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Who's the best Fed chairman in recent history?

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 | 3:40 PM ET
Fed celebrates 100th anniversary
Monday, 16 Dec 2013 | 2:03 PM ET
Three Fed chairmen from different eras: Paul Volcker, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. CNBC's Steve Liesman provides insight.

Who will history remember as the best Fed chairman?

It's an interesting question, especially as the Federal Reserve Bank marked its 100th anniversary Monday with speeches from two former chairmen, Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, and from current Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"Paul Volcker is the greatest chairman in the history of the Federal Reserve Board," said Larry Kudlow, host of "The Kudlow Report" during an appearance on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "He faced 15 to 20 percent inflation ... which was destroying our economy and the rest of the world's economy. I believe that was the greatest crisis of all. He conquered it."

Kudlow, who was associate director for economics and planning during President Ronald Reagan's first term, got to watch Volcker work firsthand. The Fed chairman reduced inflation by removing money supply and raising interest rates—all in the face of sharp opposition—which set the tone for 25 years of prosperity, Kudlow said.

"The level of public outcry during the time that he was pursuing his policies is something that was certainly a challenge and something that he had to remain resolute in the face of," Ylan Q. Mui, a financial reporter at The Washington Post, said of Volcker.

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She recalled that farmers were so frustrated with the interest rate hikes that they protested by blocked the entry to the Fed building with their tractors.

But CNBC's Steve Liesman, who covers the Federal Reserve, said that history has yet to judge Bernanke, whose first round of quantitative easing met with intense criticism.

Today, however, many market observers think QE helped save the U.S. economy from a deep depression, he said. Only time will allow the perspective to judge the stimulus policy and Bernanke, he added.

Who do you think is the greatest Fed chair in the past four decades? Vote now in our poll, and comment below with your nomination!

—By CNBC's Drew Sandholm. Follow him on Twitter @DrewSandholm.

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