1 out of 4 stars
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How many lifestyle conveniences and comforts do we take for granted today? The Democratization of Wealth: Baby, You’re a Rich Man Too is Canfield LaPeer’s attempt at persuading the reader that we are not only living in a technologically advanced world full of wealth that we can freely and equally – hence the term “democratization” – access (such as transportation and the increased ease of international air travel), but we also ought to be thankful for it. Clocking in at 200-plus pages, the book is split into 27 short chapters, with each chapter focusing on the economic value of one particular aspect of American society, e.g., the American education system, the value of the healthcare system, etc.
Still, despite the lofty goals that LaPeer had, the book was, unfortunately, a great disappointment, due to the numerous major flaws that I found. Hence, do buckle up – this is going to be a long ride, but I will try to be succinct. Before proceeding to explain my rationale, I will first give the book a rating of 1 out of 4 stars.
To begin, LaPeer did not have a thesis statement whilst writing this book, which is shocking, to say the least. In other words, the book was simply a compilation of calculations: we learn how much the transport system is valued at today, what the economic value of the healthcare system that we enjoy today is, etc. Whilst this is somewhat informative, LaPeer did not explain why he included these calculations. I picked this up in the hopes of learning how wealth was democratized (in LaPeer’s words), but unfortunately, I mainly got mathematical calculations.
Also, LaPeer made a severe erroneous assumption: as he argues for the “democratization of wealth”, he assumes that everyone has equal and unhindered access to all of these lifestyle comforts and privileges. However, we know that this is clearly not the case in a capitalistic society – some people only make minimum wage, some people have been discriminated against due to their race, and so forth. Hence, despite being a short read, it is, regrettably, extremely reductive.
Moreover, the figures that LaPeer provided were not entirely accurate. Notwithstanding the book being mainly a compilation of such financial numbers, to learn that the calculations themselves were inaccurate because of outdated research (or sometimes simply the wrong choice of numbers used for calculation) makes for an even more frustrating reading experience. For example, when calculating the cost of an item, LaPeer uses only “work hours” (i.e., the cost of labour). I think this is grossly inaccurate; the term “cost price” should have been used instead, as it considers factors (which the term “work hours” ignores) like the cost of the raw materials used for manufacture, the cost of the equipment used for manufacture, etc.
Nonetheless, I must say that I admire LaPeer’s reasons for writing this book, which I assume is to encourage his readers to appreciate the advanced world of today. After all, one cannot deny that it is true, to some extent, that the previous generations worked and innovated diligently so that we can have what we have today. However, admiration is never enough, is it? The flaws that I have listed made too large of an obstacle for me to look past, hence my low rating. There were also a couple of minor punctuation errors, such as missing commas and periods, but these, thankfully, did not detract much from the reading experience.
I strongly suggest that LaPeer first come up with a thesis statement; simply put, what is the point of writing The Democratization of Wealth: Baby, You’re a Rich Man Too? Without an argument to make, the book inevitably becomes misguided and unclear. It would also be highly beneficial for LaPeer to rework his entire text with editors and economists; the term “democratization of wealth” is an intriguing one, and I would like to see it expanded in a well-written expository piece. I also believe that the work of Michel Foucault (especially his theory on power and knowledge) would be highly relevant as a reference. Therefore, in its current form, I am honestly unable to recommend it to anyone, unless you absolutely love mathematics.
The Democratization of Wealth
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