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The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting Hardcover – October 22, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Greenspan, Federal Reserve Bank chairman from 1987 to 2006, investigates the financial crisis of 2008 with a focus on economic forecasting, and he sets out to understand how we got it wrong and what we can learn from our mistakes. The author determines there is something more systematic about the way people behave irrationally, especially during economic crises, and this behavior can be measured and incorporated into economic forecasting and setting economic policy. Greenspan’s considerations include behavioral imperatives (fear, optimism, etc.) and their role in rational economic behavior and market outcomes; bubbles and their differences; and the roots of the crisis in securitized U.S. subprime mortgages. He identifies too big to fail as the most problematic trend from the recent financial debacle and strongly supports modern industrial capitalism, although he notes its inherent creative destruction in a system of winners and losers that imposes hardship on workers who lose jobs and homes. This challenging, thought-provoking book sheds an important perspective on events that triggered possibly the greatest financial crisis ever. --Mary Whaley


Larry Summers, Financial Times:
"No other American economic policy maker in the past half-century could have written so thoughtfully about the implications of the Enlightenment for economic policy or have attempted, as Greenspan did while in office and does again here, to compute the physical weight of all the goods that comprise American gross domestic product. The range of topics and arguments makes this book a very important statement, whether one ultimately agrees or disagrees with the author…..Greenspan’s range, vision and boldness is especially important at a time like the present, when Washington is preoccupied with the political and petty….Greenspan has written a major work ….[A] splendid book.”

Burton Malkiel, The Wall Street Journal:
The Map and the Territory is a model of expositional clarity, with complex and recondite matters made accessible to the lay reader. The book should be must reading for anyone interested in the way our financial markets work—and sometimes fail to do so."

“Compelling and hugely enlightening…This exposition of a lifetime as a practicing economist is full of insights and lessons for financiers, security analysts, business students and public policy makers, especially Presidents, congressmen, central bankers and the FDIC, SEC, CFTC, FHLB. It should be required reading for some of the insights into the way markets perform.”

N. Gregory Mankiw, The New York Times Book Review:
“The book offers much wisdom….[Greenspan] sees the world through a different set of eyes than do many others in his field. He is driven less by theory, more by data and practical experience….Greenspan’s new book lays out his worldview in light of the financial crisis, the deep recession and the meager recovery of the past five years. His critics often condemn him as an ideologue, but the book demonstrates the unfairness of that accusation. On a wide range of topics—from monetary, fiscal and financial policy to productivity, inequality and globalization—he offers readers a thoughtful, nuanced and open-minded perspective, tempered by many years of having seen both business and public policy from the inside….Whether or not you’re an economist, you can’t help coming away from The Map and the Territory with greater insight into many of the crucial issues facing the nation. Greenspan’s path to fame may have been unconventional, but after reading this book, you’ll understand why five American presidents turned to him and made him one of the great economic policy makers of our time.”

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Greenspan was born in 1926 and reared 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 cofounded the economic consulting firm Townsend-Greenspan & Co. From 1974 to 1977, he served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on October 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The Map and the Territory" is a string of loosely connected musings about the economy, economic forecasting, and the impact of the financial crisis. If you have read an economics book in the last 10 years, you will not find much new here. The jacket advertises the book as the result of "a rigorous and far-reaching multiyear examination of how Homo economicus predicts the economic future, and how it can predict it better." I am not convinced that is true. The book is simply too generalized and disjointed to be influential in any sense.

Greenspan touches on a number of topics, but there are better books on each subject. For example, his discussion of how growth in government benefits has crowded out private savings is the better handled in Edgar Browning's, "Stealing From Each Other." Acharya and Richardson's "Restoring Financial Stability" and "Regulating Wall Street" are still the best books on the financial crisis and how to prevent another. I expect "The Map and the Territory" to sell wildly, but most readers will find that it does not live up to the hype. Greenspan most likely has very interesting things to write, but sadly he has not produced them here.
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239 of 306 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on October 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book from the perspective of an investor who specializes in real estate investment trusts (REITS). I was a REIT investor in 2008 when the economy failed, as I am today. I was near the financial center of the financial collapse of 2008 and able to observe it closely as it unfolded. Earlier in my career I worked as an IT company owner who studied the progress of business in the USA and globally by observing my client companies' businesses through the computer systems I developed.

Thus, I have a close up view of the financial collapse AND a broad-based view of the real world economy that underpins it. This perspective has made me a successful investor. But I do confess to having been blindsided by the 2008 collapse, as Mr. Greenspan and most professional economists were. This book explains Mr. Greenspan's opinion of WHY so many professional economists were caught napping during the Great Recession that began in 2008 and casts its long shadow over the economy today and for years to come.

Mr. Greenspan gets right to the heart of the question:

On the face of it, the financial crisis also represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. I began my postcrisis investigations, culminating in this book, in an effort to understand how we all got it so wrong, and what we can learn from the fact that we did..... What went wrong? Why was virtually every economist and policy maker of note so off about so large an issue?

Having phrased the question in precisely the right words, Mr. Greenspan then proceeds to obscure the answer by giving the literary equivalent of the verbal "mumble" he made famous in giving indecipherable testimony to Congress while Chairman of the Fed.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Appalachian Son on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The most obvious lesson for aware readers is that Greenspan is among the luckiest apple-polishers in US history. Greenspan claims to be an advocate of global free markets and economic meritocracies driven by minimally regulated private sector enterprise; supporting that belief is widespread agreement that Greenspan's most notable "successes" are saving US finance in 1987, and the Clinton years. As with many political figures, facts on file do not match their memories.

The Crash of '87 was the market response to uncertainties caused by five years of debt-fueled federal binge spending and speculation in high risk securities. Greenspan's response was Keynesian; he pumped as much public money into the market as it took to maintain the facade of integrity in finance. By 1987 politicians had redefined financial services from necessary parasites to the foundation for all that is good about America. By the end of 1988 well-employed Americans lived falsely optimistic lives in a false economy propped up by massive public debt. The people Greenspan needed to please were pleased, and so politicians and the corporate welfare classes tended to grade Greenspan's performance in the range A+++ to A++.

A different parallel reality tended to be unacknowledged. The middle class was shrinking as the quality of jobs declined. Risks to taxpayers increased as the quality of securities declined and government debt exploded. Still, Greenspan apparently felt the transfer of wealth from middle class consumers to parasitic financial services industries needed more accelerant, so The Maestro continued to weaken quality constraints on credit and debt claiming rational markets would check financial avarice.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jan Fabisiak on November 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
3 stars mainly for the effort, as I found the book largeley disappointing. Mr. Greenspan tries - but fails - to justify his mistakes with the fact that "no-one knew" what was going to happen. Fair enoguh, but that's not an issue worth writing a book about, especially so when the author's primary interest is pointing the finger of blame somewhere else.
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