An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy

Marc Levinson. Basic, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-06198-3
In the 1970s the global economy went to hell and stayed there because of overt shocks and deep transformations, argues former Economist editor Levinson (The Box) in this probing history. He pinpoints 1973 as the turning point when the Arab oil embargo, the collapse of the Bretton Woods exchange-rate mechanism, and stagflation ushered in slow growth, instability, economic insecurity, and debt crises after the strong economic growth and soaring living standards of the preceding post-war years. He tours three decades of responses to the permanent slump, including Keynesian stimulus and price controls on the liberal side as well as the conservative agenda of free markets, deregulation, privatization, and government austerity. He argues that neither program succeeded because of a permanent and intractable slowing of productivity growth, grimly concluding that economic torpor is the new normal and that the dynamic post-war prosperity will never return. Levinson’s account of this vexed era is lucid, well-paced, and entwined with vivid sketches of economists, central bankers, and politicians who failed to restore the pre-1973 good times. He also succeeds at translating complex economic issues into understandable terms for lay readers. Levinson’s admirably evenhanded treatment of recent economic history steers clear of dogmas on both left and right to explore knottier truths. Agent: Ted Weinstein, Ted Weinstein Literary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2016
Release date: 11/08/2016
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