Skip to Content
OpenStax Logo
Principles of Macroeconomics for AP® Courses

14.2 Bank Regulation

Principles of Macroeconomics for AP® Courses14.2 Bank Regulation
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Welcome to Economics!
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Is Economics, and Why Is It Important?
    3. 1.2 Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
    4. 1.3 How Economists Use Theories and Models to Understand Economic Issues
    5. 1.4 How Economies Can Be Organized: An Overview of Economic Systems
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
  3. 2 Choice in a World of Scarcity
    1. Introduction to Choice in a World of Scarcity
    2. 2.1 How Individuals Make Choices Based on Their Budget Constraint
    3. 2.2 The Production Possibilities Frontier and Social Choices
    4. 2.3 Confronting Objections to the Economic Approach
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  4. 3 Demand and Supply
    1. Introduction to Demand and Supply
    2. 3.1 Demand, Supply, and Equilibrium in Markets for Goods and Services
    3. 3.2 Shifts in Demand and Supply for Goods and Services
    4. 3.3 Changes in Equilibrium Price and Quantity: The Four-Step Process
    5. 3.4 Price Ceilings and Price Floors
    6. 3.5 Demand, Supply and Efficiency
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  5. 4 Labor and Financial Markets
    1. Introduction to Labor and Financial Markets
    2. 4.1 Demand and Supply at Work in Labor Markets
    3. 4.2 Demand and Supply in Financial Markets
    4. 4.3 The Market System as an Efficient Mechanism for Information
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  6. 5 The Macroeconomic Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Macroeconomic Perspective
    2. 5.1 Measuring the Size of the Economy: Gross Domestic Product
    3. 5.2 Adjusting Nominal Values to Real Values
    4. 5.3 Tracking Real GDP over Time
    5. 5.4 Comparing GDP among Countries
    6. 5.5 How Well GDP Measures the Well-Being of Society
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  7. 6 Economic Growth
    1. Introduction to Economic Growth
    2. 6.1 The Relatively Recent Arrival of Economic Growth
    3. 6.2 Labor Productivity and Economic Growth
    4. 6.3 Components of Economic Growth
    5. 6.4 Economic Convergence
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  8. 7 Unemployment
    1. Introduction to Unemployment
    2. 7.1 How the Unemployment Rate Is Defined and Computed
    3. 7.2 Patterns of Unemployment
    4. 7.3 What Causes Changes in Unemployment over the Short Run
    5. 7.4 What Causes Changes in Unemployment over the Long Run
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  9. 8 Inflation
    1. Introduction to Inflation
    2. 8.1 Tracking Inflation
    3. 8.2 How Changes in the Cost of Living Are Measured
    4. 8.3 How the U.S. and Other Countries Experience Inflation
    5. 8.4 The Confusion Over Inflation
    6. 8.5 Indexing and Its Limitations
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  10. 9 The International Trade and Capital Flows
    1. Introduction to the International Trade and Capital Flows
    2. 9.1 Measuring Trade Balances
    3. 9.2 Trade Balances in Historical and International Context
    4. 9.3 Trade Balances and Flows of Financial Capital
    5. 9.4 The National Saving and Investment Identity
    6. 9.5 The Pros and Cons of Trade Deficits and Surpluses
    7. 9.6 The Difference between Level of Trade and the Trade Balance
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Problems
  11. 10 The Aggregate Demand/Aggregate Supply Model
    1. Introduction to the Aggregate Demand/Aggregate Supply Model
    2. 10.1 Macroeconomic Perspectives on Demand and Supply
    3. 10.2 Building a Model of Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply
    4. 10.3 Shifts in Aggregate Supply
    5. 10.4 Shifts in Aggregate Demand
    6. 10.5 How the AD/AS Model Incorporates Growth, Unemployment, and Inflation
    7. 10.6 Keynes’ Law and Say’s Law in the AD/AS Model
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Problems
  12. 11 The Keynesian Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Keynesian Perspective
    2. 11.1 Aggregate Demand in Keynesian Analysis
    3. 11.2 The Building Blocks of Keynesian Analysis
    4. 11.3 The Expenditure-Output (or Keynesian Cross) Model
    5. 11.4 The Phillips Curve
    6. 11.5 The Keynesian Perspective on Market Forces
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
  13. 12 The Neoclassical Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Neoclassical Perspective
    2. 12.1 The Building Blocks of Neoclassical Analysis
    3. 12.2 The Policy Implications of the Neoclassical Perspective
    4. 12.3 Balancing Keynesian and Neoclassical Models
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  14. 13 Money and Banking
    1. Introduction to Money and Banking
    2. 13.1 Defining Money by Its Functions
    3. 13.2 Measuring Money: Currency, M1, and M2
    4. 13.3 The Role of Banks
    5. 13.4 How Banks Create Money
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  15. 14 Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation
    1. Introduction to Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation
    2. 14.1 The Federal Reserve Banking System and Central Banks
    3. 14.2 Bank Regulation
    4. 14.3 How a Central Bank Executes Monetary Policy
    5. 14.4 Monetary Policy and Economic Outcomes
    6. 14.5 Pitfalls for Monetary Policy
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  16. 15 Exchange Rates and International Capital Flows
    1. Introduction to Exchange Rates and International Capital Flows
    2. 15.1 How the Foreign Exchange Market Works
    3. 15.2 Demand and Supply Shifts in Foreign Exchange Markets
    4. 15.3 Macroeconomic Effects of Exchange Rates
    5. 15.4 Exchange Rate Policies
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  17. 16 Government Budgets and Fiscal Policy
    1. Introduction to Government Budgets and Fiscal Policy
    2. 16.1 Government Spending
    3. 16.2 Taxation
    4. 16.3 Federal Deficits and the National Debt
    5. 16.4 Using Fiscal Policy to Fight Recession, Unemployment, and Inflation
    6. 16.5 Automatic Stabilizers
    7. 16.6 Practical Problems with Discretionary Fiscal Policy
    8. 16.7 The Question of a Balanced Budget
    9. Key Terms
    10. Key Concepts and Summary
    11. Self-Check Questions
    12. Review Questions
    13. Critical Thinking Questions
    14. Problems
  18. 17 The Impacts of Government Borrowing
    1. Introduction to the Impacts of Government Borrowing
    2. 17.1 How Government Borrowing Affects Investment and the Trade Balance
    3. 17.2 Fiscal Policy, Investment, and Economic Growth
    4. 17.3 How Government Borrowing Affects Private Saving
    5. 17.4 Fiscal Policy and the Trade Balance
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  19. 18 Macroeconomic Policy Around the World
    1. Introduction to Macroeconomic Policy around the World
    2. 18.1 The Diversity of Countries and Economies across the World
    3. 18.2 Improving Countries’ Standards of Living
    4. 18.3 Causes of Unemployment around the World
    5. 18.4 Causes of Inflation in Various Countries and Regions
    6. 18.5 Balance of Trade Concerns
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  20. A | The Use of Mathematics in Principles of Economics
  21. B | Indifference Curves
  22. C | Present Discounted Value
  23. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
  24. References
  25. Index

