Greenp was born on March 6, 1926, the time of the Great Depression in a Jewish immigrant community. His early interest was in music, a love he inherited from his mother. In fact, he enrolled in the Juilliard music school after high school and later became a member of a jazz band as a saxophone and clarinet player and also as the group’s bookkeeper (Tuccille 23).
However, this other interest in math and statistics compelled him to finally enter the university. His father was a Wall Street stockbroker and encouraged him to follow in his footsteps.
He enrolled in economics at the New York University, earning his bachelor degree there, summa cum laude. When he graduated, he wanted to continue on to masteral studies but because of financial difficulties, he had to look for work at the same time. He got employed as a staff economist in the National Industrial Conference Board and stayed there for 5 years.
The NICB was considered “the premier economic research institution in the world”, providing vital data for economic forecasting and industry solutions to problems and Greenp’s experience there, he said “proved invaluable in later life” (Tuccille 39).
Economic forecasting is interpreting information with regards to the spending habits of families in the country into the index of consumer optimism which will forecast how many of the main products available in the market would be bought in the succeeding times and how this future spending will affect the economy (Answers.com). Other statistical data on unemployment and employment, individual income, production and others are also used to determine the direction of the economic cycle.
In his early 20’s and single, his full time job in the office and his studies at night did not give him the time to go out with friends, much less date women, but his passion be a successful economist was his sole motivation, a characteristic that defined the manner in which he dealt with the positions he would hold later on.
After his masteral, he again enrolled for his doctorate this time at Columbia University under Dr. Arthur Burns, who was well known as a business cycle economist, consultant to the government and chair of the Federal Reserve Board. He served as one of Greenp’s greatest influences in the shaping of his career and his economic philosophy. Burns believed in extreme laissez-faire economics or the absence of government regulation on economic matters but later tried to find middle ground between laissez-faire and Keynesianism (Tuccille 94). The latter states that the both the government and business should have roles in the economy.
Before this, Greenp had also collaborated with William Townsend in setting up an economic forecasting firm, the Townsend-Greenp Company. His hectic schedule finally bore down on him physically so he dropped out of Columbia University to focus on his job instead. By then, Greenp had married Joan Mitchell, an artist still in the process of making a niche of her own. However, they divorced a few months later because of irreconcilable differences (Objectivism Reference Center).
Through his former wife, Greenp was introduced to the philosophy of objectivism, developed by Ayn Rand and propagated by an objectivism movement. Objectivism is the thought that puts individual or corporate/private interest above all others, a commendation for capitalism and the free market (Objectivism Reference Center).
Involvement in this movement inspired him to write several articles and to foster a long-term friendship with Rand herself. Rand’s influence is said to be the reason why Greenp denounced his beliefs in Keynesianism.
His political stint as economic adviser began when he worked for then Vice-Pres. Nixon’s presidential campaign and later as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, a position he also held under Pres. Ford and because, gaining a PhD was essential for career movement in Washington, he enrolled again at the New York University and graduated around the same time that Pres. Carter was sworn to office (Objectivism Reference Center).