|The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
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The Age Of Turbulence is Alan Greenspan¡¯s incomparable reckoning with the contemporary financial world, channeled through his own experiences working in the command room of the global economy longer and with greater effect than any other single living figure. Following the arc of his remarkable life¡¯s journey through his more than eighteen-year tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board to the present, in the second half of The Age of Turbulence Dr. Greenspan embarks on a magnificent tour d¡¯horizon of the global economy. The distillation of a life¡¯s worth of wisdom and insight into an elegant expression of a coherent worldview, The Age of Turbulence will stand as Alan Greenspan¡¯s personal and intellectual legacy.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, in his fourteenth year as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan took part in a very quiet collective effort to ensure that America didn't experience an economic meltdown, taking the rest of the world with it. There was good reason to fear the worst: the stock market crash of October 1987, his first major crisis as Federal Reserve Chairman, coming just weeks after he assumed control, had come much closer than is even today generally known to freezing the financial system and triggering a genuine financial panic. But the most remarkable thing that happened to the economy after 9/11 was...nothing. What in an earlier day would have meant a crippling shock to the system was absorbed astonishingly quickly.
After 9/11 Alan Greenspan knew, if he needed any further reinforcement, that we're living in a new world - the world of a global capitalist economy that is vastly more flexible, resilient, open, self-directing, and fast-changing than it was even 20 years ago. It's a world that presents us with enormous new possibilities but also enormous new challenges. The Age of Turbulence is Alan Greenspan's incomparable reckoning with the nature of this new world - how we got here, what we're living through, and what lies over the horizon, for good and for ill-channeled through his own experiences working in the command room of the global economy for longer and with greater effect than any other single living figure. He begins his account on that September 11th morning, but then leaps back to his childhood, and follows the arc of his remarkable life's journey through to his more than 18-year tenure as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, from 1987 to 2006, during a time of transforming change.
Alan Greenspan shares the story of his life first simply with an eye toward doing justice to the extraordinary amount of history he has experienced and shaped. But his other goal is to draw readers along the same learning curve he followed, so they accrue a grasp of his own understanding of the underlying dynamics that drive world events. In the second half of the book, having brought us to the present and armed us with the conceptual tools to follow him forward, Dr. Greenspan embarks on a magnificent tour de horizon of the global economy. He reveals the universals of economic growth, delves into the specific facts on the ground in each of the major countries and regions of the world, and explains what the trend-lines of globalization are from here. The distillation of a life's worth of wisdom and insight into an elegant expression of a coherent worldview, The Age of Turbulence will stand as Alan Greenspan's personal and intellectual legacy.
| || ||A Timeline of a Remarkable Career|
|Mar. 6, 1926 || ||Born in New York City|
|1936 || || At 10 sees Roosevelt campaigning; becomes expert on the 1936 Yankees |
|1938 || ||Takes up clarinet at 12 |
|1943-44 || ||Studies clarinet at Julliard |
|Mid 1944 || ||Joins Henry Jerome Band |
|1948 || ||Graduates (summa cum laude) from New York University. (He later earns a master's in 1950 and a Ph.D. in 1977, also from NYU.) Hired as economic analyst at the Conference Board. |
|1954-74 || ||Co-founds Townsend-Greenspan & Co. Inc., an economic consulting firm in New York City. (He returns in 1977.) |
|1974 || ||Nominated by President Ford as chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. |
|1983 || ||Chair of bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform. |
|June 1, 1987 || ||Nominated by President Reagan for Fed Chair. Confirmed by Senate August 3. |
|Oct. 19, 1987 || ||Only 69 days into Greenspan's term, the Dow drops 508 points and 22%. |
|July 10, 1991 || ||Nominated by President George H.W. Bush to a second term as Fed Chairman. Later nominated to a third (February 22, 1996) and fourth term (January 4, 2000) by President Clinton. |
|Apr. 6, 1997 || ||Marries Andrea Mitchell |
|May 18, 2004 || ||Nominated by President George W. Bush for a fifth term as Fed chairman |
|Jan. 31, 2006 || ||Completes 18 ? years at the Fed |
|Feb. 1, 2006 || ||Forms Greenspan Associates LLC, an economic consulting firm || || |
| Alan Greenspan's Top 10 Classical and Jazz Favorites |
Before Alan Greenspan embarked on his legendary financial career, he studied the clarinet at Julliard and played as a professional jazz musician (while doing tax returns for his bandmates). He chose 10 favorites for us from a lifetime of listening, including:
| Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 23|
| Vivaldi, Complete Cello Concertos|
| Coleman Hawkins, "Body and Soul"|
- Succinct yet naive view of economy and politics
Here is a little bit about about my relationship with this book. I first requested a copy from the library. Unbeknown to me, that copy was in large print, and was over 900 pages. Admittedly, I could go through the book with frustration, so I ended up buying a normal version.
