Revolution Blog

Then And Now

Published on 2011-12-08
What a difference a couple of decades makes!

There was a time when the U.S. Federal Reserve was globally respected and implicitly trusted by Americans to wisely and competently manage the country's monetary and banking system. In those days "the Fed" was hardly the household word it is today, let alone a laughingstock. Indeed the Fed found itself in need of propaganda to explain its existence, origins, and operations to a public which, for the most part, didn't really care about it.

A series of comic books were created by the New York Fed for the purpose of public relations, and distributed free to anyone who requested a copy. We've scanned one of them called "The Story Of Money," and uploaded it into a file gallery on this site(external link). (You might need to expand the display window size to be able to read the text.) Although our copy is dated "Fifth Printing, 1998," the characters and their surroundings — including a cameo of a young Clint Eastwood in one frame — suggest that it was produced somewhat earlier.

In any event, the sneering condescension with which this book was written is frankly amazing. The dorky teenage boy who serves as the protagonist in the beginning pages has a haircut quite literally suggesting that his mother placed a bowl on his head and trimmed around it. Commodity money is derided as the resort of primitive societies and ignorant savages. A farmer is shown chasing escaping cows, exclaiming "There goes my savings!" Other members of the public are shown milking a cow's ear, planting a banana tree in the snow, and stuffing sardines into a wallet. A businessman is depicted blowing his money on a fortune teller. The elderly are gleefully shown as penniless and helpless.

Amusingly, the most scorned item, the object of least value, is an introductory economics textbook. The only person who places any value on it is an old kook with long fingernails and a manic expression. (No doubt the type who reads dead Austrian economists.) The puns throughout are simply horrific. The Fed building in D.C. is shown surrounded by clouds and greenery, labeled with a floating angelic banner — as if it were a heavenly palace. In the end, the public is reassured that all is well in America under the benevolent eye of the Fed overseeing the vast complexity of the economy. Even the Three Bears rejoice that the money supply is "just right," and the cows are grateful that they no longer need fear being cut up to make change.

In short, no mistake can possibly be made about the overweening contempt that this institution has for the public it supposedly "serves." We'll never really understand how it all works, and should simply live out our lives on the farm doing the best we can and trusting our wise masters to figure out and deal with all the difficult stuff.

Which brings us to present day. It turns out that the public is, after all, wising up not only to what the central bank does but for and against whom it does it. Here is some more modern content to prove it. These two one-minute TV ad spots were produced by Swiss American for the USA television market. However the advertising departments of Fox News and Fox Business, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, ABC, CBS, CNN/HLN and the Discovery Channel, all uniformly rejected them. Apparently the subject matter was too hot. (We figure it was either that, or it was the creepy 3D animation of Pat Boone, which might give kids nightmares after all!)

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