Now, bringing to bear all of her knowledge, grasp, sense of history and observation, Sarah Chayes writes in her new book, that the United States is showing signs similar to some of the most corrupt countries in the world.
She takes on history, economics, politics, anthropology and more in a challenging survey of American corruption that makes a reader do a lot of thinking. Her strong opinions will offend some readers and persuade others; none will be bored ... Chayes argues that the Gilded Age ended in the three catastrophes of the first half of the 20th century: two world wars and the Great Depression. Strangely, she ignores the role of Theodore Roosevelt, the trustbusting, accidental president whose aggressive reforms put many Gilded Age excesses in the rearview mirror. But she is convincing about the three catastrophes and their consequences. Two wars and a depression changed American society, she argues ... Chayes sees the beneficiaries of the new Gilded Age as aggressively protecting their wealth and status by using their money to influence our politics to their advantage — no longer a disputable contention.
On Corruption in America , draws a clear line from the brutal practices associated with robber-baron cartels in the late nineteenth century to today’s corporate and financial institutions, which benefit from a scale offered by globalization that was hitherto undreamt of ... For Chayes, American corruption has its roots the practices of American capitalism. Her argument is complex and involves long excursions into early stages of human evolution, ancient Greece, the Bible, the Belle Époque, and the war in Afghanistan, touching on countless bits of exotica from history and far-flung places ... The introduction of complex social networks—eventually in the form of class, but above all, money—in her view distorted the evolution of sharing and encouraged self-promotion and greed ... The driving force behind corruption’s advance, then, in Chayes’s telling, is not capitalism per se (since she argues there was a benign post-war version of it), but a failure to contain the influence of money on policy and law enforcement, and the mirror influence back on the economic system to grow wealth and further shape political outcomes.
In this sweeping and remarkably clear-eyed account, journalist Chayes explains how unethical behavior by high-ranking government officials and their associates has resulted in tremendous income inequality and the proliferation of radical policies that fail to serve average Americans ... Chayes urges readers to focus on local actions, including investigating corruption in their own communities, and to band together across political party lines to hold the powerful to account. Though tangents and florid metaphors occasionally disrupt the narrative, Chayes’s research dazzles. This intricate and impressive exposé will galvanize readers to take action.