"The Age of turbulence" has essentially three parts, the first was (almost) biographic. He talked about his life from his childhood to the day he stepped down as Fed Chairman. Reading this part, I could get a sense that, despite his position and access to privileged information, he is also surprising naive, as if he views were totally detached from the political process. Maybe it was this quality that he remain the Fed Chair for such a long time.
The more interesting perspective comes from his evaluations of the presidents whom he served with. What he wrote for a most of them (e.g., Nixon, Reagen, Bush Sr., and Clinton) were pretty much in-line with the public opinion, I was a little surprised that his opinions on W. was more optimistic than portrayed by the media. More surprising was that Greenspan attributed W.'s unpopularity to his insistence on cutting taxes in light of a rapidly declining GDP.
The second part consisted his view of the current geopolitics. His focus was much more on the former Soviet Bloc and the emerging nations. I have never cared much for economics, and outlined the various challenges that he think they might face, on the path to a free market economy (assuming that this is their economical goal). He also threw subtle hints, that the next ideological competition will be between the free market and the welfare state, though his leaning towards the former was indisputable.
The last part was a collection of his opinions on a number of recent global issues, from oil to the credit crunch. This is where his experience really shines. He has recast many of these public concerns into economical equivalents. For example, the issues of education and income disparity were rearranged as problems in wealth and immigration, both of which solvable in the near term through policies. And the *current* problem with oil prices lies in the disincentive in boosting refining capacities. These alternate views gives hope that, at current, human (i.e., political) intervention will still make solutions possible.
In the final chapter (I think he added a year later to address the credit crunch), he acknowledged the gravity of the problem. He described this bubble as euphoria followed by fear and, I could see how the presiding administration would have little interest in curbing the euphoria. Greenspan took a naive view on this issue. He assumed good faith on the part of the investors. This is ultimately an issue of financial discipline, and the lack of anticipation of human irrationality. But why the Fed further lowered the interest rate to fuel this euphoria is still beyond my understanding.
To tell you the truth, I never cared much for the economy. Econ 101 almost cost me my undergrad degree. Greenspan laid out the principles in very accessible form, and I can imagine his technical documents would be almost undecipherable to the untrained eye. There are also a lot of people who bear no love to this man, for the policies that came from his office. To me, he has performed much service to society, and he did so for what he believed was the common good. His willingness to share his point of view was valuable enough, for we have much to learn. This book changed my view and interest in something that I otherwise would not touch in my lifetime. I appreciate that....more info
- Anectodal and insightful window into the mind of a financial guru
This book is an insightful collection of thoughts and predictions from an economist of Greenspan's stature. Age of Turbulence can be separated into two distinct section. In the first, Greenspan traces his steps from a curious boy in New York through experiences in college, private sector, government and ultimately as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The rest of the book explores economic and policy issues providing Greenspan's opinions on the main problems confronting the World today and into the future. This second portion of the book is a denser read, but contains enough background to allow the casual reader to follow.
Of the whole book, I found his experiences on how government works to be very interesting and revealing. Complementing this, I also found interesting his candid perceptions on the strengths and weaknesses of the major policymakers in the last century. These were formed after working at various levels of government across multiple administrations.
I also appreciated his down to earth analysis of the trends that will shape domestic and foreign markets and how social factors play into these equations. He not only tackled issues of population aging, social security, energy , political stability, globalization and economic growth from a technocratic perspective, but also from a social and philosophical one.
Overall, I gained a lot from this book in terms of policy and economics, and also was entertained by his mix of anecdotes, opinions and analysis. ...more info
- There are hidden gems in this book
Reading this book immediately after The Snowball, I was struck by the similarities in world view between Buffett and Greenspan. They both believe in free market capitalism, they are both mathematical wizards and they grew up personally protected from the Great Depression , and yet they followed very different paths. Buffett went on to be the premier capitalist and Greenspan became a consummate public servant.
The history lessons in this book are terrific and give another side to many of the events that Buffett discussed. The real gem in my mind is Greenspan's analysis of the BRIC, South American and EU nations plus their challenges. Taking his projections and todays' events you see pretty well exactly how things will progress, some of it already. If you are doing business world wide you must read these chapters as well as the McKinsey work (and the Economist stats tables weekly) if you desire to succeed (survive) in these markets. Greenspan's 40 years at the tiller and numerous interactions at G7 and G20 meetings are invaluable.
