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This chart via Bloomberg's Barry Ritholtz shows an unsettling correlation. The more house prices rose during the housing bubble — a bubble that Ben Bernanke denied existed as late as 2005 — the more laughter was recorded in transcripts of Federal Open Market Committee meetings:
Of course, correlation is not causation, and we should be careful not to read too much into a little laughter. But this does leave the Fed open to charges that some members weren't really taking problems in the nation's economy seriously. Barry Ritholtz charges, "Perhaps the best way to examine the contrast is as a function of mass psychology: The Fed appears to have become complacent, apparently relaxed and satisfied with the way it handled the aftermath of the dot-com/technology/telecom bubble that burst in 2000."
Which makes me wonder — how much are Fed officials laughing in meetings today? Unfortunately, we won't know for five years, because — unlike in other countries, such as Australia — that is how long it takes for the transcripts to be declassified and released to the public.