To understand why the Federal Reserve acted as it did at key points in its history, Meltzer draws on meeting minutes, correspondence, and other internal documents (many made public only during the 1970s) to trace the reasoning behind its policy decisions. He explains, for instance, why the Federal Reserve remained passive throughout most of the economic decline that led to the Great Depression, and how the Board's actions helped to produce the deep recession of 1937 and 1938. He also highlights the impact on the institution of individuals such as Benjamin Strong, governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the 1920s, who played a key role in the adoption of a more active monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. Meltzer also examines the influence the Federal Reserve has had on international affairs, from attempts to build a new international financial system in the 1920s to the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 that established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the failure of the London Economic Conference of 1933.
Written by one of the world's leading economists, this magisterial biography of the Federal Reserve and the people who helped shape it will interest economists, central bankers, historians, political scientists, policymakers, and anyone seeking a deep understanding of the institution that controls America's purse strings.
"It was 'an unprecedented orgy of extravagance, a mania for speculation, overextended business in nearly all lines and in every section of the country.' An Alan Greenspan rumination about the irrational exuberance of the late 1990s? Try the 1920 annual report of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve. . . . To understand why the Fed acted as it did—at these critical moments and many others—would require years of study, poring over letters, the minutes of meetings and internal Fed documents. Such a task would naturally deter most scholars of economic history but not, thank goodness, Allan Meltzer."—Wall Street Journal
"A seminal work that anyone interested in the inner workings of the U. S. central bank should read. A work that scholars will mine for years to come."—John M. Berry, Washington Post
"An exceptionally clear story about why, as the ideas that actually informed policy evolved, things sometimes went well and sometimes went badly. . . . One can only hope that we do not have to wait too long for the second installment."—David Laidler, Journal of Economic Literature
"A thorough narrative history of a high order. Meltzer's analysis is persuasive and acute. His work will stand for a generation as the benchmark history of the world's most powerful economic institution. It is an impressive, even awe-inspiring achievement."—Sir Howard Davies, Times Higher Education Supplement
Arranged alphabetically, over 250 entries define and describe topics related to the Fed and United States monetary policy, including Alan Greenspan, Black Monday of 1929, Euro, Federal Reserve Act of 1913, Prime rate, and Treasury financing. Numerous appendices supplement the A-to- Z entries, providing insight into the secretive and powerful Federal Reserve Bank, the keepers of America's monetary system.
The issues discussed are long standing. Some have antecedents in the distant past, others are more recent. The book opens with a brief discussion of what money is, including the monetarist, Austrian, and Keynesian views, and of differing views on the role of supply and demand. It then considers the early and later years of central banking in the U.S. and abroad, moving on to the role of bureaucracy and monetary policy. The volume then considers contemporary commercial banking, the changing nature of banking today, and the Euro and the dollar. Written in nontechnical language, the book will be useful to the specialist and interested layman alike.
Robert E. Wright and his colleagues provide an unbiased history of government bailouts and a frank assessment of their effectiveness. Their book recounts colonial America's struggle to rectify the first dangerous real estate bubble and the British government's counterproductive response. It explains how Alexander Hamilton allowed central banks and other lenders to bail out distressed but sound businesses without rewarding or encouraging the risky ones. And it shows how, in the second half of the twentieth century, governments began to bail out distressed companies, industries, and even entire economies in ways that subsidized risk takers while failing to reinvigorate the economy. By peering into the historical uses of public money to save private profit, this volume suggests better ways to control risk in the future.
Additional Columbia / SSRC books on the privatization of risk and its implications for Americans:
Health at Risk: America's Ailing Health System--and How to Heal It
Edited by Jacob S. Hacker
Laid Off, Laid Low: Political and Economic Consequences of Employment Insecurity
Edited by Katherine S. Newman
Pensions, Social Security, and the Privatization of Risk
Edited by Mitchell A. Orenstein
Readers will learn how banks have created most of America's money supply since the nation's founding, but also about experiments with an alternative system in which the government plays that role. The crux of the book is an examination of the way in which the two systems could be harmonized to pay for public necessities without increasing taxes or national debt. The proposed new system of money creation would incorporate two complementary money streams—the existing banking system run by the Federal Reserve and a new stream of money created by Congress. By integrating the "Greenback" method with the fiscal and monetary status quo, the author argues, the United States could spend its way back to greatness.