"Money For Nothing" Revisited

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 12:40pm

Back in October, I put up a post about a new documentary called Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve.

A few commenters (whom I think had only viewed the trailer and not the full movie) decried it as a propaganda piece - likely because it includes interviews with many former Fed executives. Their comments called into question: how objective is this supposedly 'critical' look at the Fed?

On Tuesday night, several member of the Sebastopol Resilient Life Group went to see the film for ourselves.

First off, the film is very well produced. The visuals, cinematography and storytelling are first-rate, IMO.

I came away feeling most definitely this was not a puff-piece or other sort of propaganda vehicle. I found myself surprised by how critical the former (and some current!) Fed members were of the trajectory the Fed has charted over the past many decades. Their criticism of Alan Greenspan was particularly strong (as the "free market champion" who meddled more with financial market prices than any of his predecessors).

Of course, these Fed officials still view the world and their past actions through biased eyes. There's only so far they're willing to go with their complaints. But you definitely get the impression that even these captains of central banking have no clue how the heck the Fed is going to get out of the box it's now in.

And there are many other voices in the movie (Jim Grant being especially memorable) that are not status quo affiliated and they weren't pulling any punches.

So I have to disagree with the earlier skeptics. I found this movie to be well worth the time to watch and think it's an important vehicle for 'waking up' more mainstream minds to the financial predicament we're in.

My biggest critique is that the film doesn't raise the fundamental question: should we even have a central bank? It stops just short of doing so.

I asked that of Jim Bruce, the writer/director/producer of the movie, who had been flown in for the event. He said he very much wanted to, but that when he tried, the film became too wonky for the economic newbie. Perhaps in a future sequel.

And he confirmed that, as critical of the Fed as the movie is, his personal position is even more strident.

Jim has agreed to be our podcast guest next week, so you'll get the chance to hear his perspective for yourself.

But if you have the opportunity to view Money For Nothing (see their website for theater locations and dates), it has my recommendation.

Here's the trailer:

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Broadspectrum's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 14 2009
Posts: 93
I Actually Saw the Film

Hi Adam,

I looked back over the post you put up in October and I must agree with you that most of the commentators hadn't seen the film, maybe only the trailer, like you stated.  However, I for one did see it on Sunday, 9/22/13, and I posted a reply in your thread.  Here's what I said, "I had to see it before recommending it to others if it was to truly be about abolishing the Fed.  I will tell everyone right now, don’t waste your time.  It is not about that at all.  I think that word, abolish, was used once in the movie and it was during a 30 second (or less) segment that showed Ron Paul at one of his campaign rallies.  Ron Paul was the only known critic of the Fed in the film but he was never interviewed, just shown at the rally.   There was not a single well known or otherwise real critic of the Fed interviewed in the entire film".

"The film does NOT DETAIL the history of the Fed at all, glossing over it in less than 2 minutes and not in any critical tone, unlike in the “Creature From Jekyll Island”.  And Griffin was not interviewed either.  The main persons interviewed were all former Fed personnel.  The focus was on Greenspan and Bernanke.  Sure, they made them look bad but it was all apologist in nature.  The main message I came out of the movie with was those guys are real smart but they made mistakes.  The Fed is not bad, just run by the wrong persons.  If you put the right guys in the job this would never have happened.   It was a disgusting waste of time.  I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know as most of you here already know too.  But at least now I know not to recommend this film to anyone."

My opinion stands.   


Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Offline)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 3248
I suppose we disagree then

Broadspectrum -

Sounds like we had very different experiences.

Yes, I suppose if you went to the film expecting it to conclude with a rabid clamor to "abolish the Fed", you'll walk away disappointed. I did mention in my critique above that I wish the film had raised that question directly.

But I'm not sure where you got that expectation. The film, per the trailer, simply promises a hard look at what the Fed is doing. And that's what it delivers.

Could it have gone farther? Sure. I mention that above and I understand Jim's (the director's) response. He's trying to wake up mainstream audiences. There's so far you can go when introducing this kind of material before either eyes glaze over or you bump into deep-seeded beliefs that close ears. You have to find that line, and hope you've opened minds far enough to receive more advanced/more socially radical ideas in the future. There's a reason why the Crash Course is over 3 hours long and broken into 20+ chapters...

If you've read The Creature from Jekyll Island and are looking for a romp through the machinations of the founding banking magnates, yes, this film will disappoint (though it does give a brief nod at the beginning). But that's not a reason to dismiss it for what it is: a very critical look at where Fed policy has taken us. 

