An Extraordinary Time : The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy
Overview - The decades after World War II were a golden age across much of the world. It was a time of economic miracles, an era when steady jobs were easy to find and families could see their living standards improving year after year. And then, around 1973, the good times vanished. Read more...
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More About An Extraordinary Time by Marc Levinson
The decades after World War II were a golden age across much of the world. It was a time of economic miracles, an era when steady jobs were easy to find and families could see their living standards improving year after year. And then, around 1973, the good times vanished. The world economy slumped badly, then settled into the slow, erratic growth that had been the norm before the war. The result was an era of anxiety, uncertainty, and political extremism that we are still grappling with today.
In An Extraordinary Time
, acclaimed economic historian Marc Levinson describes how the end of the postwar boom reverberated throughout the global economy, bringing energy shortages, financial crises, soaring unemployment, and a gnawing sense of insecurity. Politicians, suddenly unable to deliver the prosperity of years past, railed haplessly against currency speculators, oil sheikhs, and other forces they could not control. From Sweden to Southern California, citizens grew suspicious of their newly ineffective governments and rebelled against the high taxes needed to support social welfare programs enacted when coffers were flush.
Almost everywhere, the pendulum swung to the right, bringing politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to power. But their promise that deregulation, privatization, lower tax rates, and smaller government would restore economic security and robust growth proved unfounded. Although the guiding hand of the state could no longer deliver the steady economic performance the public had come to expect, free-market policies were equally unable to do so. The golden age would not come back again.
A sweeping reappraisal of the last sixty years of world history, An Extraordinary Time
forces us to come to terms with how little control we actually have over the economy.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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In the 1970s the global economy went to hell and stayed there because of overt shocks and deep transformations, argues former Economist editor Levinson (The Box) in this probing history. He pinpoints 1973 as the turning point when the Arab oil embargo, the collapse of the Bretton Woods exchange-rate mechanism, and stagflation ushered in slow growth, instability, economic insecurity, and debt crises after the strong economic growth and soaring living standards of the preceding post-war years. He tours three decades of responses to the permanent slump, including Keynesian stimulus and price controls on the liberal side as well as the conservative agenda of free markets, deregulation, privatization, and government austerity. He argues that neither program succeeded because of a permanent and intractable slowing of productivity growth, grimly concluding that economic torpor is the new normal and that the dynamic post-war prosperity will never return. Levinsons 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. Levinsons admirably evenhanded treatment of recent economic history steers clear of dogmas on both left and right to explore knottier truths. Agent: Ted Weinstein, Ted Weinstein Literary. (Nov.)