ST. LOUIS — Interviews with influential economists just made available by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis help tell the inside story of how past monetary policy emerged.
The oral history interviews, conducted by an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond between 1994 and 2003, have been added to FRASER, the St. Louis Fed’s digital library of economic, financial and banking materials. They are available in audio and transcripts.
In the interviews, economists who were in research and policymaking roles dating back to U.S. President Harry Truman’s administration talk about monetary policy as it was during their tenures. Interviewees include former Federal Reserve governors and Reserve bank presidents, former members of the Council of Economic Advisers, and former U.S. Treasury Department officials. Specific interviews feature Milton Friedman, 1976 Nobel Prize winner; Robert Solow, 1987 Nobel Prize winner; Darryl Francis, St. Louis Fed president from 1966 to 1976; and Ted Balbach, former St. Louis Fed research director.
“The FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] is the world’s most civilized debating society. However, impeccable decorum hides the drama involved in making monetary policy,” said Bob Hetzel, the economist at the Richmond Fed who conducted the interviews. “Participants often hold sharply divergent views. The availability of knowledge in real time is painfully short of what models assume.
“An understanding of how policy emerges out of this outwardly serene pressure cooker depends on how participants understand the world, how the FOMC chairman forges consensus, and on the public and political pressures that exist,” Hetzel said. “Oral history allows the researcher to understand better the evolution of monetary policy through better understanding of the individuals involved, their personalities and understanding of the role of the central bank, as well as how they interact to reach consensus in the setting of a large meeting.”
The archive of interviews is available at https://fraser.stlouisfed.org/archival/?id=4927.
Media members interested in interviewing Hetzel should contact Jim Strader at the Richmond Fed at 804-697-8956 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRASER was created in 2004 to preserve and increase access to historical economic and banking materials. It is the largest digital collection of Fed historical materials and covers the economic history of the U.S. from the American Revolution to the present. Its continued mission is to safeguard and provide easy access to the nation’s economic history.
For information on how to use this free digital library, see the St. Louis Fed’s guide to FRASER.