I believe he is right. Inflation will return, as will higher oil prises. The US has an education (k-12) , Retirement and unfunded Medicare, Social Security crises ahead of it. He makes telling arguments against propping up old manufacturing industries. His analysis of the current meltdown rises above todays' politicizing. As well his is the first logical voice that shows the dangers of populism in politics, raising a fear that Obama may get himself into some dreadful morasses.
This was an easy to read book. He does mention that learning FedSpeak meant the loss of the use of English until he left. Good for a back and forth coast to coast plane ride. You will want to savour this one....more info
- An OK book
Greenspan is smart and gives a good picture of how the U.S. economy works(and sometimes doesn't).
Near the end of the book he talks about the regulation of markets, in particular the investment industry. He doesn't think much of regulation and says things like hedge funds perform a fundamental good in the economy. Would the country be worse off if a hundred highly leveraged hedge funds closed down tomorrow? I personally don't think so....the country may be better. Charlie Munger thinks that a lot of liquidity brings out a bad side in humans. I think this has been shown with the credit/real estate situation now.
Charlie Munger says that Greenspan overdosed on Ayn Rand. I think so too.
Other than that chapter near the end of the book, its a fairly worthwhile read....more info
- The Oracle Speaks...
This is a great book, but, I have some reservations about some of his statements. First, I love his writing style as he gives great perspective on the history of the Fed, and his associations with the Whitehouse, of which he has many.
I wonder though, about the way he sidestepped the whole late 90s dotcom boom and then thunderous bust. True, he did warn people, but at the same time: he did nothing to curtail the wild and free credit that was feeding the monster. He claims that there is no way to easily value stocks, yet, when something like Cisco has a market cap greater than the GDP of most countries on the planet, something is out of line. Obviously. And I have pointed out to the unwashed masses many times that the so called "Bill Clinton boom times" were in fact nothing but false economy created by loose credit, and a speculative boom in the dot com stocks. Both Clinton and Greenspan pat themselves on the back for those great times but really, how many Americans ended up screwed by AMT tax problems with their 401(k) plans, or having lost their life savings by investing at the top? Greenspan did nothing to pull the plug on the feeding frenzy and Wall Street, as usual, made hundreds of billions while the small investors were destroyed.
To make matters worse, then Greenspan blames George W. Bush for deficit problems and irresponsible tax cuts. The fact is: we were in a recession when Bill Clinton left office due to the blowout of the dotcom fraud, and Bush's immediate tax cuts stimulated the economy and we had a soft landing. Greenspan, as much as I admire the guy, is a little sleezy here by shifting blame around, and buttering Bill Clinton's bread. I wonder if he ever donned the "Presidential knee-pads" for the guy? Anyway, another indisputable fact is that America would have a balanced budget right now if not for the costs of the Iraq war. Bush has handled the economy well, and it is good that Greenspan retired. Now he can say he had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage mess, which in fact, he created by dropping interest rates to almost nothing.
The one thing that puzzles me to this day (and it cost me a lot of money), was his infamous "irrational exhuberance" speech. I was going to buy a lot of Amazon stock, but he made it sound like he was going to raise rates in '97 to choke off the stock insanity. He didn't do it, and the boom lasted another 2+ years. Dang that Fed Chief!!! I missed out on a great buy, and instead took a defensive position that cost me a bundle.
But I don't think anyone can disagree that Greenspan has been one of the great economists of all time, and his handling of the economy has been excellent. His book is a great read. But be aware, the old boy does have a few tricks up his sleeve about who was responsible for the economic problems we face. Greenspan, look in the mirror!...more info
- An inspiring and eye opening experience
I can't say enough positive things about this book. In the beginning I was immediately drawn in by the description of the 9-11 crisis from an global and domestic economic standpoint.
I was inspired by the life, and humility of Greenspan. It was a true pleasure to learn more about him, where he came from, and how he lived such an incredible life.
I was truly educated on the macro economics of the world (I don't have an economics background). He presented history, present, and future predictions with a tremendous amount of background detail and supporting evidence.
Coming away from reading this book I feel inspired by the work Greenspan has accomplished; I have a better understanding of the workings of our government on economic matters; and I have a tremendously better understanding of globalization, free markets, and the future of the global marketplaces in our society.
I found it a pleasure to listen the the book from end to end and strongly recommend the unabridged version of this book, I can't imagine leaving out a single word.
