Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Farewell, Paul Volcker

As many BLPB readers know, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, “inflation slayer,” and namesake of the famous “Volcker Rule,” Paul A. Volcker, passed away Sunday.  He was 92.  Much has already been – and will continue to be – written about him.  To pay tribute to this great man and public servant, I wanted to share a few such pieces (in bold), with a quote from each (in italics).    

The Volcker Alliance (here)

Mr. Volcker worked in the United States Federal Government for almost 30 years, culminating in two terms as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-1987, a critical period in bringing a high level of inflation to an end. He also served as Under Secretary of the Treasury in the 1970s, a period of historic change in international monetary arrangements.  Upon leaving public service, he headed two private, non-partisan Commissions on the Public Service, in 1987 and 2003; both recommended a sweeping overhaul of the organization and personnel practices of the United States Federal Government. His last official role in government service was as head of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, established by President-Elect Obama in 2008 to help steer the nation through the Great Recession.

Paul Volcker’s Greatest Lesson Wasn’t on Economics.  It Was on Being a Public Servant. (here)

Despite jobs at the epicenter of world financial power — early in his career he worked at Chase Manhattan, and he would lead the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before Mr. Carter picked him as Fed chair — he seemed uninterested in the trappings of wealth and power.

The strongest reason to mourn Volcker: He was willing to be unpopular (here)

Volcker did things that made him unpopular with presidents, with Congress and with the general public. He elicited their enmity not because he was a provocateur or masochist. He undertook unpopular actions because he believed they were the right things to do, and he cared more about the long-run health of the country than he did about his own career.

Paul Volcker, Who Guided U.S. Monetary Policy and Finance for Nearly Three Decades, Is Dead (here)

In retirement he was tapped repeatedly for high-profile international positions. In the late 1990s, he headed a committee investigating dormant accounts and other assets in Swiss banks that belonged to Holocaust victims. From 2000 to 2005, he chaired the International Accounting Standards Committee, developing global accounting practices. In 2004, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan tapped him to chair an independent panel investigating corruption allegations in the U.N.’s Iraqi oil-for-food program.

As Fed chairman, Paul Volcker made everyone mad (here)

The former Fed chairman said that, when he started his career, bank executives wouldn’t pay bonuses to individuals because it created the wrong culture. “You can’t imagine a bank these days debating that,” he said.

Billionaire Ray Dalio calls the late Paul Volcker 'the greatest American hero I've known' (here)

"I knew him personally as a man who had great wisdom, humility, and classic heroism in which he sacrificed his well-being for the well-being of others." [quoting Dalio]

There’s the Legend of Paul Volcker and the Man I Got to Know  (here)

One evening about two years ago, I was at Paul Volcker’s Manhattan apartment when the phone rang. It was Ray Dalio, the billionaire hedge fund manager, inviting Paul and his wife, Anke, to join him at the ballet on some future date. Soon after, Paul said that he and Anke had to leave for Brooklyn. They were attending a wake for his barber.

Factbox: Volcker quotes on U.S. banks, inflation, government (here)


Wake up, gentlemen. I can only say that your response is inadequate. I wish that somebody would give me some shred of neutral evidence about the relationship between financial innovation recently and the growth of the economy, just one shred of information.” (Wall Street Journal interview, 2009)

Revised 12/11/19


Colleen Baker | Permalink


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