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HIGH QUALITY GLOBAL JOURNALISM REQUIRES INVESTMENT. PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS USING THE LINK BELOW, DO NOT CUT & PASTE THE ARTICLE. SEE OUR TS&CS AND COPYRIGHT POLICY FOR MORE DETAIL. EMAIL TO BUY ADDITIONAL RIGHTS. A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO I BUMPED INTO ALAN GREENSPAN, THE FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE US FEDERAL RESERVE, IN THE LOFTY SURROUNDINGS OF THE ASPEN INSTITUTE IDEAS FESTIVAL. AS WE CHATTED, THE SPRIGHTLY OCTOGENARIAN DECLARED THAT HE WAS BECOMING INTERESTED IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY -- AND WANTED TO KNOW WHAT BOOKS TO READ. "ANTHROPOLOGY?" I RETORTED, IN UTTER AMAZEMENT. IT APPEARED TO OVERTURN EVERYTHING I KNEW (AND CRITICISED) ABOUT THE MAN. GREENSPAN, AFTER ALL, WAS SOMEBODY WHO HAD TRAINED AS AN ULTRAORTHODOX, FREE-MARKET ECONOMIST AND WAS CLOSE TO AYN RAND, THE RADICAL LIBERTARIAN NOVELIST. HE WAS (IN) FAMOUS FOR HIS BELIEF THAT THE BEST WAY TO RUN AN ECONOMY WAS TO RELY ON RATIONAL ACTORS COMPETING IN OPEN MARKETS. AS FED CHAIR, HE SEEMED TO WORSHIP MATHEMATICAL MODELS AND DISDAIN "SOFT" ISSUES SUCH AS HUMAN CULTURE. BUT GREENSPAN WAS SERIOUS; HE WANTED TO VENTURE INTO NEW INTELLECTUAL TERRITORY, HE EXPLAINED. AND THAT REFLECTED A FAR BIGGER PERSONAL QUEST. BETWEEN 1987 AND 2006, WHEN HE LED THE FED, GREENSPAN WAS HIGHLY RESPECTED. SUCH WAS HIS APPARENT MASTERY OVER MARKETS -- AND SUCCESS IN DELIVERING STABLE GROWTH AND LOW INFLATION -- THAT BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON PUNDIT, FAMOUSLY DESCRIBED HIM AS A "MAESTRO". THEN THE CREDIT CRISIS ERUPTED IN 2007 AND HIS REPUTATION CRUMBLED, WITH CRITICS BLAMING HIM FOR THE BUBBLE. GREENSPAN DENIED ANY CULPABILITY. BUT IN LATE 2008, HE ADMITTED TO CONGRESS THAT THE CRISIS HAD EXPOSED A "FLAW" IN HIS WORLD VIEW. HE HAD ALWAYS ASSUMED THAT BANKERS WOULD ACT IN WAYS THAT WOULD PROTECT SHAREHOLDERS -- IN ACCORDANCE WITH FREE-MARKET CAPITALIST THEORY -- BUT THIS RESUMPTION TURNED OUT TO BE WRONG. IN THE MONTHS THAT FOLLOWED, GREENSPAN STARTED TO QUESTION AND EXPLORE MANY THINGS -- INCLUDING THE UNFAMILIAR WORLD OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY. HENCE OUR ENCOUNTER IN ASPEN.HIGH QUALITY GLOBAL JOURNALISM REQUIRES INVESTMENT. PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS USING THE LINK BELOW, DO NOT CUT & PASTE THE ARTICLE. SEE OUR TS&CS AND COPYRIGHT POLICY FOR MORE DETAIL. EMAIL TO BUY ADDITIONAL RIGHTS. WAS THIS JUST A BRIEF INTELLECTUAL WOBBLE, I WONDERED? A BID FOR SYMPATHY FROM A MAN WHO HAD GONE FROM HERO TO ZERO IN INVESTORS' EYES? OR WAS IT POSSIBLE THAT A FORMER "MAESTRO" OF FREE MARKETS COULD CHANGE HIS MIND ABOUT HOW THE WORLD WORKED? AND IF SO, WHAT DOES THAT IMPLY FOR THE DISCIPLINE OF ECONOMICS, LET ALONE GREENSPAN'S SUCCESSORS IN THE POLICY MAKING WORLD -- SUCH AS JANET YELLEN, NOMINATED AS THE NEW HEAD OF THE FED? EARLIER THIS MONTH I FINALLY GOT A CHANCE TO SEEK SOME ANSWERS WHEN I STEPPED INTO