21st Century Monetary Policy | Book Discussion

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Join Jared Davis—a software engineer in Cambridge, Massachusetts who enjoys studying mathematics and reads widely—for an exploration of the past, present, and future of US monetary policy.

“Read this. It may bore you to death. But if it excites you, you might consider doing monetary economics.”
— Stanley Fisher to a young Ben Bernanke

In this series, we will discuss the Ben Bernanke’s book, 21st Century Monetary Policy.

Bernanke is an economist, historian, and Chairperson of the US Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 2006 through 2014. During his service under Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, Bernanke responded to the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and shaped the economic recovery, drawing both praise and criticism for the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented policies.

Bernanke’s expertise as a scholar of the Great Depression era gives him an unparalleled view on the changes, challenges, successes, and failures, of US economic policies leading up to events occurring today.

A shared Zotero library will be available for optional supplemental readings.

This series meets on the third Saturday of each month from July to October, 2022.

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In addition to series tickets, members get access to our community Discord (with a channel for this series to chat between events)—as well as free salon tickets each month, discounts, free members-only events, and more.

1July 16Part I: The Rise and Fall of Inflation

We will discuss, from Bernanke’s point-of-view, the monetary and fiscal policies that contributed to inflation measured in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s. We’ll learn about the actions and personalities of leaders of the Federal Reserve who have been credited with putting a stop to inflation (Volcker) and with steadily growing the American economy (Greenspan).

Most importantly, we’ll take care to clarify technical terms, situate the economic history with our shared understanding, which viewpoints are not addressed in this history, and consider where Bernanke may be responding to current events.
2August 20Part II: The Global Financial Crisis and Great Recession

We will discuss the immediate causes and responses to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis. In stark contrast to the previous chapters, we will discuss deflation, why economists were so concerned about it, and how its threat motivated unprecedented monetary policy changes. We’ll learn some intimate details of the crisis response and long recovery, focused on the United States. Controversies and compromises, especially around “zero bound interest rates”, will come to the forefront.
3September 17Part III: From Liftoff to the COVID-19 Pandemic

We will discuss very recent history during Chairperson Powell’s tenure, starting with the return of populist politics into the Federal Reserve’s proceedings. The recovery, now flourishing, of the US economy will encounter the shock of the worldwide pandemic. Bernanke will talk of “Odyssean” guidance through the many challenges facing the economy, and the tools acquired from the previous financial crisis to deal with such challenges.
4October 15Part IV: What Lies Ahead

In essence, nobody knows for certain. At the time of Bernanke’s writing and as this Salon Series occurs, history is happening in real time. Headline inflation in the US has been measured at the same level as when Volcker was appointed Chairperson to the Fed. Gasoline prices are at an all time high, new variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to threaten public health worldwide, war in Europe has broken out since this book went to press, and upcoming elections may swing political control in Congress.

What impartial tools can the Fed use to prevent economic troubles? What tools does the Fed need for ongoing or unseen challenges? How can the central bank maintain its independence and neutrality in the midst of partisan politics? The series conclusion truly is history in the making.

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