You’re not alone. Gene Epstein reports in his “Economic Beat” column for Barron’s that former Csrter- and Reagan-era Fed chairman Paul Volcker agrees.

“Abstract economic modeling and the endless regressions of econometricians will be of little help,” Volcker declared in a speech on May 29 at the Economic Club of New York. “The new approach of ‘behavioral’ economics itself is recognition of the limitations of mathematical approaches, but that new ‘science’ is in its infancy.” The Bernanke Fed has clearly fallen into both traps, wonkishly claiming the ability to apply mathematical models to fine-tuning the economy, while also presuming to practice the art of behavioral economics.

On the behavioral front, consider the recent semi-comical avoidance by Fed officials of the word “taper” to describe the announced plan to gradually reduce the massive program of bond purchases, or “quantitative easing.” The Fed announcement has clearly spurred the recent back-up in interest rates (see chart). But was the word “taper” — which the Fed itself originally put into the language — in any way responsible?

According to a Wall Street Journal blog post (“Why the Fed Hates the Word ‘Tapering,” June 7), “the word…suggests a slow, steady, and predictable reduction,” which is why the Fed now eschews the term. Slow, yes, but no dictionary definition of “taper” says anything about “steady” or “predictable.”

In fact, the phrase “taper off” is used to describe withdrawal from drugs and alcohol by the most severe addicts, a process that is rarely steady or predictable, and is often subject to setbacks. The term therefore nicely captures the fact that there is no set plan for scaling back the purchases, and that if the patient shows signs of reacting badly, the Fed doctors might reverse course. In any case, it hardly clarifies anything when New York Fed president William Dudley speaks instead of “dialing back” on quantitative easing, or of planning to “reduce the pace at which we are adding accommodation through asset purchases.”

The reason for all these antics over mere semantics is that the Fed does not want the bond market to fully price in, through a jump in yields, the complete elimination of quantitative easing, even though elimination is the ultimate goal. Coincidentally, another former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, recently expressed doubts about the hubristic assumption that the central bank can play such behavioristic games.