The History and Economics of Safe Assets
Posted: 14 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 2017
Safe assets play a critical role in an(y) economy. A safe asset is an asset that is (almost always) valued at face value without expensive and prolonged analysis. By design, there is no benefit to producing (private) information about its value, and this is common knowledge. Consequently, agents need not fear adverse selection when buying or selling safe assets. Safe assets can be easily used to exchange for goods or services or for another asset. These short-term safe assets can be money or money-like. A long-term safe asset can store value over time or be used as collateral. Much of human history can be written in terms of the search for and production of safe assets. But the most prevalent, privately produced short-term safe assets, bank debts, are subject to runs, and this has important implications for macroeconomics and for monetary policy.
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