If you pass on this book you will be missing out on one of the most insightful and educational works available today....more info
- very informative...
good history, insight into the economic policy of the last few years.. Esp. for a freshman......more info
- A Truly Fascinating Look into Greenspan, Economics, and US Policy
Greenspan's "The Age of Turbulence" is a tour de force, an incredibly engaging, insightful, and detailed look, not only at the life and history of the most famous economist of the U.S., but of the key economic events that have shaken, molded, and served as the crucible for the global economy of the 21st century. Make no mistake about it: this is a book that will easily become a de facto standard of the genre, and will remain so for years to come.
From the opening pages of Greenspan's introduction we immediately become aware that this book is surprisingly well written, and that Greenspan has somehow managed to coalesce the mountains of knowledge and experiences he has accumulated over some six decades of public life into an imminently accessible and, yes, understandable, text. The book commences with Greenspan's flight back from Switzerland on 9/11, and the interruption of that flight with the news of what had happened in New York City that day. Greenspan peels back the history and lets us in on his many thoughts as his flight made an emergency return to Zurich, and then, subsequently, during his interactions with persons at all levels of the government and the banking system in the weeks that followed. This opening story helps orient us to some of the duties of a Fed Chairman during times of crisis, and it is from this scene that the rest of the book's narrative is then laid out.
The book is essentially broken into two parts: the first, in which Greenspan draws us through his own learning path through the years so that we can understand how he came to master individual economic events and systems; and the second, the application of these lessons learned toward attempting to understand what he calls today's new global economy. The book proper continues with this approach of mixing personal history with mini-lessons of economics, first starting with his childhood in New York, then moving to his teen and adolescent years, his PhD work, and his eventual move into government service. We read about his childhood fascination with numbers, his studies at Julliard in music, his love of baseball, his skill in conquering huge masses of data wherever he found them, and see in his upbringing the traits that would serve him (and us) so well in his eventual role as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank. As Greenspan weaves his story, we are introduced to numerous asides which explain to us many aspects of the economic system with which we may not yet fully understand or comprehend, and Greenspan deftly intertwines such didactic content in with these life events in a manner that makes us learn as we go, all the while not even realizing we are being educated as we proceed.
The sweep of the story is grand, and leaves little left unturned. We are allowed to peer into Greenspan's insights and thinking concerning Black Monday, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Rise of China, the role of Russia in world economics, the dot com bubble and burst, and, of course, the effect of globalization as it was ensconced immediately after World War II and how it appears today. In it, Greenspan not only makes his formidable knowledge of all these subjects known, but he also tells us his beliefs about many of them, and even tries to tell us how he thinks things may look a quarter of a century from now.
Perhaps most interesting in this volume beyond its educational aspects is reading about Greenspan's inner feelings about the various personages and events with which he interacted over the years. His comments about meeting Ayn Raynd, and the impact her thinking played upon his own, are both humorous and honest. His thoughts about Nixon, which he explicates - both good and bad - yield more insight that can be used whenever we study that portion of history. His comments on Ford, Reagan, and Clinton are also quite interesting, and it is a study in personality to see how he contrasts and compares these people as he winds out his story. Its a real "extra" for readers of the Greenspan's story.
A book that is as engaging as it is insightful, "The Age of Turbulence" is truly a "must-read" for nearly anyone interested in financial markets, capitalism, global economics, and the role of U.S. foreign (and domestic) policy. Buy it to learn and to become better educated, but read it to enjoy and savor. I'll bet you'll be as surprised as I at just how truly fascinating the work turns out to be....more info
- Lapdog/Houseboy For The Robber Barons
Intellectual, yet robber-baron partisan. I was horrified by Greenspan's book. He views 'income disparity' as the difference in income between skilled and unskilled labor. What the fu is he writing about?! He thinks that the supply of skilled labor in this county is artificially low. His solution to our problems would be to lower incomes for skilled labor. As an economist, he should know that only the incomes of MDs have kept up with inflation since at least 1972.
I would expect an economist to advocate legislation that would bolster free enterprise rather than foster a caste system. We need laws to discourage monopolist behavior and the milking of corporations by opportunist CEOs. Greenspan never addressed the corruption and failed to write a word regarding the crimes of big business.
Finally, Greenspan favors big coal, big nuclear, et al. rather than solar or wind power. I gather that his robber-baron buddies can not corner those markets.
- The dismal Scienttist AND author
I loved the first half of this book and couldn't wait for the latter half to end. The first half was written lovingly by AL and then second half was clearly an effort to fill in pages to achieve some mandated length. The book seemd to be a cathartic adventure for the author, and while much of this was written prior to the present credit crisis debacle, it is clear that Al saw this coming ... and that's what I find so wrong about it . Robert McNamara did the same thing about 10 years ago. "It wasn't my fault, I did the best I could" seems to be parallel theme.
