September 11, 2001, Alan Greenspan had been Chairman of the Federal
Reserve for 14 years. Traveling overseas on business, Greenspan
"worried about my colleagues at the Federal Reserve. Were they
safe? And their families? The staff would be scrambling to respond
to the crisis. This attack --- the first on US soil since Pearl
Harbor --- would throw the country into turmoil. The question I
needed to focus on was whether the economy would be damaged."
By 1957 Greenspan was so astute at forecasting economic projections
that he predicted the following year would be terrible for the
steel industry. When the recession hit in 1958, Tom Patton, the CEO
of Republic Steel, gave Greenspan the credit he deserved, although
Republic did not follow his advice.
We follow Greenspan literally through his life in THE AGE OF
TURBULENCE while gaining real insight into the man behind some of
the most important economic decisions this country has seen in the
past 40+ years. On discussing objectivism with Ayn Rand, Greenspan
recalls that "talking with Ayn Rand was like starting a game of
chess thinking I was good, and suddenly finding myself in
checkmate." As world economies develop, crash and reinvent
themselves, Greenspan has his finger on the pulse of these changing
economies. An important world leader, he also enjoys playing jazz
and tennis, and has dated well-known women like Barbara Walters,
with whom he is still friends.
As part of an economic contingent of advisors to Russia during the
shift from communism, Greenspan remarks, "I was fascinated to see
these events unfold… Until the wall fell and the need to
develop market economies out of the rubble of Eastern Europe's
central-planning regimes became apparent, few economists had been
thinking about the institutional foundations that free markets
Greenspan spent many years in college, attaining his bachelors,
masters and finally PhD at New York University. Obviously a
brilliant man, his self-confidence as a leader was not always at
the forefront. "From my earliest days, I had viewed myself as an
expert behind the scenes, and implementer of orders rather than the
leader. It took the stock market crisis of 1987 to make me feel
comfortable making critical political decisions."
Greenspan ends the book by giving us a glimpse of the future
through his eyes, with his perceptions. And here we learn about his
predictions for the future of our economic security. "Why is this
relationship between the rule of law and material wellbeing
seemingly so immutable? In my experience, it is rooted in a key
aspect of human nature. In life, unless we take action, we perish.
But action risks unforeseen consequences. The extent to which
people are willing to take risks depends on the reward they think
they may gain."
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on December 22, 2010