Alan Greenspan: The Oracle Behind the Curtain

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9789812566065: Alan Greenspan: The Oracle Behind the Curtain

There is an endless supply of rave reviews for Alan Greenspan and the Fed. This is due to Greenspan’s political manipulations, the reluctance of politicians to challenge the Federal Reserve, the press corps’ willingness to trade glowing reviews for access, and private economists with ambitions of becoming Fed Governors. With Greenspan’s announced retirement, the devastating effects of Fed actions are mounting. Even as institutional reforms are suggested, it is shown how they have been blocked by an ideology favored by financial wealth-holders at the expense of wage labor. This thought-provoking new title, by the highly acclaimed author of Wall Street Capitalism and A Brief History of Economics, provides a much-needed counterbalance to the mythical distortions of Alan Greenspan. Canterbery exposes Greenspan’s fundamentalist market ideology as overwhelming rationality in the making of economic policy. He depicts a Fed selfishly guarding its political independence, even as Greenspan has his way in virtually every major economic and social policy affecting the global economy since the Ford Administration. This book reveals the hidden nodes of power that give the Fed vast authority over the global economy. It also explains why it is so important not only to understand those powers, but also to appreciate why they are resistant to moderation.

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GREENSPAN AND THE MYTH OF HIS PURITY

Alan Greenspan has been the single most powerful figure affecting the global economy since 1987. He had substantial influence before then as an economic adviser to Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford. Even retired, he will remain an important political force. He has been called apolitical, someone so detached from politics that he can always be trusted. Above all, he is the detached observer subservient to no political motive or operative. He is pure. He wants also to maintain the purity of the Federal Reserve System so as to insulate the Fed from the influence of politicians, who surely cannot be trusted.

Greenspan’s purity—as with most self-consciously persistent claims—is a myth. Moreover, as we will come to know, the purity of the Federal Reserve System is a sham. In the instance of Mr. Greenspan, "purity" generally has meant selfless dedication to an objective view of economic conditions untarnished by decisions benefiting special interests. To the contrary, we best understand this wizard behind the veil of money through a realistic understanding of his aims as well as the supra-natural instincts of the Federal Reserve System. But, first, let us consider Greenspan.

Greenspan’s policies have always been directed at the protection of the greatest financial wealth holders. Whether it is dealing with stock market bubbles, currency crises or the bailout of giant financial institutions, his actions and those of the Federal Reserve generally have been forces shifting the income and wealth of Americans toward the top and away from the bottom and middle classes. Only through this prism can his policy positions and those inherited by his successor be understood. These effects go beyond the United States; it is a global strategy carried out not only though the Fed, but through multinational financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and private hedge funds. The Federal Reserve and the wizard have a unified defense for such policies: A central bank can’t influence the configurations of family incomes and wealth. This is simply and categorically wrong.

Maestro Greenspan’s background ideally prepared him for his historic conducting of monetary policy. From his early days in New York City he quietly groomed himself for the uncompromising ideological stance he would take. Because of the imprint he leaves at the Federal Reserve, a shift in direction will require two things: the selection of a chair of opposite ideological leanings (unlikely in the age of President George W. Bush) and a severing of the intimate ties of the American central bank to the American and global financial community. Because of the co-dependency of the two—the setting of financial policy by the Fed and the use of financial markets to conduct these policies— institutional reformwill require progressive forces at least as strong and effective as present day neoconservatism. We turn now to the maestro, the wizard, the oracle, and the Pope’s inevitability.

Review:

Whatever the subject and the audience, he [Ray Cantebury] writes clear and interesting prose. --James Tobin, Nobel Prize, Economic Sciences, 1981

There are few scholars whose work I have found more interesting, and who have more consistently elicited my respect. --John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard University

A fast rundown of the Ayn Rand devotee who pulls the right-wing strings on the US and global economy! --Gar Alperovitz, University of Maryland

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