By day, Alan Greenspan is a mild-mannered Federal Reserve chairman. But by night, he is the masked vigilante known as the Greenspan Hornet. Aided by his faithful oriental chauffeur, Cato Institute, he fights a never-ending battle against government regulation and oversight.
Recently, though (circa October 2008), he has suffered a crisis of faith in the free market system: "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief."
After this humiliating public admission, Greenspan withdrew to his Hornet's Nest and brooded: "What happened to the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace? Why didn't he intervene?" The Invisible Hand was Greenspan's superfriend in the Economic Justice League; only Greenspan could see him.
Cato shrugged. Like a broker, he got paid whether the markets went up or down: "Maybe he got a cramp, Greenspan-san?"
Greenspan noticed Cato's gesture. "You're right of course, Cato. It all began with Atlas Shrugged. I thought Ayn Rand had all the answers. Now I see the real world is filled with Bernie Madoffs, not John Galts."
"Too bad Greenspan-san cannot ask her herself," Cato said. "Rand-san died of cancer from smoking good capitalist cigarettes in 1982."
"Cato! That's it!" Greenspan cried. "You're a genius!"
"You mean..?" Cato said.
"Yes!" Greenspan replied, recovering some of his old decisiveness. "We must journey to the tomb of Ayn Rand! Even the Oracle must sometimes consult with his Oracle. Fire up Black Monday!" Black Monday was a limousine especially equipped to address financial emergencies; it had rocket launchers, machine guns, and could adjust the prime. "We're going to visit the fountainhead of Objectivism."
"But, Greenspan-san," Cato protested. "She's dead!"
"That may be an insurmountable barrier for the common man," Greenspan replied coolly. "But that's no problem for the truly gifted individual."
After a long, perilous journey to Valhalla (New York), Greenspan and Cato found themselves before the tomb of Ayn Rand. Greenspan shivered involuntarily, and not just because they were standing in a deserted graveyard at midnight. He had always felt a little bit intimidated by Rand: that fierce intellect, that voracious sexuality...
"Quick, Cato!" Greenspan commanded. "Light the offering!"
Cato placed a basket of securities -- a portfolio of blue-chip stocks handpicked by the Maestro himself -- in front of the tomb and set it on fire. At first, there was no response. Greenspan was just starting to think he should have lit a bond fire instead when, suddenly, there was a loud crack, and the tomb split open. There stood Ayn Rand in all her naked glory. "She never could resist the smell of money," Greenspan muttered.
"Who dares disturb my timeless sleep?" Rand said. "Don't you know I was an ardent athiest and didn't believe in an afterlife?"
"It's me, Ayn," Greenspan said. "Alan, your most important disciple. Don't you recognize me?"
Rand peered at Greenspan closely. "Maybe if you took off that stupid green domino mask I might," she said.
"Oh, yeah, right, I forgot I had I on," Greenspan said, and removed his mask. "Now do you recognize me?"
Rand peered at Greenspan more closely. She allowed that he did look like one of the members of the Collective, her inner circle of sycophants. "What do you want?" she said in her customary direct style. "Time is money. Come to think of it, everything is money."
Greenspan explained to her all that had transpired since she had expired--the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the metastasis of derivatives, the housing bubble, the financial crisis, the government bailouts...
Rand listened with growing impatience. When he had finished, she stomped her foot and said "You must have done something wrong! Deregulation should have led to perfectly efficient markets, not wild speculation, fraudulent accounting, and bogus stocks. It's in the self-interest of the banks to keep the game competitive but clean."
"What about the tragedy of the commons?" Greenspan said.
"The tragedy of the what?" Rand snapped. "Never heard of it. Must be socialist propaganda."
"You know, Rand-san," Cato interjected helpfully. "It's when each individual acting in his own selfish interests results in sub-optimum results for the group the individual is a member of, including the individual. And that doesn't even get into the Nietzschean fallacy of the superman--"
"Silence!" Rand commanded. "I'll hear no more of this heresy! Free Markets are perfect, that's all there is to it," she repeated stubbornly; it was her mantra, her anthem. "If you can't handle the job, I've got just the man to replace you. I'll give you a hint: he named his son after me."
A familiar figure stepped from behind Rand's tomb, where he had been lurking.
"Ron Paul!" Greenspan exclaimed.
"You bet!" Paul said. "It's clear you didn't go far enough with deregulation. Now we're going to do away with the Fed altogether and go back to the gold standard. If that doesn't work, maybe we'll try barter."
"Over my dead cat bounce!" Greenspan said. He hated regulation, but he hated losing his legacy even more. "Quick, Cato! Fire up Black Monday! We're heading back to Washington."
"Sorry, Greenspan-san. No can do," Cato said. "Enlightened self-interest tells this one Ron Paul-san right horse to back now." Cato detached himself from Greenspan and sidled over to Paul. He was trained in the sophistic martial arts; he could flip sides on a dime.
"Cato!" Greenspan cried. He started feeling dizzy, like a trader standing on a ledge after a "market correction." "What about personal loyalty?"
"Personal loyalty is an encumbrance," Rand said. "If you really understood my pilosophy, you'd know that. Lord knows, I screwed over enough of my disciples."
"So I have no further utility," Greenspan cried, and promptly ceased to be among we the living. The Greenspan Hornet had solved his last case.