A Term at the Fed: An Insider's View

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As a governor of the Federal Reserve Board from 1996 to 2002, Laurence H. Meyer helped make the economic policies that steered the United States through some of the wildest and most tumultuous times in its recent history. Now, in A Term at the Fed, Governor Meyer provides an insider's view of the Fed, the decisions that affected both the U.S. and world economies, and the challenges inherent in using monetary policy to guide the economy.

When Governor Meyer was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1996, the United States was entering one of the most prosperous periods in its history. It was the time of "irrational exuberance" and the fabled New Economy. Soon, however, the economy was tested by the Asian financial crisis, the Russian default and devaluation, the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management, the bursting of America's stock bubble, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

In what amounts to a definitive playbook of monetary policy, Meyer now relives the Fed's closed-door debates -- debates that questioned how monetary policy should adapt to the possibility of a New Economy, how the Fed should respond to soaring equity prices, and whether the Fed should broker the controversial private sector bailout of LTCM, among other issues. Meyer deftly weaves these issues with firsthand stories about the personalities involved, from Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan to the various staffers, governors, politicians, and reporters that populate the world of the Fed.

Since the end of his term, Meyer has continued to watch the Fed and the world economy. He believes that we are witnessing a repetition of some of the events of the remarkable 1990s -- including a further acceleration in productivity and perhaps another bull market. History does not repeat itself, yet Meyer shows us how the lessons learned yesterday may help the Fed shape policy today.

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About the author

Laurence H. Meyer served on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from June 1996 through January 2002, and is currently a Distinguished Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Prior to his appointment to the Board of Governors, Meyer founded Laurence H. Meyer and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in macroeconomic forecasting and policy analysis. Meyer taught at Washington University for 27 years and received his Ph.D. from MIT. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Oct 13, 2009
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780061755385
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Finance / General
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Writing in the June 1965 issue of theEconomic Journal, Harry G. Johnson begins with a sentence seemingly calibrated to the scale of the book he set himself to review: "The long-awaited monetary history of the United States by Friedman and Schwartz is in every sense of the term a monumental scholarly achievement--monumental in its sheer bulk, monumental in the definitiveness of its treatment of innumerable issues, large and small . . . monumental, above all, in the theoretical and statistical effort and ingenuity that have been brought to bear on the solution of complex and subtle economic issues."

Friedman and Schwartz marshaled massive historical data and sharp analytics to support the claim that monetary policy--steady control of the money supply--matters profoundly in the management of the nation's economy, especially in navigating serious economic fluctuations. In their influential chapter 7, The Great Contraction--which Princeton published in 1965 as a separate paperback--they address the central economic event of the century, the Depression. According to Hugh Rockoff, writing in January 1965: "If Great Depressions could be prevented through timely actions by the monetary authority (or by a monetary rule), as Friedman and Schwartz had contended, then the case for market economies was measurably stronger."

Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 for work related to A Monetary History as well as to his other Princeton University Press book, A Theory of the Consumption Function (1957).

In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon.

 

Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008.

Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict.

As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.

Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.

While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Rickards untangles the web of failed paradigms, wishful thinking, and arrogance driving current public policy and points the way toward a more informed and effective course of action.




From the Hardcover edition.
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