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Book Review: ‘Citizens Disunited’ by Robert A.G. Monks

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New book describes corporate corruption

New book describes corporate corruption

Citizens Disunited: Passive Investors, Drone CEOs, and the Corporate Capture of the American Dream by Robert A.G. Monks explores “drone corporations” and what’s gone wrong, who has done wrong, and how it could be made right with corporate America.

Monks starts the book telling readers that it “is a warning, a plea for involvement and a call to arms.” He writes, “democratic capitalism — the source of America’s vast wealth, the foundation of entire economic system — is threatened as never before in my eighty years, not from without but from within.”

He goes onto assert that America’s CEOs now decide where and how a company’s resources are deployed, which laws to evade for short-term gains, which offshore havens to stick profits to avoid paying taxes, and have found the ways and means to “lavishly compensate themselves.”

The author details misbehavior of major corporations and CEOs and he provides one of many big names right on the first page, Lee Raymond, a past CEO and board chairman of ExxonMobil. Monk writes that Raymond’s type of CEO has become commonplace in the corporate world and that “far too much of American business is being run for personal enrichment and glorification of its manager-kings.”

Monks doesn’t hold back on any of his criticism and critique of today’s corporate world and the CEOs that are running or more like ruining capitalism. He defines the complex mechanisms that make up corporations and how the most powerful CEOs have “effectively seized authority over a vast range of America’s corporate resources.”

Monks also looks at the role politics play in the corporate world and how the corporate world has reshaped political campaigns .The book details what Monks has deemed manager-kings, the ways that greed is awesome in some minds and discusses responsibility, accountability and shame. Those are three words that seem to have been stricken from today’s dialog especially in the political arena and the corporate world.

The author also defines drone corporations where “no single shareholder retains a principal position.” He offers a list of 50 companies that he considers drone corporations.

The book has parts that read like an angry rant by an author that is trying to give a true picture of what has gone wrong in corporate America and how the attitudes and business practices have to change. The tone is probably appropriate to illustrate the need for change.

Nonetheless, these companies do employ hundreds of thousands of people and have helped make the career of a multitude of professionals. Regardless of the attitudes of the current leadership in the White House, America needs to defend capitalism or it will be gone along with all the opportunities that made America the land of opportunity.

Instead, today’s prevailing attitude is to all but abolish capitalism and replace it with government jobs and dependence. At some point, Americans will have to choose between the corrupt corporate world or the corrupt government.

While this book does present an insider’s view of the corporate world with all of its flaws, I feel the timing is wrong for such a bashing. We have a new generation of workers entering the workforce and their attitudes are already highly tarnished toward corporations. This book could give them more fuel to hate the very fabric of America’s founding.

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