I did not feel the film treated the former Fed executives with a soft hand. I do agree it raises the (unanswered) question: is the point we'd be better off with a central bank that was just more prudent in its behavior, or no central bank at all? Hence my question to Jim after the screening.

But calling this film a "disgusting waste of time"? Especially to an audience less familiar with Fed policy than many here at PP.com? I just disagree. IMO - nearly anything that educates and raises critical questions about the Fed among the mainstream is constructive. And as I said earlier, IMO, the film does a good job of this, and in a way that doesn't come across as too extremist or off-putting.

And as for the commentary from existing and sitting Fed officials, that's a double-edged sword - but one that should be used in this fight. Yes, they're only going to go so far in their criticism of an institution they have led. What would you expect?

But the fact that they're as critical as they are on camera is very impactful, IMO, especially for a mainstream viewer.

Moreover, PP.com users frequently ask to hear voices from the other side of the aisle (not just those that have drunk the Crash Course Kool-ade). This is an excellent example of what those who are running the show think. All of us can benefit from hearing their perspective, however biased, and then drawing our own conclusions.

I also challenge your comment that "there was not a single well known or otherwise real critic of the Fed interviewed in the entire film". Really? Jeremy Grantham? Jim Grant? Gary Shilling? John Mauldin? just to name a few...

It's funny; I would think most of us on this site would be thrilled that films like this are trying to create a discussion on Main Street that the Fed's trajectory is reckless at best, however imperfectly the message may be being delivered.

But you're certainly entitled to your opinion of the film.

I'd sure be interested in hearing from others that have seen it, too.

And next week, we'll get more clarity from Jim Bruce on what he's trying to accomplish with the film, and where he truly stands on the Fed.

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 500
Okay the first words were

Okay the first words were "the Fed is the symbol of the integrity of our financial system".  Really.... The first sentence raises the hair on the back of my neck and warns me to listen to the message with caution.  I have alarm bells ringing in my head, who in their right mind would pair integrity and the Fed?  No need to answer that most of us already know that answer.  The movie is not showing in Alaska and I am not buying it.  

Broadspectrum's point about the motive or purpose just might be spot on.

The interview of Jim Bruce will be interesting, I'll be listening for his motives.  Is he a member of middle America or one of the elite that's looking for forgiveness?  

Kudos to you for trying to educate us on this important topic!  

AK Granny

LeanneBaker's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 5 2013
Posts: 29
Somewhat Disappointed

As one of the Sebastopol contingent who viewed the film, I enjoyed attending with a group and not watching the movie on the computer.  I actually went expecting to be somewhat disappointed, and in that I wasn't disappointed!  I knew the movie was designed and is being marketed for more of a mass market, and I would have been shocked had it concluded with calls for ending the Fed.  But I am still pleased to have seen it. 

The positives for me were: 

  • The theater was packed, which hopefully is a sign that more people want to learn about the Fed.  Some of the questions afterwards suggest that many audience members are still low on the learning curve, but at least they are looking for answers outside the MSM.
  • Most of the interviewees in the movie were current or former Fed governors or bureaucrats, and they appeared mostly befuddled and totally caught off guard by the events of 2007-09.  Alan Greenspan came across particularly badly, and that is a positive change from the near-worshipful regard for him during his actual tenure at the Fed.  As Murray Rothbard was so good at pointing out, these are fallible human beings, and it's good to see them that way.
  • Watching the "Money for Nothing" video by Dire Straights in the prequel, and appreciating the professionalism and occasional humor in the movie.

The main disappointment for me was watching the "anti-Fed" interviewees.  Either they were playing softball with the issues, or else their more controversial statements were edited out.  Jim Grant seemed to be providing a bit of historical context, but he is a fountain of knowledge and that didn't come across.  I was extremely disappointed to hear John Mauldin applaud the Fed for taking the actions they did during the financial crisis, as if there were no other choices.  Ron Paul's campaign snippet was almost insulting.

And, of course, the final upshot is that the movie didn't connect all the dots.  It put up a slide with a question mark asking whether there is a government bond bubble, but at that point even I didn't want to sit for another half hour while an attempt was made to answer the question. 

I spent a weekend with the Mises Institute at Jekyll Island in October 2013, and the topic was the Fed.  I went expecting to be inspired and bolstered as we face a Fed gone mad, and with Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano, Lew Rockwell and the Mises faculty on the agenda, I was not disappointed.  I would encourage anyone who has not already done so to read Ron Paul's "End the Fed" and Murray Rothbard's "History of Money & Banking in the United States" for more edification. 


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