Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Christopher W. Shaw's "Money, Power, and the People"

Christopher W. Shaw is an author, historian, and policy analyst. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (2019) and Preserving the People’s Post Office (2006). His research on the history of banking, money, labor, agriculture, social movements, and the postal system has been published in the following academic journals: Journal of Policy History, Journal of Social History, Agricultural History, Enterprise & Society, Kansas History, and Journalism History.

Shaw applied the “Page 99 Test” to Money, Power, and the People and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book provides a snapshot of the debate over the Federal Reserve Act. Bankers wanted a single central bank that they would control. But public opposition to financial monopoly yielded a compromise that President Woodrow Wilson endorsed, which recognized public authority by establishing a supervisory board of presidential appointees to govern twelve Federal Reserve Banks.

In the summer of 1913, this contest was fought out in the Democratic Party's caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bankers' congressional opponents wanted the legislation to further curb the power of bankers and make farm loans more affordable. Among the reforms they proposed was an amendment banning individuals from serving on multiple banks' board of directors. House Democrats who supported the administration's bill managed to sidetrack this amendment, setting the stage for the pivotal moment in the caucus's deliberations. Among the bankers' most prominent political opponents was William Jennings Bryan—the three-time Democratic presidential nominee then serving as secretary of state. However, eager to support President Wilson, Bryan announced that he backed the existing legislative compromise, revealing that the bankers' congressional opponents lacked the support of a critical figure, and clearing the way for the bill's subsequent passage in the House.

The Page 99 test identifies a central theme of my book: political resistance to bankers. Because the actors on this page are bankers, congressmen, and Bryan, however, the grassroots political activism that is crucial to my book is not spotlighted. Working people not only exerted the political pressure that forced bankers to compromise over the Federal Reserve Act, they also compelled the establishment of the predecessor of today's Farm Credit System. Workers and farmers would play a similarly crucial role in securing financial reform during the New Deal.
Visit Christopher W. Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue