Book Review and Competition: ‘Born on Third Base’ by Chuck Collins

September 20, 2016

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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Book Review: Born on Third Base: a one percenter makes the case for tackling inequality, bringing wealth home and committing to the common good by Chuck Collins.  Chelsea Green Publishing.  * Win a copy in our exclusive competition below! *

I am regularly, and rightly, asked about the extent to which the Transition movement successfully engages with disadvantaged communities and communities of colour.  But I can’t think of a single time when anyone has asked me how successfully the movement has engaged with the 1% community, the wealthiest members of our society.  As Boston-based Transitioner and inequality campaigner Chuck Collins argues, it’s a conversation we urgently need to have, indeed we will struggle to do Transition properly without having that conversation.  

The book he has produced, which both argues that those of us working for change need to reach out to the 1% and that the 1% need to step up and get involved, is utterly brilliant.  It’s a seminal, vital book which will be looked back on as one of the most important books on Transition ever published.  “Wealthy friends and neighbours”, he writes, “it is time to come home”, and “to come out of your gated communities and gated hearts”. 

Collins grew up in a one percent family in the US, and when he came into his inheritance at 26, he gave it away to good causes, and has since dedicated his time to tackling inequality through a mixture of writing, public speaking and activism, including the founding of Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition near Boston.  He argues that for too long there has been a class war, a distrust between rich and poor, and the book calls for a truce. “How is that rage and class war thing working for you?” he writes.  “Is it leading to any real social change?  And how is it affecting you personally?”

He argues that building a more equal society requires the wealthy to step up or, as he puts it, to “come home”.  He writes:

“Coming home will require us to deepen our personal stake in a web of systems and services in our communities.  It will inspire us to act, draw on our social networks, money, and sense of agency to make institutions more accountable, better resourced, and more responsive.  We need the wealthy to opt back in to our communities, not from a charitable arm’s-length distance, but up close and personal.  This is the pathway toward a truly more egalitarian society”. 

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Chuck Collins leading a Transition Tour of Jamaica Plain, Boston.

While the bulk of the book is aimed at the 1%, he also makes a powerful case that the rest of us need to up our game too.  He believes we need to:

  • Organise our communities to defend ourselves against the worst excesses of predatory and extractive capitalism – to build racial and economic equity and resilience
  • Recognise the 1 percent that lives in all of us – the ways in which we have privileges and advantages compared to others around the world.  Allow this to inform our strategy. Proceed with empathy
  • Reach out to the isolated and disconnected members of the 1 percent and build real connections with them, founded on respect and empathy
  • Create opportunities to invite the wealthy home – to bring to a locality their investment capital, charitable giving, social networks, and deep personal stake in their own liberation and well-being. 

The book doesn’t argue that change without the 1% is impossible, but he reimagines the title of Ralph Nader’s novel, from Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, to Only We Can Save Ourselves, But It Will Happen Faster (and Less Violently) If We Have Some Super-Rich Allies

The part of the book that gave me goosebumps was the chapter called “Wealthy, Come Home”.  It includes his 10 elements of a way forward.  While they expounded on in the book, their titles are pretty much self-explanatory:

  1. Root yourself in a New Story
  2. Tell True Stories about Wealth
  3. Help Redefine Wealth and See the Commonwealth
  4. Put a Personal Stake in a Place and Work for the Common Good
  5. Bring Wealth Home
  6. Catalyse Change around the Ecological Crisis
  7. Share the Wealth
  8. Pay Your Taxes
  9. Support the Leadership of Others, Especially Working-Class People
  10. Organise Your Peers.

It’s a deeply radical, compassionate, and inherently appropriate set of suggestions, one that I could feel rewiring my brain, and my approach to thinking about Transition, while I read it.  When you think about it, a key ingredient in most major social shifts are wealthy people moving to support innovators.  We all have a role to play here.

If I had one reservation, it is whether the arguments that are presented in this book are the ones that will unlock the hearts of those to whom it is (partly) aimed.  I don’t know anyone (apart from Chuck!) who qualifies as being a member of the 1%, so I don’t feel qualified to know.  But will this book, its tone and its content, be the key that reaches them?  I hope so, and the proof of that will be in how the book goes down.  But it’s the best shot I’ve seen at it so far…

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Buy yourself a copy, then buy 10 more to give away to the people you feel need to read it.  Finding the best way to navigate the troubled times that lie ahead will require our making the art of finding common ground the most important task at hand.  Doing so is not just about what other people need to do, it’s about what we need to do, how we need to change our thinking, our feeling, our being.  Collins writes:

“Changing these systems is fundamentally heart work.  Our larger project is about cracking hearts and minds open, starting with our own.  Notice the moments when your heart is beating, when the goosebumps flow down your back, when the connections happen with other people.  Savour them, and make more of them happen every day”. 

This book is utterly essential, and will do amazing things to your brain, will confront you with some challenging questioning and thinking, and will shake up how you think about Transition.  If that’s not the perfect ingredients for a book destined to become a classic then I don’t know what is.

Win a copy of ‘Born on Third Base’ in our exclusive Transition Culture competition!

Thanks to publishers Chelsea Green, we have three copies of Chuck Collins’ wonderful book to give away in our Collins-themed competition.  All we need to know is the first names of three other well-known Collins.  Here are your clues:

1.  This Collins played bass in James Brown’s band, went on to play with Parliament/Funkadelic, and most recently set up his own ‘Funk University’.  He appears on DeeLite’s classic ‘Groove is in the Heart’

2.  This Collins was born in 1933 and is an English actress, author and columnist, perhaps best known for playing  Alexis Carrington Colby in the TV series Dynasty. She has been married 5 times

3. An English novelist who died in 1889, who wrote The Woman in WhiteNo NameArmadale, and The Moonstone.  

So to enter, simply pop the first names of our 3 Collins in an email to  Closing date, midday on 4th October 2016.

Rob Hopkins

Rob Hopkins is a cofounder of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Network, and the author of The Transition Handbook, The Transition Companion, The Power of Just Doing Stuff, 21 Stories of Transition and most recently, From What Is to What If: unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want. He presents the podcast series ‘From What If to What Next‘ which invites listeners to send in their “what if” questions and then explores how to make them a reality.  In 2012, he was voted one of the Independent’s top 100 environmentalists and was on Nesta and the Observer’s list of Britain’s 50 New Radicals. Hopkins has also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought and A Good Read, in the French film phenomenon Demain and its sequel Apres Demain, and has spoken at TEDGlobal and three TEDx events. An Ashoka Fellow, Hopkins also holds a doctorate degree from the University of Plymouth and has received two honorary doctorates from the University of the West of England and the University of Namur. He is a keen gardener, a founder of New Lion Brewery in Totnes, and a director of Totnes Community Development Society, the group behind Atmos Totnes, an ambitious, community-led development project. He blogs at and and tweets at @robintransition.

Tags: economic inequality, the 1%, Transition movement