Introduction to The Billionaire Raj:
This past week I read The Billionaire Raj by James Crabtree. I initially thought the book would only be a history of the billionaire class in India, and that my review of The Billionaire Raj would have to stick to those subjects. But, it is far, far more.
In The Billionaire Raj, Crabtree is able to explore Indian society in a holistic manner. He does so through examining many facets of Indian life and how they relate to the rising billionaire class. Crabtree reports on subjects as diverse as the denationalization of Indian industry, transnational Indian conglomerates, Indian billionaires more extravagant than the Great Gatsby, and the Indian domination of competitive cricket.
Through writing such a through analysis about a wide variety of subjects, Crabtree is able to draw the reader in with funny or exciting anecdotes, and then use historical data to show the point he is trying to make. That point is that crony capitalism has led to massive wealth inequality and an unequal sharing of power in India. It is well done and definitely worth reading.
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Summary of The Billionaire Raj:
“The Billionaire Raj” is the name Crabtree gives to this unique period in Indian history where business families control vast sums of money, sprawling conglomerate companies, and immense political power.
He gives anecdotal evidence of their opulence and influence, and those stories of vast riches and power draw the reader in. Then, he uses his research and data to show the reader what modern India is like; a nation ruled by the business elite, not unlike Gilded Age America, as I described in my review of The Republic for which It Stands.
Crabtree points out many times that modern India is similar to Gilded Age America. Powerful tycoons with unthinkable riches. Crony capitalism. Business leaders that are successful because they seek government favors rather than actual success in business. In that respect, they are a lot like the “looters” in Atlas Shrugged.
In any case, Crabtree does a superb job of describing how Indian billionaires have used their fortunes and influence to dominate Indian society. The examples and anecdotes he gives are too many and too diverse to describe here, but if you read The Billionaire Raj, you’ll read about sky-scraper palaces, corruption in professional sports, shadowy bankers and businessmen, and the creation of an “aristocracy of pull,” like in Atlas Shrugged or Gilded Age America. It’s thrilling, terrifying, and interesting all at once.
Analysis of The Billionaire Raj:
No review of The Billionare Raj would be complete without an analysis of Crabtree’s thesis and the evidence he gives to support it. As a reminder, his thesis is that corruption, denationalization, and vast wealth has led to a situation where billionaires have immense power in India.
I think Crabtree did an excellent job of supporting that thesis. His anecdotes were relevant and well-supported by reliable sources. The data he provided was also quite useful for developing a holistic picture of Indian society.
Furthermore, I liked The Billionaire Raj and decided to do a positive review of The Billionaire Raj because Crabtree didn’t use the book as a platform to attack capitalism. While he does attack the corporatist, crony capitalism, that I described in “Millennials and Capitalism,” he never attacks capitalism itself. Only corruption and crony capitalism. I loved that because it was so refreshing to read journalistic work that shows an appreciation for the virtue of capitalism.
Many would use India’s situation to say that capitalism is evil and India should revert to socialism, which was it’s economic situation before denationalization of industry in the 90’s. Crabtree, however, does just the opposite. He knows that socialism leads to poverty and describes how capitalism has led to wonderful things for India- rising standards of living, better infrastructure, global power, etc. The problem he describes is too much government interference, not too little. As usual, when the government in any country tries to help, everything goes to hell.
In short, The Billionaire Raj is a great defense on free market capitalism and shows that if capitalism could save India from economic ruin, then capitalism will save us. We just have to let it and make sure the government doesn’t try to help with anything. Government is the problem, not the solution.
I hope my review of The Billionaire Raj showed why it is such a great book. The stories and anecdotes in it are compelling. The research and facts presented in it are top notch and reliable. The historical comparisons, especially with Gilded Age America, are astute and enlightening. It is a defense of how capitalism is just and socialism leads to poverty rather than an attack on capitalism. Everything about it is great. I highly recommend you order a copy.
By: Gen Z Conservative
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