802 Bookshelf: Corporate Predators – The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, Common Courage Press, 1999, 203 pp., paperback, $14.95
Volume XCIX, No. 11December, 1999
The ever-increasing power of modern-day corporations has been the subject of many scholarly papers and full-length books, some of which have been reviewed in these pages. If you don’t have time for such heavy (and depressing) reading, “Corporate Predators” is for you. This easy-to-read book consists of 60 short – but not sweet – examples of how Big Business abuses its immense economic and political influence.
An introduction by Ralph Nader outlines the book’s wide scope: “bribery, pollution, corporate crime, fraud and abuse, failure of law enforcement, union-busting, the mayhem inflicted by product defects and toxics, the deep gap between the rich and the rest of America, corporate front groups, the media censorship and self-censorship, the profiteering, the pillaging overseas and more.”
Investigative reporters Mokhiber and Weissman are, respectively, the editors of the weekly Corporate Crime Reporter and the monthly Multinational Monitor, which for years have chronicled the excesses of Corporate America. “Corporate Predators” is a compendium of some of their weekly columns, “Focus on the Corporation,” which are available to computer users on line (e-mail email@example.com with the message: “subscribe corp-focus <your name>”). Its first chapter establishes the book’s theme: “Homicide, robbery and burglary are down across the board, but health care fraud, public corruption, environmental crime, securities fraud are enjoying banner years.”
Although corporate crime and violence inflict “far more damage on society than all street crime combined,” the authors say, business crimes are often prosecuted under civil, not criminal, law. This makes them punishable by fines and monetary damages, not with the prison sentences imposed on even petty thieves. Not content with this favored treatment, business interests are now lobbying to outlaw criminal prosecutions and forbid punitive damages in civil cases. “We should take a hard look at the costs of granting corporations the rights of persons and citizens,” the authors advise. Corporations shouldn’t “enjoy the benefits of personhood, while at the same time skipping out on its obligations.”
Nearly everyone in present-day America is entertained by, purchases goods from, and directly or indirectly works for the corporations that are the subject of this book. “Corporate Predators” is a look behind the slick p.r. facade of Big Business. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky’s back-cover blurb says, “The incisive and sharply focused snapshots presented here give a telling portrait of the most dangerous forces undermining what is decent and hopeful in American and global society. [It is a] warning that should be taken very seriously.” If it’s not at your local bookstore, “Corporate Predators” may be purchased from Common Courage Press: via the internet at www.commoncouragepress.com; by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or using “snail mail” addressed to Box 702, Monroe, ME 04951. It may also be found in Local 802’s library.