The Cult of Greenspan

The Cult of Greenspan

Much ink has been spilled over the personage of Fed chairman
Alan Greenspan. Until now, we’ve avoided the subject, but a recent
article by Dan Kennedy in the alt-weekly The Boston
caught our attention. Kennedy delivers an
intelligent account of Greenspan’s career, and some keen insights
into what propels the impressive pop-culture status of the man many
consider to be more powerful than the president.

Kennedy suggests that, from the start, Greenspan’s good timing and
smooth management have earned him the public’s trust and
admiration. When Greenspan became the Federal Reserve Board
chairman during the 1987 stock market plunge he cajoled the ‘large
financial institutions to make sure the money supply kept flowing,
[making] the crash little more than a slightly unpleasant memory,’
Kennedy writes.

National Public Radio recently affirmed Greenspan’s hero status,
reporting that ‘more people have heard of Greenspan than the lead
singer for the boy group ‘N Sync.’ Even so, his reputation may be
losing some of its luster as the economy continues to

During the Clinton administration, Greenspan maintained a largely
hands-off approach to reducing the deficit. Now, because of the
current carnage in Dot-Com land and the stock market woes, many of
Greenspan’s critics want to see him take more dramatic measures to
improve the economy. However, Kennedy speculates that ‘by refusing
to cut interest rates as quickly as his critics would like,
[Greenspan] may have set a goal of bringing stock prices in line
with their true value, even if there’s some short-term suffering in
the process.’

Kennedy’s article provides an enlighening view of Greenspan’s long
career, from his days in the 1950s as a professional jazz musician
and member of libertarian icon Ayn Rand’s inner circle, to his
current status as ‘central banker extraordinaire, media icon, and
the world’s most unlikely pop-culture hero.’
–Sara V. Buckwitz
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