The Big Con – Reassessing the "Great" Recession and its "Fix"
Most economists differ, not on the causes of the Great Recession, but on their relative importance. They concur, though, on the basic problem, namely human, not market failure. This study applies the evidence, some new, some old, to re-try the usual suspects. It finds none guilty. Instead, it identifies broadly defined multiple equilibrium, mediated by opacity, false rumors, and panic, as the real culprit. There are many models of bank runs. But each can trigger firing runs – firing someone else’s customers for fear that others are firing your customers. Firing runs, in turn, exacerbate bank runs, producing a vicious cycle. This cycle can be manipulated by those who benefit from economic distress (short sellers). If the banking system, not the banking players is the problem, the solution surely lies in fundamental banking reform. This paper concludes by pointing out that a reform that shifted to 100 percent, equity-financed mutual-fund banking with government-organized, real-time asset verification and disclosure could preclude financial runs and their ability to induce firing runs.
I thank Boston University for research support. This article is forthcoming in Ten Years After the 2008 International Financial Crisis, a special Issue of Acta Oeconomica, Peter Mihályi, ed. 2019. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.