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This post is the fifth in a series of thirteen Liberty Street Economics posts on Large and Complex Banks. For more on this topic, see this special issue of the Economic Policy Review.
Building upon previous posts in this series that discussed individual banks, we examine the historical growth of the entire financial sector, relative to the rest of the economy. This sector’s historically large share of the economy today (see chart below) and its role in disrupting the functioning of the real economy during the recent financial crisis have led to questions about the social value of costly financial services. While new regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act impose restrictions on financial activities and increase their costs, especially those of large firms, our paper suggests that there may be limits to what regulation can achieve. In particular, we show that financial growth has occurred in the more opaque and harder to regulate sectors: private firms, shadow banks, and small nonbank financial firms. Moreover, we find that the stock market values these opaque areas of finance more, suggesting that they may expand even faster in the future.
In the late 1600s, England operated a bi-metallic monetary system of high-value gold coins and lower-value silver coins. In the early 1690s, however, the market price of silver began to rise at a time when the mint price of gold was higher than the market price. Thus, gold bullion was flowing to the mint while silver coins were flowing to the commodity markets. By 1695, nearly half of the silver specie was missing from coin in circulation in England as coins were “clipped” (shaved) with the result that their face value no longer reflected the metal content. Ironically, low-weight coin was still accepted for tax payments. In this post, we recount England’s efforts to remedy the “ill state of the coin of the kingdom” during the re-coinage of 1696.
As Mike Dash notes in his well-researched and gripping Tulipomania, tulips are native to central Asia and arrived in the 1570s in what’s now Holland, primarily through the efforts of botanist Charles de L’Escluse, who classified and spread tulip bulbs among horticulturalists in the late 1500s and early 1600s. By the early 1630s, the tulip was a fixture in Dutch gardens. But Tulip Mania didn’t begin until the summer of 1633, when a house in Hoorn was exchanged for three rare tulips and a Frisian farmhouse was traded for a number of tulip bulbs. The lure of profit enticed novice florists to enter the tulip trade with minimal investment and small parcels of land, harkening back to the days of farmers taking up coin clipping during the Kipper und Wipperzeit. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we exchange the trading floors of today for the alcohol-fueled exchanges of the past as we dig up Tulip Mania.
momentous as financial crises have been in the past century, we sometimes
forget that major financial crises have occurred for centuries—and often. This
new series chronicles mostly forgotten financial crises over the 300 years—from
1620 to 1920—just prior to the Great Depression. Today, we journey back to the
1620s and take a fresh look at an economic crisis caused by the rapid
debasement of coin in the states that made up the Holy Roman Empire.
Recent financial developments are calling into question the future of regional economic integration. Market confidence deteriorates across countries in a contagious way. The place is Europe, the time is . . . now? Or twenty years ago? In fact, in the early 1990s Europe went through a systemic crisis that displays remarkable similarities to today’s events. In this post, we go back to those momentous times and briefly recall how the last Europe-wide crisis started, unfolded, and concluded. The 1992 crisis was eventually resolved, suggesting that there may be some light at the end of the current tunnel as well.
In 1937, on the eve of a major policy mistake, U.S. economic conditions were surprisingly similar to those in the nation today. Consider, for example, the following summary of economic conditions: (1) Signs indicate that the recession is finally over. (2) Short-term interest rates have been close to zero for years but are now expected to rise. (3) Some are concerned about excessive inflation. (4) Inflation concerns are partly driven by a large expansion in the monetary base in recent years and by banks’ massive holding of excess reserves. (5) Furthermore, some are worried that the recent rally in commodity prices threatens to ignite an inflation spiral.
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