A SET OF BLAND, WOOD-PANELLED OFFICES IN THE HEART OF WASHINGTON. EVER SINCE GREENSPAN LEFT THE IMPOSING, MARBLE-PILLARED FED, THIS SUITE HAS BEEN HIS NERVE CENTRE. HE WORKS OUT OF A ROOM DUBBED THE "OVAL OFFICE" DUE TO ITS SHAPE. IT IS SURPRISINGLY SOULLESS: PILES OF PAPER SIT ON THE WINDOWSILL NEXT TO A BUST OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. ONE FLASH OF COLOUR COMES FROM A LURID TROPICAL BEACH SCENE THAT HE HAS -- SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY -- INSTALLED AS A SCREEN SAVER. "IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE NUMBERS ON YOUR SCREEN, YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE SOMETHING NICE TO LOOK AT," HE LAUGHS, SPREADING HIS LARGE HANDS EXPANSIVELY IN THE AIR. THEN, JUST IN CASE I MIGHT THINK THAT HE IS TEMPTED TO SLACK OFF AT THE AGE OF 87, HE STRESSES THAT "I DO PLAY TENNIS TWICE A WEEK -- BUT MY GOLF GAME IS IN THE SOUP. I HAVEN'T HAD TIME TO GET OUT." OR, IT SEEMS, DAYDREAM ON A BEACH. "I GET SO ENGAGED WHEN I HAVE A PROBLEM YOU CANNOT SOLVE, THAT I JUST CANNOT BREAK AWAY FROM WHAT I AM DOING -- I KEEP THINKING AND THINKING AND CANNOT STOP." THE TASK THAT HAS KEPT HIM SO BUSY IS HIS NEW BOOK, THE MAP AND THE TERRITORY, PUBLISHED THIS MONTH AND A SUCCESSOR TO AN EARLIER MEMOIR, THE AGE OF TURBULENCE. TO THE UNTRAINED EYE, THIS TITLE MIGHT SEEM BAFFLING. BUT TO GREENSPAN, THE PHRASE IS HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT. FOR WHAT HIS NEW MANUSCRIPT ESSENTIALLY DOES IS EXPLAIN HIS INTELLECTUAL JOURNEY SINCE 2007. MOST NOTABLY IT SHOWS WHY HE NOW THINKS THAT THE "MAP" THAT HE (AND MANY OTHERS) ONCE USED TO ANALYSE FINANCE IS INCOMPLETE -- AND WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ANYONE WANTING TO NAVIGATE TODAY'S ECONOMIC "TERRITORY". HIGH QUALITY GLOBAL JOURNALISM REQUIRES INVESTMENT. PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS USING THE LINK BELOW, DO NOT CUT & PASTE THE ARTICLE. SEE OUR TS&CS AND COPYRIGHT POLICY FOR MORE DETAIL. EMAIL TO BUY ADDITIONAL RIGHTS. THIS IS NOT QUITE THE MEA CULPA THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE ANGRY ABOUT THE CREDIT BUBBLE WOULD LIKE TO SEE. GREENSPAN IS A MAN WHO BUILT HIS CAREER BY CONVINCING PEOPLE THAT HE WAS CORRECT. BORN IN NEW YORK TO A FAMILY OF EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH ANCESTRY, HE TRAINED AS AN ECONOMIST AND, BEFORE HE WAS APPOINTED BY RONALD REAGAN TO RUN THE FED, WAS AN ECONOMIC CONSULTANT ON WALL STREET (INTERSPERSED WITH A BRIEF SPELL WORKING FOR THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION). THIS BACKGROUND ONCE MADE HIM LAUDED; TODAY IT SEEMS MORE OF A LIABILITY, AT LEAST IN THE EYES OF THE POLITICAL LEFT. "BEFORE [2007] I WAS EMBARRASSED BY THE ADULATION -- THEY MADE ME A ROCK STAR," HE SAYS. "BUT I KNEW THEN THAT I WAS BEING PRAISED FOR SOMETHING I DIDN'T REALLY DO. SO AFTER, WHEN I GOT HAMMERED, IT KIND OF BALANCED OUT, SINCE I DON'T THINK I DESERVED THE CRITICISM EITHER . . .

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