But make no mistake, Volcker has much to say, and the absence of bomb-throwing gives his message added weight. This is no central banker crying wolf. When the 91-year-old economist decries the role private interests have played in eroding sound money and good government, he offers plenty of firsthand evidence, from the savings-and-loan fiasco of the 1980s and 1990s to the financial crisis of 2008-09.
This book is not merely a whistlestop tour through Volcker’s career, but also, more powerfully, an appeal from an economic giant for an end to the madness. Volcker, 91 and in poor health, clearly means this book to be his parting message to the world. And that message, as he looks on today’s lobbyists, self-aggrandising politicians and greedy financiers, is one of disgust. “I no longer want to visit Washington,” he writes of his old home town. “What not so long ago was a middle-class, mid-sized city dominated by an ethic of public service today simply oozes wealth and entitlement.”
This book is more than an account of his life. It is his credo. Towards its end, he writes: “We face a huge challenge in this country to restore a sense of public purpose and of trust in government. It will require critically needed reforms in our political processes and leaders who can restore and preserve a consensus upon which our great democracy can depend.” Volcker has lessons to impart. This, he writes, “is the reason I finally decided to write this memoir”.