Alan Greenspan

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...irrational exuberance...
—Alan Greenspan, and the only memorable thing he ever said.

Alan Greenspan (1926–) (dubbed "The Maestro" by journalist Bob Woodward and "The Undertaker" by Ayn Rand, but now more commonly known as "Mr. Bubbles") was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006, having been first appointed by Ronald Reagan. Well known for his laissez-faire ideology (essentially libertarian in nature), his fiscal policy saw both economic boom and bust scenarios.[note 1]


Before becoming an economist, Greenspan started out as a jazz musician: he played clarinet with Stan Getz in high school, studied at Julliard, and went out on the road playing alto saxophone in Woody Herman's band. In hindsight, they should have kept him.

Under his tenure at the Federal Reserve, Greenspan drove through a failed monetary policy that likely resulted in the housing bubble throughout the early 2000's and the subsequent banking crisis of 2007-2008.[1] Earlier, his loose monetary policy basically turned the Fed into an ATM that spat money at failing enterprises like the Savings and Loan thrifts and Long Term Capital Management. This became known as the "Greenspan put" in financial circles.[2] John McCain is now infamously known for having said, when asked what he would do if something happened to Greenspan, "Well, I'd put sunglasses on him and prop him up like that guy in Weekend at Bernie's."[3]

Greenspan was a disciple of Ayn Rand, first meeting her in the 1950s and remaining a close associate until her death in 1982. He was a member of Rand's inner circle while she wrote Atlas Shrugged, and she attended his swearing-in ceremony as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors in 1974. On his admission in 2008 that his views were flawed, Rand's followers turned on him (although just working at the Fed disqualifies you as a true believer in the free market among the hardcore Randroids and the Austrian school).

He advocated that the United States invade Iraq for the "security of our oil supplies"[4] and helped print money to fund a trillion-dollar war. Never mind that most of the increases in the price of oil in the 21st century are directly attributable to the easy fiscal and monetary policy of the Federal Reserve and the US government (see price of oil compared to price of gold, or that even if Saddam Hussein had tried to destroy Iraq's oil supplies, he would have been only be able to destroy a negligible amount of them).[5] According to Alan Greenspan, the war in Iraq somehow made sense because of oil.

His policies also worsened the "dot-com" bubble in the '90s and undermined the economy in other places. When the world-wide economy collapsed in 2008, he was utterly bewildered.[6] When testifying to the US Congress, Greenspan admitted that his free market views were mistaken, saying "I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact." Strangely, many victims considered "whoops sorry lol" somewhat short of adequate.

Greenspan is married to NBC News' Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell.


A meme in the political blogosphere is the phrase "With notably rare exceptions..." (where the exception is an incredibly difficult to overlook case), originating with this statement by Greenspan:

Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand' that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.[7]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Quite gigantic ones, we might say.


  1. The Economist, Feb 26, 2004.
  2. "Greenspan put" definition
  3. After Greenspan: The Taylor Rule?, Time, 2001
  4. The economic "brain" of America tries to justify the Iraq War as a way to secure our oil supplies. [1]
  5. A right-wing hit piece, which admittedly explains why warring in Iraq for oil made no sense. [2]
  6. Greenspan admits mistakes in 'once in a century credit tsunami', The Telegraph
  7. With Notably Rare Exceptions