"Levinson, an economist and ex-journalist, has the virtues of both-an eye for detail and an understanding of the broader picture."
- Washington Post, Best Economics Books of 2016
"A smoothly written account of the U.S. and the world economy.... Mr.
Levinson is a smart enough author not to be tempted into some breathless mono-causal account of either the earlier 'boom' or the later slowdown.
He's excellent at description."
-Wall Street Journal
"A provocative book."
-Robert Samuelson, Washington Post
"[Levinson] has a journalist's appreciation for the power of on-the-ground observation."
"A valuable antidote to all passionately held economic ideologie."
-Paul Collier, Times Literary Supplement (UK)
"It is this story of the coming and passing of that long boom-and apparently the inability of politicians to do much about resuscitating it-that Levinson crisply tells."
"An Extraordinary Time provides a well-balanced (and surprisingly entertaining) tour of global economic and political history since 1973...Excellent book. Highly recommended."
-Inside Higher Ed
"Levinson has unmatchable understanding of economics and an extraordinary ability to explain intricate economics to laymen."
-Washington Book Review
"Levinson's account of this vexed era is lucid, well-paced, and entwined with vivid sketches of economists, central bankers, and politicians who failed to restore the pre-1973 good times. He also succeeds at translating complex economic issues into understandable terms for lay readers. Levinson's admirably evenhanded treatment of recent economic history steers clear of dogmas on both left and right to explore knottier truths."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
view is absolutely worth heeding in these days of unprecedented worldwide financial experimentation.... A cogently argued account that lays bare the similarities and differences between the world today and earlier theoretical shortcomings."
"I've heard it said that economic history is a dying art. Well, not in Marc
Levinson's hands. This account of how the extraordinary economic times from 1948 to 1973 turned into the very ordinary (or worse) times that followed is comprehensive, artfully presented, and largely persuasive.
That's quite an achievement."
-Alan Blinder, Princeton University, author of After the Music Stopped
provocative account of recent economic history which argues the good times have gone, and no government-neither left nor right-can bring them back. A sobering read."
-Eric Rauchway, University of California, Davis, author of The Money Makers
Levinson has given us a fascinating and perceptive account of the economic difficulties of the 1970s and the response of policymakers. As the United States and other countries struggled with the turbulent end of the post-World War II boom, seeking to cope with stagflation and higher unemployment, they often turned politically to the right-embracing tax cuts and deregulation. How did this process work its way out? This timely book of an important period is not just informative, but helps put our current economic difficulties in perspective."
-Douglas Irwin, Dartmouth College, author of Free Trade Under Fire
lively, well-researched tour of the transformation of the American economy in the decades after World War II-how it happened and why the pace didn't last. A great read for those who lived through those years and those who want to learn about them."
-Alice M. Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Levinson (former finance & economics editor, the Economist; The Box) presents a survey history of the global economy during the latter part of the 20th century. The period, he says, divides neatly into two halves: the first half, 1950 through the mid-1970s, was the golden age when all-knowing economic policymakers appeared to guide strong economic growth. From the 1970s on, the chronicle focuses on how that acceleration faltered. Levinson cites as factors rising energy costs, inflation, disruptive technologies, weak business profitability, environmental regulations, increasing welfare state costs, and especially lower productivity growth. He writes that slower economic expansion caused political turbulence and attempts by governments to accelerate profit gains. His dissection of the many policy blunders and few successes is illuminating. The main takeaway from this work is that the third-quarter of the 20th century was unique and that the world by the mid-1970s had entered into a persistent slow growth state. VERDICT Levinson has taken a half-century of complicated economic history and distilled it into a understandable and lively text that is highly recommended for all readers, particularly students of economics.—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Sept. 8, 2016
An economic historian challenges both politicians and economists in this account of why the post–World War II economic boom came to an end and what followed.Former Economist finance and economics editor Levinson (The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, 2011, etc.) argues that 1973 was when the world changed course. Then, he writes, “average income per person around the world leaped 4.5 percent. At that rate, a person’s income would double in sixteen years….Average people had reason to feel good. And then the good times were over.” The author considers various causes—e.g., the first oil shock, when OPEC, following Saudi Arabia’s lead, hiked its prices by 400 percent, and foreign exchange volatility, which preceded President Richard Nixon’s decision to take the dollar off gold in August 1971. Levinson also considers the ineptitude of both politicians and economists as major contributors to the crisis. Neither “had any idea what was causing the ailment. They acted because they were under pressure to act, not because they had confidence in their prescriptions.” This view is absolutely worth heeding in these days of unprecedented worldwide financial experimentation. Levinson contends that beginning with Arthur Burns, the chair of the Federal Reserve from 1970 to 1978, efforts to control inflation proceeded from doctrinal bases that only a few years later would be considered “bizarre.” The author shows the ending of a world in which government action was thought to be capable of providing competent direction to economic processes. He associates that world with two thinkers: Argentinian Raúl Prebisch and German Karl Schiller. Prebisch advocated import substitution as a pathway to development for developing economies, while Schiller was a master planner. Free-market advocates Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan changed that bygone world, but in Thatcher’s case, Britain didn’t achieve growth comparable to the times before the 1970s. A cogently argued account that lays bare the similarities and differences between the world today and earlier theoretical shortcomings.