The Evolution of Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve System Over the Past Thirty Years: An Overview

by Lynn Elaine Browne
Issue Number 1 (January/February) — 2001

Over the past thirty years, the activities of the Federal Reserve System have undergone major change. Public interest and confidence in monetary policy have grown immensely. Low inflation has emerged, if not as the primary objective of monetary policy, at least as a more central focus than it was thirty years ago. The Federal Reserve System has also undergone changes. Reserve Banks now charge for many of their financial services, rather than providing them free to banks that are System members. Placed in competition with commercial banks in providing financial services, Reserve Banks have striven to be more efficient, more responsive, and more innovative. At the same time, Reserve Banks have played increasingly active and increasingly visible roles in their communities and their Districts, providing economic expertise and civic leadership.

Frank Morris, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston from 1968 to 1988, was a key contributor to all these developments. His influence was felt most strongly in the conduct of monetary policy, in the evolution of the payments system, and in shaping the role that Reserve Banks play in their regions. Accordingly, this conference in his honor focused on these three areas and on the developments that have occurred since 1968 and the prospects and challenges ahead. Three sessions addressed issues in monetary policy, and one each tackled payments and the role of the regional Reserve Banks.

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