Despite the bright light streaming into my office window, reminding me of the beautiful spring weather here in Athens, I managed to spend most of yesterday afternoon listening to the first installment of Ben Bernanke's 4-part lecture series on "The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis." The lecture took place on Tuesday evening at George Washington University. The other parts will be given on the 22nd, 27th, and 29th of this month.
In this opening lecture Bernanke offers a brief overview of the role of central banks, their general origins, the specific origins of the Federal Reserve System, and the Fed's early performance.
It would of course be silly to expect any sitting central banker, much less the head of the world's most important central bank, to deliver an entirely candid lecture on the origins of central banking. But then again, Ben Bernanke is no run-of-the-mill central banker: he is a former academic economist and economic historian, and one with very high standing in the profession. So one might expect him to at least avoid gross distortions of the historical record to which his less academically-minded counterparts might be expected to resort. But no: as the lecture lumbered on (for Chairman Bernanke's classroom demeanor is all too reminiscent of his demeanor when testifying to Congress), it became increasingly evident that the man lecturing at Duquès Hall was at least 99 and 44/100ths percent pure Federal Reserve spokesman.