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Archive for the ‘Deposit Insurance’ Category

For a change of pace, I get to debate a leftist other than Christian Weller. As always, feedback would be appreciated. What parts of the interview went well? What opportunities did I miss?

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Alex Pollack of the American Enterprise Institute explains how even supposedly benign interventions have negative effects. Using deposit insurance as an example, he explains how the benefits of intervention are often obvious, but the costs are usually hidden and indirect – and generally of a greater magnitude. The politicians get applause for the supposed benefit (in this case, peace-of-mind for despositors) while avoiding any blame for the hidden costs (moral hazard, financial crisis, malinvestment, etc):

On one hand, there is the fervent political desire to make deposits riskless for the public, so that depositors do not need to know anything about or care about the soundness of their bank. But their deposits fund businesses that are inherently very risky, highly leveraged and cyclically subject to much greater losses than anyone imagined possible. The combination of riskless funding with risky businesses is inherently impossible. The attempt is made to achieve the combination through regulation, but this inevitably fails. Governments are therefore periodically put in the position of desperately wanting to transfer losses from the banks to the public, as once again in this cycle. An alternative is to prefund the losses through deposit insurance. But because the losses can get bigger than the fund, it ends up needing a government guarantee, thus bringing the risk back to the public. …Has government deposit insurance “put a premium on bad banking,” as Sen. Bulkley warned it would? Certainly in some cases it did, especially when risky, rapidly expanding real estate-lending banks could fund themselves by rapidly expanding brokered deposits. More generally, did deposit insurance help inflate the real estate bubble, especially in commercial real estate? Without doubt, it did. Leveraged real estate has been the cause of many banking busts. Over the past several years real estate loans of all commercial banks have grown to represent 56% of their total loans. For the 6,500 smaller banks, with assets under $1 billion, this ratio is a whopping 74%. This expansion of real estate risk could not have happened without deposit insurance.

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