Section Description Provided by Instructor
Students will be expected to lead at least one discussion and participate in all sessions.
Central banks are ubiquitous and powerful government agencies. They are also institutions that are facing increased public scrutiny and ongoing political pressure. The 2007-2009 financial crisis revealed a massive accountability deficit with respect to the Federal Reserve System (Fed), the U.S central bank. While the Dodd-Frank Act reigned in the Fed’s authority along some dimensions, it also expanded it along others. As a result, how best to balance the welfare benefits that can arise from having a central bank with significant discretion and authority with the transparency and accountability demands of a democratic regime remains a pressing public policy challenge. Moreover, while the way the way these issues are being played out on the domestic stage is distinctly American, the underlying issues are not.
The core issues at stake in these debates—how to devise institutions that accommodate disparate and sometimes contradictory aims—are ones that have long been the specialty of lawyers. Nonetheless, literature by economists on “central bank independence” has tended to dominate the discourse. This reading group aims to help law students better understand these issues. Using history to explain both the distinctive structures of these two bodies and recent events to illustrate the current challenges they face, the reading group will help prepare law students to be more engaged participants in these ongoing debates.
The format will follow be typical for a reading group: The course will meet six times over the semester (Jan. 28, Feb. 11, Feb. 25, March 10, March 31, April 14). The instructors will lead discussion during the first session while students will be expected to take a leadership role in structuring the discussion in subsequent sessions. There are no prerequisites, but all students should be prepared to invest time in the reading and actively participate in the class discussions. The primary reading will consist of three books, each is reasonably long but also written to be accessible. Because the group meets only in alternating weeks, students will have approximately one month to read each book. Students might find it helpful to start reading the first book (Neil Irwin, The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire) prior to the beginning of class.
R 4:20-6:10 pm
Method of Evaluation
J.D. Writing Credit
Learning Outcome Goals
- At the end of the course, students will have acquired understanding of and/or facility in how central banks function and the role of central banks during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
- At the end of the course, students will have acquired understanding of and/or facility in the current debates about the roles that central banks can and should play in promoting price stability, financial stability, and other goals.
- At the end of the course, students will have acquired understanding of and/or facility in the specific challenges that arise in trying to improve central bank accountability.