Freedom. For this proud square, this eager conformist and joiner of the establishment, freedom is nevertheless the supreme value of his life. Freedom and, he would add, rationality. In the early 1950s he joined the inner circle of Ayn Rand, the author of ''The Fountainhead'' and ''Atlas Shrugged,'' whose philosophy, known as Objectivism, was an extreme form of libertarianism that actually celebrated selfishness and greed. Many young brainiacs of dorkish tendencies go through an Ayn Rand period (her books are very popular at Microsoft). But Greenspan credits Rand as ''a stabilizing force in my life'' and was ''a regular at the weekly gatherings at her apartment'' through the early 1960s. She stood at his side when he was sworn in as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in 1974, and they ''remained close until she died in 1982.''Occasionally I encounter students who are going through an "Ayn Rand period" - its just a phase, I remind myself. One I fortunately managed to avoid (I was more inclined towards Leon Trotsky), though one of my high school friends did make me read "The Fountainhead."
For Greenspan, though, it was more than just a phase. While I can excuse a central banker with questionable taste in literature, I always found it troubling to have a bona fide acolyte - a man who could say "objectivism" with a straight face - in such a powerful position. Lest I smirk too much, Paul Krugman's latest column is a reminder of the real consequences of Greenspan's worldview.
To the students I say: if you must be libertarian, its time to graduate to Hayek and "The Road to Serfdom," which is actually a good book.
As my for high school friend - he made it to the other side, and is now an attorney with a federal regulatory agency in Washington (take that, Ms Rand!).