TWENTY years ago next month, the British government gave the Bank of England the freedom to set interest rates. That decision was part of a trend that made central bankers the most powerful financial actors on the planet, not only setting rates but also buying trillions of dollars’ worth of assets, targeting exchange rates and managing the economic cycle.

Although central banks have great independence now, the tide could turn again. Central bankers across the world have been criticised for overstepping their brief, having opined about broader issues (the Reserve Bank of India’s Raghuram Rajan on religious tolerance, the Bank of England’s Mark Carney on climate change). In some countries the fundamentals of monetary policy are under attack: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, has berated his central bank because of his belief that higher interest rates cause inflation. And central banks have been widely slated for propping up the financial sector, and denting savers’ incomes, in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-08.

Such debate is almost as old as central banking itself. Over more than 300 years, the power of central banks has ebbed and flowed as governments have by turns enhanced and restricted their responsibilities in response to economic necessity and intellectual fashion. Governments have asked central banks to pursue several goals at once: stabilising currencies; fighting inflation; safeguarding the financial system; co-ordinating policy with other countries; and reviving economies.

These goals are complex and not always complementary; it makes sense to put experts in charge. That said, the actions needed to attain them have political consequences, dragging central banks into the democratic debate. In the early decades after American independence, two central banks were founded and folded before the Federal Reserve was established in 1913. Central banks’ part in the Depression of the 1930s, the inflationary era of the 1960s and 1970s and the credit bubble in the early 2000s all came under attack.

Controversy continues to rage about Central Bank ownership. Most major Central Banks, except for the FED, are publicly owned. However: this is not really important. Control is what matters and Central Banks are the Money Power’s centralized controllers, private or publicly owned.

By Anthony Migchels, for Henry Makow and Real Currencies

The shocking realization that the Federal Reserve Bank is privately owned by its member banks is one of the defining moments in any Truthseeker’s path. Eustace Mullins, coached by the indefatigable Ezra Pound, wrote ‘the Secrets of the Federal Reserve’, listing the banks owning the system. Ed Griffin then infamously plagiarized this book with his ‘the Creature of Jekyll Island’, to push the John Birch/Libertarian poison of the Gold Standard as a solution. We’re still dealing with this today, as seen in the ‘End the Fed’ movement.

The FED itself is now starting to move against its critics, claiming they ARE a Government institution, although partly independent. As Central Banks should be, which is today’s conventional wisdom in the Mainstream.