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The Federal Reserve—the central bank of the United States—is the most powerful peacetime bureaucracy in the federal government. Under the chairmanship of Alan Greenspan (1987-2006), the Fed achieved near mythical status for its part in managing the economy, and Greenspan was lauded as a genius. Few seemed to notice or care that Fed officials operated secretly with almost no public accountability. There was a courageous exception to this lack of oversight, however: Henry B. Gonzalez (D-TX)—chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services (banking) Committee. In Deception and Abuse at the Fed, Robert Auerbach, a former banking committee investigator, recounts major instances of Fed mismanagement and abuse of power that were exposed by Rep. Gonzalez, including: Blocking Congress and the public from holding powerful Fed officials accountable by falsely declaring—for 17 years—it had no transcripts of its meetings; Manipulating the stock and bond markets in 1994 under cover of a preemptive strike against inflation; Allowing $5.5 billion to be sent to Saddam Hussein from a small Atlanta branch of a foreign bank—the result of faulty bank examination practices by the Fed; Stonewalling Congressional investigations and misleading the Washington Post about the $6,300 found on the Watergate burglars. Auerbach provides documentation of these and other abuses at the Fed, which confirms Rep. Gonzalez's belief that no government agency should be allowed to operate with the secrecy and independence in which the Federal Reserve has shrouded itself. Auerbach concludes with recommendations for specific, broad-ranging reforms that will make the Fed accountable to the government and the people of the United States.
Lavelle argues that the political sources of instability in finance derive from the intersection of market innovation and regulatory arbitrage.
Mainstream, or more formally, neoclassical, economics claims to be a science. But as Michael Perelman makes clear in his latest book, nothing could be further from the truth. While a science must be rooted in material reality, mainstream economics ignores or distorts the most fundamental aspect of this reality: that the vast majority of people must, out of necessity, labor on behalf of others, transformed into nothing but a means to the end of maximum profits for their employers. The nature of the work we do and the conditions under which we do it profoundly shape our lives. And yet, both of these factors are peripheral to mainstream economics. By sweeping labor under the rug, mainstream economists hide the nature of capitalism, making it appear to be a system based upon equal exchange rather than exploitation inside every workplace. Perelman describes this illusion as the “invisible handcuffs” of capitalism and traces its roots back to Adam Smith and his contemporaries and their disdain for working people. He argues that far from being a basically fair system of exchanges regulated by the “invisible hand” of the market, capitalism handcuffs working men and women (and children too) through the very labor process itself. Neoclassical economics attempts to rationalize these handcuffs and tells workers that they are responsible for their own conditions. What we need to do instead, Perelman suggests, is eliminate the handcuffs through collective actions and build a society that we direct ourselves.

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