The late Wriston presided over Citibank for 17 years, until 1984, and was known for being a vigorous and outspoken defender of American capitalism and a critic of unwarranted or wasteful government intervention. This posthumous book draws together some of his late-in-life presentations and some previously unpublished material. His constant themes were the compelling importance, and the frequent unpredictability, of technological change; the dominance of brainpower over physical capital; and the need for constant adaptation in firms that wish to survive. This book's refreshingly candid approach takes on many conventional beliefs and practices, including the overreliance on government and private statistics of doubtful reliability; the anachronistic and arcane generally accepted accounting principles, with their 4,500-plus pages of detailed rules (in contrast to the European emphasis on clarity and general principles); the U.S. insistence on putting exact valuations on items involving such future uncertainty that they cannot now be intelligently valued; and the exorbitant compensation of American CEOs, especially in stock options and employment contracts that pay as much for business failure as for success.
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