Sunday, March 3, 2013

House of Cards

            Netflix is airing an entertaining series about Washington entitled “House of Cards.”  It stars Kevin Spacey who is a sensational actor.  The 13 segment series focuses on the machinations of Washington life.  As the majority party Whip, Mr. Spacey engages in all sorts of nefarious schemes to increase the personal power that he openly covets.  Along the way, there are episodes with drugs, hookers, and infidelity, as well as the usual lying and cheating.  It is hard not to get hooked by the series.  It is very entertaining.

            On the other hand, consider Ben Bernanke.  As a fellow scholar, I have followed Mr. Bernanke’s career and research from the outset.  Mr. Bernanke’s professional life has consisted primarily of decades of studying the complicated details of monetary theory and policy.  When he rose to head of the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bernanke attempted to put his decades of study to work to help guide the central bank and the nation through a perilous time. 

            Now that does not mean I agree with all of Mr. Bernanke’s policies.  Nor do other economists more distinguished than I such as John Taylor and John Cochrane.  But that is not the point here.  The point is that Mr. Bernanke is not entertaining.  No mistresses, no cocaine, no hidden agendas.  What a bore.  There will never be a “House of Cards” about Mr. Bernanke.  The unfortunate fact is that entertainment will always be a biased depiction of reality because it must be entertaining.  The cultural implications of that fact would be interesting to explore.  But for now, thank heavens for boring people like Mr. Bernanke who spend a lifetime studying what they think is best for the country and then attempting to implement what those studies indicate.  Perhaps the most depressing fact about Mr. Spacey’s character is that he spends so much time pursuing power that he has no meaningful idea what to do with the power he achieves.

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