Someone’s head must have rolled at the Aspen Institute when Anand Giridharadas’ book came out. Giridharadas didn’t miss a rung as he climbed the American establishment’s social ladder: born in Shaker Heights, schooled at Sidwell Friends, the University of Michigan, and Harvard, employed at McKinsey, the International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times, and mic’d up on MSNBC. Imagine the shock when this janissary of globaloney turned on his handlers, fat-cat cosmopolites seeking personal vindication and moral absolution.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World dispels rampant misperceptions about the wealthy’s charitable crusades. Rather than just stop pushing addictive opioids, the Sackler family of Purdue Pharma fame has showered its blood money on museums, hospitals, and universities to secure secular indulgences. Social pathologies preoccupy the powerful, whose limitless resources empower their ambition. More importantly, they strive to “do well while doing good,” since every Wharton MBA knows market solutions trump all others. With their PowerPoint slides and Patagonia vests, millionaire Mother Teresas misappropriate the skills they perfected at Goldman Sachs and Google to keep the powerless out of their plutocratic ambit of prestigious schools, lucrative jobs, and doorman buildings. Simply put, the author’s “MarketWorld” rubric explains how “the ascendant power elite” pretend to “change the world while also profiting from the status quo.”

Here’s how it’s done: Raise some capital from your rich friends. Portray taxi drivers as thugs and their unions as cartels. Next, explain how your startup, let’s call it “Oober,” empowers unemployed car owners to become their own bosses, free from the regulatory burden that actually protected the little guy. Watch your VC investment balloon into the billions while the drivers beg for health care. Preach about disruption and innovation as boons to consumers, pay lobbyists to fend off the belligerent serfs, and donate a building to your alma mater. Don’t worry; unwitting taxpayers will foot the kidney dialysis sessions your “independent contractors” have to miss work for. Then it’s wheels up for Aspen to brag to your moneyed peers about how well you’re doing, even if you aren’t doing any good.

John Greenville


Before William Shakespeare there was Geoffrey Chaucer. The Bard borrowed at least one of his plots from his predecessor (“The Two Noble Kinsmen,” was based on the “Knight’s Tale”). Both English greats were, it could be said, refashioning Homer’s Shield of Achilles as they painted elaborate portraits of their entire societies, from the lowliest corners to the most majestic. Both were also masters at setting forth the ironies, beauties, and ecstasies of the human condition, and both demonstrated that our native tongue was capable of expression to rival that of any other.

Shakespeare’s language is more like our own, although best appreciated in performance, where the subtleties and nuances shine forth. Much of Chaucer is missed with the translation of Middle English, although there are extraordinarily rich efforts to bring him to a broader audience, most notably Nevil Coghill’s splendid verse translation of The Canterbury Tales. Coghill was a friend and colleague, a fellow “Inkling,” of C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He shared their reverence for the Middle Ages and their felicity and joy of expression. Nevertheless, to get the most of Chaucer it is necessary to encounter him in the original, an attempt too rarely made today. This can be done through the use of heavily annotated editions, such as the fine Riverside Chaucer. But we are blessed with another tool not available to earlier readers: the internet. It has made possible such efforts as Harvard’s Interlinear Canterbury Tales project, which allows the modern pilgrim to see an immediate translation below each line of Middle English.

As one progresses using this version of The Canterbury Tales, one relies less on the translation, and absorbs more of the original grace, passion, the muscular euphony, and, in short, the unmatched poetry of the Tales. Words from Middle English such as eek (also), yclept (called), yronne (run), ye (eye), bifil (it transpired), devyse (tell), wight (person), and bismothered (stained)—just to pick a delightful few— soon become recognizable and cherished. Eventually, then, the full savage beauty of the Middle English reveals itself, and one comes to realize that this is poetry as it would be written by learned, intelligent, and pious tigers. Life in Chaucer’s time could be nasty, brutish, and short, but it could also be noble, daring, charming, and rapturous.

Shakespeare reveals all that too, but with Chaucer there is added not only the charm of an almost-foreign tongue, but also the dimension of an open, mature, and reassuring Christian theology. Shakespeare may have brought English to heights never since equaled, but in Chaucer there are great treasures for those hardy enough to persevere.

Stephen B. Presser