Les banques, les États, et les crises financières

PRINCETON – La toute dernière phase de la crise financière, entre la chute de la banque Lehman Brothers en septembre 2008 et aujourd’hui, a été caractérisée par des pertes bancaires colossales et la menace persistante de nouvelles faillites bancaires. L’ampleur de la débâcle est telle qu’on peut se demander si les petits pays peuvent se permettre de renflouer leurs banques.

Mais la définition de « petit » change tous les jours : il y a quelques mois, petit voulait dire l’Islande, ensuite l’Irlande et aujourd’hui, le Royaume Uni. Les retombées de la crise financière invitent à se demander  non seulement quelle est la taille adéquate d’un État, mais également quelle est la forme la plus appropriée de législation bancaire.

Il y a toujours eu des incertitudes concernant le meilleur système bancaire souhaitable, ainsi qu’une concurrence entre les différentes réglementations. D’un côté, on trouve l’idée – qui a défini les opérations bancaires de la majeure partie de l’histoire des Etats-Unis – que les banques devaient être proches des risques qu’elles devaient évaluer. Cette notion est issue de la lutte titanesque entre le président Andrew Jackson et Nicholas Biddle à propos de la Second Bank of the United States , une lutte du populisme contre le monde de la finance, que les populistes ont gagné. En conséquence, la plupart des banques américaines du XIXe siècle n’avaient pas de succursales, et étaient cantonnées à un seul État.

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