With at least one new billionaire in the 2020 presidential race, the politics of the one percent are with us again. What do billionaires believe? And do they believe the same things as the average American? Answering these questions has until now been frustrated by the difficulty of fielding surveys of the very rich. Just finding where they live is hard enough.
But a new book has solved part of this problem and answers many questions. Benjamin I. Page
, Jason Seawright
, and Matthew J. Lacombe
have written Billionaires and Stealth Politics
(University of Chicago Press, 2019). Page is the Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University; Seawright is professor of political science at the Northwestern University, and Matthew J. Lacombe is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University and is joining the faculty of Barnard College in the fall.
In the book, we learn about the stealthy ways most billionaires participate in politics. They rarely utter a word about their beliefs in public, but do spend huge sums of money influencing politics. Unfortunately, only small amounts of that spending is publicly disclosed. Much of their spending is masked behind the non-transparent organizations that populate American politics. Stealthy politics, like the dark money groups that benefit, is a politics of secrecy and mystery, hardly the democratic politics of openness and transparency.