The Big Ideas of 2008

The Myth Maker

Alan Greenspan's thick weave of lies and deceit may mean the American economy never recovers.

There's a myth growing around Alan Greenspan. Just a year after he stepped down as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he's now seen as some kind of financial wizard, economic genius and gifted virtuoso, who delighted in pure mathematics and jazz when he was young. Developing almost into folklore, it's said he learned some Promethean magic from the rational self-interest in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and then became the great macroeconomist who engineered the longest period of growth in American history.

For years, whenever he lowered the interest rates, the world gasped "ohhhh," and whenever he injected more liquidity into the markets, we all sighed "ahhhh." But it was all a bunch of bullshit. In reality, he was a man so blinded by the neoclassical money games that he couldn't see the forest through the trees. Despite a flurry of warnings over many decades, he never saw the ecological crisis coming – a changing climate, vanishing salmon runs, beetle infestations and fish disappearing from the seas. All these calamities were mere "externalities" to him – not a part of his world.

He could have been the man who shook up the world of economics. He could have started including ecological measurements into his fiscal calculations, put America's national accounts in order and redefined what economic progress means. But he didn't, and in that sense he is a grand failure, just another money man and bean counter who did not seize the moment. History will not be kind to him.

72 comments on the article “The Myth Maker”

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I really don't see the link between economics and environment. Even if he had seen the link between the two, as I'm sure Greenspan did, I believe that his fiscal policies should not have held in the environmental future mainly because they would hold no actual impact into the future of the American economy. Alan Greenspan is in no way responsible for a lack of environmental reforms; instead, that would come under the rest of the federal government. The creation of the EPA was a good step, as was the protection of millions of acres of national parks. However, it's quite obvious that for any environmental impact to be done, there must be more. Still, the person that controls how much money is in our economy can't say where that money should go; Greenspan can't introduce legislation to comply with the Kyoto Protocol; he can't tell the President that without environmental reform, there will be economic hardships, because that is not true. Greenspan is not at fault here, the congressmen and Presidents of our country are.

Robert L.

We cant blame it all on one guy, after all he is only looking for ways to sustain the neverending demand for goods, you know?. Hamburgers, freedom fries, H1 Hummers ando so. It not a matter of proof, its a matter of shutting down tvs and taking acount of our own actions and reponsability for them.

jon jon

i like you people. you are very smart and i love what you stand for. you also make amazing points and i try to teach people about what you're doing


We are destroying nature.It is very easy to see. Soon,when oxygen is threatenedhow this will happen I do not knowour eyes will be opened for all to see.I do not doubt that humans were not made to outlast their own folly.

Toby Bartels

What you say is fine as far as it goes, but the other people are right: it just isn't up to the level of most articles in Adbusters; it doesn't explain. Sorry!


Whether one agrees or disagrees with the point of view expressed, the style of this writing classifies it more as an opinion piece, not a factsupported cover article. Stylistically, it is out of place among the other articles.


Kalle, say it like it is.

In my macroeconomics class I am so disgusted with my professors explanations and examples, but to intimidated to say anything. They really believe the shitte that they are spewing. No mention of the environmental and social costs of progress, no effort to match the models to reality.

Now I'm not a Luddite, I love technology, I love the internet, trains, science. These will be the things that will be of great help in reforming economics. But in the end, it is the economics that has to reform, no amount of tech will change that.


this article is such crap. it contains not a modicum of substance, just some fluffy shit, that anyone who is capable of reading wikipedia could muster. adbusters, don't you have an editor?


Alan Greenspan's lowering of interest rates has caused calamity for the majority of Americans who survive on a low income. This article should go into much more detail about his actual economics then dismiss him for not being an environmentalist that obviously he isn't.

Sophie McKeand

pah... coulda woulda shoulda... Greenspan could have done a lot of things... the point is that our capitalist society is structured so that if it wasn't Greenspan some other chump would have stood up to the mark, he is not unique or indispensable, none of us are. More fool the rest of us for creating a society where such idiots are glorified. The only way we are ever going to make a difference is by NOT looking at the bigger picture, concentrating instead on our own social fabric of our partners, children, families and neighbours, build strong local societies, AND THEN, whilst doing that, look at the bigger picture. Changing the world is a much easier task than changing yourself. Do you know your own ego? Understand that before criticising someone else's.

Michael, maybe the information that Kalle wrote is on Wikipedia, it is information for us all to share. As far as I am aware there is no prerequisite for a writer to ensure that NOBODY else has ever thought of an idea before they write an opinion piece. In fact even those with only a basic understanding of life know that no ideas are new. Do you hold yourself to such exacting standards? After reading your response I doubt it.


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