Is Our Financial System Serving Us Well


Friedman, Benjamin M. 2010. “Is Our Financial System Serving Us Well.” Daedalus 139 (4): 9-21.


In 1772, at the height of Scotland's worst banking crisis in two generations, David Hume wrote to his close friend Adam Smith. After recounting the bank closures, industrial bankruptcies, spreading unemployment, and even growing "Suspicion" of the soundness of the Bank of England, Hume asked Smith, "Do these Events any-wise affect your Theory?". They certainly did. Smith's analysis of the role of banking in The Wealth of Nations, published just four years later, clearly reflected the lessons he took away from the 1772 crisis. In contrast to the doctrinaire antiregulatory ideology with which he is usually associated by today's economists, Smith favored such measures as usury laws-- specifically, no lending at interest rates above 5 percent - and restrictions on the obligations that banks could issue.


Published Fall 2010


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Last updated on 03/21/2013