Eugene White, one of the leading financial historians in the United States, discusses how history can shed light on the current debates about banking regulation. Stressing the difference between 19th and 20th century financial crises, he explains the causes of financial crashes, the legacy of the Glass Steagall act, as well as the future of banking.
Eugene N. White is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at Rutgers University, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). He is currently a member of the Centennial Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve (the central bank of the United States). In addtion to his work on U.S. financial history, he has written extensively on France’s economic history, ranging from the economics of the French Revolution to the costs of the Nazi occupation of France and Gaullist international monetary diplomacy. His books include The Regulation and Reform of the American Banking System, 1900 1929, (Princeton University Press, 1983) ; Conflicts of Interest in the Financial Services Industry: What Should We Do About Them? (CEPR, 2003, co-authored with Andrew Crockett, Trevor Harris and Frederic Mishkin.) ; The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, (Chicago University Press, 1998, editor with M. Bordo and C. Goldin) ; and Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective (Chicago University Press, 2014, with Kenneth Snowden and Price Fishback ). He is also the co-editor of the CIF Series in Financial and Economic History (Yale University Press). He has published more than 60 articles on stock market booms and crashes, deposit insurance, banking regulation, and war economics. In addition to his current work on nineteenth century French financial crises with Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur and Angelo Riva, he written about real estate and stock market booms and busts, bank regulation and supervision, and the evolution of the microstructure of the New York and Paris stock exchanges.
In this interview he answers the following questions:
1) What makes the current financial and banking crisis so different from previous historical crises ?
2) Are greed and myopic human behaviors the main causes of financial troubles?
3) What can we learn from past banking regulations ?
4) What were the main policy mistakes before and after the crisis ?
5) What should be done today ?
6) Why is your work on the 1889 French financial crisis interesting for current debates?
7) How do you see the future of banking?