Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America

Age of Greed  by Jeff Madrick is a fascinating and deeply disturbing tale of hypocrisy, corruption, and insatiable greed. But more than that, it’s a much-needed reminder of how we got into the 2007-8 crisis after the four-decade sweeping march of neoliberalism.
As Jeff Madrick makes clear, the single-minded pursuit of huge personal wealth has been on the rise in the United States since the 1970s, led by a few individuals who have argued that self-interest guides society more effectively than community concerns. These stewards of American neoliberal capitalism have insisted on the central and essential place of accumulated wealth through the booms, busts, and recessions of the last half century, giving rise to our current woes.
In telling the stories of politicians, economists, and financiers who declared a moral battle for freedom but instead gave rise to an age of greed, Madrick traces the lineage of some of our nation’s most pressing economic problems. He begins with Walter Wriston, head of what would become Citicorp, who led the battle against government regulation. He examines the ideas of economist Milton Friedman, who created the plan for an anti-Rooseveltian America by shoehorning real-life data to fit into a one-sided narrative; the politically expedient decisions of Richard Nixon that fueled inflation; the philosophy of Alan Greenspan, on whose libertarian ideology a house of cards was built on Wall Street; and the actions of Sandy Weill, who constructed the largest financial institution in the world, which would have gone bankrupt in 2008 without a federal bailout of $45 billion. Significant figures including Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Jack Welch, and Ronald Reagan play key roles as well.
Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present is a devastating biography of greed and the rise of neoliberalism. But let us not forget: this is not a story of crooks or greedy individuals per se, rather it is a story of a specific ideology that allowed them to take over the economy and society and to rip them off.

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