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April 4, 2009

The Committee To Save The World. (Whoops!)


What holds them together is a passion for thinking and an inextinguishable curiosity about a new economic order that is unfolding before them like an Alice in Wonderland world. The sheer fascination of inventing a 21st century financial system motivates them more than the usual Washington drugs of power and money. In the past six years the three men have merged into a kind of brotherhood.

Among the top priorities: cleaner international banking systems, transparent lending practices and more open markets. As soon as they can ram those changes through, they expect growth to pick up again–possibly just in time to help a flagging U.S. economy. from: The Three Marketeers (TIME Monday, Feb. 15, 1999).

Because Paul Krugman’s latest opinion piece (“America, The Tarnished” ) references this ten-year-old TIME cover…

… I thought it was worth taking a look at. In the 1999 TIME article, Rubin, Greenspan and Summers — labeled “market heros” or “The Three Marketeers” — are feted as Clinton Administration marvels with the kind of intelligence that can fend off any near-financial catastrophe (a condition curiously telegraphed, in matter-of-fact terms, as a now-expectable attribute of the modern market). In particular, I love the part about Summers favorite analogy:

“Global capital markets pose the same kinds of problems that jet planes do. They are faster, more comfortable, and they get you where you are going better. But the crashes are much more spectacular.”

Short of much detail or critical analysis, the article, much like the headline, presents the three as messianic in stature. Visually, the economic Musketeers represent the classic white collar men, beaming out of confidence (or, drunk on exuberance) that they in their genius, despite the growing vagaries of the market, understand how things work — or, in Summers case, that one can dispense with the social graces if you’re just that smart.

(image: Michael O’Neill)

  • thirdeye pushpin

    Larry, Mo, Cheese!
    Oh shit it was the stooges on parade…
    but is it worse if they knew what they were doing.

  • Karen H.

    “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.” Interesting bunch of photos….the economic fools, the Clintons, Shakespeare

  • yg

    all 3 of them claimed they didn’t fully understand the complexity of derivatives. and yet summers’ lack of understanding drove him to seek their deregulation.

  • yg

    in Summers case, that one can dispense with the social graces if you’re just that smart.
    oo, that explains alot. mirrors bush’s arrogance that gloried in the fact that he didn’t need to be smart in order to rule. being born to privilege means not having to worry about performance based merit.

  • lytom

    Who is trying to fool the people? They seem to be very successful at it for a time… and then …
    Don’t forget, these were feted and selected by the politicians, who were elected by the people…
    There is the basis of the problem. People get fooled all the time.
    The fabric is revealing abyss of disgust and nothing to grab on.
    “Do you think you can tell the heroes from ghosts?”

  • stevelaudig

    These three were instrumental in putting “the world” in “the toilet.” They were messianically [sp?] to “change” they didn’t understand. They were driving a car blindfolded till it wrecked and know have been given the keys again. Zero tolerance for those who operate under the influence of hubris and bad ideas. They think they are smarter than reality. They aren’t. No one is.

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