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Two Views of Finance

WASHINGTON, DC – The International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings will be held on October 10-12 in Washington DC, and the world’s financial sector is a central item on the agenda. That will make for an interesting meeting, because two diametrically opposed views of the global financial system will face off against each other.

The first view is that “we have done a lot” since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008. According to this view, which is put forward on a regular basis by some US Treasury officials and their European counterparts, there may be a bit more to do in terms of implementing reforms, but our banks and other financial firms have already become much safer. The crisis of 2008 cannot soon be repeated.

The second view is that we are a long way from completing the far-reaching changes that we need. Even worse, on at least one key point, the very language used among policymakers and leading journalists to describe finance is badly broken.

The issues are complex and nuances abound, but much of what divides the two sides in this debate comes down to this: Is it acceptable to say that banks “hold” capital?