A central bank, also known as a reserve bank, is a national bank that manages a country's monetary policies on a national level. In most countries, the central bank sets the interest rate to maintain a healthy exchange rate and control inflation, increases or decreases the nation's money supply, handles the printing and coining of national currency, regulates commercial banks to prevent fraudulent or exploitative behaviors, and can act as a lender if a financial crisis occurs. In addition, central banks also manage foreign exchange rates, government bonds, and gold reserves.
A central bank is a vital component of most nations' financial systems. Nearly every country in the world—particularly those that issue their own currency—has a central bank. In fact, even unrecognized countries such as Abkhazia have central banks. As a rule, central banks operate independently so as to avoid any political influence upon their actions and policymaking decisions. That said, most also cede limited control to legislative and executive bodies.
Many central banks also purchase gold and other assets to help back their financial system, and approximately 75% of the world's central bank assets are held by China, the United States, Japan, and the countries of the eurozone. Despite the crucial role central banks play in a nation's monetary health, there are nonetheless a handful of countries that lack a central bank.
Countries that have no central bank:
- Isle of Man
- Marshall Islands
The Rothschild banking empire: The predecessors (but not secret controllers) of central banks
In the 1760s, a Jewish banker from Frankfurt, Germany named Mayer Amschel Rothschild founded what would eventually become a banking dynasty. From humble beginnings in the Jewish slums of Frankfurt, Rothschild would eventually establish banks in Frankfurt, Germany; London, England; Paris, France; Vienna, Austria; and Naples, Italy, with each bank headed by one of Rothschild's five sons. The family became known as pioneers and trendsetters in the realm of international finance, and were instrumental in aiding England and its allies during the Napoleonic wars of 1803-1815. At one point in the 1800s, the Rothschild family possessed the largest private fortune in the history of the modern world. For example, between 1895 and 1907, they loaned more than $450,000,000 USD (more than $13 trillion USD by 2022 standards) to various European governments.
Given their immense wealth and power, it's unsurprising that the Rothschild family was the subject of many conspiracy theories. One such claim maintained that the family secretly controlled the world's wealth and financial institutions, including the central banks of various countries. No evidence exists to support this claim, although significant evidence exists that it is a myth rooted in and fueled by anti-Semitism.
In reality, central banks are essentially a government function. As such, they would not be subject to control from a private family—even one as influential as the Rothschilds. In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, many countries had not yet established central banks, so the Rothschild banks fulfilled many of the functions that a central bank now carries out. Today, the Rothschild family is involved in financial services, real estate, nonprofit organizations, winemaking, and other fields.