The first half was a 5 star book and you should put it down at that point. The latter half was weak, long winded and repetitive. Average gives you 2.5-3 stars.
- The worst forecaster ever.
People are naive in that they listen to words, never check facts and believe the hype. Check out his forecasts through out his tenure and you will see he was the worst. Now that the world economy is in the dumpster you would think that people would wake up to this clown.
$13 trillion in GDP for the US and the Derivatives market is now at $600 Trillion. How does that work?
More smoke and mirrors from the banking syndicates number one spinner.
Helicopter Ben is just as bad.
- Excellent Gift
I purchased this audio book as a gift for my son. He said that it was very informative and entertaining. ...more info
- A Treasure
This is very well written book by a brilliant economist. A history of a person in a very influential and challenging position offering powerful descriptions of these experiences. ...more info
- Outstanding book
Greenspan's overview of his life, the economy, and the various presidents he served under was genuinely fascinating. A self proclaimed libertarian, Greenspan has an thorough and very fair review of the economic capabilities of each president he served under. I found it very surprising and his honesty on the economy very refreshing. ...more info
- There's a typo... but 5 stars, no doubt!
There's a typo on page 527! It's annoying, but everything else in the book is, to say the least, worth your while.
No one can deny that the first part, the real memoir part, is brilliant. There is no grandstanding, no self-aggrandizing, very modest. And the swipes on the personalities that he disagrees with are nothing short of perfect in rationality; and in using a relaxed tone in doing these, the personal hits appear even more effective.
The book also tries concisely to explain how FED works in the macro- and microeconomic environment. For one, you will understand why it is not possible to do that proverbial "when I become President" idea to eradicate poverty--i.e. it's impossible to just print more and more money to get your country richer and richer.
In trying to just pass by some important concepts though with just a quick footnote, the lay man may not fully get some of the `levers,' impact of controlling money supply, the give and take of increasing and decreasing reserves and interests, etc. The best place of course to learn all these is in an economics classroom with a textbook, but if you get the concept at first pass, the illustration flows perfectly into solid learning.
The writing is sometimes academic, and Greenspan loves to use "to be sure", to have transition between sentences or paragraphs. My advise is: if you don't get the thought in one pass, read the sentence/paragraph again to get full learning. (I would believe that one of the intention of the author here is to teach and let the public be aware of how, most of all, market economies work).
Greenspan's opinions on some of the contentious issues of present and future are short and just give options, but on others they are solid like there's no other choice (like in allowing immigration)--so you cant accuse the author of fedspeaking without standing for anything all the way.
Now on the most important part in this paperback edition... I think there's a sudden shift of tone, towards a bit of `fedspeak,' on the bonus chapter. I think if Mr. Greenspan has a chance, he would re-write this epilogue. It would be sour if he wrote this with a pure intention to excuse his tenure as having no influence at all to the current crisis. (Lehman did not fold yet when he wrote this update). This epilogue is more like saying nothing could have been done, except there should be more enforcement and laws on corporate governance, although he admitted in one of the public hearings already that there is a `flaw' in the system. Mr. Greenspan ought to write another book, even if just to extend this chapter. (I would also buy it).
But overall, this book should be judged on its merit and original intent, regardless whether we blame the person for this crisis or just plain hate or like his past policies on hindsight. When you read the book, everything is presented with reason and beliefs based on intelligent data and experience.
The book deserves 5 stars, no doubt.
- Best Non-Fiction Of The Year
Outside of some of the economic jargon this book was very easily read. Not only was it a bit of an autobiography but also a great historical perspective of the last 50 years in America. What I enjoyed most was the enlightenment he gave on the role of politics in economic policy. A must read....more info
- Amazing book
GREAT book, and red it non stop. I was ready to read it a second time when reached the last page. Very well written, good English, amazing explanation of the FED, the US Capitalist system, and most institutions. Great Bibliography too. Loooooooooooved it....more info
- self serving
I think this book is more about Greenspan's own ego playing on the world stage than it is about the job of the Federal Reserve. His descriptions of working with and insights into the personalities of U.S. Presidents beginning with Richard Nixon are interesting.
However, I got the distinct impression that he disliked doing the nitty gritty work of the Federal Reserve in favor of being known as a player on the world stage. For example, he quickly skims his involvement with the Savings & Loan Crisis in the late 1980's and 90's complaining about how much time he spent "...it was like having a second job..." and minimizing his professional consulting work for Charles Keating and Lincoln Savings & Loan. He had nothing to say about homeowners victimized by S & L's during that period, although one of the primary responsibilities of the Federal Reserve is the protection of the credit rights of consumers (See the Federal Reserve's website). He acknowledges that the domestic economic forecasting work was the result of a highly competent Federal Reserve staff. And the good economic times in the later 1990's were a function of President Clinton's economic astuteness and Pay-Go discipline in the Republican Congress.
