Magazine article Management Today

Cutting Room

Magazine article Management Today

Cutting Room

Article excerpt

A challenge for Leadbeater on internet issues, an appeal for business punditry, and an appreciation of Sweden's approachable Persson.

I seem to have found myself in some kind of intellectual dispute with Charles Leadbeater, the journalist, author and sometime government adviser. He wrote the new-economy bible, Living on Thin Air. (He tells me it's been dubbed 'Living on Thin Hair' by some of his friends, who've noticed his receding fringe.)

The book is excellently written but a tad over-enthusiastic about the new economy for my taste. Now Charles has written a follow-up booklet for the environmentalist Green Alliance, arguing that the internet (and other new technology) should increasingly enable more environment-friendly economic growth. At his crudest, he appears to argue that we'll sit at home a-mailing each other rather than drive around burning up fuel.

For some reason. I've been asked to pen a response. Although I'd like to agree with Charles, I suspect that, far from reducing travel, e-mail is more likely to enable us to make new friends in Australia and encourage us to fly out and meet them,

Anyway, as soon as the engineers invent new energy-efficient devices, we invent more demanding forms of consumption. For example, although cars are in principle more economical than they used to be, people want to drive sports utility vehicles rather than Morris Minors. The result is that cars are no more efficient than they used to be - they just perform better. And nowhere is the SUV more popular than the epicentre of the new economy, California. So how green is my Silicon Valley? Not very.

Is profit a dirty word? From some media coverage you would think so. From Fat Cats and rip-off Britain to petrol prices, it's easy to make copy out of the 'pounds per second' that some huge corporation makes. Even companies that are losing money are deemed to be ripping us off and overcharging. It's ridiculous that, in the age of private pensions and the like, the public are led to think that shareholder returns are necessarily a bad thing.

So now the BBC's director-general Greg Dyke is determined that the corporation will not be unreasonably antipathetic to profits and business. Indeed, improving business coverage seems to be one of his five priorities at the BBC. Everybody here is on notice that better coverage is now required. …

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