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 "Alan Greenspan as a New Incarnation of Grigory Rasputin"

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Transvaal in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Political Dance

Grigory Rasputin was a Russian religious adventurist who is perceived as having influenced the later days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son the  Alexei. See The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky for details.

The key component of his power was his ability to influence the imperial family. It was Alexandra who was the key to the Rasputin influence (First World War.com - Who's Who - Tsarina Alexandra):

The Tsarina's anxious concern for her son's illness led her to embrace Rasputin, a debauched 'holy man' who proved able to stem Alexis' loss of blood (it has been suggested through hypnosis).

Already unpopular at court - where she firmly held sway over her husband - Alexandra's unswerving loyalty to Rasputin (whom she believed had been sent by God to save the Russian throne) led her to continually excuse his notorious excesses, and further damaged her reputation both at court and in the public at large (whom she gave every indication of despising).

A fanatical believer in Russian Orthodoxy and a firm believer in the principles of autocratic rule, Alexandra lost no opportunity in asserting her husband's right to lead his country.  She routinely dismissed her husband's political advisers, even those who were both competent and remained loyal to the Tsar.

It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall in 1917 of the Romanov dynasty. Contemporary opinions saw Rasputin as a debauched religious charlatan with insatiable sexual appetite and tremendous luster for power and influence.  There are some subtle analogies between Rasputin and Greenspan. We will discuss in detail seven most prominent areas of similarity:

  1. Radicalism, fringe views. Rasputin was religious radical with questionable agenda and almost blind trust from the part of Russian aristocracy as well as tsar family,  but who contributed to the creation of the level of corruption which contributed to the Imperial Russia demise.  Greenspan is a opportunist without any own views, a chameleon who used to pretend to be a market fundamentalist (strong allergy for regulation and zeal in dismantling New Deal safeguards) but actually acted as statist (interest rates masturbation was the favorite hobby).  For both the defining feature is not their own views (there might be none) but tremendous lust for power and prestige as well as charismatic personality who can get the trust of the major players. Despite fringe views (or may be because of them) Greenspan enjoyed support of the Wall Street moguls, and blind trust of the Congress as well as a large part of academic community. Along with fringe views Greenspan like a real cult leader ensured that the institutional memory of Fed has the lifespan of a fruit fly.  The lessons of history have been forgotten and safeguards eliminated. Greenspan achieved almost impossible:  complete amnesia for the lessons of Great Depression.

    There is also no question that in monetary policy Greenspan proved to be a dangerous radical.  Doug Nolan noted in his famous column The Greenspan Era Lessons to be Learned 

    Truth be told, Mr. Greenspan is a monetary policy radical. He presided over the greatest expansion of speculative finance in history, including a Trillion dollar hedge fund community, bloated Wall Street firm balance sheets approaching $2 Trillion, a $3.3 Trillion repo market, and a global derivatives market surpassing an unfathomable $220 Trillion. During the late-nineties, when leveraged speculation was heavily infiltrating the financial system, he became the leading proponent of the "New Economy." He became a powerful advocate of derivatives and Wall Street finance, all the time avoiding any discussion of the impact these new financial instruments and practices were having on Credit growth, marketplace risk perceptions, speculation, asset prices and the underlying structure of the economy.

    Like Rasputin intrigues, his monetary policy contributed to the excessive leverage and derivative boom that was instrumental in rapid expansion of financial sector and reckless speculation. That created of current troubles for Wall Street firms (especially New York banks due to his past as a bank lobbyist)), the troubles that might  eventually lead to collapse of once mighty banks and threatened that status of the dollar as a reserve currency.  The question whether the most corrupt players avoid lynching is still open...
     

  2. "Greed is good" as a more limited version of "Sin is purifying" motto.  If you think about Rasputin's motto "sin is purifying" and his sexual excesses that is not that far from "greed is good" which was the guiding principle of Greenspan behavior. The cult-style belief system along with extreme flexibility and tremendous political skills permitted both to adapt it to the needs of those in power and prosper on the corrupt environment they created. Mysticism was a key that open for Rasputin the door to high society. Similarly market fundamentalism it provided undeniable advantages for political ladder climbers during Reagan years. The battle cry was dismantling of the New Deal checks and balances for the benefit of the most greedy and reckless part of Wall Street. The most apt demonstration was neutering of Glass-Steagall Act.  As FT commented there are big differences between commercial and investment banks with the latter being far more dangerous animals, especially as they grow in size:

    Commercial and retail bankers are like battery hens. You put them in a small cubicle, pressurise them with tough sales targets but provide a decent salary, and they will produce a steady stream of returns. Most are conservative, somewhat harassed souls, who seldom think to bite the hand that feeds them.