I also think he bears more responsibility than he acknowledges for the current mortgage crisis. He happened to terminate in January, 2006 just before the current crisis mushroomed. ...more info
- The age of no regulations
Here is a 512 page master work by the ex Fed chairman. The first part is his life and rise to fame. Its humble enough and the writing is perfectly, all as one would expect. (This book was published in July of '07, just before the US housing deluge.)
It explains many interesting dealings and historically antidotes. For example how the US government made 500 Mill US$ on the Mexican "tequila" crisis in the mid 1980's. Or how the US Fed does not have explicit mandate under the to try to contain a stock market-bubble..
Or how the US government had been underestimating productivity growth for years. Or how the Long Term Capital Co. (LTCC) massive hedge fund collapse did not cost US taxpayers any money, as no bail out was ever made. The New York branch of the Fed just assisted and directed the banks to get to their senses. Surely though such a bailout would have happened had the Banks failed. All even while the FED at the same time was preaching Hong Kong and others not to interfere in their markets.
It shows how the Russian default crisis in September of 1998, just after the Asian crisis then, was probably even worse then the SE Asian fall out.
In the past many decades the only time the US government ran a surplus for several years (4) was around the turn into the 21th century -and this only due to the massive US stock market bubble at the time. Remember, at the time that bubble came undone when the NASDQ lost a stunning 50% between March and year-end 2000. George Bush JR. has the absolute record for not-vetoing any spending bill. Hence the massive US government deficit is back.
Many of such historical anecdotes are explained.
There is a very good review of different parts of the world, like South America with its ever dragging down populous policies, or India with its Fabian bent and overregulated society. Of the over 1 bill. Indians, more then 3/5 live in utter poverty (toil in unproductive agriculture) and only 1-2 million work in the IT sector, or far less then 2% of its population. India's economic growth in recent years is impressive, but it comes of a very low base. 40 years ago China and India had the same GDP per person, today China's is double that of India and increasing that lead. India remains heavily bureaucratic and its recent politics is leading India into a discouraging direction.
The book has a bit of an elitist tone in the sense that it pre-supposed the US is still the leading, strongest, biggest most progressive and best economy in the world. Perhaps so, but Mr. Greenspan it is changes at the margin which make "toute la difference". In this sense he disappointed me.
Nowhere does he address the issue of declining US influence.
What many seem to have missed in the debate over the ex Fed chairman today is that Mr. Alan Greenspan categorically states in his book, on page 231, regarding the US housing boom: "In late 2005... the boom was over". He never, but not once in the original release predicts the risk or even remote chance of a housing boom/bubble bust. How could he have failed on this?
He not only botched to see the obvious US housing bubble coming, he stated the boom was all over, just as it was starting to get got out of hand! Further, the largest share of the global increase in global real estate prices (some 30 trillion $) came right out of the US, at $8 trillion (his numbers).
Its so hardly accurate to state the US was a laggard in the global housing boom as he says somewhere,....and last but not least: much of the US housing boom/bubble could have been avoided not so much by raising interest rates which they failed to do, but by regulating the way over aggressive US housing mortgage lenders which were way far-of-control by literally pushing sub prime mortgages' out the door, as it turns out in a highly irresponsible matter.
If the Fed is the "lender of last resort" as it claims, it turned out the be the lender of worst resort, on all this. As today the US has a biggest crisis on hand on this.
In his last chapter "Delphi Future" Mr. Greenspan goes on the grand concept of projecting how the US economy might look in 2030. He identifies all kinds of uncontrollable risks, but not one of them includes even a hint to a possibility of a significant downtrend of real estate values across the country. An event which could send the US economy on a similar path as Japan. Stagnation for many years. Slow death, without the death part as I have identified in other writings.
Rightly so, he says again and again how strong property rights and upholding of the rule of law are the single biggest wealth creators stabilizers- over time.
He projects US and global interest rates will rise going forward (yet just the opposite happened) and identifies poor high school education as the real reason why there is such an earning discrepancy between the have and have nots in USA. Many rightfully so question this.
In mid January '08, it was announced:
Alan Greenspan, reportedly will now join a Wall Street hedge-fund firm named Paulson & Co., as an adviser.
