Alan Greenspan

Greenspan, Alan, 1926–, American economist, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (1987–2006), b. New York City. Influenced by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, Greenspan is a strong supporter of the free market and an opponent of government intervention in the economy. He was private economic consultant (1954–74, 1977–87) and served (1974–77) as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the administration of President Gerald Ford. From 1981 to 1983 he also chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform, which restructured the financing of the U.S. social security system to help assure its solvency.

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve System, replacing Paul Volcker. Reappointed by Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, he served in the office for nearly two decades. As Federal Reserve chairman, he earlier emphasized controlling inflation over promoting economic growth, but by 2003 a prolonged economic slowdown had shifted concern to possible deflation. During the 10-year expansion that began in 1991, Greenspan won widespread praise for what was regarded as the deft manipulation of interest rates, but the cutting of rates to historic lows during the 2001–3 slowdown only gradually produced the desired growth. A side effect, however, of the historically low interest rates was a significant increase in housing prices (in some parts of the country) and consumer indebtedness, both of which contributed to economic difficulties after Greenspan retired as Federal Reserve Board chairman in 2006. Greenspan's resistance in general to governmental regulation of financial markets also contributed to the economic crisis that began in 2007. Since retiring, he has headed an economic consulting firm and served in a number of advisory positions.

See his The Age of Turbulence (2007) and The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting (2013); D. B. Sicilia and J. L. Cruikshank, The Greenspan Effect (1999); J. Martin, Greenspan: The Man behind Money (2000); B. Woodward, Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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