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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 3 No. 2 (Spring 1989)


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Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: Central Banking and Systemic Risks in Capital Markets

Article Citation

Brimmer, Andrew F. 1989. "Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: Central Banking and Systemic Risks in Capital Markets." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 3(2): 3-16.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.3.2.3


Bagehot's conception of the last resort lending function of the central bank is shared by most economists today. On several occasions, the Federal Reserve has digressed from its overall strategy of monetary control to also undertake a tactical rescue of individual banks and segments of the capital market. On three other occasions, the Federal Reserve has intervened to counter systemic risks to the financial system beyond the arena of commercial banks. The events which prompted these actions were the threat to the commercial paper market triggered by the bankruptcy of the Penn Central Railroad in June 1970, the pressures on broker-dealer firms generated by the collapse of speculation in silver in early 1980, and the near failure of the clearing and settlement systems operated by stock and commodity exchanges which occurred during the stock market crash of 1987. I was a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System during the Penn Central episode, and I shared in the decisions to intervene. As a Public Governor of the Commodity Exchange, I helped to formulate the policies applied during the silver speculation and in the aftermath of the stock market collapse. The discussion which follows draws on those experiences.

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Brimmer, Andrew F. (Unlisted)

JEL Classifications

311: Domestic Monetary Policy, Including All Central Banking Topics
313: Capital Markets--Empirical Studies, Including Regulation


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