The Unending Deposit Insurance Mess

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Science  27 Oct 1989:
Vol. 246, Issue 4929, pp. 451-456
DOI: 10.1126/science.246.4929.451


The thrift institution deposit insurance mess is rooted in defects in political and bureaucratic accountability. Under existing incentives, covering up evidence of poor regulatory performance and relaxing binding capital requirements are rational governmental responses to widespread industry insolvency. Similarly, aggressive industry risk taking is a rational response by thrift managers to regulatory forbearances. Far from acknowledging these incentive defects, the Bush plan for cleaning up the mess adopts theories that spotlight other causes: specifically, poor thrift management and the deregulation of thrift institution activities and of deposit interest rates. To end the mess, politicians and regulators must jettison these comfortable theories and surrender discretion that permits them to finesse the need to budget for governmental financial commitments.

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