No, Virginia, nothing is really risk free

The financial world confronts us with ineluctable uncertainty and risk. Its future is unknowable, not only for borrowers, lenders, and investors, but also for governments and central banks. No matter how hard anyone might try, risk cannot be made to disappear; it can only be moved around.

People all over the world long for their bank deposits to be risk free. Governments attempt to satisfy this longing by creating deposit insurance and by bailing out depositors and other creditors of failed banks. Of course, as in Cyprus this year, the government itself may be broke. Historically speaking, this is a common occurrence: there have been more than 250 defaults on government debt since 1800, up to the notorious defaults by Argentina in 2002 and Greece in 2012, which gives us a long-term average of about one default on government debt per year.

Governments constantly strive to promote “confidence” in the banking system, whether or not such confidence is warranted. They wish to induce what we might call “deposit illusion” — that the safety of deposits is unrelated to the soundness of the banks’ assets. But the inescapable fact is that deposits fund banking assets, which are inherently very risky, and these assets are subject to periodic losses which are unexpected and of magnitudes previously not even thought possible.

Read the full text of the article on The American.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Alex J.
Pollock

What's new on AEI

Rebuilding American defense: A speech by Governor Bobby Jindal
image Smelling liberal, thinking conservative
image Stopping Ebola before it turns into a pandemic
image All too many reasons for pessimism about Europe
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Event Registration is Closed
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.