Nice Guy Greenspan

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WASHINGTON: Clearly, Alan Greenspan was in a good mood. The Dow had been doing the Fed's sternest work for three days shaving more than 1,000 points off the market total and yet by Wednesday, everybody was laughing about how worried they'd been.

So when the world's scariest banker appeared before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, he was positively jolly. "Provided the decline in financial markets does not cumulate," he said, "it is quite conceivable that a few years hence we will look back at this episode, as we now look back at the 1987 crash, as a salutary event in terms of its implications for the macroeconomy." Quite.

Greenspan was careful to make the usual rounds: a brief brood on the menace of wage pressures; and a light-hearted refusal to mention interest rates.

But bearing witness to Wall Street's vulnerability, it seems, has left some congressmen badly rattled and able to talk of little else. Was there a way, they asked, to enjoy the benefits of the global economy without all that corrective unpleasantness?

Greenspan was making no apologies. Throwing up walls against interconnection would "dramatically lower our standard of living" and "cause stagnation." The U.S. economy, he said, was robust and the fluctuations of an exciting few days were benign and born of a simple truth: "You can't bet 1,000 percent in investment decisions." So relax, everybody, and buy on the dips.