Banking Theory and Banking Practice in Antebellum America

Howard Bodenhorn

in State Banking in Early America

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780195147766
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199832910 | DOI:
Banking Theory and Banking Practice in Antebellum America

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Modern theories of financial intermediation begin from the premise that small, young firms, due to information asymmetries, will not have access to arm's length markets in bonds and commercial paper. Small and young firms must rely on financial intermediaries, principally banks, with whom these firms form long‐run relationships. Modern theory stands in contrast to the dominant contemporary theory of banking practice; namely, the real‐bills doctrine. Banks that followed the doctrine loaned only to established businesses with impeccable reputations. Had early American bankers adhered to the doctrine, they would not have been the engines of growth that they actually became. Banks mattered because they encouraged entrepreneurship by being entrepreneurial themselves.

Keywords: asymmetric information; banks; bonds; commercial paper; entrepreneurship; financial intermediation; firms; long‐run relationships; real‐bills doctrine; reputation

Chapter.  11586 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic History

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