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« News for a Change: An Advocate's Guide, by Wallack, Woodruff, Dorfman and Diaz | Main | Black Farmers in America, by John Ficara and Juan Williams »


The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan

By an everyday book reader
September 1, 2007

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, levels unusually harsh criticism at President George Bush and the Republican Party. Greenspan argues that Bush and the Republican Congress abandoned the central conservative principle of fiscal restraint.

Greenspan paints a picture of George Bush as a man driven more by ideology and one that is incurious about the effects of his economic policy. The book implies that the Bush administration is one incapable of executing economic policy.

The former Fed Chairman says that while he served under Bush, "I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions."

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
by Alan GreenspanBook Picture

Hardcover: 544 pages
ISBN: 9781594201318, 1594201315
Penguin Press HC
September 2007

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.

Greenspan paints quite a contrast between the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Greenspan calls Bill Clinton a "risk taker" who had shown a "preference for dealing in facts."

In Clinton's first term, he got control of the national budget and reduced the large deficit that had been a result of Ronald Reagan's fast and loose spending in the 1980s. Once the deficit was in control and a surplus assured, in Clinton's second term, Clinton dealt with the new budget surplus by establishing values and priorities. Greenspan applauds Clinton's proposal to devote the extra money to "save Social Security first."

Greenspan writes, "I played no role in finding the answer, but I had to admire the one Clinton and his policymakers came up with." Greenspan reserves his highest praise for Bill Clinton, whom he described in his book as a sponge for economic data who maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."

My term as Federal Reserve Chairman ended at midnight, January 31, 2006. The following morning, I started to write. You would think after all those years at the Fed and my earlier decades as an economist that I would have learned about as much as I could. But halfway through the book I realized that the story was leading me in surprising directions. I needed to refocus much of what I had written in my original drafts.

The final chapter was to forecast how I thought the world would work in the year 2030. But until I spent a year researching and writing and thinking about "The Age of Turbulence," I had little idea how it would turn out. In fact, I was having so much fun rethinking some of my earlier assumptions, I was as anxious to read it as I hope my readers will be. In the end, I can confidently say writing that final chapter brought me--and the book--closure. It is not the grand finale of Beethoven's Ninth, but for me, it hit the right chord. (Alan Greenspan)

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.

Alan Greenspan was born in 1926 in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. After studying the clarinet at Juilliard and working as a professional musician, he earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Economics from New York University. In 1954, he co-founded the economic consulting firm Townsend-Greenspan & Co. From 1974 to 1977, he served as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Gerald Ford. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed him Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a position he held until his retirement in 2006.

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