Published Feb 20, 2014It's tempting to assume that when America's economy is suffering, the Federal Reserve can just solve everything by simply printing more money. As outlined in the spry and informative documentary Money For Nothing's comprehensive history of the Feds' greatest successes and failures, it's not exactly that simple. By honing in on the country's recent colossal financial collapse, the role of the Federal Reserve is revealed to require a delicate touch but an iron fist when needed.
Primarily employing talking heads and helpful graphics and animations to guide us through how the central banking system of the U.S. was created and then progressed over the years, the film benefits greatly from having a vast number of impressive sources on the subject. From editors of magazines to former and current members of the Federal Reserve's top brass, their expertise helps provide valuable context and candid insight into how decisions went right and wrong.
Initially created in 1913 to help quell financial panics, the mandate of the Federal Reserve has evolved over time, and one of the key issues debated is the power it should wield in relation to the government as an independent but inextricably linked entity. In examining all of the big events that occurred in which the Federal Reserve was forced to intervene in order to alter the country's course, there is much scrutiny of the Great Depression and the massive inflation of the '70s.
The most riveting moments in the film, though, are spent walking through how the Federal Reserve helped steer the economy into the precarious predicament it finds itself still stranded in now. Though former chairman Alan Greenspan was not interviewed specifically for this film, the many clips of him being interviewed elsewhere or testifying in courtrooms are enough to paint a bleak picture of a celebrated mind that believed the best of people and then watched them turn around and take advantage of his naïve outlook without the proper regulations in place.
There are a lot of particulars of how the Federal Reserve functions that could become overwhelming or dry, but the film does a good job of keeping things clear and engrossing for the most part. Perhaps inevitable to subjecting an audience to a vast amount of information are times when the film would benefit from spending more time on an issue and others where it takes great pains to hammer a point home that has already been well understood.