The life, times, and thoughts of Chairman Alan are encapsulated in a savvy bio of the most popular of all Federal Reserve chieftains.
Fortune staffer Martin sketches Greenspan’s steady rise—from the clarinetist’s stool in an undistinguished jazz band to the chair of the world’s most powerful sinecure. This isn’t exactly Horatio Alger come to life, but it still represents a longish journey through some surprisingly varied terrains (there is even a chapter entitled “Wilderness Years”). Before coming to the Fed, Greenspan ran his own consulting firm until he was named to chair the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. He promptly took advantage of his bully pulpit to urge—successfully—the taxation of Social Security receipts and the abolition of consumer protection laws (which he considered less efficient than market forces). When his appointment to the Fed was announced, the Dow immediately dropped (for some reason, the author interprets this as a sign of support). Apparently there were two great influences in Greenspan’s intellectual formation: economist (and Fed predecessor) Arthur Burns and libertarian novelist Ayn Rand. Burns was an appropriate mentor; Rand, on the other hand, has a bizarre cult following and is generally “viewed alternately as dangerous, as a kook, and as a dangerous kook.” Martin notes that his subject is something of an “odd bird” and, when the occasion dictates, a “bedazzling obfuscator”—indeed, the Fedspeak of Greenspan’s Congressional testimony resembles an old Irwin Corey (“The World's Greatest Expert”) routine. While the sublime Corey doesn’t appear in these pages, other comedians (from Reagan to Clinton) show up—along with Barbara Walters, Henry Kissinger, and many others. There are also quick, useful descriptions of monetary policy and the operations of the Federal Reserve System.
An informative, sprightly introduction to the laissez-faire leader that will appeal to Wall Street groupies, stock market buffs, and members of the Official Greenspan Fan Club.