‘Superclass’ Author David Rothkopf Submits to Our Questions

David Roth
David Rothkopf chronicles and lives among thesuperclass. Photo: AP

Globalization has challenged the notion of the Establishment, that sixties concept of a small inner circle of politicians and businessmen who supposedly ran America. In Superclass, David Rothkopf tells us who these 6,000 or so new international oligarchs are, what they're after, and how any real change has to come from them.

You called your previous book, about the White House's foreign-policy makers, Running the World. Doesn't this book contradict it?
Irony in a title is risky business. Clearly these guys are trying to influence the world, but they're far from running it. Something is happening that is increasing inequality in the world, and if you want to fix that, you've got to look outside the U.S. system.

But many Americans seem impatient with NAFTA and other global institutions.
They think the game is rigged. And the reality is, the game is rigged.

But global governance requires global institutions, and that requires that people cede authority to the international level. All the proto-nationalists who want to help the little guy end up hurting the little guy. Listen to presidential candidates. It's more like, "Can we opt out from the world? Can we build a wall? Can we disconnect from the WTO?" And the answer is, only if you have a real strong impulse to self-destruct.

Do you blame the international superclass for our current financial mess?
These markets that are volatile at the moment —securities [mostly] — are unregulated. In many cases they are unregulatable. They're truly global. This was really the playing field of the financial superclass for the last decade and became the stock-in-trade of companies like Bear Stearns. The same people who said "Let us self-regulate these markets" all of a sudden said, "Oh my God, we need national officials to step in and help us." The Fed did something unprecedented since the Depression. They stepped in to help the kind of institution they don't even regulate. So it's inevitable that critics are saying, "Hey, wait a minute, how come they're getting this bailout help to create liquidity for people whose avarice has led them into making bets they shouldn't be making?"

Hillary or Obama?
I guess I'm a Hillary person, more or less. It's no time for on-the-job training, and I think Hillary Clinton has a more sophisticated worldview. There are many things to recommend Barack Obama, but his campaign isn't what it says it is. It¹s not radically different. Here¹s a Harvard Law Review editor, married to his Harvard Law classmate, and their Harvard Law friends all go into senior positions at Citibank and other institutions.

In other words, superclass members. Why are there so many of them in New
York?

Proximity to other elites is comforting. You can live in New York and live inside the bubble. These people do have more in common with each other than with the places they come from. Where do you learn to be more like one another? New York is where they learn.
Boris Kachka