The Masters of the Universe

The “masters of the financial universe” met on the 18th floor of a modern building located in the Swiss city of Basel. The meeting featured Janet Yellen, director of the U.S. Federal Reserve, and Mario Draghi, director of the European Central Bank, along with 16 other leaders of the financial world. The meeting devoted expectedly long hours to discussions of monetary policy, economic growth and the stock exchanges. Since the central banks cut interest rates to zero and bought Treasury bonds for hundreds of billions of dollars, these meetings have become necessary and occur every two weeks. Representatives from the central banks of emerging markets complain about the harsh measures that have been taken, which affect their economies and raise concern about the risks of an unbalanced international approach.

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in New York in the crash of 2008, the directors of the central banks have become the masters of the universe. It is they who decide the interest rates and the size of banking liquidity. They rescue banks and governments around the world from bankruptcy. Their fame is comparable to that of Hollywood stars. Since the end of World War II, they have risen to prominence as managers of the world’s banks, despite not being elected but rather appointed by their governments, which have them each act independently. But those days have passed.

The advisory council is preoccupied with the issue of the U.S. Federal Reserve pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy and buying Treasury bonds. In Britain, the debate rages concerning the future of banking interest rates. In Europe, the European Central Bank is looking at ways to stop the low rate of inflation. At the expanded meeting of the International Monetary Fund, the conferees urged that Treasury bonds continue to be bought, interest rates be kept low, and new ways of dealing with finances be developed. But banks are wondering whether they are doing too much. This time, they are re-evaluating their roles. Despite having effective rescue procedures, they could not heal their patients. They have shut down dozens of banks and factories. And with business demands in the U.S., they continue to pump money into the economy.

Important questions still prevail among economists in the West. What will prevent inflation? How do you deal with the devaluing of a currency when the stock market collapses? What happens to the individual when he sees his securities plummet? Should he, like the banks, be under government regulation? It would represent a great achievement for the heads of central banks to answer no. The central banks in the West were able to save their economies from collapse but were unable to make them regrow.

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