After the onset of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II asked economists at the London School of Economics in November 2008, ‘Why did no one see it coming?’ Orthodox economists and political economists, and international political economy (IPE) scholars, especially those belonging to the American IPE, have had a dismal record in anticipating financial crises (Palan 2009)….
Calomiris and Haber’s research is mentioned in this article.
Similarly, finance experts Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber argue that easy-credit policies are unstable for both the households who are enticed to borrow and for the financial system as a whole. They note that the Obama administration also has recently lowered underwriting standards for other government-chartered home loan programs (those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).
Mel Watt, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, recently announced that he will reduce the minimum mortgage down payment requirement for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the housing financing behemoths that he controls as their conservator since the financial crisis – to three percent. This marks a return to pre-crisis down payment standards, and a departure from the traditional 20 percent requirements that had been standard prior to the 1990s, and which had once again become the norm since the financial crash. The stated goal is to expand opportunities for low-income borrowers, and thus help to mitigate economic inequality. But intentions and consequences can be very different. Similar attempts to subsidize risky mortgages in the 1990s and 2000s ended up increasing inequality. Congress should be wary of allowing Director Watt to take such a step.
Bloomberg Business Week has named Fragile by Design as one of the “Best Books of ’14”. BBW asks prominent people to name two or three of their favorite books from 2014. Two of BBW‘s prominent reader’s picked Fragile by Design. Here is what they say:
From Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England and visiting professor at New York University:
“Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber’s Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit is a magnificent study of the economics and politics of banking.”
From Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond:
“Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber. Hands down the best single book for understanding the historical journey that laid the groundwork for the financial crisis.”
The Greek newspaper, Kathimerini, interviews Charles Calomiris.
Σκληρή κριτική κατά του ελληνικού πολιτικού συστήματος –αλλά και του εκλογικού σώματος– ασκεί μέσω της «Κ» ο διεθνούς φήμης Ελληνοαμερικανός οικονομολόγος Τσαρλς Καλομοίρης, καθηγητής Χρηματοοικονομικών Θεσμών στο Πανεπιστήμιο Columbia της Νέας Υόρκης. Αναφερόμενος στην πιθανότητα εκλογικής επικράτησης του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, ο Καλομοίρης, που έχει καταγωγή από τη Νάξο και τη Λακωνία και επισκέπτεται συχνά την Ελλάδα, αναρωτιέται, χωρίς περιστροφές: «Πώς μπορούν οι ψηφοφόροι να κάνουν τόσο ανόητες επιλογές; Πώς γίνεται κάποιος ενήλικος να ψηφίσει τον κ. Τσίπρα;».
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, named Fragile By Design to his list of best economic books of 2014.
We get the banking systems we deserve or, more precisely, that our political systems choose. The US has had 12 systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. Better awareness of how the political forces work might lead to superior bargains. But this informative book does not leave the reader optimistic. It is hard to shift bad political equilibria.
“The United States has had 14 banking crises over the past 180 years! Canada, which shares not only a 2,000-miles border with the United States but also a common culture and language, had only two brief and mild bank illiquidity crises during the same period.” And since 1839 Canada “has experienced no systemic banking crises.”
In this well-researched book, Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber, economics professors at Columbia and Stanford Universities, respectively, explain what is responsible for the difference. In short, different countries have different banking systems as a result of the differences in the political bargains struck between political coalitions in different countries or in the same country at different times. It is the result of what the authors call the “game of bank bargains.”