Why do we need a financial sector?

Moderator:  Wouter den Haan

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Lead Commentaries

Wouter den Haan, Vincent Sterk, 08 November 2011

Financial institutions played a leading role in the global crisis, and policymakers are under pressure to do something about them. This column argues that before any draconian measures are passed, we need to be reminded of the benefits of the financial sector and the innovation it provides.

Wouter den Haan, 24 October 2011

This column launches a new Vox Debate titled “Why do we need a financial sector and how much should we pay for it”. The column argues standard measures of the financial sector’s economic contribution overestimate its true value to a modern economy. As such, regulation that makes it more difficult for the sector to perform some activities is not necessarily a bad thing.

While few would argue that the financial crisis has not brought the real economy down with it, there is considerably less clarity about what the positive contribution of the financial sector is during normal times. This lead commentary in the current Vox debate on the issue focuses on the value-added of risk and government subsidies in national accounting, and makes an important distinction between risk-taking and risk management.

Charles A.E. Goodhart, 31 October 2011

As protestors occupy Wall Street and financial centres around the world, among the grievances are “socially useless” investment banks. This column argues, however, that investment banking is critical to any effective economy – the idea that policymakers can safeguard retail banking alone is not only tragically mistaken but also horribly dangerous.

Thomas Philippon, 02 December 2011

Has the financial industry become less efficient? This lead commentary in the Vox debate on the financial sector argues that, despite all of its fast computers and credit derivatives, the current financial system is no better at transferring funds from savers to borrowers than the financial system of 1910.

Alexander Popov, Frank Smets, 03 November 2011

Well-developed financial systems play a crucial role in stimulating growth but are associated with more frequent financial shocks and higher macroeconomic risk, as the financial crisis of 2007–09 reminded us. This column argues that the goal of financial regulation must be to reduce systemic risk without eliminating the financial sector’s contribution to long-term economic growth.

Christina Wang, 08 December 2011

The financial system is like an organ in the body of the economy. But is it the heart or the appendix? This column, part of the Vox Debate on whether we need a financial sector, argues that we should measure the value banks create through their management of risk, not simply their bearing of risk. Under this measure, banks may well be less valuable to the economy.