Troubled Childhood At Root of Larry Summers’s Monstrousness

“While larger questions about government secrecy and the role of the news media in the Internet age swirl around the case, the roots of Private Manning’s behavior may spring as much from his troubled youth as from his political views.

Although President Obama won’t announce until the fall his choice to be the next head of the Federal Reserve, the debate over his reported first choice rages on.

Most critics have attributed Larry Summers’s fondness for deregulation, boner for Wall Street, and repeated efforts to destroy the world to his devout neoliberalism. But while larger questions about government mendacity and the role of Robert Rubin swirl around the controversy, the roots of his behavior may spring as much from his troubled youth as from his political views.

Although many children endure more blatant hardship than Larry Summers, who grew in up in a privileged community in suburban Philadelphia, one shouldn’t underestimate the damage his upbringing did to to his psyche and sense of self-worth: he’s the son of two economists.

Summers’s childhood was not quite like that of the other kids in postwar suburbia….His father once set up a bidding system to distribute TV-watching times. When his parents went out in the evening, they often gave Larry a math problem to work on. If they forgot, his mother has recalled, he would rush out the door after them and demand one…..Summers’s father taught him statistical methods from an early age, and in the sixth grade Larry created an analysis of baseball games that attempted to predict the probability of a team’s performance at the end of the season based on its position in the standings on the Fourth of July.

No, this is not child abuse. But it’s not not child abuse, either. “My heart kind of went out to him,” says Avi Burgerstein, who grew up down the street from Summers. “I mean, a lot of us had overbearing parents who needed us to succeed. But Larry — his parents were just at another level. Maniacs. I think it created a hole in his soul.”

Moreover, two of Larry’s uncles were also economists, Nobel Prize winners, no less: Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow. His parents felt deeply inferior to their more successful brothers, and this feeling of inadequacy led them to make sure their own son felt inadequate.

Perhaps you can’t draw a straight line from such this childhood to his need to screw the poor and enrich the rich, but the connection is nonetheless undeniable.

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