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Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present [Kindle Edition]

Jeff Madrick
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A vividly told history of how greed bred America’s economic ills over the last forty years, and of the men most responsible for them.

As Jeff Madrick makes clear in a narrative at once sweeping, fast-paced, and incisive, the single-minded pursuit of huge personal wealth has been on the rise in the United States since the 1970s, led by a few individuals who have argued that self-interest guides society more effectively than community concerns. These stewards of American capitalism have insisted on the central and essential place of accumulated wealth through the booms, busts, and recessions of the last half century, giving rise to our current woes.

In telling the stories of these politicians, economists, and financiers who declared a moral battle for freedom but instead gave rise to an age of greed, Madrick traces the lineage of some of our nation’s most pressing economic problems. He begins with Walter Wriston, head of what would become Citicorp, who led the battle against government regulation. He examines the ideas of economist Milton Friedman, who created the plan for an anti-Rooseveltian America; the politically expedient decisions of Richard Nixon that fueled inflation; the philosophy of Alan Greenspan, on whose libertarian ideology a house of cards was built on Wall Street; and the actions of Sandy Weill, who constructed the largest financial institution in the world, which would have gone bankrupt in 2008 without a federal bailout of $45 billion. Significant figures including Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Jack Welch, and Ronald Reagan play key roles as well.

Intense economic inequity and instability is the story of our age, and Jeff Madrick tells it with style, clarity, and an unerring command of his subject.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

 “Jeff Madrick has written one of those rare, wonderful books that allow us to understand a huge and important historical development that we may not have realized was a coherent and coordinated series of events. Madrick’s account of Alan Greenspan’s ideologically-driven mistakes alone is worth the price of admission, but it is but one course in a feast of wonderful reporting and writing. If you want to know what has happened to your country, read this book.”
            -Robert G. Kaiser, author of So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government
 
“Jeff Madrick’s devastating biography of greed is rife with carefully documented cautionary tales of the rich, greedy and unregulated, which collectively constitute the definitive answer to Milton Friedmanesque laissez faire economics.”
            -Victor Navasky, author of Kennedy Justice
 
“Honore de Balzac wrote long ago that behind every great fortune lies a great crime.  Now in Jeff Madrick’s important new book, Age of Greed, we are introduced to some of the best and brightest moneychangers in the murky world of high finance.”
-Gay Talese, author of A Writer's Life
 
“Who’s responsible for the laying waste of our economy—making the rich far richer and everyone else economically insecure? Madrick does more than name names. He tells us who did what and how they did it—the ideologues, demagogues, corporate titans, and crooks. A wonderfully insightful but deeply troubling account of the movers and shakers who toppled America.”
-Robert B. Reich, author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future
 
“The economic disaster of 2008 was not an ...

About the Author

Jeff Madrick is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, a former economics columnist for The New York Times, and editor of Challenge magazine. He is an adjunct professor of humanities at The Cooper Union, and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School. His previous books include The End of Affluence and Taking America, and he has written for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Institutional Investor, The Nation, and The American Prospect.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1513 KB
  • Print Length: 482 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400041716
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 31, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004DEPF6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,560 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
138 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why We're In This Condition June 18, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Americans in 2011 have a lot to be unhappy about: high unemployment, entire neighborhoods of foreclosed houses, decimated retirement accounts and portfolios, and so on for far too many depressing statistics. Since the Crisis of 2007-08 we've grown accustomed to talking heads wisely explaining that this is part of a cycle of boom and bust that is unavoidable. Really? Jeff Madrick's well researched and engaging history of the last 40 years or so has a very different view.

Beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s financiers began to pressure the US government to ease or eliminate many of the provisions to regulate the financial markets that had been put into place during the New Deal. Their efforts began to bear fruit in the 1970s, when both Republican and Democratic Administrations and Congresses, heavily influenced by advice from wealthy bankers and brokers, agreed to dismantle most of the regulatory structure. This deregulatory process gained strength in the 1980s and 1990s, again at the hands of both parties, and finally bore fruit in the 2000s when the markets collapsed and came close to dragging the entire world into another Great Depression. Like most people, I remember those frightening days all too well, but I didn't fully understand what was going on and I certainly didn't know what to expect in the future.

Jeff Madrick has done an excellent job of chronicling the financial decisions and decision makers of the last four decades. He provides many short but thorough biographies of the principal actors, some well known or infamous like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, others less public but still important like Lewis Uhler and Walter Wriston.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
*****
"Who's responsible for the laying waste of our economy, making the rich far richer and everyone else economically insecure? Madrick ...tells us who did what and how they did it--the ideologues, demagogues, corporate titans, and crooks. A wonderfully insightful but deeply troubling account of the movers and shakers who toppled America." -- Robert B. Reich,

The great financial crisis of 2008 had consequences so dreadful that still paralyzes our economy. It is sometimes portrayed as a 100 year economic tsunami, an erupting event that nobody could have prevented or even predicted. Intense economic inequity and instability became the character of our age. Jeff Madrick, director of policy research at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, eloquently tells us about the tragic story with an unerring command of expertise. His vivid historical version of America's greed bred economic ills, advancing quitely over the last four decades, and the agents most responsible for them may shock you. Deeply disturbing, is the suggestion not just that we are witnessing a repeating cycle, but that the busts keep getting bigger. According to Madrick, it was just the most recent downpayment for a recurrent pattern of financial outwit, taxpayer bailout, and Wall Street subsequent lack of commitment to clean their own mess.

