cover image The Profiteers: How Business Privatizes Profits and Socializes Costs

The Profiteers: How Business Privatizes Profits and Socializes Costs

Christopher Marquis. PublicAffairs, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5417-0352-0

Big business is “exploiting the public commons while convincing us that repair is our individual responsibility,” according to this impassioned exposé. Marquis (Mao and Markets), a professor at the Cambridge University Judge School of Business, points out that Amazon relies on public roads to deliver its packages, yet paid only 6% in federal corporate income taxes in 2021 despite record profits. Walmart, in turn, pays some employees so poorly that they qualify for food stamps, shifting the responsibility for supporting workers to government benefit systems. Examining how businesses shirk blame for environmental pollution, Marquis contends that plastic recycling allows companies to continue manufacturing wasteful single-use items while placing the onus for proper disposal on consumers, even though most plastic labeled as recyclable can’t be reused and gets sent from recycling facilities to landfills. Marquis enrages readers with his accounts of corporate chicanery, but he injects some hope by highlighting individuals and organizations working to change flawed economic incentives. For instance, he discusses how in 2020 entrepreneur Eric Ries launched the Long-Term Stock Exchange, which seeks to curb the reckless pursuit of short-term profits by requiring listed companies to “measure success in years and decades.” The result is a galvanizing call to rein in corporate malfeasance. Agent: Jane von Mehren, Aevitas Creative Management. (May)