The seven governors of the Federal Reserve Board play a powerful role in guiding the nation's economy. Their decisions directly affect the amount of money in circulation, the level of interest rates, and the functioning of the banking system and credit markets. The impact of their decisions can be measured in the success or failure of thousands of businesses, in fluctuations of prices and cost, in changes in family income and wealth, and in the rise and fall of stocks and bonds.
"To most people the Federal Reserve is mysterious," Maisel, one of its governors from 1965 to 1972 admits, but there is no black magic being brewed - decisions of the Board and its all-important Federal Open Market Committee are collective, often a reluctant compromise (especially on international questions). By reason of its function, "to keep money under control," the Federal Reserve has been restrictionist and distrustful of government spending yet support is on the wane for the holy trinity of balanced budget, positive balance of payments and the gold standard. The Board's Chairman, if he's a McChesney Martin or an Arthur Burns, is a powerful personage but "in time any President can make his will prevail." The bureau hasn't slain the dragon of inflation (it did help briefly stem its flow in 1966) but then Maisel doesn't really think it can since "monetary policy by itself does not have the strength necessary to combat significant swings in spending policy without major costs." Reliance on fiscal and income measures make better sense. (He doesn't, by the way, say how he thinks Nixon's many Phases have worked out.) Maisel was apparently a liberal monetarist and favored comprehensive forecast targeting, flexible exchange rates, macroeconomic and sectoral analysis and incomes policy before they became official doctrine. This is a sympathetic and tolerant description of how monetary policy was made in the '60's, but the economic reasoning is much too technical for the general reader. (Kirkus Reviews)