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The Design of Financial Systems: Towards a Synthesis of Function and Structure

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  • Robert C. Merton
  • Zvi Bodie

Abstract

This paper proposes a functional approach to designing and managing the financial systems of countries, regions, firms, households, and other entities. It is a synthesis of the neoclassical, neo-institutional, and behavioral perspectives. Neoclassical theory is an ideal driver to link science and global practice in finance because its prescriptions are robust across time and geopolitical borders. By itself, however, neoclassical theory provides little prescription or prediction of the institutional structure of financial systems that is, the specific kinds of financial intermediaries, markets, and regulatory bodies that will or should evolve in response to underlying changes in technology, politics, demographics, and cultural norms. The neoclassical model therefore offers important, but incomplete, guidance to decision makers seeking to understand and manage the process of institutional change. In accomplishing this task, the neo-institutional and behavioral perspectives can be very useful. In this proposed synthesis of the three approaches, functional and structural finance (FSF), institutional structure is endogenous. When particular transaction costs or behavioral patterns produce large departures from the predictions of the ideal frictionless' neoclassical equilibrium for a given institutional structure, new institutions tend to develop that partially offset the resulting inefficiencies. In the longer run, after institutional structures have had time to fully develop, the predictions of the neoclassical model will be approximately valid for asset prices and resource allocations. Through a series of examples, the paper sets out the reasoning behind the FSF synthesis and illustrates its application.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10620.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10620

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Piyapas Tharavanij, 2007. "Capital Market And Business Cycle Volatility," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 33-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  2. Koetter, Michael & Wedow, Michael, 2005. "Finance and growth in a bank-based economy: is it quantity or quality that matters?," Discussion Paper Series 2: Banking and Financial Studies 2006,02, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  3. Balázs Romhányi, 2005. "A learning hypothesis of the term structure of interest rates," Macroeconomics 0503001, EconWPA.
  4. Demirguc-Kunt, Asli, 2006. "Finance and economic development : policy choices for developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3955, The World Bank.
  5. Capelle-Blancard, Gunther & Couppey-Soubeyran, Jezabel & Soulat, Laurent, 2008. "The measurement of financial intermediation in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 40-60, January.
  6. José María Fanelli, 2009. "Economic Policy out of the Corridor. Reflections on the Global Crisis and the Latin American Experience," Ensayos Económicos, Central Bank of Argentina, Economic Research Department, vol. 1(53-54), pages 73-105, January -.
  7. James B. Ang, 2008. "A Survey Of Recent Developments In The Literature Of Finance And Growth," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(3), pages 536-576, 07.
  8. Zhanyu Ying, 2010. "Study on the measurement of China’s financial intermediation ratio in terms of stock: 1992–2006," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 430-444, September.
  9. Carlos E. Cuevas & Klaus P. Fischer, 2006. "Cooperative Financial Institutions : Issues in Governance, Regulation, and Supervision," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7107, January.
  10. Ross Levine, 2004. "Finance and Growth: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 10766, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Claire Woods & Roger Urwin, 2010. "Putting Sustainable Investing into Practice: A Governance Framework for Pension Funds," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(1), pages 1-19, April.
  12. Piyapas Tharavanij, 2007. "Capital Market, Frequency Of Recession, And Fraction Of Time The Economy In Recession," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 34-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  13. Coval, Joshua D. & Thakor, Anjan V., 2005. "Financial intermediation as a beliefs-bridge between optimists and pessimists," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 535-569, March.
  14. Tharavanij, Piyapas, 2007. "Capital Market, Severity of Business Cycle, and Probability of Economic Downturn," MPRA Paper 4953, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Tharavanij, Piyapas, 2007. "Capital Market Development, Frequency of Recession, and Fraction of Time the Economy in Recession," MPRA Paper 4954, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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