    An investment bank is more like a zoo, full of bizarre, prideful and sometimes dangerous animals. A zookeeper who pushes them around, or issues orders, is asking to have an arm bitten off. Instead, the job is to keep the animals in their cages, so they do not savage the paying customers, while understanding their individual behaviour patterns. What does it mean, for example, when a derivative trader refuses to take a holiday?

  3. Substance abuse. While Rasputin was the traditional alcoholic, Greenspan created the new type of irresponsible regulator, a financial bartender who serving drunks booze after booze to keep them from falling on the floor. His concentration on manipulation of  financial markets has few historical presidents.  The most close would be manipulation of  prices by USSR Politburo.
     
  4. Tremendous, all-encompassing lust for power and status. Tremendous abilities to create a cult of personality using all means possible.  Like Rasputin became a new, bizarre center of power in Imperial Russia, Greenspan also gradually acquired and tightly gripped to the role that entails tremendous political power.  Both prefer working powerful woman (powerful media woman in Greenspan case). Tremendously autocratic both manipulated public opinion. Greenspan partially derived his  political power from his ability to raise or lower the interest rates before the elections and use it to full extent to shine in spotlight  and thus make or break the candidates from the party in power.  The mere threat of such actions was often enough for confirmation by presidents who definitely would prefer somebody else at this position.  So quid-pro-quo arrangements extending Greenspan's tenure were something similar to J. Edgar Hoover  ability to survive under so many presidents. It is because of Hoover's long and controversial reign that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms. I do not see why Fed Chairman position should be different: Greenspan was enough of the warning sign to prevent this from happening again.

    Sir Alan convincingly  demonstrated during his long carrier that he can do whatever it takes to stay in power, principles be damned. It has been reported that Ayn Rand once remarked at a party in the late fifties about Greenspan, "Oh, Alan is so brilliant, but he's such a social climber." Seems she pegged him rather well, for Mr. Greenspan certainly became quite skilled in the climbing game that makes up Wall Street and Washington.

    In FSO Editorials Greenspan's Choice Scylla or Charybdis (04-28-2004)   Nelson Hultberg  noted that Greenspan has tremendous lust for power (read also Bob Woodward's Maestro to learn of Greenspan's love of status):

    Power-luster. There’s only one reason a central deified by economists and Wall Street strategists. He planner seeks to do whatever he wishes, to willfully obfuscate his aims, deliberately deceive questioners and operate unaccountably: because he’s a power-luster. That was Greenspan. The idolatry he received from Wall Street, academia, Congress and the White House only emboldened him to secure and exercise still more political power than he already possessed when he began. Consider the near-disappearance of intellectual independence under his reign.

    It is interesting to note that retired Greenspan still tries to remain in spotlight and became a consultant several firms including one which explicitly benefited from subprime bubble.
     

  5. Refined hypocrisy, ability to use fuzzy language to mask intensions and avoid critique. Like in case of Rasputin, much of the debate around Greenspan's legacy has revolved around the matter of hypocrisy, of a man preaching laissez-faire who repeatedly intervened in the market to save the wealthiest players. As for his religious zeal as an accolade of obscure teachings of Ann Rand (Objectivism) he has come under criticism from Harry Binswanger, who believes his actions while at work for the Federal Reserve and his publicly expressed opinions on other issues show abandonment of Objectivist and free market principles. It is interesting to note that Fed position is incompatible with Rand teachings and is completely incompatible with any sincere libertarian beliefs. For most people the term libertarian evokes an image of a scraggly misfit living in the woods with his gun collection, a few marijuana plants, some dog-eared Ayn Rand titles, and a battered pickup truck plastered with bumper stickers reading "Taxes = Theft" and "FDR Was A Pinko."

    "Greenspan speak" was probably more like a kind of "The King New dress", the attempt to conceal the emptiness of content.  As XXX noted in The talented Mr. Greenspan

    The secret of his success is his ability to match the arcane but ultimately content-free arcane jargon of the alchemist to the gullibility of the customers. No one wants to admit that they don't know what he's talking about.

    Greenspan describes himself as a "lifelong libertarian Republican" but this a very questionable statement as his actions are difficult to understand for someone who believe in small government, and, especially, in fiscal responsibility.   In his position of Fed Chairman he was more like a member of Politburo, unelected very powerful official that citizens cannot control. On March 3, 2005, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid attacked Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington" and criticized him for supporting Bush's 2001 tax cut plan. Some of  his actions are more explainable by hypothesis that he was a Wall Street agent in Fed then by the hypothesis that he was a "lifelong Republican". For this reason economist Paul Krugman sharply criticized  Greenspan as a "three-card maestro" with a "lack of sincerity" who, "by repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, has betrayed the trust placed in the Fed chairman." While not a polite discourse this hypotheses has some supported by facts.
     

