(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

SECRETS OF THE TEMPLE is a big book with a correspondingly big agenda. It is a history of the Federal Reserve Board (the Fed) under Paul Volcker-- the action taken, their financial and political context, and the consequences for the national economy--but other major themes run through the narrative as well.

The tremendous impact the Fed’s actions have upon politics and the economy lead to the theme expressed in the book’s subtitle: “How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country.” The Fed is a quasi-governmental appointed body, yet its power rivals that of Congress and the presidency. As Greider explores the implications of this, he presents a history of the Federal Reserve System and explor res the monetary history of the United States.

Closely related to the Fed’s power is another major theme: the nature of money and the modern financial system. Indeed, the social, political, and economic importance of finance is so profound that the book could have been aptly subtitled “the triumph of money” (which is in fact the title of the final chapter). The discussion includes a daunting psychohistory of money (Sigmund Freud makes a surprise appearance) and a fascinating history of the Populist movement active at the turn of the century.

There is a wealth of objective information presented, but ultimately Greider has a point to make: Decisions about money are also political and social decisions. By ceding monetary authority to the Federal Reserve, the American political system has implicitly chosen capitalism over democracy. The Fed makes the tough political decisions, and it has repeatedly chosen financial considerations over the needs of the real economy. It is unfortunate that the book’s length will scare some people away, because here is a clear, thought-provoking presentation of an important and little-understood topic.

Sources for Further Study

Business Week. January 25, 1988, p. 18.

Commonweal. CXV, May 6, 1988, p. 280.

The Economist. CCCVI, February 6, 1988, p. 87.

Forbes. CXLI, February 22, 1988, p. 104.

Fortune. CXVII, February 1, 1988, p. 108.

Library Journal. CXII, December, 1987, p. 100.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. December 13, 1987, p. 1.

The Nation. CCXLVI, January 23, 1988, p. 93.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, January 17, 1988, p. 7.

The Wall Street Journal. January 6, 1988, p. 13.