Beckoning Frontiers: The Federal Reserve System remains in the news. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) has promised to oppose the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Fed, perhaps with a “hold,” which could be overcome by sixty votes. Former chair Alan Greenspan is promoting his new book, The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature and the Future of Forecasting, in which he “recalibrates” his economic views in light of “what the 2008 crisis was telling us about ourselves).
Myself, I spent my free time reading a book published in 1951, Beckoning Frontiers: Public and Personal Recollections, by Marriner Eccles.
Eccles is the man whose name is on the Fed headquarters, on Constitution Ave. As principal author of Banking Act of 1935, he was the creator of the modern Fed. He was its chair from 1934 to 1951. Returning to Utah and his business interests, he lived until 1977.
I suppose that, among New Dealers, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins is probably better remembered today than any other, by more people, thanks to her bit part in President Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet meeting scene in the musical comedy Annie.
Eccles, on the other hand, is one of the most remarkable public servants of the twentieth century, on a par with George Catlett Marshall and Paul Volcker. Yet he would be all but unknown, except to students of banking history, but for the 50-page chapter on him in The Vital Few: The Entrepreneur and American Economic Progress, by the economic historian Jonathan Hughes, a vastly underappreciated book (from which most of this account is taken). ...[continue reading]...