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February 28, 2014

Another Lesson From the Fed’s Crisis Transcripts

“The release of the transcripts of the Federal Open Market Committee meetings held in the midst of the financial crisis has suggested Fed officials care about their critics, and worry about the international economy.”

“It also a chance to take stock of the way the discipline of ‘transcript-ology’ is changing.”

“Transcripts of discussions among government decision makers – the tapes President Nixon made of his telephone calls, for example – used to be of particular interest to historians, who used qualitative techniques to make sense of a government decision-making process. They would read the transcripts and fit them into their narratives about government policy. Much of this work was not entirely dissimilar to journalism, although it might involve much more reference to historiography. Hence the idea that journalists might be writing the ‘first rough draft of history.’ “

“Recently, these sorts of look-backs have developed a quantitative element as well as a qualitative one. Economists have mined the Congressional Record to look for phrases associated with particular ideologies. Political scientists and legal scholars have done similar work on the Supreme Court. Jay Wexler counted the number of times that laughter broke out during Supreme Court oral arguments (Justice Antonin Scalia was, by far, the funniest justice, Mr. Wexler observed).”

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Read full New York Times DealBook article here.

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