Profits Now, Costs Later

David Woodruff

  • The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by Mariana Mazzucato
    Allen Lane, 384 pp, £20.00, April 2018, ISBN 978 0 241 18881 1

Back in 2004, when he was riding high, before the collapse of the venerable retailer BHS in 2015 and his recent naming in the House of Lords by the Labour peer Peter Hain as a ‘powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying’, Philip Green gave a self-congratulatory interview to the Guardian. Swaggering through his high-street stores, journalist in tow, he showed off his knowledge of the stock, his attention to product display, his grace while accepting customers’ compliments, and his perspicacity in offering discounted teddy bears with each £10 purchase. Readers would understand, he very much seemed to hope, that his extravagances – commuting to London from his home in Monaco by Gulfstream jet; absurdly lavish birthday parties; a private performance by Destiny’s Child at his son’s bar mitzvah – were rewards legitimately owed to a business wizard of prodigious talent and energy. ‘If one man’s better at something, he earns more,’ Green declared. To arrange things differently would be as senseless as giving less capable students easier exams. ‘There shouldn’t be a penalty for being good at something, should there?’

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