‘This book is in part a detective story’, writes Alan Greenspan. It is an attempt, he adds, to understand the nature of the global capitalist economy and why it has become vastly more flexible, resilient, open and self-correcting than it was even a quarter of a century ago. On 9/11 he knew, if this view needed further reinforcement, that the world was changing fast.
The book opens with the author flying back to Washington from a routine bankers’ meeting in Switzerland on the very day that the terrorists struck in New York. For the next few weeks, as President of the Federal Reserve, he had to concern himself with managing the consequences of disruption to the American economy, and by implication, the rest of the world. The events of 9/11 brought home to him how fragile our globalised economies are and how threatened the lifestyles to which we have grown accustomed. Greenspan uses his own life story, and his experience at the Fed, to explore how we have reached this state.
Like any good detective story, The Age of Turbulence has narrative pace, even if it is not exactly a page-turner. We want to get to the end and, as happens so often with a detective novel, some of us cheat. We read the end first. I did for this review.