Bancos, estados y crisis financieras

PRINCETON – La etapa más reciente de la crisis financiera, desde la quiebra de Lehman Brothers en septiembre de 2008, se ha caracterizado por pérdidas de grandes bancos y la continua amenaza de colapsos bancarios. La dimensión de la calamidad plantea el interrogante de si los países pequeños realmente pueden afrontar rescates bancarios.

Ahora bien, la definición de "pequeño" cambia permanentemente: hace unos meses, pequeño significaba Islandia, luego significó Irlanda y ahora significa Reino Unido. La secuela de la crisis bancaria exige pensar no sólo en la forma más apropiada de legislación bancaria, sino también en el tamaño apropiado del estado.

Siempre ha habido incertidumbre sobre el mejor diseño de un sistema bancario, y siempre ha habido competencia entre diferentes tipos de regulación bancaria. Por un lado, existe la idea -que definió a la banca durante gran parte de la historia norteamericana- de que los bancos deben estar próximos a los riesgos que deben juzgar. Ese ideal surgió de la lucha titánica de Andrew Jackson con Nicholas Biddle y el Second Bank of the United States. Se lo obligó al populismo a competir contra los financistas, y ganó el populismo. En consecuencia, la mayoría de los bancos norteamericanos del siglo XIX no tenían sucursales, y se circunscribían a un estado.

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