John Paulson, a hedge fund manager made billions of dollars last year by betting against the housing market. He stated on Tuesday that the former Fed chief would advise the firm on "the global economy" and this for an undisclosed amount of money.
By joining the New York-based fund, Greenspan becomes the latest former Washington insider to work in the fast growing $2 trillion hedge fund industry....does it struck you a bit odd like me, that the man would go work for a firm which made a huge amount of money correctly foreseing the demise of the US housing market? ...more info
- From Guru to Pariah
When Alan's editors settled on "Turbulence" for a title, they probably thought it was catchy and good for peddling the book. Turns out, "turbulence" is apt for both the months following the book's publication, as well as Alan's reputation as a guru. A self-confessed libertarian and disciple of Ayn Rand, he cast himself a defender of capitalism and free markets. He snickered at the collapse of Soviet communists and the feeble economies of backward countries clinging to Fabian socialism. Yet, this former titan of capitalist thought has now regressed to apologist for our current financial system woes. A sorry sight, whimpering before liberal Congressional hearings that he "had no idea" that his easy money would corrupt. Maybe we should regulate more, or nationalize the banks, he mewled. How could this supposed mensch become such a mouse? His book holds the clues.
In the early pages of this 200,000 word tome, you will find in the young Greenspan, the makings of a nerd. A bit of a momma's boy, he liked to play with numbers. Particularly baseball statistics. This turned out to be good practice for later in his life, as an economist and prognosticator. He would gather data and on-the-ground anecdotes and weave them through statistical probabilities into a forecast of likely outcomes. This exercise, done with brilliance and rigor, served Alan well throughout his career. It is also one of his two Achilles' heels. For reliance on such methodology exposed him to the disastrous outcomes of black swan, once-in-a-century events.
Maybe if the Army had found him fit for service, he might have been toughened up a little, but they didn't. I see a thread throughout his life of a somewhat unstylish Alan who is socially ill at ease. He desperately wants to be liked. This is his second Achilles' heel. As he sought to ingratiate himself with powerful men, to be a player on the world stage, he succumbed to political pressures. We are all the worse for it. His book lifts the veil and makes transparent many of his actions and those of world leaders. Even stripped of guru status, we can still learn from Alan.
- Encyclopedic first hand account of economic history.
This book is so interesting. During his near 20 year tenure as Chairman of the Fed, we did not know what he thought. Now, we do. Instead of speaking through his cryptic Fed-speak, he expresses himself in clear prose. His mind set (free markets and deregulation) seems now antiquated. But, it will return in favor. This is the best finance type autobiography since Robert Rubin In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington.
This book has four parts:
1) An autobiography;
2) An outlook of major countries;
3) Investigation of crucial economic issues such as rising income inequality; and
4) An economic forecast till 2030.
Greenspan is an original individual who has lived a full life. He was a professional musician. But he soon developed a yearning for data. He was influenced by Ayn Rand objectivism and by Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction." In 1953, he co-founds a succesful economic consulting firm Townsend-Greenspan (TG). He becomes an early expert in econometrics modeling, and gets a PhD in economics from NYU in the late seventies.
Greenspan met all the Presidents since Nixon. He thought Nixon was very smart but paranoia. He liked Ford and thought he was much smarter than the Media conveyed. He had no relationship with Carter. He liked Reagan, as they shared a free-market philosophy even though they were different. Reagan was the master of the soundbite while Greenspan is a technocrat. In 1981, Reagan appoints Greenspan to chair the Greenspan Commission to shore up Social Security. This was a success of bipartisan politics as in 1983, the Social Security program was shored up and deemed to remain solvent until 2050. He had a cold relationship with George Bush Sr. as the latter felt monetary policy was too tight and ultimately cost him an election.
He had a great relationship with Clinton. Both men played the sax. Greenspan also got along with Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary, and Lawrence Summers, Assistant Treasury Secretary. The three will engineer the successful 1994 Mexican loan bail out. The Bush Jr. administration turned out differently from the reincarnation of the Ford administration. Now politics dominated pragmatism. Partisanship made governance dysfunctional.
Greenspan met many foreign leaders including Yeltsin. He thought he was smart and when sober. He also met British leaders including Thatcher, Blair, and Brown. He was very impressed by Thatcher and Brown. He met Sarkozy when he was finance minister just before becoming France's President.
His objective as Fed Chairman was "maximum sustainable long-term growth and employment." Greenspan explains why pricking stock market bubbles is risky: "The risk in clamping down during a stock-market surge is especially acute-it can pop the bubble of investor confidence, and ... can trigger a severe economic contraction." Later he explained how he developed an alternative: raising rates by only 25 bp more frequently to preempt inflation.
