Friday, October 19, 2012

Federal Reserve Districts by Population

This post wasn't spurred by anything in particular, but I thought it was interesting to think about the fact that the 12 Federal Reserve districts are far from evenly distributed in terms of geography, population and deposits.  For instance, the San Fransisco district contains 20% of the population and New York contains 65% of the system's deposits.  Originally some of the existence of the regional banks was necessitated by the needs of processing physical money and checks, but with electronic currency that function is less necessary today. 

In 2006,  Tom Hoenig wrote an interesting piece defending the 12 bank system which can be found here.  The structure of the Federal Reserve as 12 banks says a lot about American political values, especially in 1913.  We are a nation that has historically fought passionately over the idea of federalism vs. centralization of government power.  The choice between Hamilton and Jefferson is what forms the backbone of American political history.  1913 marks somewhat of a crossroads of a Jeffersonian age turning slightly more Hamiltonian.  Today Hamilton firmly has the upper hand, but perhaps eventually the pendulum will swing back the other way with major implications for the current political-economic paradigm.

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