Like all bibliophiles, I find there are too many books to read and not enough time to get to even one percent of them. As a result, every so often I will try to catch up with books I always meant to read but somehow never did. This month has been a particularly productive. First, I finally acted on the advice of hundreds of folks over the years, and picked up a copy of Eric Ambler’s classic A Coffin for Dimitrios, which was indeed as good as promised. But instead of sticking with Ambler, I got intrigued by the 1970s.
Let me backtrack. Last month I read the compelling revisionist history The Sixties Unplugged, by Gerard DeGroot. DeGroot takes on the decade from a left-wing perspective, arguing that aside from a few genuine moments of revolutionary change such as the Stonewall riots and the resultant cry for equal rights for homosexuals, most 60s movements – including the anti-war movement — were narcissistic in origin and quickly subsumed by capitalist interests. It’s an incredible work of history, one that challenges just about every belief you have about what you think you know, and leaves you desperate for more information at the same time. So I moved on to the 1970s. And because I wanted to see the decade from the completely opposite political perspective, I checked Neo-Con David Frum’s How We Got Here out of my local library.
All I can say is that it is a tribute to the uniquely fascinating properties of the 1970s, which is indeed a truly under-appreciated decade in our nation’s history, that I was able to read as much of this book as I did. I won’t waste anyone’s time ripping apart a book that is almost a decade old, but I will take moment to note it did provide a few moments of unintentional insight, particularly into the hypocrisy of the neo-cons. One in particular stands out: Frum’s look at the inflation of the 1970s.
Low interest rates are very pleasant, but they can also stimulate inflation. Ideally, the Federal Reserve acts as a thermostat. It lowers interest rates and injects cash into the economy during recessions, and it raises interest rates and removes cash during booms, thus preserving a stable, stead price level. But if the Federal Reserve were to continue lowering interest rates during a boom, cash would soon become ridiculously over-plentiful and its value would begin to tumble.
So where was Mr. Frum during the Greenspan era? Oh, right. He was busy adding such lovely phrases as “axis of evil” to President George W. Bush’s lexicon and clearly too busy to take on the disastrous economic policies of the Fed.
As for me, I just put the well-regarded Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies on reserve at the library.
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