Greenspan notices the onset of the housing bubble in the rapid home price appreciation since 2002. He attempts to slow it down by increasing the Fed Funds rate by 350 bp between the end of 2003 and beginning of 2006, when he retires. In 2006, 40% of home mortgages were either Subprime or Alt-A. Those will be associated with the credit crisis. The latter was more due to credit underwriting than monetary policy.
In the next part, Greenspan analyzes the economic status of the World's countries. This part compares evenly with David Smick's The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy and Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World. He sees the EU as the archetype slow-growth welfare state-capitalism.
He states Japan suffered two decades of stagnation because of its inability to resolve their insolvent banks. China is a perplexing mixture of communism and market capitalism. He thinks it will become more democratic and its economic system will resemble Europe. This is after China improves its inefficient banking system. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore all fully recovered from the Asian currency crisis of 1997. And, they moved up the curve to exporting increasingly sophisticated goods.
India has to overcome huge handicaps. Only 1.5 million Indians are employed in the outsourcing information sector. 2/5th of its population is illiterate. 250 million Indians still live on less than a $1 a day. Half of India's homes have no electricity. The infrastructure is decripit. The electricity grid is inadequate. Labor laws, property rights, and bureaucracy are not supportive of market capitalism.
Moving on to Russia, he observes Putin's effort to fully control its governance and economy. Russia economy has succeeded solely due to rising energy prices as its economy is not diversified.
In the third part, moving on to complex issues he first addresses the U.S. Current Account Deficit (CAD). He states the CAD is due to the U.S. rising productivity and a decline in foreign investors risk premium when investing in the U.S. Those factors caused the U.S. to run huge net capital inflows which by definition equal CADs. This subject is well covered in Martin Wolf Fixing Global Finance (Forum on Constructive Capitalism). Moving on to globalization, Greenspan confirms Smick's analysis in "The World is Curved." Globalization has increased living standards worldwide. But, it is vulnerable to backlashes of populism, protectionism, and regulations.
Next, Greenspan explains the "conundrum" whereby the Fed does not control long term rates by manipulating Fed Funds. They respond instead to the huge inflow of funds (capital surplus associated with the CAD).
The rising income inequality in the U.S. is due to a shortage of highly skilled labor. He recommends increasing immigration of the highly skilled and increasing the pay of math school teacher to boost the supply of the highly skilled.
Addressing the fiscal liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, he confirms the findings of Kotlikoff in The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future. Those programs are not sustainable as currently funded. Taxes will have to be increased; benefits will have to be curtailed or a combination of both.
Addressing long-term energy prospect, he states: "none of the tight balance between supply and demand is due to any shortage of oil in the ground. The problem is that ... those who would like to invest (private sector international companies) cannot find profitable investments, and those who can invest (national companies) choose not to." Thus, there is no shortage of oil reserves but shortages of production and refining capacity. He anticipates nuclear energy will emerge as the scalable clean energy source. He also concurs with Bryce Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence" that energy independence is a Utopian political construct. We will rely on oil as long as we can.
Regarding the 2030 forecast, Greenspan sees the U.S. economy growing at 2.5% p.a. (2% productivity; 0.5% growth in labor force). He anticipates long term rates to increase due to the high fiscal needs worldwide to finance social entitlements (retirement and health care benefits). Read also Global Aging and Financial Markets: Hard Landings Ahead (CSIS Significant Issues Series) (Csis Significant Issues Series) on the subject. ...more info
- the works of the clever but not wise
I don't know anything about this book.
I can't understand how people can immerse themselves within it's pages and give it such numbers of stars without much careful consideration over what they're actually doing.
One thing people have got to get themselves rid of , is the need for a better world. What is really need for is to threat the planet with honour and respect , and the recognition that it is a super living organism in need of nutrition and care like any other living organism and anything that lives.
To create a world of peace and justice for all , the rights of the few who once had power over many must be forcibly suspended.
No longer shall they have power to run amok.
Otherwise we'll have too many clever but stupid people exercicing their rights at the expense of too many wise people.
I'd like to read real economic books in the future but I'll do it when it's the right time for me.
I believe therefore in freedom of all at the expense of the freedoms of the few except in societies where there are few enough for there not to be any need for a few to dictate over a many.
This world is not being threatened by some green house of effect of some kind , but by stupidity and negativity , and cleverness without wisdom , and the challenge of today is for each one of us to recognize where we are being clever and not wise , so we can make it through the changes.
I doupt I'll like this book after I've read it , but I guess I'll try once I begin to start readin'.