The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found.
This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed’s thrall, the economists missed it, too.
“The Fed has a lock on the economics world,” says Joshua Rosner, a Wall Street analyst who correctly called the meltdown. “There is no room for other views, which I guess is why economists got it so wrong.”
One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field’s gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll — and the rest have been in the past.
Of course, the Fed offers lots of perks to friendly journalists too. For years, the Fed invited favored reporters to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the Fed’s roof, and journalists love to attend the Fed’s annual economics retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here’s how Bob Woodward described the retreat in Maestro, his fawning profile of Alan Greenspan:
Held at the foot of the Grand Teton Mountains, the conference offered much needed relief from Washington, D.C.’s August swamp weather. Central bankers from around the world, in addition to academic economists, policy makers and journalists, attended seminars in the morning and then enjoyed outdoor activities in the afternoon.
Between three square meals a day and ample time at the bar.