After 4 months of reading articles and getting a surface-level understanding of subjects I’m interested in, it’s time to dive deep into the big books to find out which ones will sustain my attention span. Ultimately, if I am so hungry for a subject that I finish a book wanting to learn more, and if I am able to see myself doing the work that the author does, it’s a good sign that I would bring the same level of passion to a career related to that subject.
My first test subject is Alan Greenspan: The Age of Turbulence – Adventures in a New World. I want to see if the global economy and global economic policy are subjects I am interested in.
The book starts right after 9/11, with Greenspan telling the story of what was going on in the U.S. Treasury right after he joined. The U.S. Treasury was worried that the economy would go down just like it did with the Pearl Harbour attack, noting that people across the country were spending money on surviving future attacks, instead of what they usually spend it on. But somehow, with the amount of globalization and economic advancement that had gone on in the second half of last century, the market was strong enough to bounce back in no time. The 9/11 incident sets the tone for the rest of the book, where Greenspan attempts to retrace his entire career and figure out what we can expect from the economy in this ‘Age of Turbulence’.
Greenspan’s youth was very interesting: as a kid, he calculated ratios for ballgames, which hinted at his gift for math. He started playing baseball, but after the age of 14, his ability peaked and he stopped getting better. He also joined jazz bands and played clarinet, which he loved and did professionally, all across the US.
Later on, he went to university for economics, which he was inspired to do from his father who worked in the financial district. Because the Great Depression was still fairly recent (in the 40s), economics was a highly regarded subject, and every student of the subject dreamed of making the financial system better. There were a lot of Keynesians – people who believed that government intervention is necessary to sustain an economy. Greenspan found that he was not one of them, and was more interested in the mathematical aspect of economics. He started working at a firm, tallying statistics and doing analysis for his boss over a span of 4 months, doing a project that Excel would be able to accomplish in a day today.
I was at page 62 (out of 505) before I noticed that I was seriously falling asleep reading Greenspan’s economic analyses. To be comfortable reading this book, I would need to revisit my ECON 101 and 102 notes and understand them thoroughly, and probably search the Internet for advanced economic theory. All of this does sound like a lot of work, so I will conclude, for the time being, that advanced economics is not for me.
I did gravitate towards a few things in the book: managing the economy from the level of government, to make sure that the financial system is able to support everybody through both bad and good times, can be a very rewarding and impactful career. His personality as a musician is also quite bookish and reserved compared to the outgoing stereotypical musician – being a musician myself, I kind of see myself being more like him than a full-blown pop star.
This is a worthwhile read if you find yourself inspired by the math behind economics and politics, and are trying to make sense of the economy yourself.
Cheers and see you in another 2 weeks!