Sunday, June 02, 2013

Bernanke: The Ten Suggestions

by Bill McBride on 6/02/2013 03:07:00 PM

Some humor and interesting comments in a commencement speech from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke : The Ten Suggestions

It's nice to be back at Princeton. I find it difficult to believe that it's been almost 11 years since I departed these halls for Washington. I wrote recently to inquire about the status of my leave from the university, and the letter I got back began, "Regrettably, Princeton receives many more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate."1

... I thought I would use my few minutes today to make Ten Suggestions, or maybe just Ten Observations, about the world and your lives after Princeton. Please note, these points have nothing whatsoever to do with interest rates. My qualification for making such suggestions, or observations, besides having kindly been invited to speak today by President Tilghman, is the same as the reason that your obnoxious brother or sister got to go to bed later--I am older than you. All of what follows has been road-tested in real-life situations, but past performance is no guarantee of future results.

1. ... Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks he or she knows where they will be in 10 years, much less in 30, is simply lacking imagination. ...

6. ... 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. However, careful economic analysis does have one important benefit, which is that it can help kill ideas that are completely logically inconsistent or wildly at variance with the data. This insight covers at least 90 percent of proposed economic policies.

10. Call your mom and dad once in a while. A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you. Also, remember who paid your tuition to Princeton.

Congratulations, graduates. Give 'em hell.

1 1. Note to journalists: This is a joke. My leave from Princeton expired in 2005.
I enjoyed this speech, but Bernanke's comment that "careful economic analysis ... can help kill ideas that are completely logically inconsistent or wildly at variance with the data" is at odds with the sequestration budget cuts, "debt ceiling" nonsense, expansionary austerity, and more. I wish data and careful analysis could actually kill bad ideas, but I'm not sure what Paul Ryan would do with his life.

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