Contagion 1855: How the Crimean War Felled San Francisco’s Largest Banks

2019-02-09T14:50:11+00:00

When policymakers analyze banking crises, they often search for diagnostic clues in the specific environment in which they occurred. This paper analyzes the 1855 failures of the largest banks in Gold Rush San Francisco, arguing that the antecedents of those failures — excessive leverage, interlocking ownership, inadequate segregation of assets, and concentration of risk in non- banking enterprises — were independent of the monetary and economic regime in place at the time. Those antecedents exposed Gold Rush bankers to external risks originating in events in which they had no involvement, and over which they had no control. The external events that felled the largest banks in San Francisco emerged from the Crimean War.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”, 1854

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Banking without Banks

2018-04-13T13:41:37+00:00

In recent months, Dr. Tiemann has been conducting research into the socio-economic and banking history of the California Gold Rush. He plans to produce a series of articles and, possibly, a book from that work. In this article, though, Dr. Tiemann examines the fascinating period just before the Gold Rush, when California’s economy suffered a severe shortage of cash and an absence of banks. Read about William A. Leidesdorff, a San Francisco merchant in the 1840s, who dealt with those handicaps by becoming, in effect, his own banker.

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The New Industrial Policy

2018-04-03T14:57:47+00:00

Dr. Tiemann takes a look at three specific instances of actions relating to U.S. industry which suggest that Trump is making a dramatic shift in both the style and substance of national industrial policy and answers the question of what these say about the type of Industrial Policy we can expect to see out of the Trump Administration. (Click the image to read Dr. Tiemann’s viewpoint on this topic.)

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The Purpose of Monetary Policy

2018-04-03T14:32:56+00:00

The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to have one of its regularly-scheduled meetings with Fed Chair Janet Yellen making an announcement on interest rate policy.  Most observers expect the Fed to leave short-term interest rates unchanged for now, but the FOMC’s likely actions in the near future could be to raise rates.  Dr. Tiemann reviews the purpose of Monetary Policy in the context of the functioning of our banking system, the history, thinking and goals that animate the Fed’s actions.

Tom Brady’s Victory Pumps up Organized Labor

2015-12-14T20:09:19+00:00

Overturning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s imposition of a four-game suspension on Patriots uber-star quarterback Tom Brady provides organized labor with a bigger gain from the ruling than Patriots fans received.  Leaders of organized labor should see in the ruling a strengthening of both the role of collective bargaining agreements and protections for workers facing arbitrary and capricious workplace disciplinary action. The Patriots’ apparent use of under-inflated footballs nevertheless pumps up existing collective bargaining principles and protective statutes in employment law. Read more at the link.

Why the Debt Ceiling Debate Matters

2018-04-04T12:48:43+00:00

US Congressional hardliners have been threatening not to raise the debt limit again.  They may not understand how central US Treasury securities are to the US and global monetary and banking system.  Dr. Tiemann explains the importance of raising the debt ceiling and the catastrophic consequences that could result from a failure by Congress to act in a timely manner.

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Is Bond Market Liquidity Really Falling?

2018-04-04T12:53:43+00:00

In this note, Dr. Tiemann analyzes the assertion that Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, passed in the aftermath of the financial crisis, has contributed to a decline in the liquidity in the bond market.  Dodd-Frank set out to moderate the risks that banks might take with their balance sheets but Wall Street has tried to argue that the law’s restrictions impair the profitability of bond dealing, resulting in declining liquidity of the bond market and therefore could cause a market disruption.  Dr. Tiemann utilizes the underlying data of bond trading before and after to evaluate Wall Street’s assertion and used the show boxplot to show how bond trading liquidity has increased since Dodd-Frank was implemented.

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The Irony of Bitcoin

2018-04-04T13:09:37+00:00

Dr. Tiemann reviews how Bitcoin, the new “crypto-currency,” works and shows that, while designed to not require the participation of banks or other trusted financial intermediaries, nevertheless, Bitcoin does require a form of verification that can be established by ordinary people, which is not yet available.

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Competition

2018-04-04T13:14:06+00:00

Dr. Tiemann’s note on market competition. He writes: “It’s an attempt to dig a little deeper than the stylized models we study in economics courses, and think a bit about how competition operates in the real economy.”

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