This Guy Again!

Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan Speaks At Bloomberg News Economic Summit

Alan Greenspan is making the TV rounds in support of his new book, and Daniel Dayen is baffled by his warm reception:

So far [on his media tour], he’s gone virtually unchallenged. He has said the 2008 financial crisis “was the first time ever that markets were broken and could not fix themselves” (ever hear of the Depression?), and that he “could have caught a number of different crises” during his tenure at the Fed (which begs the question of why he didn’t). Journalists have asked such penetrating questions as, “You were knighted. Does that come with a title or anything?” …

[A]nyone who’s paid attention to the economy the past few years knows how ridiculous it is to fete Greenspan, the main architect of the policies that led to the Great Recession. If we lived in a just world, we would put him on trial, not on television. And his penalty should be to scrounge up the funds to pay JPMorgan Chase’s $13 billion fine with the Justice Department. After all, that fine penalizes JPMorgan Chase for duping investors into purchasing mortgage-backed securities it knew were stuffed with garbage loans. And nobody in America duped more people – investors, homeowners, you name it – into buying bad loans than Alan Greenspan.

That’s a little too harsh, it seems to me. Greenspan has, after all, admitted his own errors – which is more than most on the right have done. He has been extremely candid about his intellectual blindspot. He is in some degree responsible for the economic collapse, but not in the same way as those bankers who knowingly deceived their customers, and took on risks no one should ever dream of taking on. There is a difference between sins of omission and commission.

And besides, writers have been more critical: Yglesias calls Dayen “too soft” on Greenspan, while Krugman describes The Map and the Territory as “a really terrible book on multiple levels.” Plus, the NYT and WaPo reviews have hardly been complimentary. In some ways, I think going out there with a book is an act of minor courage. Better then refusing to concede error, and throwing spitballs at others dealing with the mess.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)