I ran across an interesting piece by George Selgin. He makes a point that a lot of people miss, including, in this case, Gary Gorton. History gives us useful information for organizing our thinking about financial crises (and other events of course), but many people attach too much weight to U.S. experience. This matters in particular for how we address the issue of whether financial fragility is inherent or induced.
If we confine our attention to U.S. financial history, we might think that banks are inherently unstable, as Diamond and Dybvig theorized. We also might think, if we look at the performance of behemoths like Bank of America and Citigroup, that too-big-to-fail could be an inherent problem in banking. But, as Selgin points out, the notion that banking arrangements are inherently prone to panics and too-big-to-fail problems flies in the face of experience in other countries - Canada in particular.
The kind of thinking Selgin objects to leads to inappopriate policy conclusions. Gorton in particular seems to subscribe to the idea that a fix which will make the banking system safe is some version of narrow banking - restricting what financial intermediaries can hold as assets to back any type of transactions account. But there are other - and seemingly better - ways to get safety (if you want it), as the Canadians have shown.
Thanks for the link to Selgin. The Canadian example is interesting, and under discussed.ReplyDelete
By the way, just out of curiosity, what is the New Monetarist position on the sustainability of Free Banking?
"...what is the New Monetarist position on the sustainability of Free Banking?"ReplyDelete
There isn't a "position." The New Monetarist organization is a pretty loose one. I can tell you what I think though. The Canadian banking system, pre-1935, the early 19th century Scottish banking system, and the Suffolk Banking system (U.S. free banking era), are interesting examples. The Canadian system is the one I know best. That seemed to work well, in the sense that financial panics were minimal if not non-existent, and privately-issued bank notes circulated at par. Key to the success was that the chartered banks redeemed each others' notes, and there was a clearing system. There was also no central bank in Canada until 1935 (when private note issue was stopped, though the notes circulated into the 1940s). But it wasn't a laissez faire system by any means. There was limited entry into chartered banking, and specific rules about redemption of the notes, and their seniority as claims on the bank.
Perhaps surprisingly, Milton Friedman wasn't a supporter of free banking, and was probably the original proponent of narrow banking (the 100% reserve requirement). Friedman appeared not to understand the benefits of financial intermediation and asset transformation.
I've pondered Friedman's case myself, Stephen, and ended up writing an article about it for one of the Cato Monetary conferences. Here's the URL:Delete
And many thanks for the kind mention of my review of Gorton's book.
Stephen - thanks for your reply.Delete
So a guy who works for a right-wing think tank financed by the Koch brothers claims that financial unregulated intermediation, never mind 2007, is fine as it is. Quelle surprise.ReplyDelete
Milton Friedman would be disgusted by "economists" who even ignore basics like lack of competition. i.e. a too-big-too-fail bank should not merely be crushed because of public bail-out incentive issues but also because it wields market power. But I guess Econ 101 can be safely ignored when your corporate overlords tell you to do so. :D
Anonymous, your comment is beneath contempt. I don't "work for" or otherwise receive any stipend from Cato or any "corporate overlords," first of all (I am an employee of the University of Georgia); I write for Cato occasionally, and take part in their monetary conferences, but so did Friedman himself (and almost every well-known monetary economist or policymaker you might name)! As for TBTF, I doubt that anyone, yourself included, regrets the excessive concentration of market power that has in recent decades taken place in the U.S. banking industry. And almost certainly unlike you I also make no apologies for the immense monopoly privileges and power yielded by the Fed and other central banks.ReplyDelete
Ad hominem remarks like yours, when offered as a substitute for real arguments, are a sign of low character; misinformed ones add foolishness to the mix, while anonymous ones add cowardice. These aren't exactly personality traits to smile about!
For "regrets" in my previous kindly read "regrets more than I do."ReplyDelete
"I write for Cato occasionally, and take part in their monetary conferences, but so did Friedman himself (and almost every well-known monetary economist or policymaker you might name)!"ReplyDelete
I see, if you don't work for the Koch brothers you are not a well-known economist or politician. You could not reveal who you are more clearly. By the way, following the money and taking a look at incentives is the very opposite is not ad hominem. It is basic economics. If you work for A as a scribbler you are very like to write what A wants to.
"And almost certainly unlike you I also make no apologies for the immense monopoly privileges and power yielded by the Fed and other central banks."
Sure, central banking led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Any other fairy tale you free banking folks wanna tell us?
This nonsense is not just pre-Keynes, it is pre-Wicksell.
If you want to debate central banking with me, anonymous, that's fine, though it should be elsewhere than on Stephen's blog. And you have to reveal your identity, as I don't debate with trolls. I doubt very much though that you will want to do so after arguing as you have. (In your last post you show, apart from everything else, a poor grasp of both elementary logic and basic reading ability.)ReplyDelete
By the way, I am a long-standing Wicksell fan, and Wicksell was in fact a much better monetary economist than Keynes.ReplyDelete
I have no interest in a debate with a right-wing free banking guy like yourself, I am talking about you.ReplyDelete
It doesn't take much to debunk the very basics of free banking. Keynes pointed out in the General Theory that any good can become money when it is highly liquid. If the supply of this good is not controlled by a central bank (or if it is not fiat money but tied to a precious metal) you cannot control interest rates in order to conduct demand management.
Funny how contemporary monetarists ignore this. If Friedman were alive he would tell you to first read A Monetary History of the United States and then redo your undergraduate studies.
George is a serious economist, with interesting ideas. It would be nice if you were more serious. Also, I hope you understand that all of economics isn't about "demand management."Delete
Aha, debunking free banking nonsense via pointing out that Friedman was never an opponent of central banking and a proponent of free banking and pointing out that lower interest rates are THE demand management tool every macroeconomist agrees upon (fiscal policy is the controversial issue) makes me totally non-serious guy ... yet accusing me of being a troll makes one a serious economist.Delete
Whether you like it or not, Keynes and Friedman both cared about the Great Depression, they both cared about demand management (they only differed on what the best tools are). I have no words to describe a "demand management doesn't matter" attitude during the worst recession since the Great Depression and two-digit unemployment rates (in many countries).
It seems that the kooks no longer identify themselves, making it much more difficult to eradicate them. Evolution is sometimes a bitch.Delete
Milton Friedman and I had many conversations over the years, and exchanged many letters also. One thing I remember him telling me is that he would never say anything about someone that he would not acknowledge having said; certainly he never wrote under cover of anonymity. He was an upright fellow, in short, and the very opposite of a coward. You insult his memory in invoking his name as part of your foolish trolling.ReplyDelete
And with that I'm happy to end this silly exchange, with apologies to Stephen and his readers for having fed a troll here at all.
Sorry, George. It takes all kinds.Delete
George, In my experience it's not even worth to start discussions with anonymous trolls anyway. Life's to short.Delete
Steve: Thanks for pointing out this interesting piece.ReplyDelete