Barron’s columnist pushes back against Ph.D.-nomics

Jim Grant of Barron’s explains why he’s no fan of monetary policy set by a room full of Ph.D.’s.

Ben Bernanke, a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put in a word for the soothsaying guild in 2010: “I would say that the recent financial crisis was more of a failure of economic engineering and economic management than of economic science.”

“Adherents of the Bernanke doctrine are, in fact, disadvantaged in comparison to the average Charles Schwab customer,” a panelist remarked. “Practitioners whom Mr. Market has taken to school know better than to think they can predict the future. Rare is the Ph.D. with practical experience in the field of margin calls, client redemptions, or unsightly drawdowns. It is easier to believe that one can forecast coming events when one hasn’t been punished for trying.”

Marriner Eccles, the Fed chairman (1934-48) whose name graces the central bank’s Washington headquarters, never completed the 12th grade. An heir to a family fortune, but also a successful commercial banker in his own right, Eccles made his share of mistakes. Still, he had the courage to stand up to a president—for him, it was Harry Truman—and to make his case in plain English. The tenor of his opposition to post-World War II financial policy is conveyed in a headline over a 1947 Wall Street Journal dispatch: “Eccles Sees Economic Collapse Unless Nation Checks Inflation.” …

… Eccles, Strong, and Martin shared one thing besides a hole in their educational resumes. They came of age when the dollar was defined in law as a weight of gold.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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