The Age of Turbulence

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The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
Age of turbulence book cover.jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Alan Greenspan
Country United States
Language English
Genre Memoir
Publisher Penguin Press
Publication date
September 17, 2007
Media type Hardcover
Pages 544 (1st ed.)
ISBN ISBN 978-1594201318
(1st ed., hardcover)
OCLC 122973403
332.1/1092 B 22
LC Class HB119.G74 A3 2007

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World is a 2007 memoir written by former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan. Published on September 17, 2007, the book debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction.[1] Penguin Press reportedly paid him an $8 million advance.[2]


The first half of The Age of Turbulence is an autobiographical chronology of Greenspan's life that shows readers the people and circumstances that helped shape and guide Greenspan—from hours of clarinet and saxophone practice to living-room philosophy with Ayn Rand.

The second half of the book retells several major economic events (primarily within the United States) that have occurred over the past half century. It details his economic endeavors and personal observations while serving under various U.S. presidents and are often intermingled with the economic events. The latter half of the book also includes an analysis and brief history of major global economic constructs—Marxist communism, populism, and various mutations of market capitalism—along with Greenspan's opinions about their relative merits and shortcomings.

Greenspan said that he wrote the book in longhand mostly while soaking in the bathtub, a habit he regularly employed since an accident in 1971, when he injured his back.[3]

On free market capitalism[edit]

In Greenspan's view, free market capitalism is the economic approach that "trumps" other forms attempted thus far in human history. His support of Adam Smith's "invisible hand", i.e., people's motivational self-interest, is foundational to his view of creating a successful, growing economy. He discusses the rapid historical growth of the U.S. economy under market capitalism as well as its benefit to foreign adopters, albeit with persistent dis-functions. His support for market capitalism is not without criticism. This includes the anxiety often expressed within a society as "creative destruction" plays out. Greenspan also decries the lack of quality public secondary education for the "masses", particularly in mathematics and the sciences, and how this problem contributes to the divergence of rich and poor within the United States.

"The book ends on an awkward note that the conditions that led to a substantial reduction in the inflation and interest rates in the past three decades were an accident and are not likely to be repeated. How sad."[4]

On presidential economic influence[edit]

Greenspan's criticisms of President George W. Bush include his refusal to veto new federal legislation, thus increasing spending with unprecedented ease. In Greenspan's opinion, Bush's approach to dealing with the congress has been one of "conflict avoidance", and fulfilling political promises/agendas with little room for compromise or reason.[5] Greenspan writes, "[Republicans in Congress] swapped principle for power; they ended up with neither...they "deserved to lose" the 2006 midterm elections.[6] One of his book’s major themes is the "continuing struggle of successive administrations to achieve fiscal balance".[7]

Of all the presidents with whom he worked, Greenspan praises Gerald Ford above all others, but also has high praise for Bill Clinton. His opinion of Clinton's governance was one which maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth".[8]


The Economist considered the book to be "first-rate", noting that "it engages on different levels: it is intelligent in a way that few popular books on economics manage or even try to be; and, wonder of wonders, it is a good read".[2] The New York Times’s David Leonhardt said that it was "surprisingly frank" and often "downright entertaining". However, he gave it an overall thumbs down ("it isn’t a great memoir") due to Greenspan’s "reluctance to be as forthright and penetrating about himself as he is about others".[9]

In the New York Review of Books, Benjamin M. Friedman was largely praising of the book, describing it as "clearly written and easy to read and understand" and says that Greenspan is "forthright in sharing his views on not only policy issues but also the personalities of many of the people with whom he worked during his time in office. His opinions frequently run counter to his well-known Republican political loyalties, which he also makes no effort to hide".[7]


  1. ^ "Best Sellers; Hardcover Nonfiction". The New York Times Book Review. October 7, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Alan Greenspan's memoirs: The Undertaker's story". The Economist. September 20, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Hagenbaugh, Barbara (September 17, 2007). "Greenspan takes center stage in 'Age of Turbulence'". USA Today. Retrieved November 9, 2007. 
  4. ^ William Niskanen (Fall 2007). "Book Reviews" (PDF). Cato Journal (Cato Institute) 27 (3): 481–484. 
  5. ^ Felsenthal, Mark (September 15, 2007). "Greenspan criticizes Bush policies in memoir". Reuters. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ Ip, Greg (September 15, 2007). "Greenspan Book Criticizes Bush And Republicans". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Benjamin M. Friedman (March 20, 2008). "Chairman Greenspan’s Legacy". New York Review of Books 55 (4). 
  8. ^ Andrews, Edmund L.; David E. Sanger (September 15, 2007). "Fed's Ex-Chief Attacks Bush On Fiscal Role". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  9. ^ Leonhardt, David (September 18, 2007). "Economist’s Life, Scored With Jazz Theme". New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Power to the People by Laura Ingraham
#1 New York Times Best Seller Non-Fiction
October 7, 2007 – October 14, 2007
Succeeded by
My Grandfather's Son by Clarence Thomas