The Secret Lives of Central Bankers

Annelise Riles in the New York Times:

A few years ago, a senior Japanese central banker let me in on a secret side of his life: Like some others in his rarefied world, he is a passionate devotee of Sherlock Holmes. After formal meetings in capitals around the world, he joins the other Sherlock Holmes buffs over drinks or dinner for trivia competitions, to test their knowledge of obscure plot details, or to share amateur historical research into Victorian London.

It is all very casual, but the camaraderie is important to him. Through this informal fan club, the banker told me, he had made his closest professional friendships. “I feel closer to many of these people than to many of my countrymen,” he said.

As an anthropologist, I have spent 20 years studying the customs, beliefs and rituals of central bankers around the world. They see themselves as jacks-of-all-financial-trades who solve complex financial crises before they can damage the unsuspecting public. They are as clever as the extraordinarily wealthy banking executives whom they regulate, but motivated by higher ideals. So it made sense that the aloof and justifiably arrogant Sherlock Holmes might represent for them an ideal of masculine brilliance (they are mostly still men), rationality and self-control. Like Holmes, central bankers consider their detachment an asset.

But in the real world, this high-mindedness has come at a cost.

More here.