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The political lessons of Depression-era banking reform

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  • Charles W. Calomiris

Abstract

The banking legislation of the 1930s took very little time to pass, was unusually comprehensive, and unusually responsive to public opinion. Ironically, the primary motivations for the main bank regulatory reforms in the 1930s (Regulation Q, the separation of investment banking from commercial banking, and the creation of federal deposit insurance) were to preserve and enhance two of the most disastrous policies that contributed to the severity and depth of the Great Depression--unit banking and the real bills doctrine. Other regulatory changes, affecting the allocation of power between the Federal Reserve System (Fed) and the Treasury, were intended to reduce the independence of the Fed, while giving the opposite impression. Banking reforms in the 1930s had significant negative consequences for the future of US banking, and took a long time to disappear. The overarching lesson is that the aftermath of crises are moments of high risk in public policy. Copyright 2010, Oxford University Press.

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  • Charles W. Calomiris, 2010. "The political lessons of Depression-era banking reform," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 540-560, Autumn.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:26:y:2010:i:3:p:540-560
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/oxrep/grq020
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthew Baron & Wei Xiong, 2016. "Credit Expansion and Neglected Crash Risk," NBER Working Papers 22695, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Charles W. Calomiris & Matthew Jaremski, 2016. "Deposit Insurance: Theories and Facts," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 97-120, October.
    3. Calomiris, Charles W. & Flandreau, Marc & Laeven, Luc, 2016. "Political foundations of the lender of last resort: A global historical narrative," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 48-65.
    4. Calomiris, Charles W. & Mason, Joseph R. & Weidenmier, Marc & Bobroff, Katherine, 2013. "The effects of reconstruction finance corporation assistance on Michigan's banks' survival in the 1930s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 526-547.
    5. Barry Eichengreen, 2016. "The Great Depression in a Modern Mirror," De Economist, Springer, vol. 164(1), pages 1-17, March.
    6. Nicholas Crafts & Peter Fearon, 2010. "Lessons from the 1930s Great Depression," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 285-317, Autumn.
    7. Nicholas Crafts, 2013. "Long-Term Growth in Europe: What Difference does the Crisis Make?," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 224(1), pages 14-28, May.
    8. Price V. Fishback & John Joseph Wallis, 2012. "What Was New About the New Deal?," NBER Working Papers 18271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert A. Eisenbeis & George G. Kaufman, 2016. "Not All Financial Crises Are Alike!," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 44(1), pages 1-31, March.
    10. Calomiris, Charles W. & Haber, Stephen H., 2016. "Fragile by design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 4, pages 7-34, August.
    11. Ilias Anthopoulos & Christos N.Pitelis, "undated". "The Nature, Performance, Economic Impact and Regulation of Investment Banking," Working papers wpaper137, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.
    12. Albrecht Ritschl, 2012. "War 2008 das neue 1929? Richtige und falsche Vergleiche zwischen der Großen Depression der 1930er Jahre und der Großen Rezession von 2008," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 13, pages 36-57, May.

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