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November 17, 2019 | Rome, Italy

Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World

By | 2018-03-21T18:39:23+01:00 January 27th, 2010|Recent Reviews|

By Stephen Green

Allen Lane (Penguin), 2009. 224 pages.

Find this book on display and the title alone might make you want to rush to the cashier. Author Green is not only Chairman of HSBC (the venerable Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, the world’s largest banking group) but also an ordained Anglican minister.

“Ah hah,” you say as you gobble up early mouthfuls of Teilhard de Chardin. “Hmm,” comes to your lips as you slow down and digest the useful history of financial markets from tulips to TARP.

But at a certain point you put your fork down and begin to wonder what exactly it is that you’re eating and just who it was prepared for. While chapters such as “Why Should I Do Anything for Posterity?” and “Faust and the Rich Young Man” suggest the book’s target is bonus-rich bankers afflicted with pangs of conscience, something’s wrong. Even presuming bonus-babies are philistines whose intelligence is job-specific, the patronizing tone gets wearying. Writes Green: “We cannot fulfill ourselves in business through power or work or wealth. We learn this in a variety of ways. Events can turn on us…we get [a promotion]and find that we drink from a poisoned chalice.”

Green may be an ordained minister, but at times he sounds more like a Sunday school teacher — for elementary school. What a disappointment!

Madeleine Johnson, Associate Editor
Madeleine Johnson has written her "Notebook" column for more than a decade. She lived in Italy for almost 30 years, mostly in Milan, before returning to the U.S. in 2017. Her work has been published in the "Financial Times" and "New York Post."

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