Saturday, September 15, 2007

Greenspan and Groucho

In his complex commentaries, the former Fed chairman always seemed the ultimate anti-Groucho, immune to pith and irony.

But ironies abound. Even as Alan Greenspan sums up his public life, news of the book itself reflects a central lesson from it--the difficulty of controlling events in a free-enterprise society.

The New York Times was given an exclusive first look to report on publication date, Monday. But the Wall Street Journal bought a copy, published excerpts last night, and other news organizations followed.

The big news, according to the Journal, is Greenspan’s assertion that “the party to which he has belonged all his life deserved to lose power last year for forsaking its small-government principles.”

“They swapped principle for power,” the Times quotes him as writing. “They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.”

In coming days, there will be debate over Greenspan’s role in promoting the housing bubble and his apparent approval of sub-prime lending, which has now led to a credit disaster, as well as other facets of his management of the Fed under four presidents.

In the media blitz next week to push his book, Greenspan may want to revert to his show-business roots as a saxophone player and give interviewers a few of Groucho’s cryptic one-liners. Otherwise they won’t understand his explanations any more than they did when what he said really mattered.

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