Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Unsurpassable Greenspan-ism

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Alan Greenspan has been known to say some remarkable things (and some remarkably opaque things), but he really out-did himself in a recent Financial Times editorial. Not surprisingly, he's back at it recycling his favourite story that markets know best and that any attempt to regulate them can only be counterproductive. But wonder at the paradoxical beauty of the following sentence:
With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global "invisible hand" has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.
The markets work beautifully, and all on their own, but for those rare, notable exceptions. In other words, they work wonderfully except when they fail spectacularly, bring the banking system to the brink of collapse and throw millions of people out of work and into financial misery.

But Greenspan's language of il-logic has at least spawned an amusing reaction. The blog Crooked Timber posted up some further examples to illustrate how his delicate construction might be employed much more generally. For example,
"With notably rare exceptions, Russian Roulette is a fun, safe game for all the family to play."
or, from a commenter on the blog,
"With notably rare exceptions, Germany remained largely at peace with its neighbors during the 20th century."
See Crooked Timber (especially the comments) for hundreds of other impressive examples of Greenspan-ian logic.