Summary of The Cult of the Expert – and How It Collapsed

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In September 2008, former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke advised then US president George W. Bush that stabilizing the tottering insurance behemoth AIG would cost $85 billion. When a member of Congress asked Bernanke if he had that money, he responded that, as Fed chairman, he could summon almost any amount of money into existence. It would merely require the signatures of several other Fed experts. How do unelected individuals become so powerful? Sebastian Mallaby, British journalist and biographer of former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, explains the rise – and the fall – of the “cult of the expert” in politics. getAbstract recommends Mallaby’s sophisticated account to anyone curious about the past and the future of the role of experts in government.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the experts at the Federal Reserve became powerful,
  • Why the good times for technocrats have ended,
  • Why they will come back and
  • What experts must do to wield influence in a democracy.

About the Author

Sebastian Mallaby, author of The Man Who Knew, is a senior fellow at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations.



In the year 2009, the year of quantitative easing, a trillion dollars materialized in the US economy, courtesy of the Federal Reserve. Experts at the Fed pushed beyond the bounds of their original role – controlling the interest rate – and stepped into the limelight as media heroes. Long gone were former US president Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics or the days of presidents hectoring central bankers. (In 1964, former president Lyndon B. Johnson, in an effort to coerce William McChesney Martin into lowering interest rates, screamed at the then Federal Reserve ...

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