Watch: From a Rural Dairy Farm to Writing about Billionaires and the Political Power of Great Wealth

“I started out poor,” on a dairy farm in rural southern Ohio, remembers Darrell West. “The cows got running water before the house did because it was more important for the barn to have it.” In this video, West opens up about his rural childhood, how he attended public high schools and universities, taught political science at Brown University for 26 years, and now is vice president and director of Governance Studies at Brookings. He also discusses his motivations for authoring the new book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust (Brookings Institution Press, 2014).

“We now are seeing billionaires becoming much more active in trying to influence the election process,” West observes. “They’re spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars pursuing their own partisan objectives, often in secret from the American public. And so it’s really the combination of wealth and secrecy that is most problematic about the contemporary period.”

Watch the video to learn more about why West wrote the book, and visit our Billionaires page for interactive presentations on who the wealthiest people in the world are.