In December 2015, we worked with the New York Times to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would explain what happens when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. After they explained the intricacies of the US monetary policy and its impact on the economy, we set to work sketching out a plan to illustrate the series of events set off by “raising rates.”
Utilizing a portion of a building owned by Brooklyn’s infamous salvage collector Al Attara, we built the machine from of all sorts of knick-knacks, in a cluttered loft full of incredible old furniture, paintings, and sculptures—many of which can be seen in the background of the video—to represent the complex accumulation of roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System. Each piece of the contraption represents a small part of the complex and carefully balanced system we were tasked to represent; an oversized glass marble representing big banks pushing up table tennis balls representing short and long term rates; the leading ball gets replaced by increasingly larger balls to illustrate the increasing value of the dollar; finally, inflation literally drops as a bundle of helium-filled balloons gets lowered by the now hefty weight of the system.∎
Special thanks to Al Attara, Dark Matter Manufacturing, Jemma Rose Brown, Andy Cavatorta, Alexander Dawson, Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, Gwylim Johnstone, Lui Kawasumi, Andrea Lauer, Wiena Lin, Jen Lusker, Chris Tsimbidis, James Patten, Jill Petrowsky, Peiqi Su, Deqing Sun, Josue Rosales, and Bill Washabaugh.