Author(s): Sebastian MallabyDownload
Publish: Published October 11th 2016 by Penguin Press
ISBN: Literary Awards Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year (2016)
The definitive biography of the most important economic statesman of our time
Sebastian Mallaby’s magisterial biography of Alan Greenspan, the product of over five years of research based on untrammeled access to his subject and his closest professional and personal intimates, brings into vivid focus the mysterious point where the government and the economy meet. To understand Greenspan’s story is to see the economic and political landscape of the last 30 years–and the presidency from Reagan to George W. Bush–in a whole new light. As the most influential economic statesman of his age, Greenspan spent a lifetime grappling with a momentous shift: the transformation of finance from the fixed and regulated system of the post-war era to the free-for-all of the past quarter century. The story of Greenspan is also the story of the making of modern finance, for good and for ill.
Greenspan’s life is a quintessential American success story: raised by a single mother in the Jewish émigré community of Washington Heights, he was a math prodigy who found a niche as a stats-crunching consultant. A master at explaining the economic weather to captains of industry, he translated that skill into advising Richard Nixon in his 1968 campaign. This led to a perch on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and then to a dazzling array of business and government roles, from which the path to the Fed was relatively clear. A fire-breathing libertarian and disciple of Ayn Rand in his youth who once called the Fed’s creation a historic mistake, Mallaby shows how Greenspan reinvented himself as a pragmatist once in power. In his analysis, and in his core mission of keeping inflation in check, he was a maestro indeed, and hailed as such. At his retirement in 2006, he was lauded as the age’s necessary man, the veritable God in the machine, the global economy’s avatar. His memoirs sold for record sums to publishers around the world.
But then came 2008. Mallaby’s story lands with both feet on the great crash which did so much to damage Alan Greenspan’s reputation. Mallaby argues that the conventional wisdom is off base: Greenspan wasn’t a naïve ideologue who believed greater regulation was unnecessary. He had pressed for greater regulation of some key areas of finance over the years, and had gotten nowhere. To argue that he didn’t know the risks in irrational markets is to miss the point. He knew more than almost anyone; the question is why he didn’t act, and whether anyone else could or would have. A close reading of Greenspan’s life provides fascinating answers to these questions, answers whose lessons we would do well to heed. Because perhaps Mallaby’s greatest lesson is that economic statesmanship, like political statesmanship, is the art of the possible. The Man Who Knew is a searching reckoning with what exactly comprised the art, and the possible, in the career of Alan Greenspan.
Some Reviews: 604 ratings 61 reviews in Goodreads.com
This amazing book gets to do this in an entertaining way because its main character, Alan Greenspan, is a really peculiar and fascination guy. He is smart, knowledgable, and surprisingly skilled for political operation. Mallaby gets us into many rooms, links moves and decisions, and sometimes you feel you are reading Le Carre instead of a business book.
Sebastian Mallaby, writer of the amazing “More money than God”, defends that Greenspan failed to adopt a tougher stance on asset price bubbles (real estate, .com, stocks), and that his period in the Fed benefited from productivity leaps and globalization. He is really critical, but also there is some sort of devoted admiration throughout many pages.
This is the third biography of Greenspan I read. This is the best, by far, and one of the best biographies I have ever read.
Many details, many damning, at least to me, about an man whose best trait was that he was not as arrogant as Kissinger. Compassion was not his middle name.
You get side looks at Reagan, Nixon and Ford and realize that the prez often knows diddly.
And it’s a long read on very good paper, if you get the hardbound.