Sunday, June 9, 2013

Radical speech of Ben Bernanke at Princeton, on Graduation day!: Classic!

Image result for bernankeBernanke starts with a bit of a head-fake to the journalists who cover him, saying that he recently wrote to inquire about the status of his leave from the university, only to get a letter back that said, “Regrettably, Princeton receives far more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate.”

Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.

Here’s some real talk for the graduating class at Princeton University:
“The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it.
A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards.”
As the kids say, BOOM. But who said it? Who went to Princeton and told the assembled victors of the meritocracy that, in effect, they didn’t build that?
Why, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of course.
Bernanke didn’t stop with questioning the underpinnings of the meritocracy. He went after sexual attraction, too: “Remember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites.”
And economics: “Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much.”
And the rich: “I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect–and help, if necessary–than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too.”
And the rich again:
“A career decision based only on money and not on love of the work or a desire to make a difference is a recipe for unhappiness.”
And the costs of sending a kid to Princeton: “My colleague also used to say that, from a financial perspective, the experience was like buying a new Cadillac every year and then driving it off a cliff.”
Bernanke’s full address is here.
Of course, if Bernanke is skeptical of the meritocracy and even more skeptical that the rich deserve their wealth, that might be because he’s watched his policies make the rich richer, despite all they did to cause the crisis, even as the folks with “little formal schooling but [who] labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families” have fallen further behind. It’s enough to make anyone a radical.

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