How did Brad DeLong Become Alan Greenspan’s Apologist in Chief?

It’s not very often that Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman find themselves epitomizing

opposite sides of an issue, but DeLong seems to have become Alan Greenspan’s

apologist in chief even as Krugman sticks

the knife in to the Maestro today. A series of commentators has attacked

Greenspan in recent days, and DeLong has done his best to rebut them all: John

Cassidy, Karen

Tumulty, Krugman

himself. He even popped up in

the comments section of to claim that Greenspan’s crime in

January 2001 is no more than a misdemeanor.

In his review

of Greenspan’s book, DeLong is positively gushing, saying that Greenspan’s

record as Fed chairman is "amazing", and "certainly much better

than most economists I know could have done"; he even calls Greenspan a

"veritable rock-star economist-technocrat".

It’s all a bit weird: why would DeLong, a man of the left, spend so much effort

defending the record of an Ayn Rand disciple who describes himself as a libertarian

Republican and who is generally credited with smoothing the path to a series

of fiscally disastrous tax cuts in 2001?

Maybe one hint can be found in Dan

Okrent’s review of Greenspan’s book:

Surprisingly for a self-described "lifelong Republican," Greenspan

was happiest as Fed chairman when Clinton was in the White House. (He also

liked his time running Ford’s Council of Economic Advisors, where it was his

pleasant responsibility "to shoot down harebrained fiscal policy schemes.")

With the first George Bush, Greenspan had what he calls a "terrible relationship."

He faults the administration of Bush II for a -decision-making process driven

entirely by political calculation.

By comparison, he found the Democratic interregnum sandwiched between two

slices of Bush a version of Periclean Athens, where dedicated men (Bob Rubin,

Larry Summers, Clinton, himself) made decisions in the nation’s long-term


DeLong himself was an important economist-technocrat within the Clinton administration,

along with Rubin and Summers and Greenspan himself. He might not have achieved

rock-star status (except within the blogosphere, and that came later), but I

daresay that Greenspan would be happy to give DeLong some credit for his contributions

to this Periclean utopia.

If Krugman had joined the Clinton administration while DeLong became more of

an economics popularizer and columnist, might their views of Greenspan be different

today? Probably not, but I’m not sure where else this big gap between the two

might have come from.

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