Synopses & Reviews
A vividly told history of how greed bred Americas 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 nations 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
A vivid history of the economics of greed told through the stories of those major figures primarily responsible.
Age of Greed shows how the single-minded and selfish pursuit of immense personal wealth has been on the rise in the United States over the last forty years. Economic journalist Jeff Madrick tells this story through incisive profiles of the individuals responsible for this dramatic shift in our country’s fortunes, from the architects of the free-market economic philosophy (such as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan) to the politicians and businessmen (including Nixon, Reagan, Boesky, and Soros) who put it into practice. Their stories detail how a movement initially conceived as a moral battle for freedom instead brought about some of our nation's most pressing economic problems, including the intense economic inequity and instability America suffers from today. This is an indispensible guide to understanding the 1 percent.
In a riveting scene in the film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko proclaims ‘Greed is good. The great philosopher David Hume, on the contrary, describes greed as the most destructive of the vices. The banking debacle and the continuing row about bonuses has placed the controversial issue of greed at the very heart of how we view our society. So is Gekkos maxim merely in need of some moderation? After all, incentives are essential to achieve results. Or is it Hume who, uncharacteristically in this instance, lacks moderation? His claim being that greed is ‘directly destructive of society. Can this be true? In this powerful and hugely relevant essay, Sutherland picks apart these two conflicting notions and discusses how we might approach the problem of greed in the modern age.
In a riveting scene from the film Wall Street
, Gordon Gekko proclaims that greed is good.” The great philosopher David Hume, on the other hand, describes greed as the most destructive of the vices. The recent banking debacle and continuing uproar about executive bonus pay has placed the controversial issue of greed at the very heart of how we view modern society. Is Gekkos maxim simply in need of some moderation? Or is Humes view too extreme?
In Greed, Stewart Sutherland examines these conflicting notions and discusses how we might approach the problem of greed today. He looks at the concept of incentives, which are essential for achieving results, and whether the desire for money is really as dangerous as it might seem. Powerful and timely, Greed is a much-needed look at an attitude that, for better or worse, is an unavoidable driving force in modern society.
About the Author
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.