At the hearings into the Sub-Prime Mess in Washington today, Alan Greenspan rode that difficult line between confession and self-exculpation.
Let’s not be beastly to Alan, but do let’s try to see the situation for what it is. And was. (And may still be.)
Alan spoke of his “shocked disbelief” that the people in charge –“those responsible”– had not sufficiently regulated themselves. (There is of course a huge issue, possibly even the greatest issue at the center of The Big Collapse, centred around the question of Regulation.
The “Free Market” says “no regulation”.
And we –The Shrunken 401Klub– What do we say?)
Everybody was surprised that Alan would confess to anything.
But I am not sure how much he was actually confessing. The first tip-off to me was that phrase “shocked disbelief” (Alan has a fondness for those ‘coupled’ descriptions –remember his famous “irrational exuberance”. Actually, now that I think of it, he should have stuck with that characterization. But –no.)
But –when you hear the assessment “shocked disbelief”, what goes through your mind? For a short while I was impressed along with everybody, with the idea of Alan confessing anything.
Wow! That’s new! That’s important! Now we might just be getting somewhere.
But wait a minute. Among other things, in this period of change and transition, this is after all The Season of Legacy Protection and Legacy Polishing for some –including a certain lame soon-to-be-ex duck.
Let’s face it: “shocked disbelief” is not the language of responsibility, it is the language of judgment –we are saying “I’m shocked. I can’t believe that you would DO that! that you could be that cavalier; that you would sink so low!”
“Shocked disbelief” is the language not of responsibility BUT OF BLAME!
Welcome to the club, Alan. Methinks –if truth be known, you always were a member.
But, to zero-in on the real point, read this little excerpt from the NYTimes report on the hearings:
” Although he defended the use of derivatives in general, Mr. Greenspan, who left office in 2006, told members of the House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform that he was “partially” wrong in not having tried to regulate the market for credit-default swaps.” (Italics are mine).
“Partially” wrong. That is beautiful!
Rewrite the first chapter of Genesis, folks. It has always troubled me. Now, finally, I get to correct it –The Greatest STORY Ever Sold. Sorry, I meant “Told”.(That’s a CHEAP CHEAP shot; fills me with …what was the phrase… “Shocked Disbelief.” How could I?)
Instead, let’s have Adam and Eve say “We were partially wrong.” Throw in The Snake while you’re at it. And –what the hell– let’s throw in The Lord Jehovah as well. After all, He –especially He– can take it.
And –remember that Confiteor highlight?: “Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! Mea Maxima Culpa!”
We’re changing that to: “Mea Partiala Culpa! Mea Partiala Culpa! Mea Maxima (sed Partiala) Culpa!”
And finally –Remember the story of Ronan and The Bad Puppet? (Run a blog-search if you need to refresh your memory.)
Now, watch for my new version. It’s entitled Alan Greenspan and The Bad Puppets at Goldman Sachs.