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 due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.
Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, 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.
Charles W. Calomiris is the Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions at Columbia Business School and a professor at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. His many books include U.S. Bank Deregulation in Historical Perspective. Stephen H. Haber is the A. A. and Jeanne Welch Milligan Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His many books include The Politics of Property Rights.
"A seminal political economy analysis of why banking varies so much across countries, with such profound consequences for economic development and social welfare. Not just fascinating and original, but also right."--James Robinson, author of Why Nations Fail
"A monumental intellectual and scholarly achievement that will shape thinking on finance and politics for decades to come. A book for the ages, whose insights are delivered in a lively, punchy, and nontechnical narrative."--Ross Levine, University of California, Berkeley
"A major contribution to our understanding of banking, showing why nations need banks, why banks need the state, and how the quality of banking depends on how the 'Game of Bank Bargains' is played between politicians, bankers, and a penumbra of key protagonists."--Charles Goodhart, London School of Economics and Political Science
"What explains the dramatic variation across countries in the extent, structure, regulation, and fragility of banking? Calomiris and Haber provide a tour de force resolution of the question. Their answer: politics. Fragile by Design's synthesis is shockingly original and convincing."--Darrell Duffie, Stanford University
"A remarkably detailed account of the sources of banking and financial failure under different institutional rules. A masterful achievement and a must-read for banking scholars, analysts, and regulators."--Allan Meltzer, author of A History of the Federal Reserve
"Fragile by Design bristles with insights about how conflicting private interests, intermediated through political institutions, have sometimes produced banking and social insurance arrangements that make financial crises much more likely than they should be."--Thomas Sargent, Nobel Laureate in Economics
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