Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Fantasy Life of Economists

A New York Times book review of Alan Greenspan's new memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, includes this:

Mr. Greenspan described his own emotional journey in dealing with Mr. Bush, from an initial elation about the return of his old friends from the Ford White House — including Mr. Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense — to astonishment and then disappointment at how much they had changed.

“I indulged in a bit of fantasy, envisioning this as the government that might have existed had Gerald Ford garnered the extra 1 percent of the vote he'd needed to edge past Jimmy Carter,” Mr. Greenspan writes in his memoir. “I thought we had a golden opportunity to advance the ideals of effective, fiscally conservative government and free markets.”

Instead, Mr. Greenspan said, “I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions.”

That reminds me of a response I once heard to someone asking what an economist was. "An economist," it was helpfully explained, "is like an accountant, without the personality."