Greed

Greed has pushed political

credibility and financial trust into

freefall

Recent scandals in America reveal a value system that puts the wealth of a few before the welfare of many

by Gary Younge

‘What an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality,” Alan Greenspan told the Congressional House oversight and government reform committee on 23 October. “Everyone has one. You have to – to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.” As the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, from 1987 to 2006, Greenspan stood at the helm of US monetary policy during the time conditions for the current meltdown were being created.

“And what I’m saying to you,” he continued, “is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact … [I found a] flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.”

Greenspan’s ideology was unfettered, free-market capitalism. Its understanding of how the world works was rooted in self-interest. It was a value system that placed the private before the public, the individual before the collective, and the wealth of the few before the welfare of the many.

So pervasive was this worldview that, after a while, it was not even understood to be a view at all. It was just the hard-nosed reality against which only lunatics and leftists raged. “Unlike many economists,” Bob Woodward wrote of Alan Greenspan in his book Maestro (the title speaks volumes), “he has never been rule driven or theory driven. The data drive.” They drove a sleek black limousine over the edge of a steep cliff. And since the invisible hand of the market ostensibly guided everything, there was no one who could really be held accountable or responsible for anything. The buck didn’t stop anywhere. Indeed, for those who were already wealthy, the bucks just kept rolling in.

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