The camel has been described as a horse designed by a committee. The same idea can be applied to the Federal Home Loan Bank System, a cumbersome arrangement of 12 regional banks, each separately managed and with its own board of directors, overseen by a Washington-based agency, the Federal Housing Finance Board.

Although the system may not be as swift as the horse, it certainly has the durability of the camel. Originally designed as a kind of central bank for the nation's thrifts, it has managed to survive the shrinkage of the thrift business and even prosper by accepting commercial banks as members.

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