  6. High IQ, ability to read people, tremendous political abilities along with lack of education. Few people really grasp of how brilliant a politician and truly connected a player Greenspan actually was. In terms of subtle calculation, ego manipulation and natural alignment to power, he really was a "Maestro" of the highest order. But as for economic education, despite his Ph.D from NYC University, Greenspan looks like at best is a semi-educated economist.

    Despite all media hype Greenspan was one of the worst forecaster who occupied Fed chair. His forecasting record before becoming Feb chairman was equally dismal. Most of his prognosis turn to be so false that the best strategy of using Greenspan predictions is to use then as a contrarian indicator. As the Associated Press reported  Jan 05, 2008:

    Critics contend that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan pursued interest-rate policies that led to a speculative housing bubble while failing to use the Fed’s regulatory powers to crack down on abusive mortgage lending practices.

    Here are comments made by Greenspan on housing and mortgages:

    • February 2004: “American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage,” Greenspan said in a speech praising the benefits of adjustable-rate mortgages.
       
    • October 2004: “While local economies may experience significant price imbalances, a national severe price distortion seems most unlikely in the United States, given its size and diversity,” Greenspan said, playing down the threat of a national housing bubble.
       
    • May 2005: Greenspan said in a speech that he doubted there was a national housing bubble similar to the one in the stock market. But he said there were a “lot of local bubbles” in housing, and he called the pace of housing price increases unsustainable.
       
    • July 2005: “A decline in the national housing price level would need to be substantial to trigger a significant rise in foreclosures, because the vast majority of homeowners have built up substantial equity in their homes despite large mortgage-market-financed withdrawals of home equity in recent years,” Greenspan said in testimony to the House Financial Services Committee.
       
    • September 2007: “I was aware that the loosening of mortgage credit terms for subprime borrowers increased financial risk. But I believe then, as now, that the benefits of broadened home ownership are worth the risk,” Greenspan wrote in his recent memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in the New World.
       
    • December 2007: “Cash is available, and we should use that in large amounts, as is necessary, to solve the problems of the stress of this,” Greenspan said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” He suggested the government should boost support to homeowners facing the prospect of losing their residences because their mortgages were resetting at higher interest rates.
  7. Common and eternal theme of brainless sheep and greedy, corrupt shepherds. Systemic corruption and wanton greed of those who were knowingly aided and abetted the secularization mess is nothing new and has strong parallels with Imperial Russia demise. In both cases the key players understood perfectly well that it will  inevitably hurt the society as well as those drawn into the deception. 

Many now detest the Fed so much, because of Greenspan's role in aiding and abetting activities that ultimately harm society.

Chapters within the Thesis

  1. Literature Reviews.
  2. Key areas of similarity
  3. Results and Discussion.
  4. Conclusions.

"Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he would be willing to serve another term. Greenspan said, 'Where else would I get a job in this economy?'" —Conan O'Brien


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NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

