Crass Struggle: Greed, Glitz and Gluttony in a Wanna-Have World

by R.T. Naylor

In Crass Struggle, McGill economics professor Tom Naylor shatters any illusion that really, really rich people are smarter than the rest of us, or have lifestyles to be envied.

The über-wealthy adorn and amuse themselves at a high cost—to the planet. Naylor outlines the pollution and misery caused by gold and diamond mining, and how private collectors strip countries of their cultural artifacts. Holders of great fortunes once built schools and libraries, but “conspicuous presumption” allows the “new parasitocracy,” as Naylor labels them, to consume vast resources as they erect grandiose tributes to themselves (one Mumbai oil magnate’s home accommodates his family’s 168 cars and several helicopters).

Naylor’s research is depressingly thorough. The rarer the object, the greater the “value” and he proves there are governments, corporations and plenty of people ready to ensure rarity by stockpiling goods or to meet demand by creating fake caviar, paintings, coins, mineral strikes, or whatever.

Crass Struggle is packed with fascinating information on everything from art markets to zoos. Naylor’s style is entertainingly wry as he explores “the low side of the high life, the bad side of the good life, or more poetically, the underbelly of the potbelly.”

Diana Grier Ayton