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Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present
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Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  21 reviews
A vividly told history of how greed bred America’s economic ills over the last forty years, and of the men most responsible for them.

As Jeff Madrick makes clear in a narrative at once sweeping, fast-paced, and incisive, 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
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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 31st 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Leland William
This is a good book although a bit technical for the layman. Madrick's thesis is that the preponderance of financial crises in the past 4 decades (defaults on third world debt in 1982, the stock market crash of 1987, the junk bond collapse in 1989-90, the Mexican debt crisis of 1994, the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russian default in 1998, the collapse of LTCM also in 1998, the bursting of the high tech bubble of the early 2000's and the 2008 financial crisis) were the result of excessiv ...more
Eric_W
Jul 01, 2011 Eric_W marked it as to-read
Shelves: economics
From a review in the NYRB July 14, 2011:

"Suppose we describe the following situation: major US financial institutions have badly overreached. They created and sold new financial instruments without understanding the risk. They poured money into dubious loans in pursuit of short-term profits, dismissing clear warnings that the borrowers might not be able to repay those loans. When things went bad, they turned to the government for help, relying on emergency aid and federal guarantees—thereby putt
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Aaron Million
Not the most well-written book. However, I liked how Madrick jumped around to different people and, somewhat chronologically, showed how one person's actions led to other people doing certain things that greatly affected the economy and the world of finance. His over-arching theme - that of greediness dominating the thoughts of so many people in positions of power (and some not motivated by gobs of money, yet making decisions that contributed to financial crises) - serves as a scary reminder tha ...more
Meepspeeps
The typos and his Democrat bias were minor irritations, but the look at the whole 40 years (1970-2009) of greed in financial services I found fascinating. Of course I worked in the industry almost that entire time and find that it's the compensation plans more than any regulation that generate the worst greed in people. However, I think all derivatives could be outlawed and the world would be a better place.
Harold
This is a very readable, slightly political presentation of how America has become sidetracked by exhorbitant salaries, particularly in the financial industry. It focuses on individuals, with chapters on Milken, Weill, Milton Freedman, and others, and that is part of its charm and confusion. The individual stories are readable and compelling, but by the end also repetitive. Afterall, each person has to undergo the same boom and bust years.

Occossaionally the point of the book is also obscured by
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Bill P.
This took me a long time to read. It is dense at times with the accounts of the business regulations that governed banks and wall street, and the concerted efforts the financiers made over the last 4 decades to reverse or eliminate them. Those efforts were highly successful as the author points out for the handful of executives and sales people in the banks and on Wall Street that made outrageous fortunes, but clearly at the cost of strengthening the country overall due to the wasted and lost do ...more
Ishmael Seaward
This book should be required reading for every American of voting age.

This book is fundamentally an economic history of the United States, from about 1970 to the present, but with some background information going back to the WWII. It is well written and easily understood by the lay person. It lays out a timeline of economic and business thinking, and the relationships between Wall Street, the governing political class, and economists. Very few of them emerge unscathed. In fact, bankers and econ
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Diane
I wish everyone who has the capacity to read this book would read it. It wasn't an easy read for me - I had to sit up to do it - but O. M. G. It lays out the whole situation that has this county - and indeed the globe - in the dire economic straits it's in. And it's even more dire than you think, because the same people who brought us all the 2008 market crash that cost the US Treasury (taxpayers) enormous sums in bailout money ARE STILL IN CHARGE. It's too tempting a game for them. Take huge sh ...more
Franz
Essentially a financial history of the last 40-plus years, Mardrick tells his story by following the lives, machinations, frauds, and financial adventures and misadventures of key figures from Wall Street and government. He shows how over time the regulations passed by Congress during the Great Depression, whose purpose was to prevent another debilitating national economic breakdown, gradually disappeared either from piece-by-piece dismantling during both Republican and Democratic presidential a ...more
Sara
This book is an excellent education. The chapters are based on individuals and their actions during this time period including the famous economist, Milton Friedman, the heads of the Federal Reserve, the US presidents, various Wall Street moneymakers like Ivan Boesky, Michael Mulkins, Jack Welch, Sandy Weill, George Soros, John Merriweather, Ken Lay and his cohorts, etc. It also details the big brokerage firms and their actions such as the Leveraged Buyouts so popular in the 80's which did nothi ...more
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Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick

“Age of Greed…” is the historical development of greed over the past forty years. Jeff Madrick takes the reader through a biographical ride of the main players involved in the economic decline of America. This 480-page book is composed of the following chapters: 1. Walter Wriston Regulatory Revolt, 2. Milton Friedman Proselytizer, 3. Richard Nixon and Arthur Burns, 4. Joe Flom The Hostile Takeover
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Valarie
There were some minor flaws in grammar and logical sentence structure, but that's been pretty common in books lately (unfortunately), but they don't undermine the overall impact of this book.

What you should get out of this is that the economic crisis of 2008 didn't occur in a vacuum: It took us 40 or so years to get there, there were people during that time that made conscious decisions to get us there (Glass-Steagall and Regulation Q weren't just considered obsolete by the government, there wa
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Chris
This book smashed it; Madrick is a gangster and he keeps in funky for the full 496 pages.
I read this because his pieces for the NYRB are always top-notch, illuminating and focused. I ran across this book at Dulles airport (IAD) and thought, "why not? If he's good enough to write for the NYRB, I can certainly spend some time with a full book of his."
A bit formulaic at times, but the depth of analysis and range across inter-related topics had me mentally headbanging to this blistering and thorough
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Lachinchon
Although Madrick states, "The collapse was the product of decisions of individuals, set upon making fortunes and becoming one of the kings of the mountain, not an inevitable failure of a system", it seems that the system encourages, indeed lauds, unmitigated greed. Unfortunately, as Madrick also observes, despite the near total collapse of the economy,nothing has really changed. Government lacks the will or the ability to exercise meaningful oversight, our politicians both elected and appointed ...more
Frank Cookingham
Fascinating descriptions of key persons in finance since 1970. Unless we get serious about the increasing wealth inequality gap, more economic crises are in our future.
Chris
A very readable, and damning account of the people and policies that led to financial disaster in 2008. Madrick comes at the story of how free-market extremism and self-serving individuals brought down the financial system by telling the individual stories of many of the major players involved, including academics, politicians, and members of the business community.
Greg
It is an intelligently written book, but has a definite bias against free market practitioners. It is no surprise that I was assigned this in college.
Kevin
This book has really stuck with me. It not only reveals who it was that turned 20th Century Wall Street from a regulated entity into a free-for-all, but you could all it the MAD MEN of the financial world. I highly recommend it.
Thomas Gross
Good book; will make you want long-term jail sentences for some of the most famous CEO's in the World. Needs more balance.
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