Nobody gives a speech like Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president and CEO Richard Fisher. He quotes Bob Dylan. He likens the economy to a Rube Goldberg contraption, which he proceeds to render in extreme detail. And, yesterday, during a speech given to the Laboratory for Aggregate Economics and Finance at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Fisher managed to work in ... Dolly Parton's breasts. As in:
As Professor Rupert mentioned, my wife Nancy and I are bibliophiles. We collect rare books. This is an expensive hobby that began when I wrote a paper as a student at Stanford's Graduate School of Business on the imperfect auction market for out-of-print first editions. As you might guess, the recent financial crisis has ratified much of what I wrote about over 30 years ago, and that, as Peter mentioned, is what enabled my recent bargain-priced purchase of the original Oxford English Dictionary and a near-mint-condition 1841 printing of Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, a book I recommend to anybody who wants to understand the pathology behind the recent -- and any other -- financial crisis.
Our interest in books led us to serve on a committee that advises the Library of Congress. It was through the library that we were introduced to the country singer Dolly Parton. Most people think of Dolly as the caricature of Marx's -- Groucho's, not Karl's -- swarmy quip: "She has eyes that folks adore so, and a torso even more so." But Ms. Parton has a prodigious brain for music and business -- and a passion for books. She has done a great deal for education -- her foundation now gives out, free of charge, over 6 million books a year to pre-K children in more than 40 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the United Kingdom to start them on the road to reading.
What does this have to do with the economy? Well, in thinking about what I wanted to say tonight, I was reminded about an incident that occurred when Ms. Parton was given the Library of Congress' Living Legend medal for her contributions to American culture. At dinner afterward, a rather indignant woman, offended by Ms. Parton's ... topography, thought to diminish her by noting how disproportionately small her feet seemed to be. Dolly's saucy riposte was a classic: "Well, you know, sweetie, it is very hard to grow anything in the shade."
Tonight, I wish to speak of the difficulty of growing our economy in the shade of an abundance of excess capacity for the production of goods and services worldwide.
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He follows that with more pop-culture references -- oh, and his economic forecast, which is partly sunny with a chance of afternoon shitstorms: "We are likely to see a prolonged period of sluggish economic performance and uncomfortably high unemployment as businesses reallocate capital and labor to fit the new economic landscape."