Who elected the Greenspans, Bernankes, and Powells to be the arbiters of interest rates, asset prices, the rate of inflation and who knows what else? It wasn’t Alexander Hamilton. Nor was it the Fed’s own founders. If the authors of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act could return to earth to inspect their handiwork, the shock might kill them all over again.
Congress envisioned an institution to function in the context of the international gold standard. This meant a dollar defined as a fixed weight of gold. You should have heard old Carter Glass, the congressional father of the Fed, berate the critics who dared to suggest that he was scheming to replace the gold dollar with a scrap of green paper.
Well, Glass himself is to blame for much of the evil that followed. The legislative preamble to the act that Woodrow Wilson signed describes a bill “to furnish an elastic currency, to afford means of discounting commercial paper, to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States—and for other purposes.”
These other purposes quickly became the principal ones.
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