago … then went to 9 billionaires recently … then to 8
  • Andrew Zolli — pop tech curator — teach people to cope
  • give hope, roll with the waves — market world way
  • Daniel Drezner, foreign policy scholar, The Ideas Industry — public intellectual is a dying type, a critic and a foe of power
  • new thing was Thought Leaders, they go easy on the powerful
  • people are interested in confirmation of their views as we have become more tribal, loss of trust in authority, rising in equality
  • problem of inequality and social fracture, more dependent on ever on explainers who happen to be in good odor with billionaires
  • fellow travelers of the winners
  • fraction off academics on tenure track has collapses in half; newsrooms have shrunk by 40% since 1990
  • thought leadership = affirmation without any contsturctive criticism
  • thinkers tend to be Zoomers Out by nature, seeing the systems and structure, but thought leaders who are heard and invited back have to Zoom In
  • Brene Brown, social worker — people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging
  • did not emphasize all of the other reasons and circumstances and forces — poverty, family abuse, police, addiction — that have made some people feel worthy and others unworthy
  • Carol Hanisch — personal problems are political problems, things that happened because of forces that no individual was powerful enough to counteract alone, these things had to be sent as and acted on politically, grandly, holistically, and above all, in the places where the power was
  • thought leaders zoom in and think smaller — feminists wanted us to look at the vagina and then zoom out at congress, thought leaders want us to look at a laid off employee and zoom in, focus on his vulnerability, not his wage
  • Charles Duhig — had become a critic who market world did not appreciate, pointed out what was wrong without offering digestible lists of tips on how to fix things
  • then he produced books that market world people loved
  • Upton Sinclair — it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it
  • tremendous pressure to turn thoughts into commodities, tiny usable takeaways , monday morning insights for the CEO, ideas that are profitable rather than compelling for their own sake
  • Cuddy — female scientist and body launguage expert, deemphasizing talk of the system had made her ideas more accessible, which caused her to become even more aware of how dismal the system was
  • attracted to the personal gratification that came with the more doable kind of change
  • Simon Sinek — thought leader, “golden circle” — core of the circle is the “why”, ring outside the core is the “how”, ring outside that is the “what”
  • less important to have an undergirding of scholarly research than it is to be your idea, to perform and hawk it relentlessly
  • the “why” — “productize” his thoughts, as they say in the business world
  • their love of the easy idea that goes down like gelato, an idea that gives hope while challenging nothing
  • “identifiable victim effect” — people react differently toward identifiable victims than to statistical victims who have not yet been identified
  • people feel and care more when you help people to see a problem in terms of individals
  • thought leader — zooming in, story about your daughter is that you hook people
  • risk is that you change the nature of the problem by that act of zooming
  • shrink the issue — sub typing
  • assimilation effect — people link the personal and specific to the surrounding social context
  • actionable tweaks rather than structural change
  • not in the least bit disruptive
  • more sunny, actionable, take away prone ideas are elevated, the shallower the very idea of change becomes
  • Bruno Giussani, hosted Cuddy’s talk — intellectual assumptions have dominated the last two decades — businesses are the engines of progress, state should do as little as posslbe
  • market forces are the best way at the same time to allocate scarce resources and to solve problems
  • people are essentially rational, self interest driven actors
  • ideas framed as being about “poverty” are more acceptable than ideas framed as being about “inequality”
  • inequality is about the nature of the system, to fight it means to change the system, to look into one’s own privilege
  • cannot necessarily afford to speak truth to money
  • Stephen Pinker, author — interpersonal violence as a mode of human problem solving was in a long free fall
  • if you take the long term perspective you will realize how good we have it — Giussani
  • “Pinkering” — using the long run direction of human history to minimize, to delegitimize the concerns of those without power
  • failed to detect all the incoming transmissions about all the people whose lives were not improving
  • Soros — open society foundation — Economic Advancement Program was towards economic development and social justice
  • ultimate win win — investments in for profit companies that promote that promote more open societies and advance the interests of undeserved populations
  • questions of building more inclusive economies would be atomized into endless subcategories until the human reality all but vanished
  • best guides to change the reasoning went were those who designed and participated in and upheld the very power structures that need changing
  • Hinton — was in mCkinsey, goldman — lived and worked in mongolia, your survival is based on recognizing that you don’t know, and being absolutely open to everything
  • at mc kinsey — high flying high priced consultant was expected to jump in and know things
  • bringing to bear and the championing of the religion of facts — incontrovertible, scientific, unemotional, unencumbered by people facts
  • being able to analyze a situation despite ignorance, to transcend unfamiliarity
  • smashing of reality into hundreds of little pieces makes a solution seem apparent while in fact obscuring the true problem
  • more people accepted the idea of the protocols as essential to public problem solving, the more market world was elevated over government and civil society as the best engine of change and progresss
  • technoserve — by linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities — read into this that people are poor because of the absence of these linkages, not other reasons
  • those who are good at making these kinds of linkages are elevated as solvers
  • Bridgespan — helps poor people by helping the things that help them grow bigger in scale than they presently are (theory of change)
  • rigor logic data an ability to make decisions swiftly
  • approach designed to yield measurable and fairly quick solutions
  • colonial imperial arrogance of the enlightened white man with money and science, and noble benevolent intentions, who will solve these problems
  • PowerPoint greased problem solving
  • Michael Porter — Havard business school professor — founder of modern corporate strategy
  • companies had become too focused on optimizing short term financial performance
  • shared value — improve big companies relationships with communities
  • you analyzed the data and then you went where the opportunity was, didn’t matter if that chase severed you from your own community and your obligations to it
  • optimization — easier to mistreat workers and ignore questions about ones effects on the larger system
  • disconnect between businesses and their average employees
  • stop thinking about human beings and the wellbeing of everyone else in the system
  • 70’s and 80’s first duty of business to maximize value for stakeholders
  • financialization — short term thinking, detached from the real economy
  • attempting to solve these problems with the very tools and the very minds that constructed the problems in the first place
  • what about having the kind of people the foundations seek to help as part of the leadership? — Hinton
  • social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another
  • taboos: inspire them to join the solution, but never accuse them of being part of the problem
  • Cotton Mather — reframing prevailing ideas about charity in 1710 — philanthropic giving by the rich to relieve the poor
  • helping of the many by the many
  • Tocqueville — americans made associations, to hold fetes, found seminaries, build inns, construct churches, distribute books, dispatch the missionaries to the antipodes
  • turn of the century (1900) inequality widened, anger bubbled, populist impulses surged
  • Carnegie and Rockefeller began to give back
  • private foundation, address root causes, administered by private, self governing trustees
  • gain a say in the nations affairs that rivaled that of man public officials
  • money was tainted by its origins — Rockefeller had a monopoly on oil, allergy to labor unions, robber baron
  • influence over a democratic society
  • philantropists today are widely admired, civic gratitude
  • those days, unlike today, giving back didn’t purchase immunity for the giver
  • Carnegie wrote an essay entitled “Wealth” — argued that inequality was the undesirable but inevitable cost of genuine progress
  • operate aggressively, if you want progress you have to let rich people make their money however they can, even if it widens inequality
  • free to make money however they can, because when they are, they tend to make a lot of money which in turn brings progress for all
  • wealth, in his view, belonged to the community — contradictory picture bu giving the profits away by slashing wages for his workers
  • Carnegie believed that he could not pay workers well, that would hurt the public interest
  • money will be spent more wisely on you than it would be by you, enjoy our wealth, in the way we think you should enjoy it
  • social scientists speak of idiosyncrasy credits — innovate on, or even defy, group norms, a resource that a leader earns
  • MLK lauded philanthropy while not ignoring the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary
  • privileged (Darren Walker, Ford Foundation) — now have a say over how so many public problems are solved
  • is the playing field on which i accumulated my wealth level and fair?
  • Sacklers — Purdue Pharma — role in causing the problems — oxy became a widely used street drug, chewing on a tablet or crushing one and then snorting the powder or injecting it in with a needle produced a high as powerful as insulin
  • crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing — engineered by Purdue
  • pushed for regulations that would require doctors to secure prior authorization (officials)
  • Purdue found a workaround by using a third party companies known as pharmacy benefit managers to ensure that West Virginians could receive oxy without prior authorization
  • Walker — meet people where they are, rich people wanted to talk about opportunity
  • “when i got on the mobility escalator, all the things along that journey that helped propel me forward in many ways either aren’t there anymore or are eager, or in fact they would push me backwards”
  • Tisch — female, NYG co-owner — people who get to take advantage of the system why would they really want to change it? they’ll maybe give more money away, but they don’t want to radically change it
  • american public had their big conversation out there in the messy democracy, and the elite had its own ongoing intramural chat
  • life goes more and more behind the gate
  • government still had the responsibility, but more and more the wealthy make the rules
  • CGI, clinton — partnership and commitments
  • when he started, clinton believed public problems were best solved through public service and collective action
  • won over by the theory that it was preferable to solve problems through markets and partnerships among entities private and public, which would find areas of common cause and work together on win win solutions
  • bask iin the celebrity like glow
  • clinton stood for globalization while in power, markets, compassion, loosened regualations good for wall street
  • Hillary spoke of wanting everyone to do better
  • CGI = both doing good and building brands
  • Market World UN Week/same time as CGI = when private actors move into the solution of public problems, it becomes less and less of public business
  • 2016, Trump, worlds elites were being revolted against, disconnected they were from the realities of others
  • could never quite compensate for the disparity — globalists were utopians, anti nationalist and anti religious and anti parochial, believing that anything that divides people into separate groups or identities is bad, removing borders and divisions is good (Haidt)
  • market worlds sins were party to blame for giving the right wing populists, ethno nationalism and others their opening
  • people did not appreciate the world changing without them
  • clinton — classic market world win win ism, best thing for the worse off people in argentina was to do whatever made foreign investors and international agencies feel at home
  • people setting themselves the task of understanding the anger around them were recommitted to the idea that the anger had no possible basis in reason or conscious choice
  • CGI = doing the market friendly thing instead of the idealistic thing, elevating economics over politics
  • good society was the society of entrepreneurs, whose success was tantamount to that of the soviet itself
  • politics is the inherently messy business of negotiating and reconciling incompatible interests and coming up with a decent plan, designed to be liked but difficult to love
  • give the world what it needed, not what it necessarily wanted
  • elites have rarely attended a community meeting, live sequestered from others
  • politics is about actual places, with actual shared histories — globalism, chasing a dream of everyone, risks belonging to no one
  • many of these problems would in fact beomce much less severe if our local politics were working right
  • if you are trying to shape the world for the better, you are engaging in a political act, but elites are not accountable to anyone
  • solving problems together, in the public sphere, through the tools of government and in the trenches of civil society
  • when elites solve public problems privately, contributes to and enlarges the public goods provided by the state, attends to the interests not readily provided for by the state (Horvath and Powell, Stanford Sociologists) — same elite help can instead disrupt democracy when it replaces the public sphere with all manner of private initiatives for special public purposes
  • crowd out the public sector, further reducing both its legitimacy and efficacy, replace civic goals with narrower concerns about efficacy and markets
  • people asking big questions about the underlying system and imagining altneraitve systems would not be attending panels at CGI
  • since we all know that morality isn’t actually enough, you should know that the business case is fantastic
  • private sector got to change the language in which the public sphere thought and acted
  • only problem solving approach that worked in the modern world, according to clinton, was one that made the people an afterthought, to be helped out but not truly heard
  • clintons globalist dream was admirable, but it was also intolerant of other dreams
  • Jacob Hackett, Yale polysci — republicans are straghtforward in their contempt for government, democrats don’t counter the contempt with a vigorous embrace of government
  • Clinton — “most positive and lasting impact will be if you do this in a wy that increases the capacity of the local officials, both the administrative public servant types and the elected officials to take care of themselves
  • test for do gooders = when you get done, will it be sustainable, and will the people be governed by more effective, more responsive ,more honest government
  • 1964, cliinton graduated high school, 77 percent of americans reported a high degree of trust in government, that number has since fallen into the teens
  • clinton saw how market world style change crowded out the habit of democracy — he would not call out elites for their sins
  • companies could be more responsible and conscious, nonetheless raise money from capital markets and comply with the law — B corporations, benefit corporations, were born — Kassoy
  • make good easy — B Lab — creation of a parallel corporate law, allowed companies to embed a social mission into their work without fear of legal trouble such as shareholder complaints
  • do not reject a public solution in theory, but pursue a private one in practice
  • Cordeli, italian political philosopher at U of chicago — question that elites refuse to ask is wh are there in the world so man people that you need to help in the first place? have your actions contributed to that? have you cause through your actions, any harm?
  • have you campaigned against inheritance tax? avoided paying taxes? supported or benefited from a system with low labor regulations and increased precarity?
  • citizens of democracy are collectively responsible for what their society foreseeably and persistently allows, the they have as special duty toward those it systematically fails, and that this burden falls most heavily on those that most amply rewarded by the same, ultimately arbitrary set of arrangements
  • you are worth nothing without society because we would all be dominated by others without political institutions that protect our rights
  • to live in a society without laws and shared institutions that applied equally to all would be, dependent on the arbitrary will of another, would be like a form of servitude
  • benevolent master
  • when it comes to building a business lobbying for certain things, effectively helping some people through philanthropy, they are change agents, powerfully and intentionally can exercise change
  • system under which market world thrived in recent decades was engineered by man
  • debtors who need society mercy and not saviors
  • when a society solves a problem political and systematically, it is expressing the sense of the whole — it is speaking on behalf of every citizen
  • isn’t our job to make them do that, rather than working to weaken and destroy those institutions by thinking that we can effectuate change by ourselves — let’s start working to create the conditions that make those institutions better

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.