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Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, in a scene from Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve.
Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, in a scene from Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve.

Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve – economics doc makes for an earnest op-ed piece Add to ...

  • Directed by Jim Bruce
  • Written by Jim Bruce
  • Starring Paul Volker, Janet Yellen, Alan Blinder
  • Classification 14A
  • Year 2013
  • Country USA
  • Language English

Wonky, both in its fascination with policy, and in its eccentrically dry tone, this documentary about the United States’s central banking system (a.k.a. “the Fed”) features a lineup of talking heads, including current and past Federal Reserve officials, economists and traders, discussing the role of federal regulators in the financial meltdown of 2008.

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Their unvaried argument is that the crash was precipitated by the ideological biases of chairman Alan Greenspan (1987-2006) and his successor, Ben Bernanke (2006-2014). Their policies of keeping interest rates low, encouraging borrowing and spending on stock and real-estate bubbles, took a toll on personal savings and the rising national debt, it’s argued.

In contrast, Greenspan’s predecessor Paul Volker (1979-1987), who let interest rates rise into double digits to chill rampant inflation under the Carter and early Reagan administrations, is treated as a hero.

Though there are attempts to add some visual fun to this cinematic economics lesson (an atomic explosion, Frankenstein’s monster), this earnest op-ed piece is unlikely to provide clarity for the average consumer with a shaky grasp of the concept of a chequing account. Nor, contrary to the film’s title, is there really much attention paid to the day-to-day workings of the Fed.

Actor Liev Schreiber’s voice-over narration is filled with sonorous urgency, but as the film’s commentators acknowledge, some ideas are a hard sell: How do politicians and regulators convince the public on the benefits of a financial diet when a spending spree sounds much more fun?

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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