Alan Greenspan Is The Man

1 Alan Greenspan threw the apple at Isaac Newton 4.5
2 If you had a cent for everytime Alan Greenspan made a mistake. You'd owe him money. 4.4
3 Alan Greenspan can't watch CSI. There is no such thing as mystery to him. 4.2
5 Alan Greenspan last had a sick day 76 years ago. BAM....great depression. 3.9
6 Alan Greenspan watched the Neverending story....to the end 3.8
7 Alan Greenspan's handwriting is Times New Roman 3.7
10 Alan Greenspan was all three wise men 3.7
11 Alan Greenspan is the only living prime 3.7
13 The G8 is just Alan Greenspan standing in a room with 7 mirrors 3.6
15 When Alan Greenspan jumps in a pool he doesn't get wet, the pool gets Alan Greenspaned. 3.6
16 Alan Greenspan doesn't eat breakfast at work, he eats work for breakfast 3.6
17 Alan Greenspan can play DVDs with a Betamax player. 3.6
18 It is an official rule of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' that Alan Greenspan cannot be your 'phone a friend'. 3.6
19 The information super highway is the corridor between Alan Greenspans bedroom and bathroom 3.5
21 Alan Greenspan can do a rubics cube blindfolded and Drunk......With no hands. 3.5
22 10 minutes after birth, Alan Greenspan signed his own birth certificate. In pen 3.4
23 They once tried to hypnotise Alan Greenspan. BAM. 1987 Wall Street crash. 3.4
25 The sun is powered by Alan Greenspan's calculator. Not the other way round. 3.4
26 If you saw an MRI of Alan Greenspan's brain your head would explode. 3.4
28 You're in a plane and the engine catches fire, the only passengers are you and Alan Greenspan and there is only one parachute....what do you do? Die of course. Alan Greenspan is so smart he jumped out like ten minutes out ago. 3.4
29 Alan Greenspan invented google first, but kept it for himself 3.3
30 Alan Greenspan doesn't sleep, he just hibernates while his brain backs up 3.3
31 Alan Greenspan invented numbers, except 7. 3.3
33 Alan Greenspan generated this entire list of facts in five seconds. And his were actually funny. 3.3
37 The US dollar operates on a Greenspan Brain Cell standard 3.2
40 30 days has September, April, June and November....Unless Alan Greenspan decides otherwise 3.2
42 Census collection is an elaborate hoax. The population of america is decided by Alan Greenspan looking at a map 3.2
47 Alan Greenspan's Right Brain uses FedEx to Communicate with his Left Brain. 3.2
48 Alan Greenspan sleeps under spreadsheets 3.2
50 Alan Greenspan can compose and perform an entire symphony from a DOS prompt using under 20 keystrokes. 3.1
51 Alan Greenspan reads Penthouse for the articles. No really. He does. 3.1
52 Alan Greenspan can dance like Michael Jackson, he just can't be bothered. 3.1
56 Alan Greenspan doesn't listen to in-flight safety demonstrations. He's not afraid. 3.0
57 Alan Greenspan went to the moon before Neil Armstrong. Just to check everything was okay. 3.0
59 Alan Greenspan was added to Mount Rushmore 3.0
63 Green Lantern comics are loosely based on Alan Greenspan's early childhood 3.0
75 Alan Greenspan learned to count before he learned to learn 2.8
81 Alan Greenspan's analysis is so fast, he shuts down before he boots up. 2.7
82 It's not a coincidence that Alan Greenspan ryhmes with 'who is the man'? 2.7
83 Alan Greenspan has his own in-flight safety demonstration for other passenger's safety 2.7
85 Alan Greenspan can prove that fairies exist. Even though they don't. 2.7

Predicting the trough and a jobless recovery

From comments:

Econbrowser

One of my friends proposed the following cartoon to the WSJ but was rejected. I thought it was priceless.

I proposed to have Greenspan, Bernanke and Paulson all dressed in camouflage and hunter's hats, carrying Bazookas walking into an Adirondack style lodge where you can see trophies on the wall...

a Mexican...labeled 'Peso Crises'
a 'Tojo' looking Japanese… labeled 'Lost Decade'
an Indonesian Islander… labeled 'Asian Financial Crises'
a Factory Worker with hard hat… labeled, 'Manufacturing Collapse'
a housewife with a shopping bag… labeled, 'Inflation Kills the Middle Class’
a computer geek… labeled 'Dot.Com Collapse’
a mortgage broker… labeled ‘Housing Collapse’
an investment banker labeled…'Wall Street collapse’
an auto worker, labeled…'Main Street Collapse'
and another trophy on the table not yet hung…labeled 'Dollar Collapse.'

Paulson says to Greenspan, "My Alan this is veryy impressive!"

Greenspan replies, "To tell you the truth Hank, I hit them all by accident. I was out interest rate targeting and no-one told me that I had the Bazooka pointed backwards!"

Random Findings

"Some good news for the economy. President Bush went on a month-long vacation." —Jay Leno

"The federal government announced today that the recession ended back in November of 2001. It ended two years ago! Be sure to pass that on to all your unemployed friends. So you know what that means? The past twenty months of job layoffs, corporate bankruptcies and declining stocks, those were the good times. We should have been living it up." —Jay Leno

"Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he would be willing to serve another term. Greenspan said, 'Where else would I get a job in this economy?'" —Conan O'Brien

"Democrats were quick to point out that President Bush's budget creates a 1 trillion dollar deficit. The White House quickly responded with 'Hey, look over there, it's Saddam Hussein.'" —Craig Kilborn

"I'm watching TV today and it's nothing but 'We're going to war. Imminent war. Blah, blah blah.' But I'm watching the TV and I see that the stock market has gone up 300 points! How is that possible? The economy has been in the pooper for a year and a half. 'Oh, maybe we'll try lowering interest rates, maybe we'll try lowering prices, maybe we'll give a dividend tax cut'. This is what they've been waiting for? 'Oh, we're going to war? I'm in!' Is the head of the Dow Jones Yosemite Sam?" —Jon Stewart

