Age of Greed
Age of Greed
The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present
Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400041718, 480pp.
Publication Date: May 31, 2011
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.
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. He lives in New York City.
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2011
“A fascinating and deeply disturbing tale of hypocrisy, corruption, and insatiable greed. But more than that, it’s a much-needed reminder of just how we got into the mess we’re in—a reminder that is greatly needed when we are still being told that greed is good.”
-Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, The New York Review of Books
“Compelling . . . Important . . . Ambitious in its scope and frequently persuasive in its arguments, Age of Greed abounds with powerful men, ugly fights, infamous scandals, twists and turns, and, true to the book’s title, lots of shameless cupidity.”
-David Greenberg, The Washington Post
“The timing could not be better for a book like Age of Greed . . . A solid review of half a century of economic history . . . A commendable compendium.”
-Adam Lashinsky, San Francisco Chronicle
“Excellent . . . Straightforward . . . We owe Madrick thanks for what he has done.”
-Richard Parker, The American Prospect
“A compelling and worthy read. Madrick is an able journalist; an excellent and cogent storyteller in a field that often defies the straightforward plot or easy explanation—economics.”
-Michael Winship, Salon.com
“Richly detailed and often riveting . . . Clear and compelling . . . A must-read.”
-Glenn C. Altschuler, The Huffington Post
“Bold . . . Readers will find worthwhile stories in these pages.”
-Sebastian Mallaby, The New York Times Book Review
“If you are going to read one book on the financial crisis, this might well be the one to choose.”
-Tom Streithorst, Prospect
“Madrick pulls no punches . . . Readers who want to understand where we are, how we got here, and some possible outcomes will repay their investment in reading time if they pick up this new volume.”
-(Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star
“Madrick’s explanation of how greed arose throughout American society contains large dollops of originality . . . Age of Greed is lucid and compelling because of its character-driven nature.”
-Steve Weinberg, Dallas Morning News
“Meticulous . . . Madrick makes a good case—and financial news junkies will savor it.”
-Carl Hartman, Boulder Daily Camera
“Persuasive . . . Vivid . . . As a comprehensive survey of the way institutions work together to create wealth for a few individuals and destroy it for a mass of others, Age of Greed deserves attention.”
-Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
“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 accident of God but a man-made event. In writing about the financiers, bankers, brokers, free-market philosophers, hedge fund managers and government officials who together engineered the fundamental and profound, almost revolutionary shift in the American economy that culminated in the events of 2008, Jeff Madrick provides his readers with a new and startling account of recent economic history. The individual chapters are riveting but the genius of this book is that Madrick's whole is even greater than the sum of its manificent parts. This is a book that bears reading by everyone with an interest in the American economy and the American future.”
-David Nasaw, author of The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst
“Ideas and policies, like people, have parents and grandparents and in Age of Greed we learn of the men (and they are all men) whose ideas and actions begat three decades with almost no income growth for the vast majority, mountains of debt and fabulous riches for themselves and their peers. Jeff Madrick provides a powerful story of the damage done to our nation by hubris, delusions and lust for money.”
-David Cay Johnston, author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill)
“An excellent, thought-provoking book.”