The Secret of Ben Bernanke's Beard

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I'll leave it to others to parse Ben Bernanke's policies. Instead, I'll do the crucial work of parsing Ben Bernanke's beard. This is from my Atlantic advice column, "What's Your Problem?": My answer, which follows the question from reader W.B., was prepared with the assistance of the magazine's Sarah Yager, who did the relentless reporting necessary to break this story wide open:

As hard as I try, I cannot get my beard (which I have had for 44 years) to look as perfect as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's. Does he have a stylist work on his every morning, or is it fake?

W.B., Seattle, Wash.

Dear W.B.,

It is not well known that Ben Bernanke's doctoral thesis, "Long-Term Commitments, Dynamic Optimization, and the Business Cycle," contained a separate appendix titled "Caring for Your Luscious Chin Curtain." You are right that Bernanke has an ostentatiously silky and highly civilized beard. In fact, the chairman's personality finds fullest expression in his beard. Also in his many gang tattoos. I did not know much about his beard, however, so I assigned the research-and-analysis division of "What's Your Problem?" to learn more.

Bernanke's grooming needs are met by a barber named Lenny Gilleo, whose shop is located at Federal Reserve headquarters, in Washington, D.C. Gilleo tells us that he shapes and trims Bernanke's beard every three or four weeks, but he did not mention any secret techniques or the use of any particular grooming products. Of possibly greater interest to the nonbearded public: Gilleo, who has cut the hair of the past five Fed chairmen, says there is no fixed price at his barbershop. Payment is a "whatever-you-choose type of thing." If this principle were applied broadly across the American economy, chaos would ensue. Actually, this principle was put into practice already, during the years leading up to the subprime-mortgage crisis.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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