Financial Crises and Lender of Last Resort – A Comparative Historical Perspective
in Bâtiment/Building B, Room Paul Ricoeur (B016)
September 24 2009
If there is one thing that historical research on financial crises shows it is that in times of crises financial history again becomes highly relevant. But the fact that history and empirical research again comes into the spotlight does not mean that all historical references suddenly becomes significant. It seems too often to be the case that during financial crises the critical ambition that governs empirical historical analysis in more normal circumstances is lost, and instead every historical reference with some kind of crisis theme is viewed as of importance for the analysis of the current situation and the guidance of economic policies.
But the fact is that all financial crises are not alike, neither over time nor in different economies. Instead the tendency to vulgarize empirical historical economic research leads to scientific conclusions and economic policy implications that are either sprung from a) the most recent financial crisis, b) the most well known financial crisis which usually is the most important financial crisis in terms of its magnitude, or c) a combination of the two without this necessarily having anything to do with the underlying problems that have caused the financial crisis de jour.
It is in these circumstances that knowledge in financial history really becomes necessary; because without knowledge of historical empirics and its context we will never understand financial crises and their management. But in order to generalize the historical empirics we also need a comparative approach on financial crises not only over time but also from different economies. And the importance of bringing together historical research on Financial Crises and Lender of Last Resort under a comparative theme is the rationale behind this workshop.
All parts of the economy are related to institutions, but in fewer fields that is more apparent than in the field of finance. The notion that the institutional framework is of utmost importance for the working of the financial system is well established. Scholarly debates tend instead to focus on what institutions that are the most beneficial for the financial system and thus what the consequences of different institutions are.
The financial system has to balance two sides; on one hand the provision of capital for productive ends to such a large degree as possible, and on the other it has to avoid capital losses to such a large degree as possible. The question thus becomes how to best achieve this balance. During times of financial expansion and economic growth research tends to focus on the former of these sides, but during times of financial distress and crises research tends to focus on the latter aspect, that is how to avoid capital losses.
In this workshop we aim to understand the management of financial crises without losing out on the importance of the performance of the financial system. We focus on one particular institution, what probably is one of the most important institutions in relation to financial crises, namely the “Lender of Last Resort”.
Questions that will be discussed are for instance:
- How has Lender of Last Resort affected financial crises: their origin, consequences, and their ending?
- What was the origin of Lender of Last Resort and why does it still exist?
- Is Lender of Last Resort a response to an economic rationale or is it a result of the pressure from politically and economically strong pressure groups?
- To what extent can we draw any general conclusions regarding the definition of Lender of Last Resort – who provides it, how it is to be provided, under what circumstances and how and why it may lead to different outcomes in different economies?
- Do we need an international Lender of Last Resort and if so what principles should govern the administration of one?
- Does Lender of Last Resort do more harm than good?
EHFF – Institute in Economic and Business History, Stockholm School of Economics; EconomiX – Université de Paris Ouest La Défense Nanterre
IDHE – Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de l’Economie, Université de Paris Ouest La Défense Nanterre
With the support of:
- EconomiX – Université de Paris Ouest La Défense Nanterre
- EHFF – Institute for Research in Economic and Business History, Stockholm School of Economics
- IDHE – Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de l’Economie, Université de Paris Ouest La Défense Nanterre
For participation please e-mail Anders Ögren: firstname.lastname@example.org