Why Hedgies Hate Bernanke

A blog about business and economics.
May 9 2013 2:46 PM

Rich Hedge Fund Managers Hate Ben Bernanke Because They Don't Want To Pay Taxes

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke arrives for the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) meeting during the 2013 World Bank/IMF Spring meetings in Washington on April 20, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

A lot of folks have remarked on the amazing outpouring of hatred for Ben Bernanke's allegedly inflationary monetary policies from the hedge fund set at the recent Sohn Conference, but I don't think anyone's really nailed it. Here's the thing about rich hedge fund guys. They're people. And like other people you may have met, they like money and don't like paying taxes. Where rich people are different is that they have a lot of money, so it's really tempting to say "hey lets take that money and give it to people who need the money more."

Rich people who don't like paying taxes don't like the idea of macroeconomic stabilization policy. That's because it'd convenient for them if the market economy could be not just a practical tool for allocating goods, but an moral framework imbued with deep ethical significance.


And that, in turn, is an idea that sits oddly with the concept that actually you have a bunch of bureaucrats in the Federal Reserve System making the economy plug along. So rich guys indulge fantasies of shifting back to a gold standard or something else that would restore divine right to the monetary system. But beyond that, the central banker they like best is the central banker who's most obscure. Conventional monetary policy was something economists and bond traders paid attention to, but nobody else. Alan Greenspan raising or cutting rates by 25 basis points wasn't a big spectacle. Since the easing (or tightening) was based on interest-rate targeting rather than quantitative monetary creation, you didn't get articles about "printing money". It was all just there in the background.

Ben Bernanke is as if the Wizard of Oz stepped forward from behind the curtain and turned out to be a really powerful wizard. The whole market economy turns out to be an elaborately orchestrated affair, with deep involvement by government central planners who weigh a variety of situations before determining outcomes. In that kind of world, there may still be reasons to eschew certain kinds of tax hikes. But they're practical, pragmatic reasons. They're not moral reasons, in which taxes violate the natural hierarchy of the market because there clearly is no such hierarchy.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.