Taming the Two 800 Pound Gorillas in the Room

29 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2017

See all articles by Charles W. Calomiris

Charles W. Calomiris

Columbia University - Columbia Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 1, 2017


The protection of bank debt and the targeting of risk-promoting mortgage subsidies are the primary sources of systemic risk in banking systems around the world. These two threats are related. Deposit insurance and other bank protection creates rents outside the normal budgetary process that funds and encourages risk taking. Governments create these rents not just to reward bankers, but also to target credit subsidies to preferred groups of borrowers. In recent decades worldwide real estate lending has been increasingly favored. Tackling the twin problems of excessive protection of banks and subsidization of housing finance risk with macro-prudential regulation is difficult because the agencies charged with regulatory oversight are subject to the political influences that give rise to these two "gorillas" in the first place. Furthermore, the incentives of economists tend to make them accomplices in the drama that underestimates the importance of these primary threats to systemic stability.

Keywords: Safety nets, banking crises, deposit insurance, housing finance subsidization, moral hazard

JEL Classification: G21, G28

Suggested Citation

Calomiris, Charles W., Taming the Two 800 Pound Gorillas in the Room (February 1, 2017). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 17-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2909846 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2909846

Charles W. Calomiris (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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