Scholars have been keenly interested in the Federal Reserve system since its inception, and the subject has motivated many books. Authors’ tones, viewpoints and theses about the Fed are understandably shaded by the political discourse of the period in which they write. Richard Naclerio writes The Federal Reserve and its Founders: Money Politics and Power in 2018, a time of rising populist sentiment and, while not explicitly identifying himself as a populist, Naclerio argues the populist viewpoint. The book’s thesis is that the Federal Reserve was formed by elites to preserve their informational advantages over the “little guy,” primarily by preserving a monopolistic structure of the banking industry. He supports his argument by providing biographical evidence that six men who suggested critical features of the Federal Reserve Act disdained the common man, perceived themselves to be elite and were interested in extracting profits for the central bank from elevated interest rates charged on loans to the “little guy.”
Mary Tone Rodgers, DPS, CFA, is the Marcia Belmar Willock Professor of Finance and Director of the Gordon Lenz Center for Finance and Risk Management at the State University of New York at Oswego. She has published several articles in financial history, including “Monetary Policy and the Copper Price Bust: A Reassessment of the Causes of the Panic of 1907” with James E. Payne” in Review of Economic History. She is currently working on a book with Jon R. Moen (University of Mississippi) on J. Pierpont Morgan’s role as lender of last resort in the pre-Federal Reserve period.