Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Facebook politics: Lying about what Alan Greenspan said edition



A friend posted this image on Facebook. It says:

I Am Alan

And, I used to run the Federal Reserve.

And, I actually said this:

"If workers are more insecure, that's very healthy for the society, because if workers are insecure they won't ask for wages, they won't go on strike, they won't call for benefits; they'll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that's optimal for corporations."
The quote is, very obviously, completely made up. "They'll serve the masters gladly and passively"? Who would think that the chairman of the Federal Reserve would ever say such a thing? Even in his Objectivist days he wouldn't have served such a heaping helping of worldview-confirming-bias straight to the ears of progressives.

What did he actually say? The testimony can be found here. Nothing in the image's "quote" matches the testiomny well enough to provide quick evidence of quote-mining. In short, he argues that low inflation rates were in part driven by worker insecurity, and that this was only a temporary trend that cannot be relied upon in the future. He argues that there has been a tradeoff between wage growth and job security: workers were (temporarily) accepting lower wages for longer-term job contracts. He places no value judgement on that trend (except that he obviously thinks the low inflation itself was a good thing), and says that it's likely to reverse soon. Nowhere does he say it's "healthy" for the society, nowhere does he say it's "optimal for corporations," and he doesn't say anything about strikes. This isn't even a quote-mine. It's straight-up made-up.

Where did the made-up quote come from, then? A recent Counterpunch article by Noam Chomsky that mocked Greenspan and, not surprisingly, misinterpreted what he said:
So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed.
Of course, the actual reason everyone regarded Greenspan's comment as reasonable was because he didn't say anything particularly unreasonable.

Mostly posting this because it took me far too long to find the actual transcript: the Counterpunch quote has already spread far and wide, and most search results turned that up. The article thankfully includes the transcript, so that we can see Chomsky is full of crap for ourselves, but most other sites quoting him leave that part out.

7 comments:

  1. Chomsky's Bull Shit is nowhere near as destructive as was Greenspan's.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greenspan's statements are a matter of written record and he didn't say that 'job insecurity' was a means if controlling the populace or that it was economically 'healthy.' He didn't even infer that. Chomsky's statements were more about the broader 'job insecurity' issue and various blogs have distorted both Greenspan and Chomsky waaaaay beyond what they meant it intended.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Greenspan's statements are a matter of written record and he didn't say that 'job insecurity' was a means if controlling the populace or that it was economically 'healthy.' He didn't even infer that. Chomsky's statements were more about the broader 'job insecurity' issue and various blogs have distorted both Greenspan and Chomsky waaaaay beyond what they meant it intended.

    ReplyDelete

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