Healthy Money, Healthy Planet: Developing Sustainability Through New Money Systems
• Deirdre Kent
• Craig Potton Publishing
• $34.99

Sustainability is current buzz word among politicians and business leaders. It is on many lips; but lip service is about as far as it usually goes.
There’s barely even lip service paid to the idea that our present economic system is not sustainable. It’s bit like democracy. Most of us accept it without question; some worry about it but decide the alternatives are worse. Yet there are growing doubts about the sustainability, the very survival of the economic system that makes most of the world go round, and that we all depend on so completely.
Deidre Kent’s Healthy Money, Healthy Planet both confronts the realities and considers some of the alternatives. She argues, as do economists like Richard Douthwaite, that the present debt-based global economic system must continue to grow or it will collapse. “The ritual worship of the desirability of economic growth” can, she writes, be traced to capitalism’s total dependence on continuous economic growth because of the need to pay interest on borrowed money. Almost all our money supply is created by interest-bearing debt by private banks; the Reserve Bank has confirmed that only two percent of the money in use in New Zealand is created interest-free.
Collapse is not just theoretical possibility: witness the Argentinian and Thai economies and Japan’s struggle with its banks’ bad debts for over decade. “At the time of writing,” noted Kent, “Japan spends more than 40 percent of its taxation revenue servicing debt…” As Clyde Prestowitz pointed out in Three Billion New Capitalists (reviewed in Management, August 2005) there is increasing concern about America’s ability to fulfil its international financial obligations: the US trade (current account) deficit was about $650 billion in 2004, financed by huge overseas borrowing, and mortgaging large US assets to foreign lenders.
Deirdre Kent, previously the tenacious leader of the country’s anti-smoking lobby, has written an impeccably researched book that deserves to be read. It discusses, in an agreeably jargon-free and readable fashion, how the current system works, or doesn’t. It looks at complementary economies and monetary systems – at possible changes to taxation, community banking, commercial barter – that have been tried successfully in various parts of the world.
The increasingly stark reality is that unfettered, unthinking growth is now both unsustainable and increasingly unacceptable. Healthy Money, Healthy Planet should be valuable resource in the essential, and overdue, debate on our economic options. IFG

The Character of Leadership: What Works for Australian Leaders – Making it Work for You
• James Sarros, Brian Cooper, Anne Hartican & Carolyn Barker
• John Wiley & Sons
• $29.95

A disturbingly unsatisfying read. The topic sounded compelling enough for us to ask for review copy from Australia. Surely, lessons learnt in that country could be applied equally as well here? Undoubtedly so. But this book tries to be all things at once: academic treatise, personal account and practical workbook.
The four authors have identified the 15 most important character traits of strong leaders and gone out to 55 executives from around Australia to gather their views on leadership. Somehow, their comments provide few insights and little appeal to the heart. Such wasted opportunity. RLP

The Solution-Focused Manager: Working with the Positive
• Robert Manthei & Ian Brooks
• Pearson Education New Zealand
• $24.95

Polyanna turns manager. Espouses relentless positive thinking to help managers dig out the best in situations: no matter how skinny that thread of positivity may be. Manthei and Brooks provide step-by-step guide to managers faced with coaching staff in difficult times.
Basically, it tells managers it’s okay not to have all the answers. In fact, they should direct staff to find the answers in themselves.
A lot of the information is repeated but it’s still good stuff for anyone contemplating their role as manager, coach and counsellor rolled into one. quick and easy read. RLP

Roderick Deane: His Life & Times
• Michael & Judith Bassett
• Penguin Viking
• $49.95

How valuable are the lessons of history? When it comes to politics, and in particular the politics of economics, it seems not at all. We simply recycle the same mistakes – that at least appears to be the lesson of this particular history book.
Dr Roderick Deane, banker, bureaucrat, business leader and, most of all, economist, spent sizeable portion of his, to date 40 valuable working years, reshaping and releasing the New Zealand economy and revitalising several of its key enterprises. Now he stands watching from the sidelines as his handiwork is systematically, unceremoniously and quite deliberately unstitched, and rebound in regulation.
Deane is learning the hard lesson, one he no doubt knew in his heart, that it is impossible to reconcile the irreconcilable – commercial reality and political integrity. There are, nevertheless, score of lessons for managers intent on understanding the realities of our economic, commercial and political environment. The lessons are there because Deane meticulously recorded them and delivered them to Michael and Judith Bassett to recount – not so much with style but with critical accuracy.
The book is first blow-by-blow, round-by-round account of one of the most captivating prize fights of our relatively recent political and economic history – the battle of the (economic) bulge. committed command and control Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, battles to the death with the Friedmanite forces of liberal market economics as practised by Deane and other Reserve Bank, Treasury and reformist Labour Party politicians led by Roger Douglas.
Then there is the recounting of Deane’s days of disassembling and rebuilding of New Zealand’s State Services Commission – days in which he learned, much to his chagrin, that politics and honesty of intent seldom associate, even when you are on the same side. Some valuable, if predictable, lessons to learn here.
After just year at SSC, Deane moved to the top of ECNZ, the former State-run Electricity Department that became one of the first of the State Owned Enterprises he helped the 1980s Labour government and its subsequent National government successor, create. And finally to Telecom, first as chief executive and then as chairman where, as they say, the rest is history.
Deane has been, indeed still is, an extraordinary management icon. He developed his own management style, conceding that: “most of my management was self learnt, self taught and, what I learnt from others was just by observation”. His powers of observation served him as well as his powers of concentration when it came to learning anything new.
The book lists Deane’s standard management rules, most of which focus on the need to attract great people, turn them into team and lead them intelligently. This is not classic management text, but as slice of important New Zealand economic and political history and as snapshot of outstanding management in action that is relevant to every Kiwi manager, this takes some beating. RB

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