Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review

Reading Bob Woodward's Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and The American Boom is an exercise of reading about the pride that goes before the fall. The book only covers up until Greenspan's reappointment in 2000 and doe not cover the events leading up to the economic collapse.

This is not Woodward's most engaging book and it is good thing it is one of his shortest. Unless you are just enamred with in depth reporting on the Fed meetings and the debates over 1/4 percentage points in the interest rates.

The past couple of years have not been kind to Greenspan's record and if Woodward had been willing to engage more deeply we might have a book that could serve as a record of penetrating foresight. Woodward explains Greensapn's upbringing as an acolyte of Ayn Rand and often talks about his belief in an almost unregulated market as the answer to almost any problem Woodward's weekness comes in exploring those ideas; he treats his intellectual roots as a fact of his life.

Woodward also fails to examine the American boon he mentions in his book's subtitle. What was the American boom like? Woodward never explains except in terms of the stock market. During this period the gap between wealthy and poor increased and much of the boom was financed by debt. Woodward also goes to great lengths to explain that one of the great conundrums of Greenspan's time dealth with an increse in productivity. By eventually figuring that workers were producing more but not getting paid more, Greenspan effectivly managed the changes in the encomy and helped Wall Street and U.S. Treasury but Woodward never explains how boom that fails to increase worker's wages is really a boom. Woodward's title builds the expectation that there will be a telling of the story of the boom but their is no indication how average Americans experienced the boom.

I am not really impressed with Greenspan even though Woodward really wants me to be as enamored with Greenspan as he is. Woodward makes it clear that Greenspan is not the all knowing oracle that myth makes him out to be. He often does not understand what is going and sometimes appears to have gotten lucky at times with the economy. This, of course, is Woodward's biggest failing. He mistakes luck for expertise and minuta for in depth understanding.

No comments:

Post a Comment