One hundred years ago when John Rockefeller Sr. became the world’s first billionaire, he was asked the following question about wealth accumulation: “How much is enough?” His reputed answer: “Just a little bit more.” The exchange was most likely legendary, but it describes a strong social imprint in the US vibrant ever since: the pursuit of excessive wealth is not only permissible, but glorified.
Just a Little Bit More: The Culture of Excess and the Fate of the Common Good was published in May 2014. Rockefeller’s story – from the travails of his bigamous father to Rockefeller’s incredible philanthropy – sets the tone for this book that details America’s primary social dilemma, as exemplified in the following questions: Is social inequality the price to pay for the uninhibited pursuit of wealth? Do social inequalities destroy democratic ideals?
Just a Little Bit More uses Rockefeller’s story as a springboard to discuss these crucial questions. Myriad characters and contributors help to sharpen the discussion: Henry Demarest Lloyd, Henry Ford, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Charlie Chaplin, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ken Lay, Anthony Mozilo, Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan, Bernie Madoff, Bill Gates, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Yes, even SpongeBob and his friend Mr. Krabs.
Just a Little Bit More is a great read. Good history, intriguing and thought-provoking discussion, and a few surprises along the way. And as the tale is told it doesn’t fail to ask another foundational question: What does the glorification of the pursuit of wealth do to a society’s shared common good?