He describes, the accumulation and eruption of America's slow receding economic crisis, in an engaging though tragic story. Thus, he relates that in 1991, when the outcome of vast, loan-financed commercial real estate over-development in the 1980's came home to settle, helping to trigger the collapse of the 'junk-bond' market and putting Citibank, and the other big banks to great risk.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Chronicle of Unrestrained Greed and Corruption July 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Age of Greed is a fascinating account of how unfettered self-interest and outright greed overcame virtually all barriers and resulted in enourmous growth of the financial sector over the past 30-40 years. The book is really a series of interconnected stories, each illustrating how prominent individuals and institutions manipulated the system and took on devastating risk levels for private gain.

The book covers a series of ever increasing financial crises and frauds, such as the Latin American and Asian financial crises and the Enron scam. It focuses on prominant people like Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Jack Grubman, Frank Quattrone, Ken Lay, Angelo Mozilo and Dick Fuld and how they contributed to one disaster after another. The book shows how free-market fundamentalism and "greed is good" mentality came to dominate, and how that resulted in the destruction of the regulatory environment that once kept the banking sector safe.

While the book offers a great overview of what happened in the financial sector, it fails to acknowledge the other critical forces that have been in play in America since the 1970s: Globalization, the decline of private sector unions, the entry of huge numbers of women into the workforce, and the relentless advance of information technology. (However, for an alternate view on technology and innovation see also The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will(Eventually) Feel Better.)

While the role of Wall Street, and in particular, deregulation is of critical importance, it would be a mistake to make the simplistic assumption that this explains all our problems. Information technology, in particular, has advanced tremendously since the 1970s, and it is important to recognize this because the impact will be even greater in the future.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Slippery Slope of Ambition
Fascinating account of the key people involved in the evolution of finance in America in the past fifty years. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Christian Evaluator
4.0 out of 5 stars The real scoop
This book brings together many aspects of our financial relationships and helped me understand how the entire system is interrelated.
Published 6 months ago by Donald Tolin
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading
This book is necessary for anyone who wants to know how the decline of American finance developed into the destructive force it finally became. Read more
Published 11 months ago by MechPebbles
4.0 out of 5 stars good not great
hits many important points. tries to provide context to one of the great questions: how did we get her. worth reading
Published 11 months ago by ken mcdaniels
5.0 out of 5 stars Comfort Not Provided
The author tells a compelling story of what led American to its recent economic woes and calls out those responsible. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jeffrey Swystun
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
The "Age of Greed" is a rather thorough study of the characters involved in the rise of the financial services sector of the economy - and the resultant fall of every other... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Robert Annandale
5.0 out of 5 stars A new History
Madrick's history is unique in that he goes to the men (mostly men) who actually did the deed. Some of them you know and some you never heard of. Read more
Published 22 months ago by John Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing puts actions into perspective
Intelligence in knowing the history of why processes were created are one of the eye opening perspectives I took away from this book.
Published 24 months ago by KLC
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book for understanding U.S. economy/government
This book was a simple and great explanation of what is happening real time. These were all names I recognized and institutions I knew. Read more
Published on October 6, 2012 by Linda C. Montgomery
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of those who caused the second great recession
Jeff Madrick is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. In this absorbing study, he presents a parade of the politicians, businessmen, financiers and economists who made Wall... Read more
Published on September 21, 2012 by William Podmore
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More About the Author

JEFF MADRICK is a former economics columnist for The New York Times and has been a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books for many years. He is editor of Challenge Magazine, visiting professor of humanities at The Cooper Union, and senior fellow at The Roosevelt Institute and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School. He is the author of a half dozen books, including Taking America (Bantam), and The End of Affluence (Random House), both of which were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Taking America was also chosen by Business Week as one of the ten best books of the year. His most recent books are Why Economies Grow (Basic Books) and The Case for Big Government, which won a general non-fiction award from Pen America. His new book, published in mid-2011 by Alfred A. Knopf, is Age of Greed, The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

He has written for many other publications, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Institutional Investor, The Nation, American Prospect, The Boston Globe, Newsday, Dissent, and the business, op-ed, and magazine sections of The New York Times. He has appeared on Charlie Rose, The Lehrer News Hour, Now With Bill Moyers, Frontline, CNN, CNBC, CBS, BBC,and NPR. He was formerly finance editor of Business Week Magazine, a columnist for Money Magazine, and an NBC News reporter and commentator. His awards also include an Emmy and a Page One Award. He was educated at New York University and Harvard University, and was a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard.


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