The Federal Reserve System's Dysfunctional Governance in 1934

Currie described the situation in a 1934 memo to Eccles: “Decentralized control is almost a contradiction in terms. The more decentralization the less possibility there is of control.” The problem was that “[e]ven though the Federal Reserve Act provided for a very limited degree of centralized control, the system itself by virtue of necessity was forced to develop a more centralized control of open market operations.” The ad hoc institutional development consisted of “fourteen bodies composed of 128 men who either initiate policy or share in varying degrees in the responsibility for policy.” (The fourteen were the twelve Federal Reserve Banks, the Federal Reserve Board, and the once powerful Federal Advisory Council, a group of bankers that advised the Federal Reserve Board.) These various bodies, and their governors and boards, made governance and public accountability a virtual impossibility. Currie glumly concluded that “[s]uch a system of checks and balances is calculated to encourage irresponsibility, conflict, friction, and political maneuvering” such that “anybody who secures a predominating influence must concentrate on handling men rather than thinking about policies.“
— Peter Conti-Brown, The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve