It is difficult to place Alan Greenspan’s 500 plus pages. It is at once text-book and political memoir; rather in the mode of his wife Andrea Mitchell’s Talking Back, published two years before.
In a literal sense, one couldn’t call this an autobiography. We learn little about the man himself save for the fact that evidence of Primary TB kept him out of the army, he plays the clarinet and married two Mitchells – one of which is still his wife. At least he tells us about his first wife. That is more than can be said for Andrea Mitchell who omits to mention her first marriage, or the children.
The introduction to The Age of Turbulence is riveting. It is beautifully written and totally absorbing. That is quite a statement when you consider that the theme of the piece was 9-11, and I doubted that there was anything else anyone could say about that. After leaving the giddy heights of the introduction, the book descends to a lower but non-the-less readable level.
If you are an economist, then you may find the statistical data too elementary to keep your attention. If you are not, you may find a large part of the book heavy going.
Alan Greenspan is a very lucky guy. Born in 1926, it was just the right time to suit his talents. A natural and gifted mathematician he was able to construct statistical models, and profit from them before the advent of computer data processing. Had he been born later, computers would do effortlessly, what he did laboriously. A manifestation of this is apparent when one considers his forecasts. His economic forecasts based on a computer driven models, are excellent.By his own admission, this is not the case when relying on his own innate judgement. His 30 year forecast is less than encouraging; but then he will not be around to answer for it.
Wiser heads than mine do not share this view, and that is why he has been Chairman of the Federal Reserve since 1987 until this year. A sensitive and well balanced man, he heaps praise and obloquy on his former bosses with equal measure. Except for the current President Bush, who receives credit for nothing, other than the invasion of Iraq in the pursuit of oil. Not too many people at Greenspan’s level would have had the courage to confess to that.
In life one finds two different sorts of people. There are those who can be taken seriously, and those who can’t. Test this for yourself. Think of two people and decide who you can take seriously and those you couldn’t. Try, Mrs Thatcher and Nancy Pelosi? Dennis Kusinage and Joe Biden?Or Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani? This has nothing to do with their competence, just who would you take advice from. Alan Greenspan is a definite yes, and all the Presidents since Nixon agreed with that.
There can be no doubt that Greenspan played a vital role in the recent history of America. Together with palpable ability, he comes across as a likeable and personable man. His modesty is convincing as is his apparent lack of ambition. However, any one of the many senior positions he held in finance and industry would have satisfied most of us as career achievement.
The two or three references to his ‘beautiful wife’, were obviously copy read by her as they are word for word, her words. Notwithstanding that, their separate lives seem to fit somehow. I wonder how they would get along if they both had to spend time together?
If you can tolerate the economics lessons, you will find this volume engaging, and crammed with interesting detail. But if GDP and economic indexes are not your bedtime reading, you might be disappointed.