Sunday, April 01, 2007

not your usual facetiae fare

On my way to my Sunday job, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the NYTimes Book Review. It allows me to superficially keep up with new books without frequenting bookstores, where I am forced, by the nature of the company I keep, to set up shop in the children’s section. I think it’s the former grad student in me that feel the need to stay somewhat current with new publications I never intend to read.
One such book is “Radicals For Capitalism,” which, as I gather, is a history of the American Libertarian movement. The reviewer gave a brief overview of the topic and pointed out that Greenspan was a follower of Ayn Rand (who must really detest the “libertarian paternalism” label). He also noted that Greenspan helped shape the laissez-faire elements of the American economy.
This struck me as odd, because, in my superficial acquaintance with the man and his utterances, I’ve come away with the impression that all he has to do is say something, and the market responds. (Even now that he’s not the Chairman of the Federal Reserve anymore.)
Then I remembered that Bernanke made the mistake of opening his mouth too often in “casual” situations, while Greenspan seemed to handle reticence better.
And I realized that Greenspan knows that his utterances are commodities in themselves, which is why he charges $150,000 for a speaking engagement.

Here are some quotes from the
printed review (note that the capitalist powerhouse, Austria, gave birth to the economists who hatched the idea):

Libertarianism has its roots in the writings of a pair of major 20th-century Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek. Both opposed economic planning and argued that only the forces of supply and demand could allocate resources fairly and efficiently. If an item becomes scarce, its price will rise, ensuring that people who place the highest value on it — those who can use it most productively — will be able to get it. To this coolly economic argument, Rand and other writers added a moral one: laissez-faire capitalism equaled freedom.

[T]o Rand and her followers, collectivism was the single greatest problem facing the country. As they saw it, government programs forced citizens to comply with goals they often did not share while stifling the creative energy of individuals and even laying the groundwork for totalitarianism.

What Rand and her followers hadn’t anticipated, I guess, is that government programs can also be traded as commodities.

(Papa/Opa: feel free to comment)

The book, in case you're iterested, is:
RADICALS FOR CAPITALISM A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. By Brian Doherty. 741 pp. Public Affairs. $35.

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