“Over the past decade a combination of diverse forces has created a significant increase in the global supply of saving – a global saving glut – which helps to explain both the increase in the US current account deficit and the relatively low level of long-term real interest rates in the world today.” Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.*
Has the Federal Reserve been a serial bubble-blower? Or has it been responding to exceptional macroeconomic conditions? Not surprisingly, the implication of Ben Bernanke’s celebrated speech on the global “savings glut” implies the second view. Yet his self-exculpatory perspective is far from universally shared. So who is right? My answer is both. The Fed can indeed be accused of being a serial bubble-blower. But this is not because it has been managed by incompetents. It is because it has been managed by competent people responding to exceptional circumstances.