Charles Calomiris

“Banking Crises and the Rules of the Game”

Editors: Geoffrey Wood, Terence Mills, and Nicholas Crafts


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In the wake of the crisis of 2008 and onwards, it has become fashionable to return to the work of Hyman Minsky and Charles Kindleberger, and cite them as showing the ubiquity of crises, how they are an inevitable result of human nature, and how they have therefore to be carefully and thoroughly regulated against. Charles Calomiris considers this view, first clearly distinguishing between financial crises and banking crises. This distinction is essential as the evidence shows that only when financial sector problems spread to the banking system is the economy as a whole threatened and policy response conceivably useful. This chapter demonstrates that, while financial crises broadly defined may well be common and an inevitable feature of human behavior, banking crises are not. An examination of data from all around the world and from the start of the nineteenth century shows that these crises do not occur regularly, but require precipitating events. In particular, they follow when the "rules of the banking game" have been changed in a way such as to promote risk. In contrast, other changes can be stabilizing — the most notable example is the central bank accepting lender of last resort responsibilities. The points made in this chapter are important for understanding relatively distant history, for understanding the first banking crisis of the twenty-first century, and for avoiding errors from the rush to regulation that generally follows crises.

Source: Monetary and Banking History: Essays in Honour of Forrest Capie
Exact Citation:
Calomiris, Charles. "Banking Crises and the Rules of the Game." In Monetary and Banking History: Essays in Honour of Forrest Capie, 88-132. Ed. Geoffrey Wood, Terence Mills, and Nicholas Crafts. New York: Routledge, January 2011.
Pages: 88-132
Place: New York
Date: 1 2011