Now that Ben Bernanke has been tapped to succeed Alan Greenspan atop the Federal Reserve, his public writings and commentary take on the status of scripture for those hoping to chart the future of monetary policy. Broadly speaking, Bernanke is viewed as a straight-talking economist who avoids ideological and political stances while stressing the importance of containing inflation and making the Fed a transparent and independent body. An admirer of Greenspan, Bernanke has shared many of the current chairman's views on monetary policy, although not blindly. The major rift between Greenspan and his probable successor comes from Bernanke's longtime support of ''inflation targeting,'' which holds that a central bank should publicly establish a preferred rate of inflation and adjust monetary policy to achieve it. "Currently, the FOMC makes its decisions without an agreed-upon definition of price stability or of the inflation objective, and one wonders how oarsmen pulling in different directions can get the boat to go in a straight line," Bernanke said in a 2004 interview. Other central banks, such as the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, have adopted formal targets. Greenspan and some critics believe such as move would hopelessly complicate the Fed's task and reduce the central bank's flexibility. Still, the trend toward greater openness as the Federal Reserve has increased in recent years. In a watershed Fed shift in 2003, the Fed began sending signals to financial markets about its upcoming policy moves by stating it would keep interest rates low for a ''considerable period.'' Later, the Fed changed its signal by telling investors for the last year that it would raise rates at a ''pace that is likely to be measured.'' While Greenspan oversaw the shift, some observers saw Bernanke's influence in it. Besides being known for inflation targeting, Bernanke is most closely associated with a 2002 speech that espoused preemptive action to cut short-term rates when an economy is at risk of deflation. At the time, the speech pushed deflation onto center stage just as rates were headed lower for an extended period. Some say Bernanke's logic created the foundation upon which a too-accommodative policy was built.