“We get the banking system we deserve” would be a one-sentence summary of the 500 or so pages of Fragile by Design. A slightly longer precis might include the idea that every nation makes its own choices about the type of financial institutions it wants, about the nature of competition between them, and about the balance struck between innovation and risk, on the one hand, and safety and stability on the other. The authors describe the process of making these choices as “the game of Bank Bargains”.
“Business economists Calomiris and Haber explain how imperfectly politics and commercial banks intersect, and the consequences for the rest of us. . . . This learned inquiry deserves ample attention from scholars, regulators, and bankers themselves.”
Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber talk with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about their book, Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit. The conversation focuses on how politics and economics interact to give some countries such as Canada a remarkably stable financial system while others such as the United States have a much less stable system. The two authors discuss the political forces that explain the persistence of seemingly bad financial regulation. The conversation includes a discussion of the financial crisis of 2008.
The world displays an instructive variety of banking system designs, some successful, some fragile, and some crisis prone. For example, the US has had numerous banking crises throughout its history while Canada has experienced none. At this event, Charles Calomiris presented the book Fragile by Design, and a discussion by banking experts followed.
The massive increases in risky mortgages and thin bank capital requirements underlying the financial crisis wouldn’t have been possible without the Fed’s willing participation. But the Fed doesn’t act alone. In this adaptation of their forthcoming book, Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber argue that the Fed is the product of legislation and politicking that have made the banking system fragile by design.
‘Everyone knows that life isn’t fair, that ‘politics matters,’” Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber write in their new book, Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit (from which we ran an adaptation here). “We recognize that politics is everywhere,” they continue, “but somehow we believe that banking crises are apolitical, the result of unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances, like earthquakes and hailstorms.” That’s simply not true, Calomiris and Haber argue: “The politics we see operating everywhere else around us also determines whether societies suffer repeated banking crises . . . or never suffer banking crises.” Fragile by Design will make you skeptical of the “version of events told time and again by central bankers and treasury officials,” and critical when that version is “repeated by business journalists and television talking heads.” The authors talk withNational Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the book, banking, morality and politics, Canada, fatherhood, and even Game of Thrones.
By Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber National Review Online
February 4, 2014
Leftist activists, with lawmakers’ support, worked with megabanks to lower lending standards for all.
According to CNN, Bruce Marks is “a crusader who has become a fierce advocate for struggling homeowners.” As executive director of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), Marks has been campaigning to protect homeowners in arrears with their mortgages from foreclosures. Marks told a CNN reporter, “These mortgages of the last ten years were structured to fail.”
By Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber Foreign Affairs
People routinely blame politics for outcomes they don’t like, often with good reason: when the dolt in the cubicle down the hall gets a promotion because he plays golf with the boss, when a powerful senator delivers pork-barrel spending to his home state, when a well-connected entrepreneur obtains millions of dollars in government subsidies to build factories that will probably never become competitive enterprises. Yet conventional wisdom holds that politics is not at fault when it comes to banking crises and that such crises instead result from unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances.
The world displays an instructive variety of banking system designs, some successful, some fragile, and some crisis prone. For example, the US has had numerous banking crises throughout its history while Canada has experienced none.
Surveying different banking systems in their new book, “Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit,” Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber find a common element in all: a deal between the banks and politicians. But these banking bargains vary among countries. How are these deals made, what determines their terms, and how can the US banking system be improved? At this event, Charles Calomiris will present this provocative book, and a discussion by banking experts will follow. For more information click here.
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EconTalk is an award-winning weekly talk show and podcast about economics in daily life. Hosted by Hoover economist Russ Roberts, the show features one-on-one discussions with an eclectic mix of authors, professors, Nobel Laureates, entrepreneurs, leaders of charities and businesses, and people on the street. The emphases are on using topical books and the news to illustrate economic principles. Visit www.econtalk.org.
The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit