Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

A Tribute

Posted by Gerald on October 29, 2008

I’ve been meaning to write this for several days now.

Last week Alan Greenspan testified before Congress.  When asked about how he could reconcile the behavior of the market and many of its players in recent months with his theories of economic behavior, Greenspan basically said that he couldn’t and that he would need to re-examine those theories.

In essence, that he was wrong.

The only response I’ve heard to this has been some fairly snarky jokes.

I think he deserves better.

The essence of honesty in science is that when objective reality doesn’t behave according to theory, the theory is wrong.  Greenspan publicly championed a set of theories and formed policies based on them.  He made his reputation by doing so.  Now he sees those policies and theories having results he didn’t believe possible.  Most human beings would refuse to face that.  They would distance themselves from the ideas or refuse to admit any fault or explain how what appears to be happening isn’t really happening.  At the least, most people would try to avoid the spotlight.

Greenspan went in front of Congress and questioned the validity of the basis of his life’s work.

That was an act of intellectual courage and one of great honesty.  One made all the more dramatic by contrast with this era of empty spin and ideological fanaticism in our public discourse.  That act showed what science should be all the time.



2 Responses to “A Tribute”

  1. Mandy said

    I’ve had similar– though not so eloquent– thoughts. This level of honesty and admission of error is especially refreshing in the current political climate. Thank you for drawing attention to that.

  2. bridgett said

    Yep. Of course, it must be said that the blind spot that got him was one that, had he been paying attention
    to historians, probably wouldn’t have snookered him so badly. Interdisciplinary habits of mind keep you testing
    your disciplinary prejudices and making productive discoveries. (That’s probably why we can’t get the
    business school at my college to have anything to do with the interdisciplinary programs…)

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