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Edited by Guillaume Vallet

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Edited by Guillaume Vallet

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Julia M. Puaschunder

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Julia M. Puaschunder

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Gerald Epstein

As Jerry Ford left the White House he handed Jimmy Carter three envelopes, instructing him to open them one at a time as problems became overwhelming. After a year, Carter opened the first envelope. It said, "attack Jerry Ford." He did. A year later, Carter opened the second envelope. It said, "attack the Federal Reserve." He did. Three years into his term, and even more overwhelmed by the economy, Iran, Afghanistan and so forth, Carter opened the third envelope. It said: "prepare three envelopes." Paul Volcker, January 1981

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Gerald Epstein

The Great Financial Crisis of 2007–2008, like the Great Depression of the 1930s, focused the American public’s attention – and ire – not just on Wall Street, but also on the Federal Reserve (the Fed) – the US central bank. In normal times, the Fed operates under the radar, generating intense interest from investors, and mostly yawns from everyone else. But at times of financial crisis, like 1929, or 2007–2008, or even 1979 when the Fed raised interest rates sky high, piercing scrutiny and conflict breaks out regarding the Fed’s policy. Indeed, at times like that, more than just this or that policy is up for grabs. The Fed’s whole institutional structure and its very raison d’être comes under attack. Why did the Fed let the economy crash? Why did it raise interest rates so high? Why did it bail out Wall Street while leaving ‘main street’ high and dry? Who benefits from the Fed’s policies? Who really pulls the strings there? Do we even need a Federal Reserve?

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Gerald A. Epstein

Many observers thought that the financial crisis of 2007–08 would be a watershed moment in global finance. They believed the crisis would demonstrate, once and for all, the instability and inefficiency of this hyper-speculative global financial system, and finally bring an end to the destructive “neoliberal moment” and its “Washington Consensus” dictates in domestic and global economic policy (see, for example, Blanchard, Dell’Ariccia and Mauro, 2010). But, something surprising happened to “neoliberal financialization” on the way to the “dustbin of history”: it escaped. Financial deregulation and “neoliberal” populism in finance are in the ascendant in the United States and elsewhere, and the bankers are laughing, well. . .all the way to the bank.1 To be sure, there are important cracks in the old free market consensus on international financial issues. These cracks are leading to what Ilene Grabel (Chapter 5, in this volume) calls “productive incoherence” in theory and practice, which is leading to important opportunities for policy change in some areas. But, in many other areas, the old theories and practices are being resurrected after near-death experiences in the period following the crisis.