By Matthew Rothschild on October 24, 2008

There was something almost criminally pathetic about Alan Greenspan’s confession that he had “made a mistake” in believing that banks could adequately police themselves.

Duh, deregulation doesn’t work. Even Greenspan, the apostle of Ayn Rand, admits that now, too late.

Like some bumbling professor, he said he was “in a state of shocked disbelief” that his treasured free market theory was faulty, even though economists from Marx to Keynes to Galbraith had noted it, and Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Ralph Nader, among many others, had been pointing it out for years.

“I have found a flaw,” Greenspan testified.

That’s kind of like the astronomer Ptolemy saying, “Something’s wrong here, maybe the sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth.”

Or like the biologist Lamarck saying, “Maybe the giraffe doesn’t get a longer neck by stretching for high leaves.”

Or like the Pope saying, “Maybe the earth wasn’t created in seven days.”

Except that the consequences of Greenspan’s blunder are much more severe than the fallacies of the past.

He and his faulty free market philosophy have precipitated a global recession.

Millions are losing their homes. Millions more will lose their jobs. And tens of millions have already lost their retirement funds.

All casualties of Greenspan’s belief in a fable.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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