The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire. BY NEIL IRWIN. Penguin Press, 2013, 400 pp. $29.95.
Central bankers have always carried a mystique far beyond justification. Even as their policies and procedures have become markedly more transparent, the air of secrecy and power about them persists. And the ongoing financial crisis has brought their activities to the center stage of both economic policymaking and political attention, even as the crisis has revealed many inherent limitations of monetary policy and economic forecasting more broadly.
Indeed, central bankers should be far humbler today than they were in recent decades, when some claimed credit for the so-called great moderation, the period of reduced economic volatility that lasted from the late 1980s to the early years of this century. It is now clear that the prosperity and stability much of the world enjoyed during those years were largely the result of good luck. Nevertheless,
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