Monday, October 10, 2011

Paul Krugman and Adam Smith on Bank Crises

Why laissez-faire does not works for banks.Excerpt (but the whole article deserves a read):

First of all, bank regulation is important even in the absence of bailouts. Don’t trust me, trust Adam Smith. Scotland invented modern banking; it also invented modern banking crises; and Smith, having witnessed such a crisis, favored bank regulations, declaring that

Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respect a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as or the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed
.

Second, there are in fact very good reasons to intervene to support banks during a financial crisis. Bagehot knew it; Diamond and Dybvig showed it theoretically; and it remains true. Letting a financial crisis spread is very dangerous.