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Greenspan: The Man Behind Money Paperback – September 18, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Alan Greenspan became chairman of the Federal Reserve a scant two months before the stock market crash of 1987. His deft handling of that crisis presaged his triumph in the 1990s, when he kept America from succumbing to the Asian financial flu, and received as much credit for the nation's booming economy as President Clinton. At appropriate points in this solid biography, former Fortune magazine staffer Justin Martin lucidly explains the intricacies of the financial system that Greenspan has dominated for 13 years. But the more fascinating revelations deal with the enigmatic Fed chairman's private life. Born in 1926, Greenspan was a Juilliard student and professional jazz musician before he entered New York University's School of Commerce in 1945. Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand had a powerful influence on his economic thinking, and Greenspan spent 15 years as a member of her inner circle while he built a successful consulting practice. He made a few slips at the Fed, particularly when he failed to prevent the recession of 1990-91; but Martin shows him learning from his mistakes. Judicious quotes from interviews with colleagues and friends convey Greenspan's intriguing contradictions: aloof, yet collegial at work; deliberately obscure when testifying before Congress, but judged a fascinating conversationalist by the women he's dated, most of whom have been journalists. (He married NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell in 1997.) Is the secretive Chairman Greenspan secretly a media hound? In this instance, and many others, Martin's evenhanded portrait lays out opposing views and lets readers draw their own conclusions. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Written without the cooperation of Federal Reserve chief Greenspan, and in the absence of much documentation about his early life, this attempt at a definitive biography fails to bring its subject to life. Working from public records and interviews with Greenspan's former associates, Martin recounts the chairman's childhood in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in the 1930s and '40s, where his passions were musicDhe played the saxophone and clarinetDand numbers. Accepted into Juilliard after high school, the restless Greenspan left school after a term to tour with a small swing band in 1943 and '44 before returning to New York to study economics at NYU and Columbia. A fierce debater lured by economic theory, Greenspan became a favored member of Ayn Rand's Objectivist circle, while building a well-respected economics consulting firm. A chance re-encounter with an old friend brought him to the attention of Richard Nixon, who was working as a lawyer between presidential bids. Although he worked for Presidents Nixon and Ford, it wasn't until Reagan appointed him to his current position in 1987 that Greenspan's tenure as "an unflappable economist with a gift for calming markets" brought him into the spotlight. Martin, a journalist formerly with Fortune, is strongest in describing Greenspan's public achievements. In his attempt to expose "the man behind the money," however, he fails to move beyond cardboard characterizations and reconstructed media perceptions. Agent, Lisa Swayne. (Nov. 1)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New Ed edition (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738205249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738205243
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,986,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Justin Martin is author of the upcoming Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians (September, Da Capo Press). Earlier efforts includes biographies of pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, and Ralph Nader, the noted consumer advocate. Martin's articles have appeared in a variety of publications including the New York Times, Newsweek, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Martin is a 1987 graduate of Rice University in Houston, Texas. He lives with his wife and twin sons in Forest Hills Gardens, New York, a landmark neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. In his spare time, Martin runs marathons (he's completed seven) and gardens (he's grown some great tomatoes, but his experiments in urban corn-growing have so far failed).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Joe Young on December 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After reading a review of two new books about Alan Greenspan, I was eager to learn more about this enigmatic man. The question: which book? The long and short of it is that I bought both, and here's why I enjoyed Justin Martin's Greenspan far more than Bob Woodward's new book that is receiving a fair amount of fanfare. Martin's book gives us a vivid picture of Greenspan's early years and the winding path he took to becoming the most powerful economic force on Earth. At each turn, you realize that Greenspan's decisions, while primarily personally motivated, ultimately led Greenspan to a position, which has great influence over our lives today. What would the "new economy" look like if Greenspan had stuck it out as a professional Saxophonist? To me, it is far more interesting to learn about what made the man than to follow a detailed narrative on the Fed (Woodward's book) most of which is recent history and well documented. When Martin explains Greenspan's policy, its implementation and its ultimate influence on the world's economy, we feel we know the man behind it all. If you're really interested in Greenspan (like I am) it wouldn't be a mistake to buy both books, but, by all means, be sure to read Martin's first.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Copperfield on October 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Justin Martin has done an excellent job of bringing Alan Greenspan to life. The book is well written and reads like a novel. Greenspan is a fascinating character-- he was a professional jazz musician before he enrolled in NYU to study economics, and was later a member of Ayn Rand's inner circle. Martin does a wonderful job of describing these aspects of Greenspan's life, as well as his later years in Washington and as Chairman of the Fed. So many biographies these days are filled with nasty innuendo and hearsay. But it is obvious that this is a first-rate research job, with quotes and insights from people who have known Greenspan for years. Some of the most interesting commentary comes from Henry Kissinger (who grew up a few blocks from Greenspan in Washington Heights). As the market continues to fluctuate wildly, Greenspan assumes an even more important role in American society. Martin manages to describe some of his economic theories in a way that makes them understandable to a mass audience as well. I would recommend this book very highly to anyone who is interested in life, not just business. Greenspan is as interesting as any fictional character I have ever encountered, and Martin really brings him to life.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Zack Miller on January 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Martin's biography of Alan Greenspan is a quick read for anyone interested in Greenspan's fascinating life. From his early career as a jazz musician, through his days as a millionaire businessman in Ayn Rand's inner circle, through his tenure as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, through his "wilderness years", and finally up to and including his current term as chairman of the Fed, this book is peppered with interesting vignettes.
Some of these vignettes, however, detract from the focus of the book. Martin's research seems to have uncovered a multitude of stories about Greenspan's jazz colleagues, Ayn Rand, and other figures in Greenspan's life, which seemed less than necessary in telling Greenspan's story.
Readers only interested in the workings of the Federal Reserve Bank or the economics behind the decisions that Greenspan made in his life of public service are advised to find a different book. Although he does give a rough overview of what was at stake in each of the crises that Greenspan faced at the helm of the CEA and then at that of the Fed, Martin does not go into much economic detail. This omission perhaps makes the book more accessible, but the omission is disappointing, nevertheless.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Before commenting on this book, let me observe that I think that Dr. Greenspan has been the best chairman of the Federal Reserve in history. Most people will agree that it is his tenure in that post while the longest economic expansion in U.S. history continues that draws our interest about him.
Of the three recent books about Dr. Greenspan, I found this one by far the most useful. It is a vastly more complete, better researched and developed book than Maestro by Mr. Woodward.
Although I felt I knew a lot about Dr. Greenspan after reading two other books about him recently, this one added more useful knowledge for me than the other two combined. The main reason for this was Mr. Martin's access to many people who have known Dr. Greenspan since he was a young man. As a result, you get a rounded sense of the man that is impossible to obtain from contemporary observers who met him recently. Also, almost all of the sources are cited (unlike in Mr. Woodward's book), so you can usually appreciate the context from which the observations come.
Music fans and those who are interested in Ayn Rand and her philosphy will be fascinated by the many excellent details of Dr. Greenspan's interests and activities in both areas.
If I liked this book so much, why didn't I rate it five stars? Basically, it is because this is a noneconomic biography of a man who was a economist, economic consultant, and central banker through most of his career. To downplay the economic thinking side of his work certainly makes the book more accessible. It also makes it more superficial. I would say this book was written to be interesting to someone who has never taken an economics course.
On the other hand, Mr. Martin was refreshingly candid in his descriptions of Dr. Greenspan.
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