Alan Greenspan certainly knows how to turn his mistakes to his advantage. In his just-published memoirs—for which he was paid a rumoured $8 million (Rs32.4 crore), or $16,000 a page—the former chairman of Federal Reserve Board admits he failed to notice the excesses of the US mortgage market until it was too late. Presumably, he was too busy honing his famously oracular statements about monetary policy.

That mistake is likely to cost the US economy dearly. It led to excess construction, real estate fever in many parts of the country, and now to a possible wave of foreclosures. According to at least one expert, whose thoughts are splashed over front pages around the world, house prices could fall by “double digits" and there is a 50% chance of a US recession.

The expert grabbing those headlines is none other than Greenspan himself. The octogenarian former Fed chief has clearly correctly adduced that the kind of impenetrable central banker gobbledygook that saw him hailed a genius on Wall Street was unlikely to make him a hero to his publishers.

But as he talks up sales by talking down the markets, he brings attention to the less attractive side of his legacy: a dangerously overleveraged US economy. That will cost him dear in another currency—his reputation.