BOOKCASE Look Back Demand Less

Black Prince: Fintan Patrick Walsh
By: Graeme Hunt
Publisher: Penguin
Price: $45

Graeme Hunt enjoys recounting New Zealand history. With Black Prince – the biography of Fintan Patrick Walsh, he records with obvious relish an important and sometimes nasty chapter of our industrial relations and politico trade unionist past.
Walsh, or Patrick Tuohy as he was christened, learned his craft in the head-cracking years of US industrial relations between 1915 and 1920. He turned his apprenticeship to effect when he returned to an increasingly troubled post WW1 New Zealand.
Mystery and myth have surrounded much of Walsh’s private life, but Hunt succeeds in revealing more than has ever been available before. But more relevant than this charismatic and darkly powerful man’s private life, is the portrayal of Walsh’s political influence and his role in shaping the nation’s industrial relations in the years from the first Labour government’s election to power in 1939 to his death in 1963.
Walsh was unquestionably fearful man and an unforgiving political or industrial adversary. He was hated and feared in equal measure by employers and unionists alike. The nature of industrial relations through most of the 20th century and the legislation that sanctioned and secured it played their part in facilitating suspicion, duplicity, brutality, complicity, exploitation, political opportunism and generally unhealthy and unhelpful employer and employee working environment.
New Zealand’s industrial relations landscape between 1920 and 1970 was made for and created by unionists like Walsh who was, as Hunt describes him, “powerful, ruthless outsider who did not hesitate to bully anyone” who got in his way. These were days of generally and openly declared warfare, of the struggle between capital and state, between boss and worker. Even in 1963, just days before his death, Walsh demanded in his last speech as president of the Federation of Labour (the equivalent of today’s Council of Trade Unions) – though perhaps finally with tongue in cheek – “state control of retail banking to put the public interest before private sector bank profits”.
Walsh was an enigma, at once ruthless and unforgiving and yet “loving, kind and generous” to close friends and family. That he was effective and influential is beyond question. The answers as to how he became so are, by and large, explained or at least soundly rationalised in this book.
Hunt has succeeded in creating great read, in filling some important gaps in our social, political and industrial history and in putting into context the nature and tone of industrial relations in this country even today. Some employer groups already see parallels between the natural relationship Labour governments traditionally had with the trade union movement and legislation enacted over the past four or so years.
The landscape is, however, dramatically changed. But view of the future is always enhanced by revealing picture of the past. Hunt has painted it, warts and all.

The Death of Demand
By: Tom Osenton
Publisher: FT Prentice Hall
Price: $49.95

“Grow, grow, grow” has been the mantra of innovation and enterprise for the past 200 something years, but what is this, demand is dying and the market for almost everything is saturated? Heretic! Burn him at the stake.
But no, American author and columnist Tom Osenton argues compellingly, if not always entirely convincingly, that we have “killed demand by using our drive, ambition, and creativity to convince more consumers in more categories to consume more products more often and in larger quantities than every before” and our relentless push for more delivered the previously unthinkable: “saturation”.
There is now worldwide lack of demand, he argues. Over the past 100 years we have all but exhausted the essential three variables of consumption: the number of consumers – the rate of population growth is declining; the number of categories – there are simply too many products and product variations; frequency and volume – we have been on consumption binge that borders on the “gluttonous”.
There are now too many options and too much over capacity for growth to continue at its traditional clip and it has, since some time in the late 1970s, been in steady decline. The world is “over-flavoured, over-optioned and over-supplied” Osenton argues, and “no amount of price reduction will cause most people to rush out and buy more deodorant or toothpaste”. Corporations can’t cut costs any more either, so they will be forced to adjust to new set of economic dynamics that are not growth-based. That process will threaten relationships with shareholders and distribution partners over the next decade.
And what about the role of top management in the new “economic reality”? Well, you’ll have to read the book to discover the seven qualities of the new non-growth focused CEO.

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