Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan: The Only Thing I Didn't Understand

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan went before Congress today and said there was just one thing he didn't understand in his tenure, which has lead to an economic crisis "much broader than anything I could have imagined."

That one thing, Greenspan said, was "the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works."

In other words, "human nature."

Or in one word, "anything."

Remember how, in his 18 years on the job, the press would make light of Mr. Greenspan's public pronouncements, which bordered on the unintelligible? It meant he had to be a genius, because otherwise you would think he was an imbecile, or at least didn't know what he was talking about, himself.

As in so many other cases, the truth comes to light now, not because of the press, but despite it.

What was Greenspan supposed to do, tell on himself? The Wizard of Oz didn't do that. Why should he? He had a pretty good job going, as long as no one asked too many questions.

It is an important lesson to learn when pondering other things experts say.

For instance, that you must trust them with your personal liberties for national security. That our energy needs require nuclear power, which is easy for them to control and clean up after. That digging shale gas wells here in central New York will be economically equitable and will not affect drinking water. That the personal and financial information on your computer is secure.

Skepticism is required. Alan Greenspan has at least helped us with that lesson.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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