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Greenspan to Economists: Internet, Growth - Not Inflation - Define the New Century

In a speech that is likely to set the tone for the 21st century, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan fully endorsed the internet economy and threw out inflation as a gauge for Federal Reserve Policy last night. Greenspan uses phrases like "profoundly different", "awesome" and "remarkable" to discuss a phenomena that "may well gather speed and force" and become "even more potent". Near the end, the Chairman hints that Fed policy has shifted to sustaining growth from containing inflation - in fact, the speech is all the more remarkable for its lack of inflation mania.

Below is a reprint of the speech, with highlighting courtesy of our friends at Economic Analysis Associates, Inc. All investors should read it:

Remarks by Chairman Alan Greenspan
Technology and the economy
Before the Economic Club of New York, New York, New York
January 13, 2000

We are within weeks of establishing a record for the longest economic expansion in this nation's history. The 106-month expansion of the 1960s, which was elongated by the Vietnam War, will be surpassed in February. Nonetheless, there remain few evident signs of geriatric strain that typically presage an imminent economic downturn.

Four or five years into this expansion, in the middle of the 1990s, it was unclear whether, going forward, this cycle would differ significantly from the many others that have characterized post-World War II America. More recently, however, it has become increasingly difficult to deny that something profoundly different from the typical postwar business cycle has emerged. Not only is the expansion reaching record length, but it is doing so with far stronger-than-expected economic growth. Most remarkably, inflation has remained subdued in the face of labor markets tighter than any we have experienced in a generation. Analysts are struggling to create a credible conceptual framework to fit a pattern of interrelationships that has defied conventional wisdom based on our economy's history of the past half century.

When we look back at the 1990s, from the perspective of say 2010, the nature of the forces currently in train will have presumably become clearer. We may conceivably conclude from that vantage point that, at the turn of the millennium, the American economy was experiencing a once-in-a-century acceleration of innovation, which propelled forward productivity, output, corporate profits, and stock prices at a pace not seen in generations, if ever.

Alternatively, that 2010 retrospective might well conclude that a good deal of what we are currently experiencing was just one of the many euphoric speculative bubbles that have dotted human history. And, of course, we cannot rule out that we may look back and conclude that elements from both scenarios have been in play in recent years.

On the one hand, the evidence of dramatic innovations--veritable shifts in the tectonic plates of technology--has moved far beyond mere conjecture. On the other, these extraordinary achievements continue to be bedeviled by concerns that the so-called New Economy is spurring imbalances that at some point will abruptly adjust, bringing the economic expansion, its euphoria, and wealth creation to a debilitating halt. This evening I should like to address some of the evidence and issues that pertain to these seemingly alternative scenarios.

What should be indisputable is that a number of new technologies that evolved largely from the cumulative innovations of the past half century have now begun to bring about awesome changes in the way goods and services are produced and, especially, in the way they are distributed to final users. Those innovations, particularly the Internet's rapid emergence from infancy, have spawned a ubiquity of startup firms, many of which claim to offer the chance to revolutionize and dominate large shares of the nation's production and distribution system. Capital markets, not comfo