Last Wednesday provided another great evening in our Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which we hold at George Mason University in conjunction with the students in the GMU Econ Society. As a matter of fact, that night we had a third co-sponsor — the Atlas Economic Research Institute’s Sound Money Project, which not only treated everyone to the pre-talk pizza but also to post-talk appetizers at Brion’s Grille, where we were joined by Austrian economics professors Pete Boettke (GMU) and Chris Coyne (West Virginia University).
This month’s speaker was Austrian economics professor Steven Horwitz, whose talk was titled “Do We Need a Central Bank?”
I confess that I was skeptical about anyone’s being able to keep people’s attention with an hour-long talk on monetary policy, but, boy, did Horwitz prove that my skepticism was unwarranted. His talk was absolutely captivating. And best of all, Steve has that unique ability to discuss a complex subject in a non-academic way.
Steve first provided a fascinating history of the monetary situation in the United States before the Fed was established — that is, from the period of the country’s founding to 1913. One of the interesting points he made was to show how the banking industry during that period of time was subject to state banking regulations and how such regulations often led to monetary crises.
Steve then showed that while the Fed was supposedly established to bring order and stability to the monetary realm, the Fed’s policies actually led to inflation in the 1920s and then to the Great Depression, followed of course by decades of monetary debasement.
One of the interesting questions in the Q&A session related to Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill. Steve alluded to the possibility that the reason that the Fed might be so ardently opposed to the bill is that it might have been doing some very nefarious things that it never thought people would be able to discover — things that an audit would disclose. If such is the case, obviously the disclosure of such things might lead even more people to join the call to end the Fed, which was the answer to the title of Steve’s talk: No, we don’t need a central bank and we’d be much better off without it.
We’ll have the video of the talk posted next week. I highly recommend watching it and sharing it with your friends.
Mark your calendar: The next Economic Liberty lecture will be on Monday, February 8, and will feature noted Harvard libertarian professor Jeffrey Miron. See the “Spreading the Word: Upcoming Events” section of our FFF Email Update for more details.