cover image The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan

The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan

Sebastian Mallaby. Penguin Press, $35 (800p) ISBN 978-1-59420-484-5

Alan Greenspan, who served as chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006 (the second longest tenure in history), is revealed in this biography to have been neither the fabled maestro who mastered inflation nor the reviled incompetent who failed to anticipate the Great Recession. According to Mallaby (More Money than God), a Financial Times contributing editor, he was a formidable analyst and forecaster, but one whose laissez-faire philosophy allowed unregulated derivatives and “shadow banking” to proliferate and culminate in the 2008 financial crisis. Mallaby also explores one of Greenspan’s less appreciated talents, possibly the one where his real genius lay: a canny instinct for political survival. Mallaby’s treatment of Greenspan’s life is thorough, balanced, and well-informed (due no doubt in part to Greenspan’s cooperation). A less judicious (or more commercially minded) biographer might be tempted to dwell on Greenspan’s recent, and sensational, fall from grace, but Mallaby is careful to give each season of Greenspan’s life its proportional weight. He has written a masterful, detailed portrait of one of the leading economic figures of our time. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Oct.)