'The Oracle' Forgot One Thing: We're Greedy

Founding fathers quickly figured out people couldn't be trusted to be selfless
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2008 11:50 AM CDT
Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, speaks during the 91st LIMRA International Annual Meeting in this Oct. 30, 2007 file photo in Boston.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – If those who ignore history repeat it, Alan Greenspan must have slept through a few Constitutional history classes. In promoting the risky derivatives market, the former Federal Reserve chairman was depending on individuals' restraint and care for the greater good. But Americans just aren't that altruistic, as the Founding Fathers figured out, Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes write in the Los Angeles Times.

In 1776, the nation's leaders so believed in public virtue that they created a weak central government—and soon came to regret it. At the Constitutional Convention 11 years later, they forged checks and balances to offset human selfishness. Greenspan might have done the same, write Lane and Oreskes: "A rereading of American History 101 would have reminded him that the framers already went through the same rude awakening about human nature."