It Takes a Village to Maintain a Dangerous Financial System

Anat R. Admati
Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
May, 2016

Abstract: I discuss the motivations and actions (or inaction) of individuals in the financial system, governments, central banks, academia and the media that collectively contribute to the persistence of a dangerous and distorted financial system and inadequate, poorly designed regulations. Reassurances that regulators are doing their best to protect the public are false. The underlying problem is a powerful mix of distorted incentives, ignorance, confusion, and lack of accountability. Willful blindness seems to play a role in flawed claims by the system’s enablers that obscure reality and muddle the policy debate.


“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse a child.”

The financial system is meant to facilitate efficient allocation of resources and help people and businesses fund, invest, save and mange risks. This system is rife with conflicts of interests. Reckless practices, if uncontrolled by market forces and effective rules, can cause great harm. Most of the time, however, the harm from excessive risk in banking is invisible and the culprits remain unaccountable. They rarely violate the law. In this chapter I focus on the excessive use of debt in banking that creates unnecessary fragility and distortions. The Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2009 exposed the ineffectiveness of the relevant regulations in place at the time. Yet even now and despite the crisis, the rules remain inadequate and flawed. Policymakers who repeatedly fail to protect the public are not accountable partly because false claims obscure reality, create confusion and muddle the debate.

Full paper available here…