by Rick Ackerman
A little more than two decades ago, amidst the wild excesses of the dot-com boom, I wrote what turned out to be an epitaph for those heady times in the The San Francisco Examiner. It bore the headline Monsters from the Id Threaten the System, a metaphorical nightmare that I’ll explain shortly. Then as now, vast quantities of money driving stocks to absurd heights seemed practically limitless. ‘Easy Al’ Greenspan was in charge of the Fed, and the loose monetary policies he pursued reflected some of the crackpot ideas he evidently brought with him from Columbia University’s PhD program.
A fat lot of good they did him; for on numerous occasions, Greenspan would laughably refer to inflated home prices as “wealth.” He would also tout a supposed investment boom at a time when household savings growth was negative. As every freshman economics student knows, investment cannot exceed savings, and we cannot increase investment unless we cut back on current consumption. And yet, here we were, consuming and borrowing like crazy but still somehow “investing” in the future in defiance of immutable economic law.