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Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World Hardcover – 2 Jul 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142369
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142369
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A remarkable book...Stephen Green weaves together his reflections on economics, geopolitics, history, philosophy, literature and religion against the background of the current crisis. Deeply challenging as he confronts the most vexed questions of our age.' -- Lord Griffiths, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International

'An intensely intimate, refreshing and at times searing read ... Green's book should be required reading in business schools and boardrooms where flip charts and Powerpoint presentations dominate.' -- Evening Standard

'Entertaining, unpompous, clever, likeable ... Stephen Green is remarkably like his new book ... a stunning tour de force analysis of the state of the world.' -- Management Today

'In this very personal book Stephen Green offers a moral reading of the recent economic crisis, setting it in a 2,000 year sweep of scripture and economics, history and literature that runs from Isaiah to Faust.'
-- Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum

'There could hardly be a better moment for this book to be published.' -- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Review

'A remarkable book...Stephen Green weaves together his reflections on economics, geopolitics, history, philosophy, literature and religion against the background of the current crisis. Deeply challenging as he confronts the most vexed questions of our age.'

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
This is a rather rambling look at various aspects of trade and finance by one of Britain's top bankers (at the time anyway - see note below). We wander along from one subject to another, from Milan cathedral to Goethe's Faust to Buchenwald concentration camp, taking a little deviation into child psychology along the way, following a vaguely philosophical thread about globalization and, it seems at times, anything else the author feels like writing about.
Some of it is interesting, though occasionally it reads a bit like a school textbook, or a few paragraphs from several school textbooks - a brief history of civilization, a touch of the classics, the scriptures.

Written in a straightforward style, it's an easy enough read, with a very sound message about morals and corporate responsibility. Unfortunately the one thing that might have made this book stand out - a few revelations about life at the top of a large global bank, from this insider of the financial world - we don't get. The closest we come to anything really critical about banks and their role in the 2007/8 financial crisis (which I think is the peg for this book, though it's possible the author intended to write this anyway and the crisis came along while he was doing so) is a reminder that the sins of arrogance and greed are hard to forgive.

So in the end the most interesting thing about this book is the fact that the author, who was the chairman of HSBC bank when he wrote this in 2008/9, is also an ordained priest in the Church of England, and in 2010 became minister of state for trade and investment, joining the House of Lords as a baron.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bankers are in the doghouse seen as the main culprits of the recession. It is therefore an important event that a highly successful prominent banker presents his convictions about moral standards. The book leaves you in no doubt that Stephen Green (SG) is a banker with good intentions, writes what he honestly believes, and wishes banks to contribute to the well-being of society at large and most importantly tells what should change and what cannot.

SG makes several "final" statements about the economic system that he believes to be true, which coming from a person with so much credibility should be accepted by all.
For example: "The Friedmanite (Milton Friedman) idea that the sole job of a business is to create profit for shareholders has proved insufficient to sustain value and-in the end- a bad deal for shareholders". Richard Lambert, the Director General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) still wrote in 2010 in the FT: "Business in some ways quite simple. It has clearly defined aims. The aim is to make money." And Lambert is far from the only one still holding this view.
Other example: "Government oversight, regulation and, in time of stress, intervention are essential". "Markets cannot be relied on to be stable and self-regulating". Good-bye to laissez faire and egocentric country sovereignty.
Other example: "Nor can the market be relied upon to be sufficient for a balanced social development (that is solve poverty problems)"
However, make no mistake SG consider the free market the prime force for the development of prosperity; he makes many suggestions how to channel it for the benefit of society at large.
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Format: Paperback
"Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality, and an Uncertain World" appears to be a re-branding of an earlier book entitled "Good Value: Choosing a Better Life in Business" published about a year earlier by the same author; yet the former has no references i can find to the latter. i presume if you have already bought one version, you would naturally check the other before purchase, but it does seem odd nonetheless.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As questions have only recently been raised regarding HSBC's actions under Green's management, perhaps it would have been easier to take this book at face value beforehand. However, with that Pandora's box remaining open, and firmly ignored by Green himself, it becomes difficult to take the underlying message of this book seriously. Even if one attempted to do so, the ethical capitalism supposedly championed in it only really makes an appearance late on in the book (for anyone wanting to jump straight to it, I'd recommend only reading the final chapter). Perhaps, then, the notion of too little too late is a fitting eulogy for Green's book: regarding the actual message, the point at which it makes an appearance in said text, and also for his seeming inability to follow his own teachings in practice. Whether hypocritical or idealistic, the message remains somewhat deflated as a result. Nevertheless, The book provides a reasonable whistle stop tour of the history of capitalism in a digestible format, so all is not lost - only seemingly the main impetus for writing and purchasing the book unfortunately.
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