Dr Samuel Johnson once said “the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England!” In this respect William Hopper considers himself to be a typical Scot. After graduating in modern languages from Glasgow University in 1953, Dr Johnson’s high road took Hopper through two years in the Royal Air Force and three years on Wall Street to London, where he has lived ever since. Hopper spent most of his career in the City of London, working for the merchant banks SG Warburg, Hill Samuel, and Morgan Grenfell.
In his Viewpoint article, Hopper stresses that there is a big difference between merchant banking as practiced in the City of London before “Big Bang,” when markets were deregulated in 1986, and the investment banking practiced there since. Whereas a merchant banker is someone who works for his customers, an investment banker is someone who works for himself, argues Hopper.
He left banking to become a Conservative MEP, serving for Greater Manchester West in 1979–84. With his elder brother Kenneth, Hopper published The Puritan Gift: Triumph, Collapse and Revival of an American Dream in 2007. This was declared one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year by the Financial Times and is now into its second paperback reprint and being translated into numerous languages. Among other things, The Puritan Gift predicted the current banking and financial crisis.
What is the “gift” of the title of your book, and how is this relevant to today’s business and managerial culture
The Puritan migrants who came to America from England in the 1630s brought with them a highly successful managerial culture. This was their “gift.” Over the course of the next three centuries we argue that the gift was the driving force for the economic development of the United States, which transformed itself from 13 former colonies into the most economically successful nation on earth. During its occupation of Japan in 1945–52, the United States implanted this same culture into its defeated enemy, and we argue this was what gave rise to the Japanese economic miracle. Before World War II, “Made in Japan” meant “poor quality.” After the war, it increasingly meant the opposite. The Puritans’ gift to America became the United States’ gift to Japan. The Japanese later exported the gift to the Asian Tigers. Thus a managerial culture with its origins in sixteenth-century East Anglia ended up influencing a large part of the globe.
What did this culture consist of?
There were four main characteristics, all of which can be traced back to the earliest days of the early American settlers:
a conviction that the purpose of life was to create an ideal society;
a moral outlook that subordinated the interests of the individual to the common good;
an aptitude for the exercise of mechanical skills;
a high degree of managerial skill.
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