- Regulation is about aligning private and social trade-offs.
- When banks cause negative externalities, good regulatory interventions increase banks’ costs.
- Externalities may differ across countries, so nothing suggests that regulation induced costs should be the same internationally.
Review of Economic Dynamics 18(4), October 2015, with Martín Gonzalez-Eiras. PDF.
Traditional “economic equivalence” results, like the Ricardian equivalence proposition, define equivalence classes over exogenous policies. We derive “politico-economic equivalence” conditions that apply in environments where policy is endogenous and chosen sequentially. A policy regime and a state are equivalent to another such pair if both pairs give rise to the same allocation in politico-economic equilibrium. The equivalence conditions help to identify factors that render institutional change non-neutral and to construct politico-economic equilibria in new policy regimes. We exemplify their use in the context of several applications, relating to social security reform, tax-smoothing policies and measures to correct externalities.
In the tenth chapter of “Across the Great Divide: New Perspectives on the Financial Crisis,” John Cochrane argues that at its core, the financial crisis was a run and thus, policy responses should focus on mitigating the risk of runs (blog posts by Cochrane on the same topic can be found here and here). Some excerpts:
… demand deposits, fixed-value money-market funds, or overnight debt … [should be] backed entirely by short-term Treasuries. Investors who want higher returns must bear price risk. …
Banks can still mediate transactions, of course. For example, a bank-owned ATM machine can deliver cash by selling your shares in a Treasury-backed money market fund … Banks can still be broker-dealers, custodians, derivative and swap counterparties and market makers, and providers of a wide range of financial services, credit cards, and so forth. They simply may not fund themselves by issuing large amounts of run-prone debt.
If a demand for separate bank debt really exists, the equity of 100 percent equity-financed banks can be held by a downstream institution or pass-through vehicle that issues equity and debt tranches. That vehicle can fail and be resolved in an hour …
Rather than outlawing short-term debt, Cochrane suggests to levy corrective taxes on run-prone liabilities. Moreover:
… technology allows us to overcome the long-standing objections to narrow banking. Most deeply, “liquidity” no longer requires that people hold a large inventory of fixed-value, pay-on-demand, and hence run-prone securities.
… electronic transactions can easily be made with Treasury-backed or floating-value money-market fund shares, in which the vast majority of transactions are simply netted by the intermediary. … On the supply end, $18 trillion of government debt is enough to back any conceivable remaining need for fixed-value default-free assets.
Cochrane rejects the claim that the need for money-like assets can only be met by banks that “transform” maturity or liquidity. He argues that current regulation reflects a history of piecemeal responses that triggered the need for additional measures; and he points out that the shadow banking system creates run risks because a “broker-dealer may have used your securities as collateral for borrowing” to fund proprietary trading.
Cochrane debunks crisis lingo and clarifies links between aggregate variables:
The only way to consume less and invest less is to pile up government debt. So a “flight to quality” and a “decline in aggregate demand” are the same thing.
He questions the need for fixed value securities other than short-term government debt as means of payment or savings vehicle; offers a short history of financial regulation; and deplores regulatory discretion.