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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2005 / 29 Tishrei, 5766

Triumph of an über-wonk

By Niall Ferguson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Three distinct breeds of people inhabit the corridor between Washington, New York and Boston: pols, geeks and wonks. The pols are the professional politicians, who live by polls and votes. The geeks are the professional academics, whose cerebral lives are untainted by considerations of popularity or practicability. Only the wonks try to straddle both worlds, with one foot in the Beltway and the other in the campus. They are the professors who do policy. And they are taking over the world.

Last week an arch-wonk, Ben Bernanke, was nominated by President Bush to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, succeeding Alan Greenspan. The Fed chairman is generally regarded, at least by those who earn their crusts in financial markets, as the most powerful man in the world. He is the man the masters of the universe call "master," because he has the magical power to set U.S. interest rates. An unexpected move up or down by the Fed can ruin or enrich a bold trader in a matter of seconds. The rest of us may be affected less dramatically, through our credit card bills or adjustable mortgages.

Small wonder the Fed chairman's every utterance is scrutinized as if he were the oracle at Delphi.

Well, if he's confirmed by the Senate, the oracle will be a bearded ex-Princeton professor. And judging by the financial markets' unfazed reaction to his nomination, the faithful are content with the president's choice.

The markets have good reason to be happy. With his B.A. from Harvard (summa cum laude, of course), his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his string of stellar publications, Bernanke is no ordinary wonk. He is an über-wonk. As a confirmed geek, I can assure you that Bernanke's recent papers are the real deal. No one has thought more deeply about modern monetary policymaking than this guy.

No one, that is, except Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, who used to be a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. King was an undergraduate at Cambridge and earned his PhD at Harvard. (Given that he is five years Bernanke's senior, he may even have taught him.)

In many ways it is a good thing that the monetary policies of two of the world's most important economies should be in the hands of such eminently well-qualified men. But this is not the first era in modern history when monetary policy has been entrusted to unelected technocrats. In the 1920s, the world's principal central banks were run by a group of wise men, some of whom made no secret of their impatience with democratic institutions. Montagu Norman at the Bank of England, Hjalmar Schacht at the German Reichsbank and Benjamin Strong at the Federal Reserve managed the international monetary system in a state of blissful independence from political constraints.

Yet what happened? Disastrous blunders (admittedly after Strong's death and Schacht's resignation) turned a U.S. recession into the global Great Depression. As one economy after another fell off a cliff, central bankers almost without exception wrongly urged that interest rates be raised rather than lowered.

Happily, Bernanke is an expert on the subject of what went wrong in the Depression, having co-written at least two learned articles on the subject. In 2002, he argued that the Fed should be prepared to do everything in its power to prevent a recurrence of deflation — if necessary, dropping money out of helicopters to encourage people to spend.

Deflation — a downward spiral of prices and wages — now seems less of a threat than a recurrence of inflation, with U.S. consumer prices rising last month at an alarming annual rate of 4.7%. The last acts of Greenspan's chairmanship are therefore likely to be further rate increases. But no one — not even brainy Ben — knows how high will be enough. Ordinary American households have never been more in debt. And each tiny movement upward in interest rates exerts a serious squeeze on their disposable incomes. It would be very, very easy for the Fed to overshoot, just as it undershot in the late 1990s.

So we should be cautiously grateful that President Bush has nominated Bernanke as Greenspan's successor. When it comes to monetary policy, a wonk is generally preferable to a pol and always preferable to a crony. After the Harriet E. Miers fiasco, I was fully expecting Bush to propose the manager of his local bank in Crawford, if not his favorite horse.

But let us not forget that wonks are fallible too. Theories that seem persuasive in the classroom may turn out to be disastrous in practice. The laboratory is the world economy. And the guinea pigs — who are neither wonks, nor pols, nor geeks — are we, the people. Let's hope those theories of his work as well as they read.

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Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.

© 2005, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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