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Free banking : the Scottish experience as a model for emerging economies


  • Kroszner, Randall


The notion of free banking is at least as difficult to define as the notion of central banking. The author focuses on a relatively unregulated banking system that operated in Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He argues that a relatively unregulated system is a wise option for emerging markets today. In terms of private institutions and monitoring: 1) a private clearing system is feasible; and 2) so are private development and enforcement of capital and liquidity standards. Financial institutions have strong private incentives to create their own clearingsystem, to benefit both banks and the public, and will develop standards for capital, liquidity and prudential management by doing so. Competition is generally compatible with prudence and coordination. There are private alternatives to deposit insurance or to a central bank to maintain confidence in and foster the stability of the financial system: 1) sophisticated note and deposit contracts are feasible; 2) free entry is important to encourage innovation; and 3) branching and portfolio diversification can substitute for deposit insurance to stabilize the banking system. So can"extended"liability. Another alternative is the"option clause"or other contingent or equity-like contracts, which can solve or minimize the problem of bank runs. Therefore, an explicit central bank may not be needed, but rather mechanisms to provide added liquidity, perhaps through the clearing system, in times of trouble.

Suggested Citation

  • Kroszner, Randall, 1995. "Free banking : the Scottish experience as a model for emerging economies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1536, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1536

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Douglas W. Diamond & Philip H. Dybvig, 2000. "Bank runs, deposit insurance, and liquidity," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 14-23.
    2. Carr, Jack L & Mathewson, G Frank, 1988. "Unlimited Liability as a Barrier to Entry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 766-784, August.
    3. Henry Hamilton, 1956. "The Failure Of The Ayr Bank, 1772," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 8(3), pages 405-417, April.
    4. Cowen, Tyler & Kroszner, Randall, 1989. "Scottish Banking before 1845: A Model for Laissez-Faire?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(2), pages 221-231, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Holthausen, Cornelia & Monnet, Cyril, 2003. "Money and payments: a modern perspective," Working Paper Series 245, European Central Bank.


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