Explaining the Fed

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So I was out for the past couple of days and missed the big news about Ben Bernanke being named TIME’s Person of the Year. Then again, I had already used my keen deductive abilities to figure out that Bernanke was going to be named TIME’s Person of the Year. I’d known for a while that my colleague Michael Grunwald was working on a Bernanke profile, and when it kept not showing up in the magazine, that kind of tipped me off. Also, Katherine Lanpher (host of the weekly TIME Financial Toolkit podcast that’s always available on the upper left side of this blog’s homepage and can be subscribed to here) and I were asked to put together a video explaining how the Fed works. That seemed like a pretty clear sign. Anyway, here’s the video:

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I’ve already received a couple of e-mails from viewers berating me for my ignorance and urging me to read Ron Paul’s End the Fed and G. Edward Griffin’s Creature from Jekyll Island. I’m torn about whether I should do that. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t learn a single thing from Paul’s book and, while I imagine I’d learn a thing or two from Griffin’s, I already know the basic story and 608 pages is an awful lot to read to learn a thing or two. Life is short and there are better, smarter books out there that I’d rather spend my time on—Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance, for one. But it would be rather satisfying to write back and say, “Yeah, I’ve read ’em. And how about you? Have you read Lombard Street? Have you read Secrets of the Temple? Have you read “The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions“? Have you read Golden Fetters? Have you read the General Theory? Have you read Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960?” (I’m not saying I’ve really read that last one either. Just the scary parts.)

None of this is to say there aren’t things to criticize in the video. So please, have at it.