Age of Greed by Jeff Madrick
Age of Greed
Many informative and occasionally exciting books have been written about the great financial unraveling of 2008. Clearly the crisis was unexpected, but just as clearly many warning signals were ignored. Some people made out like bandits, there were heart-stopping glimpses into the abyss, and despite serious attempts by the government to put the Humpty-Dumpty American economy back together again, progress has been slow, and resistance has been coordinated and obdurate.
Age of Greed shows that the crisis did not just originate with a runaway mortgage market, but in fact, was the culmination of fifty years of cumulative and persistent disengagement from the regulatory developments devised during the Great Depression to prevent a recurrence of the runaway capitalist excesses that caused it. Jeff Madrick connects the dots and traces a straight line from the early and successful attempts to relax government regulation to the excesses of the early 21st Century and the resulting disaster that has still not been contained.
Madrick examines in detail most of the major players from the period, and what a cast he has to choose from. Presidents and cabinet members, intellectuals and industrialists, hedge funds, bankers, scam artists and criminals all get equal billing. But that’s the point. Madrick convincingly lays out the case that an accretion of factors involving a multitude of characters was what brought us to our present situation.
This is no dry litany of denunciation. Madrick has marshaled an impressive body of knowledge into a coherent and compelling narrative. The personalities sparkle; the facts amaze. The anecdotes are numerous, and telling. The conclusion is unavoidable.
This is a powerful and persuasive examination of fifty years of American economic history, written with flair and skill. Don’t miss it.
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