Fed Chair Bernanke, A Civil Servant Rather than a Celebrity Economist

WaPo had an interesting article yesterday on Fed Chair Bernanke as a civil servant rather than a celebrity economist. Here are a few excerpts:

“…Bernanke’s ability to understand and synthesize the views of his colleagues goes a long way toward explaining how he has revolutionized the Federal Reserve, which under his leadership has deployed trillions of dollars to try to contain the worst economic downturn in 80 years…

Famously soft-spoken, Bernanke is an unlikely revolutionary. He is, after all, a career economics professor who lacks the charisma of a skilled politician. He also happens to run an organization designed for inertia: Decision-making authority is shared with four other governors in Washington appointed by the president; the heads of regional Fed banks in 12 cities who answer to their own boards of directors; and a staff of 2,000 that is led by economists who spent decades working their way through a rigid hierarchy.

Yet in the past 18 months, Bernanke has transformed that stodgy organization, invoking rarely used emergency authorities. His decision to do so has drawn criticism — he has transcended traditional limits on the role of a central bank, stretched the Fed’s legal authority and to some, usurped the responsibility of political authorities in committing vast sums of taxpayer dollars.

What strikes many who have worked with Bernanke, though, is that he has pulled it all off without grand speeches, arm-twisting or Machiavellian games.

“It’s not Ben’s personality to pound the table and scream and say you’re going to agree with me or else,” said Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and longtime colleague of Bernanke’s at Princeton University. “It’s not his way…. He succeeds at persuading people by respecting their points of view and through the force of his own intellect. He doesn’t say you’re a jerk for disagreeing.”

Bernanke came into office aiming to depersonalize the role of Fed chairman. As Greenspan’s successor, he aspired to be more anonymous bureaucrat than celebrity economist.” [via WaPo]

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