Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested, like F.D.R. during the Depression, that the only thing to fear about an expected economic catastrophe is - fear itself.
Mr. Greenspan was referring to the much-feared shutdown of computers on Jan. 1 due to older computers not being able to read the year 2000.
The risk of systemic computer failure is "negligible," the central bank chief said. Only a handful of institutions have not yet fixed the problem. But still, people's fears of supplies running low, factories being shut, banks not working, and other wild presumptions may make them bring about some of the very economic turmoil they fear.
If enough people stockpile goods or enough companies build up inventories, it may unbalance America's humming economy. "Bottlenecks could develop, and market pressure could ensue," Greenspan warned. Already, the Fed plans to give banks extra dollars in anticipation of people pulling their money out. Let's get a grip.
What's still needed is for institutions to provide credible information on just how well they have already corrected the Y2K problem. "If we avoid fear-induced significant economic changes," said the grand wizard of the US economy, "the century date change will hopefully replicate the saga of the dog that did not bark."
Or the millennium bug that didn't byte.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society