It was conceived in 1910 and constructed for the benefit of the private bankers who control it. Congress blessed the scheme in 1913 with passage of the Federal Reserve Act.
These days the Fed doesn't just backstop America's too-big-to-fail banks. It has expanded its doctrine of socializing banking losses globally.
The Fed helped bail out private businesses, foreign big banks and central banks in Europe and Japan in the credit crisis of 2008 and is the model for the European Central Bank, as well as the ECB's primary backstop.
To understand how the Fed gets taxpayers around the world to pay the losses its member banks routinely incur, let's pull back the curtain on the Fed and explain how it operates.
Here's What the Fed Really DoesBanks lend money and sometimes they don't get paid back. That's not a problem if it doesn't happen too often and if profits from other loans and investments cover the loan losses.
But since banks have gotten really big and have to make big loans (due to economies of scale and return on capital expectations) they need big borrowers. There are no bigger borrowers on the planet than governments, and that's where a lot of banks are lending.
Of course, governments aren't immune to over-borrowing and insolvency.
All the big banks that lent to banks in countries now in financial straits continue to lend to them because if they don't they won't get paid back what they are owed. Banks would fail from a cascade of losses and would either have to be bailed out or shut down.
That's where the Federal Reserve comes in.