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Greenspan: Longevity, Defined

Eighteen years after a far less furrowed Ayn Rand acolyte named Alan Greenspan took over the Federal Reserve, the inscrutable chairman marked his final appearance before Congress today. This amazing longevity — consider that he held court before the first President Bush was President Bush — is unusual in government (other than Supreme Court appointments and show-up-and-get-a-check civil service jobs). It is unheard of in the private sector.

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Eighteen years after a far less furrowed Ayn Rand acolyte named Alan Greenspan took over the Federal Reserve, the inscrutable chairman marked his final appearance before Congress today. This amazing longevity — consider that he held court before the first President Bush was President Bush — is unusual in government (other than Supreme Court appointments and show-up-and-get-a-check civil service jobs). It is unheard of in the private sector.

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Greenspan’s long, long term makes today an interesting point-of-contemplation for readers of a magazine that is defined, to a large degree, by swiftness and change. In a world where only losers linger and un-packed boxes are emblems of fresh blood pumping orgiastically into the corporate circulatory system, is there any room for perspective and continuity? It’s doubtful that we’ll see that kind of Lou Gehrig run at the Fed again. But the real question is if our collective worship at The Church of the New Hotness reaches a point that actually neutralizes our hard-wired fear of the unknown. Can we actually have too much acceleration in our corporate nation?

Of course, you don’t have to change people to change perspective and react to new ideas. In theory, you don’t, anyway. But most of us are like little Greenspans, who clung (and clings) to his Straussian-Freidmanesque supply-side dogma with the ferocity of Bill Grist holding onto his HCA stock.

Part of me wonders if every company needs an Alan Greenspan in an office somewhere — warning us of excess, a cool, calibrated, calculus with the emotion range of a Pet Rock. The other side of me wants to fill that office with unpacked boxes.

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About the author

Adam is a brand strategist--he runs Hanft Projects, a NYC-based firm--and is a frequently-published marketing authority and cultural critic. He sits on the Board of Scotts Miracle-Gro, and has consulted for companies that include Microsoft, McKinsey, Fidelity and Match.com, as well as many early and mid-stage digital companies

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