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Life at the Bottom – the
worldview that makes the
underclass
- by Theodore Dalrymple

This is one of the finest recent commentaries on the socio-political malaise that has descended on the western world since the 1960s.

Its subject is the British underclass, but the insights are relevant in all classes and all societies.

The author, who uses the pseudonym above, is an experienced and well-travelled doctor, whose work in an inner city hospital and the prison nearby have provided him with an eye-opening fund of case studies. Add to this prose of a sublime quality, and you have what has become an instant classic. Dalrymple has been likened to Orwell as an essayist, and the comparison is entirely appropriate.

He convincingly disposes of modern myths relating to the causes of social dysfunction, and lays bare the damage done by a worldview that holds up consumerism and self-gratification as the chief goals in life. Leaders in all walks of life need to read this brilliant exposition of the human condition at the beginning of the Third Millennium.

 

The Mystery of Capital
– by Hernando de Soto

The premise of this book is simple – capitalism has worked in the West and hardly anywhere else because of the successful implementation of formal property rights.

The internationally-acclaimed Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, backed by a team of dedicated researchers, shows how the poor in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, possess assets valued at forty times all the foreign aid transmitted to the Third World since 1945. But because they have no legal title, they are unable to capitalise on those assets.

 

 

The value of untitled real estate in the world is close to $10 trillion, but the researchers found that getting legal title to land, for example in Peru, required 728 bureaucratic steps. The lack of commitment to the rule of law, and the absence of formal property rights, shuts out capitalism and locks the poor into a life on the treadmill.
 

Leaders in business and communities need to ponder long and hard the implications of De Soto’s message. He has earned wide praise from the political establishment, but one wonders whether many in that realm really want to make the changes required.
 

 

Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

There are few leaders whose life and work have provided more valuable lessons than Abraham Lincoln.

There are many fine books dealing with the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, not the least of which are Carl Sandburg’s superb history and the works of Bruce Catton on the American Civil War.

However, this fairly recent study by Doris Kearns Goodwin is as good a place as any to begin to understand the greatness of Lincoln, and the magnificent example he set for leaders in all fields of human endeavour.

The title underlines the main theme of Lincoln’s humility and commitment to truth in selecting a team of men who were in many ways a threat to him politically, but who he believed were the best men for the job. In the face of intimidating trials and tribulations, Lincoln displayed inspirational leadership and remarkable managerial nous – and also the courage to stand firm on his principles at all times.

This fascinating appraisal of Lincoln entertains, instructs, and inspires, and is essential reading for leaders today.
 

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