«COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SEVENTIETH CONGRESS FIRST SESSION ON H. R. 11806 ( Superseding H. R. 7895, Sixty-Ninth ...»
The CHAIRMAN. That statement leads me to call your attention to this recent conference in Paris, with which you are familiar, at which Mr. Goldenweiser, director of research of the Federal Reserve Board, is present, and Doctor Burgess, the assistant Federal reserve agent of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who are apparently in consultation with the representatives of the other banks of issue with which we are collaborating, and the reports of which conference indicate a closer working arrangement, apparently, with the approval or semiapproval of the Federal reserve system because of the fact that these two important men are present, indicating that closer working arrangements are being brought about. One of the press notices I had in mind indicated that Doctor Burgess was to be the liaison officer between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, or the Federal reserve system, and these other banks of issue, and other men
than I am, that you may be surprised when I say that I was not favorably inclined toward this participation.
My knowledge of Europe and Europeans goes back to my student days. There are apparently few Americans who make their first acquaintance with Europe in their maturity who are practically well equipped to deal with Europeans in any kind of conferences, and I am only too well aware that a conference may nominally be for one purpose and actually prepare the ground out of which quite a different crop will develop in the future.
I am inclined to think, to use Mark Twain's phrase, that we have had a good many American "Innocents Abroad" since the war;
and when we go abroad I want to see the United States, particularly the Federal reserve system, represented by men who know their way around and who know what it is all about.
These are matters that touch the human equation, and out of them very frequently come results such as are not in contemplation at the time.
So that, generally speaking, I want to know not merely what a conference of this kind is called for but what is probably the main motive behind it.
The CHAIRMAN. Who called this particular conference. Doctor Miller?
Doctor MILLER. My recollection is that the invitation was sent out by the Bank of France, but I am not positive as to that.
Governor YOUNG. It was the League of Nations, Doctor.
Doctor MILLER. The League of Nations called it ?
Governor YOUNG. Yes; sent the invitation.
Doctor MILLER. Did the League of Nations itself send the invitations? I had forgotten that. Well, the situation is a little more serious, then, than I thought. (Laughter.) Yes, I do recall, and my recollection is that either something that I read or something that occurred to me in some way caused me to tie this conference in with the Genoa meeting of 1922 and the so-called Genoa resolutions.
It comes back to me still more now. I recall a visit from one of the directors of the Bank of England—I think it was Sir Otto Niemeyer. Do you recall when it was ?
Governor YOUNG. It was this spring.
Doctor MILLER. I think it was in the late winter, probably.
Governor YOUNG. I would say January or February.
Doctor MILLER. January or February of this year.
I remember that I picked up from conversation with him, not from anything he specifically said, certain impressions that I formed of what might be in his mind, and especially as he had been a rather conspicuous and enthusiastic figure in the financial work of the League of Nations—to the effect that many were still in a frame of mind abroad where they wanted to get back to the Genoa resolutions. That led me to connect it up with this proposal for a statistical and economic conference this spring under the auspices of the Bank of France, and I drew the conclusion that we would better keep out of it.
We had nothing particular to gain, and probably nothing particular to contribute of value to ourselves.
tively thereby, to my mind, hangs one of its greatest dangers, and it connects up immediately with the matter that the chairman's questions have brought to our attention.
The more scientific you undertake to make Federal reserve administration, whether in the case of the Federal reserve banks or in the case of the Federal Reserve Board, the more dependent you make the men who are officially charged with the administration upon their so-called expert advisers. The more you make them trust the findings, the views, the conclusions, and the judgment of others the less they will use their own native judgment, however strong it may be.
And I could well believe, though I do not know that there is at this moment the slightest basis, either in fact or in anyone's intention, that if the wise men of the European banks- and by " wise " I mean wise in the understanding of human nature—wanted by a subtle, not easily detectable method, as it were, to capture the mind of the Federal reserve system no matter method, perhaps no less objectionable method, and possibly in the long run no more effective method could be found than by laying a foundation for some sort of a rapprochement between the expert services of these various banks; in brief, set up a sort of college of augers.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, you are likening that to the present conference in Paris ?
Doctor MILLER. Yes. I am a great believer in experts when you know how to use them, but you want to know pretty well who your expert is and what your own capacity to maintain independence of judgment in the presence of your expert. And that becomes particularly true when other experts are involved. It makes a great deal of difference whose expert a particular expert is. And the expert, so called, in these matters is most apt to be a man of scholastic training and scholastic habit, and as a rule the better he is as a scientist the less aware he will be as a man of what is going on, what is happening. So that you run into certain dangers.
My belief is that in these matters the less you frame yourself in by constructing an elaborate paraphernalia of experts, the more likely you are to be successful in what you do.
Mr. STRONG. Doctor Miller, I am rather at sea in what you are getting at. Do you mean that the Federal Reserve Board does not need any expert advice, or, if they receive it, are not able to digest it independently and handle it properly; are liable to be misled ?
Doctor MILLER. I heartily believe we should have experts, but I think you want to be very, very careful not to erect a Frankenstein.
Mr. STRONG. I S it not for the Federal Reserve Board to be very, very careful ? Is not that the kind of men we have on the board, that will be very careful ?
Doctor MILLER. I say that they should be, and therefore I am particularly concerned in connection with the chairman's inquiry that there be a constant awareness of the dangers, and you are very frequently caught before you know it unless you are very watchful.
Mr. STRONG. I would hate to have to write in this bill advice to the Federal Reserve Board how to use their experts.
