Recently a leading hedge fund manager accused Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of having conducted “the most inappropriate monetary policy in history.”  Now, Bernanke has his critics for sure, but probably just as many defenders.  Therefore, to characterize his stewardship of the economy as the worst ever certainly smacks of verbal excess and deliberate exaggeration.

But that kind of talk is all too common.  The greatest scandal in history – the most powerful army assembled since the beginning of time – the most sinister conspiracy ever hatched – the worst atrocity of all time.  Everyone invokes “history” to add both substance and shock value to their remarks.  But do they ever offer any proof, any specific evidence from the past?  Do they ever consult with historians?

“History” in such instances stands mute, takes no steps to engage with the issues raised.  “History” is wise for doing so, understands that such references to the past are merely verbal devices, argumentative ornaments, not in any way serious inquiries.  History is, after all, about painstaking research and considered interpretation, not overheated rhetoric.

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