In the original dustsheet. Black cloth binding with white title on the spine.
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For readers interested in how religion informs views of capitalism, this is an excellent example. No matter what you think of Green’s argument, it’s a beautifully written and lucid book that ranges widely in history and literature. It’s a book not just about financial policy but about living a meaningful, examined life.
As a writer, Green has an eye for telling factual detail. To cite just one example, on globalization: “I have listened to the work of an Italian composer (Puccini) in a Chinese opera house (in Beijing) designed by a Frenchman (Paul Andreu).” At its core, though, this is a book about what Green sees as the limits of capitalism and how he hopes to transform it.
Early on, Green quotes Milton Friedman’s view that “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” Green calls that view “dangerously simplistic,” and says businesses now “must consider value from the perspective not just of investors, but of customers, employees, suppliers, communities and – increasingly – the environment, too.”
Green’s own feelings about free-market capitalism are mixed: “At its best, as we have seen, there is no more powerful engine for development and liberation than the market. At its worst, it is a dangerous moral pollutant that nourishes some very poisonous weeds in us.” At times, Green is downright hostile. He quotes Paul: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Money, he writes, has become “the modern Mephistopheles,” the servant of Lucifer, the Devil.
What is the alternative? “After 2007-2009, the manifest failure of market fundamentalism and the need for a rebalancing of the world’s economy will inevitably be the starting point of a new world order,” Green writes. “The underlying question will be whether world leaders can construct a shared vision of a global economic order that preserves the dynamism of market forces while taming their excesses (in both risk-taking and reward).” Green expresses hope that what he calls “ethical capitalism” will supplant what he calls “the ideology of market fundamentalism.”
This “ethical capitalism” has an ideology of its own, which, while its truth may be self-evident to Green, is by no means universally shared. “My interpretive prism is Christian,” Green writes toward the end of the book, again quoting Paul: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” “The ideal, and the hope, stand the test of time,” writes Green. This may well grate on Jewish readers who don’t look forward as ardently as Green apparently does to the elimination of their unique identity. They and others may, as I did, find this particular critic of “market fundamentalism” to display a certain fundamentalism of his own, and one that isn’t without its own dangers.
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