A republic, if you can keep it

by Russ Roberts on April 17, 2012

in Monetary Policy

The Fed seems to be struggling with the idea of transparency. The WSJ reports:

The central bank normally releases comprehensive transcripts of its policy-making meetings five years after the sessions. But when news organizations requested transcripts of the meetings around the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed released redacted documents that revealed only pleasantries from the sessions and no substantive discussions.

In early March, the central bank published on its website 513 of about 7,000 pages of transcripts of the Federal Open Market Committee meetings from 2007 through 2010, according to a March 7 letter from FOMC Secretary William English that also was posted online.

The heavily redacted transcripts reflect who attended the meetings, reveal comments at the start and finish of the sessions, and transcribe some banter in between, but no talk about economics or policy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is quoted calling the meetings to order, introducing staff presentations, honoring departing colleagues and adjourning the sessions for lunch.

The Fed isn’t required under law to release details of its policy deliberations, but decided in 1993 to begin releasing nearly full transcripts of FOMC meetings after a five-year lag. That was in response to pressure from Congress on the central bank to be more open about its deliberations. Few major central banks release transcripts of their policy meetings.

This is unacceptable in a democracy. What are they afraid of? Whatever it is doesn’t matter. When you pursue an unprecedented interventionist policy with my money, I’m entitled to know what happened.

UPDATE: Here is the actual transcript and you can see for yourself just how little is left for us to see.

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