Journal of Financial Services Research

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 1–27 | Cite as

Robust Political Economy and the Lender of Last Resort

  • Alexander William SalterEmail author


Of the leading versions of lender of last resort policy, which is to be preferred in a world of realistic incentive and information imperfections? The three most prominent versions of lender of last resort policy are: the Classical system of central bank lending on good collateral at a penalty rate, the Richmond Federal Reserve system of open market operations to prevent liquidity drains, and the New York Federal Reserve system of commitment to taking any and all action necessary to prevent the spread of financial contagion. We compare these policies to the mechanisms that developed in free banking systems. Free banking systems had no formal lender of last resort, but instead developed institutions that lessened the possibility of systemic panic in the first place. We find that free banking weakly dominates the Classical system. Free banking also outperforms the New York Fed and Richmond Fed systems on the incentive margin, but is weaker on the information margin. In addition, the paper discusses how the New York Fed doctrine is the only stable activist policy, since the limited responses necessitated by the Classical and Richmond Fed policies are not credible.


Bagehot Free banking Incentives Information Monetary institutions New York Fed Private clearinghouses Richmond Fed Robust political economy 

JEL Classification

E52 E58 P16 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berry CollegeMount BerryUSA

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