Who Shrank the Public Sector?
The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy
By Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich
(Berrett Koehler Publishers, 2005, $15)
As someone who has worked in the private sector his entire career, I almost put this book down after the first two chapters. It seemed to be an imbalanced attack on American business. However, my curiosity prevailed, and I finished the book. That was my good fortune, for
The Fox in the Henhouse
is an eye opener that left me with deep concerns about the trend toward privatizing the public sector in America and the effects this is having on our democracy.
Kahn and Minnich's chapter describing how our prisons have been privatized is especially instructive and sobering. The co-authors ask questions that make the reader think about what a democracy should stand for and provide its citizens. The book delineates the strategy and tactics of some political conservatives whose agenda is to minimize the role of government and the responsibilities of the public sector. And it illustrates how successful they have been.
Even as a career business person, I have never assumed that shifting work from the public sector to the private sector is automatically the right thing to do in the name of presumed efficiencies, even when they really exist. Other things must be taken into consideration, including our core beliefs about democracy and the role of government. This book is a fascinating and troubling read about one of the most pervasive trends in our society today.
Reviewed by Guy Fincke
School of Hard Knocks
Money, a Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash
By Liz Perle (Henry Holt, 2006, $23)
Since money is a bigger taboo than sex these days, Liz Perle's book has an enticing title. After her husband leaves her in the lurch and jobless with a young child, she takes a downwardly mobile journey to survive. But what she eventually learns about herself and her true values is worth the sacrifices.
Like the author, too many women end up depending on someone else for their financial security and find out that the guilt and anxiety aren't worth it. Perle's honest story about growing up is the best part of the book-even if you already know that a fancy kitchen with double ovens and a six-burner range won't really bring you happiness.
In chapters such as "The Emotional Middle Class," and "Death of the Inner Stewardess," Perle assures us that time to simply live and quality of life trump luxuries. After interviewing 200 women, as well as financial "experts," her conclusions amount to mostly platitudes, however: Money doesn't bring us love, self-esteem, or even security. But even if you already know this, it's interesting to watch someone else discover the big news.
Reviewed by Jill Teitelman
Testifying to Life
Creating the Good Will
By Elizabeth Arnold (Penguin/Portfolio, 2006, $23)
This well-organized, readable book is filled with information about estate planning of the type that will resonate with More Than Money members. It offers solid discussions of the financial and legal structures in estate planning, but it focuses on family relationships and the desire to share values across generations. Indeed, the subtitle calls the book a guide to "both the financial and emotional sides of passing on your legacy." Elizabeth Arnold has a law degree from Harvard and a business degree in taxation. But she majored in religious studies as a Yale undergraduate, which comes across as she reviews the benign neglect of personal values and relationships in her field. Arnold started off as an estate attorney. Her father died when she was 28 years old, and she came face to face with the intensity of her own family's grief. This led Arnold to create a new kind of consulting business, one helping families address the emotional dimensions in estate plans-saving them "both grief and money" in the process, as she writes. She established a company called Sowing Seeds for this purpose. She describes her work using anecdotes, check lists, and sidebars of good sensible advice. "Death naturally brings loved ones closer together," she writes. Don't let your will-or lack of one- tear them apart." Arnold closes by reminding readers that "in the end, you are the greatest gift you have to give" and "it's never too late or too early to start" an estate plan. This book may inspire you to get started.
Reviewed by Katharine Gratwick Baker
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