"President Bush unveiled his new economic stimulus plan this week. It was reported that if the plan passes, the president himself would save $44,000 in taxes, Dick Cheney would save $327,000, and you could afford to take the whole family down to Burger King to pick up job applications." —Tina Fey, on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

"President Bush's economic plan will create 2.5 million new jobs. The bad news, they are all for Iraqi soldiers." —Craig Kilborn

"According to a new study, bad economic times can actually be good for you because people tend to exercise more and eat better. This is not a recession, this is the Bush Health Care Plan." —Jay Leno

"The big story here tonight comes from Washington, D.C. where President Bush announced his new economic plans. The centerpiece was a proposed repeal of the dividends tax on stocks, a boon that could be worth millions of dollars to average Americans. Well, average stock owning Americans. Technically, Americans who own a significant amount of shares in dividend dealing companies. Well, rich people, that's what I'm trying to say. They're going to do really well with this." —Jon Stewart

"Did you hear about this today, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and top economic advisor Larry Lindsey have resigned, they resigned from the White House economic team? Shocked everybody in Washington, who knew Bush had a White House economic team? ... You know things are bad when Republicans are losing jobs in Washington." —Jay Leno

"Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neal has resigned. He didn't want to resign, but there wasn't any money left in the treasury so he's got nothing to do." —Jay Leno

"Bush advisers have long been worried that a lagging economy could hamper the president's re-election chances. They hope that the Cabinet shake-up will provide a needed jolt. If that doesn't work, North Korea has to go." —Jon Stewart

"Al Gore says President Bush's economic plan has zero chance of working. Now, this raises on important question: Bush has an economic plan?" —David Letterman

"The FBI has issued a new terrorist warning that al Qadea may be planning a spectacular attack intended to damage our economy. Well I have news for them, they are a little too late. This is where President Bush is smart. Two years ago he did a pre-emptive strike to make sure our economy couldn't be any worse than it is right now." —Jay Leno

"How much do you think Senators make? They now make $154,700 a year. But they say it will stimulate the economy because eventually that money will trickle down to the liquor stores, the hookers, the brothels ... then it will get back in the community." —Jay Leno, on Congress voting itself a pay raise

"President Bush said today that it is our job to vote. That's what he called it, a job. And considering how the way economy is going, that may be the only job we have." —Jay Leno

"The same week the Bush administration slashed pay raises for all federal workers, they announced they are going to provide bonuses to political appointees who do a good job. You know, that guy who cut everyone else's pay, he gets the bonus." —Jay Leno

"The Stock Market was down today. Two major businesses declared bankruptcy, consumer spending is at an all time low — in other words, Bush is back on the job." —Jay Leno

"President Bush hosted something called the President's Economic Forum down in Waco, Texas today. Waco. Apparently Jonestown and Guyana were booked up. When I think of government policy that works, Waco is the place to go. He invited members of small business to the summit. He was going to invite big business, but they're all in jail." —Jay Leno

"Bush told the attendees (at his economic forum) that he wants to simplify the numbers on Wall Street so that people can understand what they are looking at. Simplify the numbers? We are already looking at single digits!" —Jay Leno

"In a speech yesterday in Milwaukee, President Bush vowed to do whatever it takes to keep the economy strong. In fact he said that if he needs to, he will take vacation for another three months." —Jay Leno

"There's now speculation in Washington that President Bush is now planning to increase the economic sanctions on Iraq. And let me tell you if they are half as tough as the economic sanctions Bush has imposed on this country, they are screwed." —Jay Leno

"President Bush is leaving the White House for a vacation. He's taking a month off. Yeah, take a break, you deserve it. But aides say that while on vacation, Bush will continue to make two or three speeches a week to make sure that the market keeps crashing." —Jay Leno

"Boy, another bad day on Wall Street. Things are getting ugly. Dow Jones is starting to look more like Paula Jones." —Jay Leno

"Do you have any idea how cheap stocks are now? Wall Street is now being called Wal-Mart Street." —Jay Leno

"The United States have developed a new weapon that destroys people but it leaves buildings standing. It's called the stock market." —Jay Leno

"Things do not look good. The economy's gone south, we're at war, people are out of work. In fact, George Bush Sr. picked up the newspaper and thought, 'Hey, I must still be president.'" —Jay Leno

"The economy is in big trouble. Yesterday in a big speech, President Bush said the economy was still getting over the hangover from the 90's. And then, the president admitted he was still getting over his hangover from the 80's." —Conan O'Brien



Etc

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