Too Big To Be Allowed to Exist?

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My generic view of regulations, is that we ought to try to have fewer, but clearer and perhaps harsher. You want regulations that can’t be gamed by the regulated and don’t depend on hubristic assumptions about what the regulators are actually going to do in practice.

To that end, what’s the deal with banks that are too big to fail?

If we can identify such banks, why not try to make a rule preventing banks from becoming that big? As a tradeoff, banks that rested in the small-enough-to-fail category could be allowed to operate with much, much laxer oversight and regulation since everyone would understand that if they fail they’re going to sink. Presumably, there are some efficiency gains associated with the economies of scale involved in big financial institutions. But there would also be efficiency gains associated with relaxing the regulations on financial institutions. And the only reasonable way to seriously relax those regulations would be to commit to a no-bailouts scenario. But to do that, we need to make sure the banks aren’t too big to fail. So why not focus the regulatory effort on that — on making sure that institutions don’t get so big that they need bailing out?