The general belief among average citizens is that the purpose of central banks is to help the economy by fighting inflation and mitigating financial crisis. It's a fairy tale that politicians like to encourage. If there were any truth to it, however, where was the Federal Reserve during the crisis of 2007? Rather than helping, it was widening the crisis with its easy money policies.
While central banks are not a government entity, their primary purpose is to create money for the benefit of the government. By mindlessly printing fiat currency, central banks create a shaky illusion of financial stability. In reality, each central bank is a monopoly that controls the production of distribution of currency and interest rates. Most importantly, it also controls gold reserves. While paper currency allegedly has the backing of the government, it is the central bank that controls the value of the currency at any specific time.
The first central bank, the Central Bank of England, was created in the 17th century as a scheme to enable the king to pay off his debts. As each country established its own central bank, it has been used by its government as a personal bank account.
With the government's permission, central banks print money for the use of commercial banks to lend out at a specified rate of interest. Together, they work at inflating the money supply through a system called fractional-reserve banking. Commercial banks are required to keep a fraction of their money in reserve. For example, if someone deposits $1,000, the bank has to keep 10 percent in its vaults. That $100 cannot be lent out. It can only lend out $900, thereby creating two separate claims on those funds: the original deposit of $1,000 and the subsequent borrower of the $900. The supply of money in circulation has been artificially increased to $1,900. That is only one of the ways central banks manipulate the fiat money supply.
This inflated money supply encourages consumers to spend and accumulate increasing debt which they will eventually find difficult to pay off, especially among those with a lesser income. As fiat money is circulated into an economy, the price of goods being purchased affects first the lower-income population and trickled slowing upward. The wealthier will retain spendable currency far longer than those at the bottom of the economic rung. As prices rise, the wealthy can still afford to purchase needed goods. The poorer segment of the population will end up being able to purchase far less than before. By this means, the central banks help create and maintain a separate class system.
During the financial crisis of 2007/8, central banks printed money to inflate the balance sheets of commercial banks at low-interest rates. The banks benefitted, while the increase in fiat money drove up consumer prices. At the same time, it increased the value of assets, such as stocks and real estate. These fortunate enough to hold stocks and real estate saw an increase in their assets. Those who attempted to purchase real estate or housing found the price out of their reach as their purchasing power diminished.
Central banks have never existed for the greater good. Their very purpose is to benefit the elite and those in power. Wealth inequality is a fact of life; however, the policies of central banks can exacerbate those inequities. The simple fact is people would be better off without the monetary manipulations of the central banks. The schemes of the central merely widen any income gap instead of closing it.