Central banks

Reactors Not Actors

Reise, Architektur, Skyline Frankfurt am Main
The European Central Bank: Not as big or clever as it thinks. Source: dpa

In the 1980s, it was the investment bankers of Wall Street and the City of London who were deemed Masters of the Universe. But today, another type of banker has taken up the mantle: central bankers.

Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, the former and current head of the US Federal Reserve, are confident that they pulled America back from the abyss of the 2008 financial crisis. And there is a broad consensus that the European Central Bank under Mario Draghi kept the euro zone together during its recent crises.

Wherever commercial banks wreak havoc or politicians fail, where debts grow out of control or unsolved distribution problems poison the climate, the powerful masters and mistresses of central banks are in demand, and they are supposed to at least prevent the worst possible scenario with their power over capital markets, economic growth and jobs. But sometimes they also cause damage, for example, with low interest rates spoiling savers’ plans to make provision for old age.

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