Capitalist Fools

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9780385416740: Capitalist Fools

The author of Citizen Cohn exposes modern business evils, describing its strengths in its heyday, how Malcolm Forbes convinced the public that the good times would never end, and argues for a return to ethical business. Tour.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A scattershot rant whose targets range from feckless CEOs and venal Wall Streeters through conspicuous consumers. Using the righteous B.C. Forbes and his high-living son Malcolm (of Forbes magazine fame) as models, von Hoffman (Organized Crimes, 1984, etc.) offers a discontinuous critique of American commerce over the past 150 years or so. His working premise seems to be that the captains of US industry aren't what they used to be- -and that the country is the worse for it. Von Hoffman glorifies such pioneering capitalists as Andrew Carnegie, Pierre du Pont, J.P Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, David Sarnoff, Charles Schwab, Alfred Sloan, Theodore Vail, and Thomas Watson, Sr., while heaping scorn on their contemporary counterparts. The author's latter-day whipping boys include the likes of William Agee, Harold Geneen, Armand Hammer, Carl Icahn, Henry Kravis, Carl Lindner, Michael Milken, T. Boone Pickens, Jr., and Steven Ross. Asserting that, for all their faults, yesteryear's avatars of free enterprise left society richer than they found it, von Hoffman accuses today's professional managers and financial speculators of focusing on the main chance. Among other consequences, he charges, the opportunism pervading domestic business has helped create an entertainment- oriented generation more concerned with celebrity and glamour than accomplishment. Indeed, the author warns, the nation ``has come close to turning itself into a huge Kuwait.'' Whatever the merits of von Hoffman's notion that Big Business has precipitated a decline in initiative, he doesn't make much of a case for it. Save for one brief allusion to Microsoft's William Gates, for example, the author all but ignores the impact of microelectronic technology on the modern era. A one-note harangue, then, that sounds more like Miniver Cheevy than Jeremiah. -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

By interweaving anecdotes and biographical sketches of Malcolm Forbes and his father B.C. Forbes with those of business titans who were their contemporaries, von Hoffman blends solid historical research with social criticism. Readers looking for dirt on the Forbes family will be disappointed, as the author's intent was to write not about Malcolm Forbes and his times but "the reverse, his times and Malcolm Forbes." Von Hoffman argues that the captains of industry during B.C. Forbes's era--the Andrew Carnegies, the Charles M. Schwabs, and the Sam Insulls--were the true builders of America and made lasting contributions to their country. But when he examines Malcolm Forbes's contemporaries (the William Zeckendorfs, the Michael Milkens, and the Henry Kravises), he finds that, although they have amassed billions from American businesses, they have not built businesses--something Von Hoffman finds not only regrettable but disastrous. Although there is no index, the informative bibliographic endnotes make this book a wise choice for inclusion in the business history collections of academic and public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.
- Andrea C. Dragon, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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