What stuck with me most in reflecting on Rome, Inc. is probably not something the author intended. For all the relevant analogies between Rome and multinational corporations, the fact is that modern companies do not resolve their internal disputes by having the board hack the CEO to death (or vice versa). Whatever their depredations and structural lack of concern for those lower down in the hierarchy, corporations do not build strategies based on hundreds of thousands of people dying violent deaths. Even in the most bitter family-business feuds, CEOs do not kill their mothers and force their daughters to bed potential rivals.
The extreme violence of Roman society is more striking in Mr. Bing’s telling than in most history books. That’s partly because it’s a running joke — corporate politics are a distraction from the real business of “hacking and slashing” — but partly because he’s unconstrained by the politesse of historians. And that’s a service in itself.
For its unlikely but highly successful combination of dead-on corporate satire and historical insight, Rome, Inc., is our pick for best book.
Jonathan Weber ([email protected]) is the founder and editor-in-chief of New West Networks, a collection of online communities focused on the culture, economy, politics, and environment of the Rocky Mountain West. He was formerly the editor-in-chief of the Industry Standard.