It’s all fun and games until someone falls into a liquidity trap. As the American presidential election intensifies around the debate over how to lower unemployment and save the economy, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is offering players a chance to experience firsthand just how difficult central banking can be.
The bank’s website is hosting a game called Chairman, which lets players take the helm of the Fed. You’ll be able to set the Federal Funds Rate each quarter for 16 quarters, or the equivalent of one full presidential term. After each turn you’ll see the effects your rate has on unemployment and the inflation rate, with a pithy newspaper headline dramatizing the effects of your move with reactionary aplomb.
The game is a dizzying simulation of how fundamentally impossible it is to try and lower unemployment while staving off runaway inflation. Paradoxically, the game punishes stasis as well, with players who opt to leave the Fed rate steady falling victim to rising unemployment and deflation fears.
Chariman is a timely reminder of how complicated and irrational the American economic system has become–a healthy reality check in advance of the coming tidal wave of easy fixes and shallow campaign promises headed our way.