Jeffrey A. Mironmiron@fas.harvard.edu
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f banks can suspend convertibility, depositors know that runs merely precipitate suspension. This greatly reduces depositor incentive to panic and run. Allowing banks the right to suspend would probably not eliminate all runs, but it would plausibly limit them to banks that are insolvent rather than merely illiquid. The question, then, is whether a banking system with less regulation--no prohibition on suspension and no deposit insurance--might work better than current regulation--prohibitions on suspension, combined with deposit insurance and balance-sheet regulation. The evidence from the pre-1914 era suggests that the regime with less regulation has promise. Banks were not legally allowed to suspend convertibility during this era, but many did so anyway, sometimes with explicit approval of, or even encouragement from, regulators. This did not eliminate runs and panics, but the record suggests that suspension reduced contagion and failure in these episodes.