...[an] exceptional new biography ... Mallaby’s verdict on Greenspan is not ungenerous. He credits him with prescience on a range of matters that now tend to be forgotten in the shadow of the financial crisis and points to the value of his empiricist approach to economics ... [a] deeply researched and elegantly written biography.
...despite its nearly 700 pages of text, the book is hard to put down, thanks to Mr. Mallaby’s knack for finding just the right example or sparkling quotation to illustrate his points ... Anecdotes from his personal life are judiciously sprinkled throughout the book, providing short respites from economic matters ... [Mallaby's] meticulous research has created a thoroughly engaging portrait of his life and times ... a tour de force, the story not just of Alan Greenspan’s career but equally of America’s economic triumphs and failures over five decades.
This view of Greenspan as a political animal is central to Mallaby’s account. It is also, along with the often amusing depictions of Greenspan’s personal life, what makes it so much fun to read ... Greenspan comes across in these pages as a decent, thoughtful, likable guy. Just not as an innocent, and also not as a hero ... there are many juicy stories about Greenspan’s subsequent rise from chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Ford administration to informal minister without portfolio in the early Reagan years to boss of the Fed.
Despite Mallaby’s best efforts to show otherwise, much of Greenspan’s career as a public figure was defined by the individualistic fantasies and persistent biases against government spending and regulation that he shared with Ayn Rand ... But his new biography does offer some useful insight into how Greenspan’s libertarian ideals often came into conflict with his persistent ambition to rise to the top of Washington’s policy-making establishment ... From time to time, the book takes on the breathless sensibility of a movie-star biography, or just bad pulp fiction ... Mallaby’s casual treatment of major economic ideas can be frustrating. Even more so are some of the strange conclusions he makes ... Mallaby ignores most of the disturbing outcomes of Greenspan’s major decisions.
Mallaby’s hefty book is a tour de force ... Mallaby shows a solid understanding of competing economic — and political — theories, without tying himself inextricably to any one ... Mallaby’s Greenspan, in short, is neither maestro nor villain. He is a determined man with a brilliant mind, a dedication to data, a commitment to public service, a love of the public spotlight and a profound recognition of the limits of power.
Although Mallaby agrees with many others that the Fed’s failure to address the risks of unregulated derivatives significantly contributed to the economic crisis of 2007, he also blames Born for not accepting some of the compromises to her proposals that were put forward. And he treats Edward Gramlich, the Fed governor in charge of housing-related issues, in a similar 'blame the messenger' manner ... That a biographer of Greenspan could suggest that Gramlich was too reticent on the crucial subjects of mortgages and not mention his book on them seems oddly neglectful. Not only are Mallaby’s assessments unfair to Gramlich (who died in 2007); they also deflect responsibility, in the case of derivatives, from Greenspan—and Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers—for not pursuing concerns that such experts as Gramlich clearly perceived ... Mallaby’s summation is both confusing and disappointing, leaning heavily on the unconvincing notion that Greenspan was an observer, not a doer ... Most puzzling is Mallaby’s apparent dismissal of Greenspan’s failures; he believes that it would not have made a difference if Greenspan had done the right things.
...a superb new book ... Through the lens of this stellar career, the book also throws a sharp light on American policy and policymaking over four decades ... If Mr Mallaby faults Mr Greenspan for inertia on regulation, he is no less critical of the inflation-targeting that Mr Greenspan ultimately adopted, albeit without proclaiming this objective at all clearly.