BOOKCASE Enough Said

Affluenza: When too much is never enough
By: Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Price: $29.99

Writing in the International Herald Tribune back in March, former Business Week correspondent Michael Johnson reported the antics of ukulele player on the London Underground. To his astonishment, the crowded carriage filled the player’s woollen hat with money to show their appreciation of his apparently impromptu, five-minute performance.
Why, asked Johnson of the musician, did he think he got such generous response? “Happiness is not normally part of their lives,” he said. “The Underground is where they suffer most. I make good living doing this.”
Johnson then went on to politely ridicule Tony Blair’s New Labour government moves to establish “wellbeing index” for the British public. The index will, sometime late next year, quantify the degree of happiness New Labour has been able to instil in its citizenry.
What on earth has all this to do with new Australian book called Affluenza? Simple. This book, according to its authors, poses one simple question: If the economy has been doing so well, why are we not becoming happier? Never mind Australia, what about here? Same applies.
The book is, quite simply, about the “sickness of affluence”. It does not argue that everyone would be better off poor. But it does explain the problem created by not recognising material abundance and failing to focus on other aspects of life. And in doing so it shows up, rather starkly, the problems confronting free market economic theory that rests exclusively on eternal and ever expanding growth.
Hamilton’s previous book, Growth Fetish, reveals the direction from which this particularly high profile Australian economist comes. This book takes his case further, explaining how the growth phenomenon pervades every sphere of our daily life. The book is about affluenza’s spreading impact in Australia but, with single economic market now top of mind with our Labour Government, the analogies hold good this side of the Tasman.
The affluenza virus is spread by marketing which is, unremittingly, predicated on perpetuating and promoting the search for happiness. Happiness can only be found by inoculation with massive doses of choice. The symptoms of marketing and choice are the creation of desires and intensified feelings of deprivation and hastening obsolescence. “People suffering from affluenza do not know what they want, yet want everything.”
A compelling and troubling yarn that offers some thoughtful suggestions about alternatives. RJB

E-Myth Mastery: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building World Class Company
By: Michael Gerber
Publisher: Harper Business
Price: $34.99

The secret of successful business book sales is to coin new expression, phrase or catchword that, well, catches on. I may be accused of inhabiting the outer reaches of the universe but I had not heard of the ‘E Myth’ before opening E-Myth Mastery. This is obviously embarrassing to admit because I had also missed out on the preceding The E-Myth Manager, The E-Myth Revisited, The E-Myth Contractor and the oddly titled The E-Myth Physician.
There’s obviously mileage and the destruction of veritable forest of trees in the ‘E-Myth’ concept. As I was obviously supposed to know what it meant it was not immediately apparent from reading E-Myth Mastery. My best surmise is the less than stunning idea that it is myth to think that there’s not little bit of entrepreneurial spark in absolutely everyone and it’s matter of understanding and harnessing this. The entrepreneurial company is one in which, as Michael Gerber puts it, “the entrepreneurial consciousness is alive in all of its people.” By which he means “the person at the front desk. The accounts receivable person. The person entering data, and the person analysing the data she entered. The person consulting with client, as well as the janitor cleaning up the office at night. I mean the guy blowing the leaves off the lawn and the window washer.” You get the general gist?
And all thoroughly admirable, if not always so easy to achieve. But using the E-Myth credo – Don’t work IN your business, work ON it – Michael Gerber spends over 400 pages explaining, with lots of good common sense and some interesting ideas, how to achieve business nirvana.
I really don’t know if E-Myth Mastery will inject the necessary entrepreneurial spark into the average small business, and turn it into World Class Business, but Mr Gerber has, in addition to penchant for capitalising Important Points, certainly parlayed the E-Myth into very nice, not so little, business for himself. IFG

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