Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alan Greenspan on 60 Minutes

I just finished watching Leslie Stahl interview Alan Greenspan on 60 Minutes. It sounds as though he is and always has been the stereotypical geek. An economics geek, if you will. He spent his honeymoon with his wife, writer and TV journalist Andrea Mitchell, at an economics conference. His idea of a fun and relaxing read is poring over reams of economic data.

My first thought was how terribly boring that must be. But it obviously isn't boring to him. He loves that stuff. If I loved anything as much as he loves economics, I'd probably be much happier and more successful than I am.

Some of the interesting things Greenspan said were that Richard Nixon's language was laced with so much profanity that he thought there must have been something "extraordinarily wrong" with the man; that Gerald Ford was an extremely decent, good, and moral man; that Ronald Reagan had an unusual kind of intelligence that uplifted the country at a time when it sorely needed it; that George Bush Sr. and he got along poorly in large part because Bush overstepped his bounds by publicly telling Greenspan what he and the Fed should do, such as lower interest rates; that Bill Clinton was the smartest and most "effective" president he served under; that Hillary Clinton is extremely intelligent and eminently capable of running the country even though he would prefer a Republican as president; that he does not approve of George Bush Jr's economic policies of debt-swelling tax cuts and other forms of profligate spending; and that he did not foresee the mortgage crisis but thinks this and the housing crisis will pass even as he anticipates some pretty gloomy economic times ahead, especially with respect to recession.

It was also interesting to learn that Greenspan was a promising young jazz saxophonist as a teenager and even toured for a time with a professional jazz band playing bebop. He also confessed to crafting his "Fedspeak" testimony before Congress as Federal Reserve Chairman to be as obtuse as possible so that when two newspapers published diametrically opposed headlines summarizing the gist of his testimony, he had accomplished precisely what he set out to do.

I did not expect Greenspan to come across as a particularly warm and friendly man, and he surely didn't. But I found his geekiness and straighforward demeanor charming and even inspiring in its own way.


Finding Fair Hope said...

Thanks for watching that show so I didn't have to. Your digest will suffice. I had no patience for this plodding little man who had, and apparently still has, so much power and prestige -- but you have distilled what he said and made it clear to me where he stands. It will never be entirely clear to me what is so special about him, however; or why I should care.

Nagarjuna said...

Hi, FFH. I am increasingly of the opinion that we need our gray-suited plodders just as we need our colorful and creative artists. Both help to make the world go round, and what's important is not so much how they appear to us or to each other as how they feel about the work they do and whether they're good at it and happy with their lives.

I got the impression that Greenspan has always loved his work, and most people in the know seem to think he's been pretty darn good at it. What's more, I had the impression that he's quite a happy man.

So, I say more power to him and to following your bliss wherever it takes you...unless, of course, it takes you somewhere it shouldn't.