Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit

Princeton University Press
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Why are banking systems unstable in so many countries—but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. The banking systems of Mexico and Brazil have not only been crisis prone but have provided miniscule amounts of credit to business enterprises and households.

Analyzing the political and banking history of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil through several centuries, Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents. Calomiris and Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why they endure, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation.

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About the author

Charles W. Calomiris is a professor at Columbia Business School and Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Stephen H. Haber is a professor of political science and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Feb 23, 2014
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Pages
584
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ISBN
9781400849925
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Banks & Banking
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Daron Acemoglu
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
Charles W. Calomiris
"The goals of financial restructuring are to reestablish the creditor-debtor relationships on which the economy depends for an efficient allocation of capital, and to accomplish that objective at minimal cost. Costs include direct costs to taxpayers of financial assistance and the indirect costs to the economy that result from misallocations of capital and incentive problems resulting from the restructuring. Calomiris, Klingebiel, and Laeven review cases in which countries used alternative mechanisms to restructure their financial and corporate sectors. Countries typically apply a combination of tools, including decentralized, market-based mechanisms, and government-managed programs. Market-based strategies seek to strengthen the capital base of financial institutions and borrowers to enable them to renegotiate debt and resume new credit supply. Government-led restructuring strategies often include the establishment of an entity to which nonperforming loans are transferred or the government's sale of financial institutions, sometimes to foreign entrants. Market-based mechanisms can, in principle, resolve coordination problems that countries face in the wake of massive debtor and creditor insolvency, with acceptably low direct and indirect costs, particularly when those mechanisms are effective in achieving the desirable objective of selectivity. However, these mechanisms depend for their success on an efficient judicial system, a credible supervisory framework and authority with sufficient enforcement capacity, and a lack of corruption in implementation. Government-managed programs may not seem to depend as much on efficient legal and supervisory institutions for their success, but in fact these approaches, in particular the transfer of assets to government-owned asset management companies, also depend on effective legal, regulatory, and political institutions for their success. Further, a lack of attention to incentive problems when designing specific rules governing financial assistance can aggravate moral hazard problems, unnecessarily raising the costs of resolution. These results suggest that policymakers in emerging market economies with weak institutions should not expect to achieve the same level of success in financial restructuring as other countries, and that they should design resolution mechanisms accordingly. Despite the theoretical attraction of some complex market-based mechanisms, simpler mechanisms that afford quick resolution of outstanding debts that improve financial system competitiveness, and that offer little discretion to governments, are most effective. This paper--a product of the Financial Sector and Operations Policy Department--is part of a larger effort in the department to study the containment and resolution of financial crises"--World Bank web site.
Charles W Calomiris
China's increasing role in global economic affairs has placed the country at a crossroads: how many and what types of international capital-market transactions will China permit? How will China's financial system change internally? What kind of relationships will the Chinese government develop with foreign financial institutions, especially with those based in the United States? Can China broker a sustainable partnership with America that will avoid sending economic shock waves throughout the world?

Drawing on the contemporary research of prominent international scholars, the experts in this volume outline the trajectory of China's financial markets since the advent of reform and anticipate their uncertain future. Chapter authors and commentators include Geert Bekaert, Loren Brandt, Lee Branstetter, Mary Wadsworth Darby, Michael DeStefano, Barry Eichengreen, Campbell Harvey, Fred Hu, Xiaobo Lu, Christian Lundblad, Ailsa Roell, Daniel Rosen, Shang-Jin Wei, Jialin Yu, and Xiaodong Zhu.

The book begins with an overview of the history of financial-sector development, regulation, and performance and then focuses on the banking sector, discussing the progress, challenges, and prospects of current sector reform. Subsequent chapters describe the role of foreign capital in China's development and analyze the changes in capital flows and controls over time; explore various explanations for China's composition of foreign-capital and foreign-exchange policies, particularly the factors shaping China's reliance on foreign direct investment; and provide an international, comparative perspective on the remarkable growth experience of China and the contribution of its institutional environment to that experience.

Contributors dispute the belief that stock market listing has done little to reform state-owned enterprises and take a hard look at the exchange rate regime choice for China, considering the potential long-run desirability of flexibility and the appropriate sequencing of reforms in foreign-exchange policy, domestic banking reform, and capital-market openness. The book concludes with a roundtable discussion in which prominent economists, including Peter Garber, Robert Hodrick, John Makin, David Malpass, Frederic Mishkin, and Eswar Prasad, debate the pace of the appreciation of China's currency and the likely consequences of that policy within and outside of China.

Charles W. Calomiris
"The goals of financial restructuring are to reestablish the creditor-debtor relationships on which the economy depends for an efficient allocation of capital, and to accomplish that objective at minimal cost. Costs include direct costs to taxpayers of financial assistance and the indirect costs to the economy that result from misallocations of capital and incentive problems resulting from the restructuring. Calomiris, Klingebiel, and Laeven review cases in which countries used alternative mechanisms to restructure their financial and corporate sectors. Countries typically apply a combination of tools, including decentralized, market-based mechanisms, and government-managed programs. Market-based strategies seek to strengthen the capital base of financial institutions and borrowers to enable them to renegotiate debt and resume new credit supply. Government-led restructuring strategies often include the establishment of an entity to which nonperforming loans are transferred or the government's sale of financial institutions, sometimes to foreign entrants. Market-based mechanisms can, in principle, resolve coordination problems that countries face in the wake of massive debtor and creditor insolvency, with acceptably low direct and indirect costs, particularly when those mechanisms are effective in achieving the desirable objective of selectivity. However, these mechanisms depend for their success on an efficient judicial system, a credible supervisory framework and authority with sufficient enforcement capacity, and a lack of corruption in implementation. Government-managed programs may not seem to depend as much on efficient legal and supervisory institutions for their success, but in fact these approaches, in particular the transfer of assets to government-owned asset management companies, also depend on effective legal, regulatory, and political institutions for their success. Further, a lack of attention to incentive problems when designing specific rules governing financial assistance can aggravate moral hazard problems, unnecessarily raising the costs of resolution. These results suggest that policymakers in emerging market economies with weak institutions should not expect to achieve the same level of success in financial restructuring as other countries, and that they should design resolution mechanisms accordingly. Despite the theoretical attraction of some complex market-based mechanisms, simpler mechanisms that afford quick resolution of outstanding debts that improve financial system competitiveness, and that offer little discretion to governments, are most effective. This paper--a product of the Financial Sector and Operations Policy Department--is part of a larger effort in the department to study the containment and resolution of financial crises"--World Bank web site.
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