We now have a 100-year history by which to judge the Federal Reserve’s performance. On balance, the Fed has not increased economic stability relative to the pre-Fed era. The Great Depression, the great stagflation, and the 2008 financial crisis have all occurred on the Fed’s watch. Even excluding the Great Depression, business cycles have not become appreciably milder, nor have recessions become less frequent or measurably shorter.
The Fed has strayed so far from the classic prescription for a lender of last resort — to provide short-term funds to solvent institutions at penalty rates — it strains all reason to suggest that it has successfully fulfilled that function. Its regulatory failures are numerous. It failed even to see the 2008 financial crisis coming. Perhaps the best that can be said about the Fed is that the variability in inflation has declined since 1984.