Doctor MILLER. N O ; but the more emphasis you put upon those things, the more you push the board in directions, perhaps, in which the board will go slowly, while it is free to use its own judgment,
Mr. BEEDY. My question was whether the word " the " was in there before " reasons," and has been stricken out, and, if so, by whom or by whose suggestion.
Mr. STEVENSON. The bill that was introduced should be read and he can refer to that and see if it was there.
Mr. STRONG. One suggestion was to strike out the word " all."
These were suggestions made at the conference with the board and officers of the Federal reserve system, and, in paragraph (h), after the word " system," add " in addition to the purposes expressed in the title of the Federal reserve act of 1913," and strike out the word " all " in that line.
Beginning at line 7, add " promote the," and change the word " maintain " to " maintenance," and add the word " of," so that it will read " promote the maintenance of a stable gold standard."
In line 9, after the word " stable," add the word " average," and in line 8, after the word " of," add " average of."
Those amendments that I have just read were suggested at that conference, and I would like to say that paragraph (h) is not in the original language in which I prepared the bill. The purpose of paragraph (h) was to meet a great deal of criticism that I have found as to the need of publicity.
Doctor MILLER. YOU are thinking of (i) now?
Mr. STRONG. Oh, yes; the publicity section. I want to say that I have put the publicity section in the bill because I found quite a general demand in the correspondence which I had, and which embraced hundreds of letters, for a publicity section. Various financiers and men connected with banking said that they ought to know when the Federal reserve system intended to change its policies and why.
I first wrote that into the bill. When I came into conference with the officers of the Federal reserve system, with Governor Young, himself, and other members of the board, they suggested that a publicity section should be in it but that it had to be written very carefully; that if the reason for a change in policy were given out at some crucial moment in the management of the Federal reserve system, more harm might be done than good and it should be written very carefully, so I tried to provide that the publicity should be given after the change of policy was taken and at such time and place as the governor of the Federal Reserve Board thought best.
Mr. BEEDY. And, instead of " the " reasons Mr. STRONG. I took out the word " the " and put in " reasons therefor." The reason I used the plural was because it was suggested that the members of the Federal Reserve Board might not agree and one might have one reason for changing a policy and another one another reason, and that therefore all the reasons might best be given by the governor when he goes at the publicity end of it. So this section was written to meet the views of those who consulted with me on the Federal Reserve Board, and I certainly did my best to get all the cooperation from the board I could.
Mr. BEEDY. What I want to say is not any reflection upon you, but I think this is the most astounding disclosure that has yet been made, that you have attempted to put in here a publicity section, the aim and purpose of which originally, of course, was to give to the public honest information on any changes of policy by the board, and that
Mr. STEAGALL. I do not think Brother Strong added much to it when he changed that language.
Mr. STRONG. My purpose was to advise the public, in due and proper time, so as not to hurt the policy that they were trying to promote for reasons that caused the Federal Reserve Board to change the policy. I think the public has a right to know that. If you gentlemen have any language that will better express the idea, let us have it, but this language has been suggested to me by men whom I believe want to operate the Federal reserve system in the best interests of the country.
Mr. LETTS. This language certainly leaves it in the discretion of the Governor of the Federal Reserve Board to determine what, in his mind, will be the most effective way of giving this information to the public.
Mr. STEVENSON. TO further the purposes of the act.
Mr. BLACK. It seems that it is sufficient for the Federal Reserve Board to give out a statement of what it has done. You take a Member of Congress, for example. We are called upon to vote upon extremely important legislation from time to time, and suppose you would compel us to state in the Congressional Record the reasons why we cast our vote as we did. The responsibility is ours; we have to stand by it.
Mr. STRONG. We do put in the Record the reasons why we pass the legislation.
Mr. BLACK. We are not compelled to state them at length in the Record; we may or we may not.
Mr. STRONG. Every committee that makes a report to Congress on a bill files a report saying why the legislation is necessary.
Mr. STEAGALL. YOU do not require them to give the reasons; you tell the board to give reasons at such time and place and in such detail as the governor may deem most effective in furthering such purposes.
When you get through with all that range of construction, there are not enough lawyers in Washington to tell what he is required to do, whether you add the " the " in there or " all," or leave it just as it is.
Mr. STRONG. I think I have stated to this committee repeatedly that in drawing this bill I tried to meet the objections of the Federal Reserve Board and of the officers of the Federal reserve system. I anticipate that when we get into executive session we will probably change it after we have had these hearings in such a way as to do the things that we determine is necessary to be done after a study of the question.
The CHAIRMAN. YOU have evidence before the committee to the effect that the board is opposed to this amendment.
Mr. STRONG. Certainly.
The CHAIRMAN. YOU are not adopting their suggestion here?
Mr. STRONG. After I met all their objections, I find that they come in here and are opposed to it. That is one of the wonders Mr. STEAGALL. I do not find any fault with you; and I think myself that Brother Beedy is a little bit hard on you to say that that would hoodwink anybody, because this thing did not mean anything before that.
Mr. BEEDY. I suggest that we go on with the hearings. I was only going to say, for one, that when we go into executive session I will never vote to report this section out.
understanding his own thought processes or skill in stating the true reasons, the actual reasons, that have led him to a conclusion.
The CHAIRMAN. IS not this a fact, also, if you will pardon an interruption there, that when statements like that are issued, editorial writers, financial writers, will draw different conclusions from the same statement ?
Doctor MILLER. They may.
The CHAIRMAN. And, by interpreting those statements, they try to support their own views.
Doctor MILLER. That is true.
Mr. STEAGALL. It is also true that in the expression of reasons you would fall somewhat in the hands of your experts again.