The Map and the Territory 2.0 – Alan Greenspan

Risk, Human Nature and the Future of Forecasting

I borrowed this from the library in spite of knowing Greenspan’s strong right-wing leanings, because whatever his politics he is a respected economist. His insights into decision making at the Federal Reserve and on the boards of major US companies certainly illuminates the debate, but the book s limited greatly by his views.

He makes strong and convincing arguments for the removal of implicit government support from both large companies, including banks, and individuals. Unfortunately the human cost, or even economic cost in the case of Medicare, is not acknowledged. Instead he focuses on that as the only drag on the American, and wider developed world economy, since the middle of the twentieth centrury.

This is then combined with a stated desire to return the US to its world-leading position at the end of World War Two, which Greenspan takes for granted as its natural place. There is little introspection into why these countries have gained, aside from an examination of China. Even when looking at how the Chinese economy has succeeded, he is arguing why it is unable to reach its full potential due to political climate. There is no mention of attempts within China to change this, or that maybe the American system that has been world leader for 5-6 decades may not be the only way for an economy to succeed.

Of course, I am expecting too much from someone who’s entire life has been spent trying to maximise economic growth, and that growth itself has undoubtedly improved life for millions. Its just that he lists a few examples of when government intervention has worked well, but writes off the rest as stopping growth.

The writing quality is acceptable, but nothing fabulous. You can tell he has spent a lifetime writing formal reports, with short sections and subheadings every half-page in places. Of course anything else might end up impenetrable.

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