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A great book to understand Bernanke's Federal Reserve and money policy in the US.,
This review is from: Ben Bernanke's Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan (Hardcover)
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First off, the potential reader should understand that this book was published in early 2008. However, it is still very well worth your time to read.
The book, interestingly, is written by a former Lehman Brothers Chief Ecomonist Ethan Harris (as you may well know Lehman Brothers is no longer viable). Yet the book, though challenging in some ways, is written in a way to engage the person (the layman) who has some understanding of basic economics. Yet, the book is written in a very easy to understand style for, again, someone who has a basic understanding of economics. This is not a beach read under the umbrella!
The content? Excellent. In a pretty summary style, the author discusses what monetary policy is, and the consequences of monetary policy on all citizens of the US and indeed the world. The author discusses the inner workings of how the Federal Reserve sets monetary policy and manages its decisions. The book also discusses the differences between Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.
In the troubled economic times of 2009, the book still has very valuable insights into Bernanke's background and behavior. In fact, I found some of the discussions of Bernanke's policies as a Fed Reserve board member to perfectly predict the behavior of the Fed during the last year in terms of money policy. The name "Helicopter Ben" has greater resonance now in 2009 than it probably did in 2008 (when the author was editing the book) as this name describes Bernanke's almost fanatical devotion to avoiding a repeat of the Depression of the 1930's (and the deflationary pressures that first occurred), yet it is still relevant to understanding what course the Fed is on now.
If you accept the premise that the past is prologue, than this book is a very valuable insight into what kinds of policies the Federal Reserve is likely to follow while Bernanke is Chairman. While the book does adopt a viewpoint that Bernanke is precisely the person we should want in the Fed because of his outstanding understanding of monetary policy (with his academic career and his actual practice), Bernanke is still relatively new to his position so a more judgmental approach would not be warranted. Nor do we know how his tenure will be perceived.
If you have read books such as Greenspan's memoirs, "Age of Turbulence," "Maestro" or other books about Greenspan's Fed, you should read this book as well. "Secrets of the Temple" is another good book, but seriously outdated (published in 1987!). The fact of the matter is that few books for non-academics are published describing the behavior and policies of the Federal Reserve. This is sad because the Fed has an affect on everyone whether they realize it or not. And most do not realize what effect monetary policy (let's not even start on fiscal policy) has on their lives!
Ethan Harris has done a very valuable service in writing this book. While I wish a paperback edition was available with updated chapters describing the last months after mid-2008, the reader will still get some ideas and insight into what the Fed is doing now, however. A reader with the slightest interest in economics (especially now) would be well served to buy this book and give it a whirl - I don't think you would be disappointed.