Over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias takes former Moody’s VP Christopher Mahoney to task for suggesting that Protestants are disinclined to be good at monetary policy because their theology forbids them from understanding “there is such a thing as a free lunch.” Who understands a free lunch? The Jews, of course. And the Catholics. But as Yglesias points out, it doesn’t seem that there has ever been a Catholic Chair of the Federal Reserve. He also sets out to disabuse us all of the notion that Jews and central banking go together like bagel and lox.
But if we look at Jodi Beggs’ data on annual inflation by Fed chairman, we can see that the Chosen People have not done very well at monetary matters in practice. Of the men on this list, five—Meyer, Burns, Miller, Greenspan, and Bernanke—have been Jewish. Eccles was Mormon. The rest were Protestant. And sorry to say it but Meyer, Burns, and Miller are the worst chairmen we’ve had. Meyer allowed years of deflation and depression. Burns and Miller both refused to curb inflation. Greenspan and Bernanke are both mixed bags. Obviously Greenspan fell down on the job as a bank regulator entirely. On the other hand, he did an excellent job of resisting calls for tighter money in the mid-1990s and brought us the only period of sustained working class wage growth in decades. Bernanke, I would say, has failed relative to an abstract standard of what we would want to see a Fed chairman deliver (rapid recovery), but he has performed much better than the leaders of the world’s other major central banks. The main axis of conflict during the Bernanke years has been him fending off wrongheaded criticism from people urging tighter money, so all things considered he’s done a good job.
Will this nuanced and well-researched revelation end the conspiratorial chatter of anti-Semites over the perfidy of Jewish bankers? My guess is not. But at least the truth is out there, right?
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.