Northern Rock and moral hazard
People have been blethering on about the ‘moral hazard’ created by government deposit insurance for banks. Unfortunately, they’re idiots.
Deposit insurance *does not* encourage financial institutions’ shareholders to invest in risky assets, because it doesn’t prevent the shares from losing all their value when the risky assets go tits-up and the company goes bust. Since shareholder liability is limited to the value of their shares, there is no difference whatsoever for shareholders between a bank that goes bust losing its depositors all their money, and a bank that goes bust but whose depositors are baled out.
Providing deposit insurance simply means that the grannies who’re getting 5% a year on their life savings don’t need to become financial analysts to work out whether it’s safe to leave their money in (what they still think of as) the building society…