I was discussing the Federal Reserve with one of my colleagues the other day, who expressed the opinion that everyone shows the Fed too much deference. “People think they know exactly what they are doing!” he exclaimed.
On the contrary. Among people I speak with regularly, pretty much everyone (including myself) thinks they know better what should be done—that the Fed isn’t doing the job nearly as well as it could and should be. Deference to the Fed is not the first thing that comes to mind in these situations.
Hindsight is 20/20
I have noted these same tendencies when discussing sports; if you listen to talk radio, there are literally thousands of people who would be better in the pocket than, say, Tom Brady. The difference, of course, is that of actually having to execute in real time versus in hindsight. Mickey Mantle said it best: “I never knew how easy the game of baseball was until I got into the broadcasting booth.”
Getting a perspective on what has actually happened—and is likely to happen—as the Fed contemplates raising interest rates this week depends on an inside perspective, a perspective from someone who has been there and made those decisions. In the financial world, particularly when it comes to monetary policy, no one is better positioned to offer that perspective than former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.
I will be interviewing Chairman Bernanke at Commonwealth’s National Conference this November, and I’m very excited about it. There are few people in the world who have made more of a difference in the world economy than he has. You might argue with many of the decisions the Bernanke Fed made in the heat of the moment, but to my mind, at least broadly speaking, his Fed did the right things—and has been vindicated by the results. In fact, I could make a good case that the economy would be much worse off than it is today, with our current steady recovery, without the Bernanke Fed.
That said, the crisis is in the past, and we need to plan for the future. For us as investors, as advisors, and as citizens, the world is clearly a different place than it was five or ten years ago. Rather than hash over decisions made during the crisis, I believe we should be looking forward, and our discussion should reflect that. Which brings me to the question . . .
What would you ask Ben Bernanke?
I have my own thoughts, of course, but I wanted to reach out and ask readers of this blog what you think. So send me your questions, either in the Comments section below or via direct e-mail.
I can’t (and don’t) promise to get to every question I receive—I won’t have time, for one thing—but I will certainly work common themes and concerns into the discussion.
I will also report back! I expect to get a great deal of thoughtful insight from the session and will certainly share the highlights here. Thank you!