Peter Conti-Brown, History

The Institutions of Federal Reserve Independence

Wed, 11/19/2014
438 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Please join us on Wednesday, November 19, for a seminar with Peter Conti-Brown, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History.

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Summary:  "It is now a common observation that central banks occupy center stage with respect to the regulation of the global economy. But this common observation hides a host of questions:

  • How did central banks come to occupy their places of prominence?
  • What are the specific powers they exercise, and how have those powers changed over time?
  • By what mechanisms do central banks exercise these powers?
  • Who or what designed those mechanisms?
  • What are the sources of these banks’ legitimacy or illegitimacy?
  • How do they fit within the bi- or tripartite framework of democratic government: arethey legislative, executive, or judicial? Some combination? Something else entirely?
  • How does law-making occur within central banks generally, and the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve System, specifically? Does this include constitutional and statutory interpretation, as well as administrative rulemaking and internal interpretations?
  • And how do policy choices and debates about central banks and central banking relate to other public debates about fiscal policy, economic development, and financial regulation?

By focusing on the legal and institutional details of central banking, I want to understand the way that laws and customs shape the regulation of the global economy. Economists have long made the study of central banks and central banking a specific subfield; political scientists in the last couple of decades have also entered the fray. Legal scholars, generally, have not. This exclusion is perhaps surprising, given how central law-making is to central banking, both externally (how central banking institutions are designed) and internally (the logic by which central banking institutions evolve). I hope to fill in the gaps from the perspective of law and financial history, my main disciplinary commitments, with forays into economics, political science, and economic sociology."

Peter Conti-Brown is a PhD Candidate in Princeton's History Department and is an Academic Fellow (non-resident) at Stanford Law School's Rock Center for Corporate Governance. For more information, see his main pages at Princeton and Stanford.