Thomas Sowell

/> Describing the Federal Reserve System created during his administration, Woodrow Wilson said: "It provides a currency which expands as it is needed and contracts when it is not needed."

The power to expand and contract the currency was "put into the hands of a public board of disinterested officers of the Government itself."

Their task was to prevent financial panics, bank failures and a catastrophic contraction of demand. It sounded wonderful -- and such sounds count for a lot in politics.

In reality, however, the biggest financial panic in American history occurred under the Federal Reserve System in 1929, followed by thousands of bank failures and an unprecedented contraction of the money supply by one-third during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

There is no question that the people who run the Federal Reserve System today are a lot more knowledgeable about economics than those who ran it back in the days of the Great Depression. Indeed, the average student who has passed Economics 1 today is probably more knowledgeable than those who ran the Federal Reserve System back during the Great Depression.

Being a disinterested government official does not mean that you know what you are doing. That fact gets left out of the equation in a lot of proposals for new government programs.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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