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the relationship between bank regulation and monetary policy
  • Explain bank supervision
  • Explain how deposit insurance and lender of last resort are two strategies to protect against bank runs

A safe and stable national financial system is a critical concern of the Federal Reserve. The goal is not only to protect individuals’ savings, but to protect the integrity of the financial system itself. This esoteric task is usually behind the scenes, but came into view during the 2008–2009 financial crisis, when for a brief period of time, critical parts of the financial system failed and firms became unable to obtain financing for ordinary parts of their business. Imagine if suddenly you were unable to access the money in your bank accounts because your checks were not accepted for payment and your debit cards were declined. This gives an idea of what a failure of the payments/financial system is like.

Bank regulation is intended to maintain the solvency of banks by avoiding excessive risk. Regulation falls into a number of categories, including reserve requirements, capital requirements, and restrictions on the types of investments banks may make. In Money and Banking, we learned that banks are required to hold a minimum percentage of their deposits on hand as reserves. “On hand” is a bit of a misnomer because, while a portion of bank reserves are held as cash in the bank, the majority are held in the bank’s account at the Federal Reserve, and their purpose is to cover desired withdrawals by depositors. Another part of bank regulation is restrictions on the types of investments banks are allowed to make. Banks are allowed to make loans to businesses, individuals, and other banks. They are allowed to purchase U.S. Treasury securities but, to protect depositors, they are not permitted to invest in the stock market or other assets that are perceived as too risky.

Bank capital is the difference between a bank’s assets and its liabilities. In other words, it is a bank’s net worth. A bank must have positive net worth; otherwise it is insolvent or bankrupt, meaning it would not have enough assets to pay back its liabilities. Regulation requires that banks maintain a minimum net worth, usually expressed as a percent of their assets, to protect their depositors and other creditors.

Link It Up

Visit this website to read the brief article, “Stop Confusing Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation.”

QR Code representing a URL

Bank Supervision

Several government agencies monitor the balance sheets of banks to make sure they have positive net worth and are not taking too high a level of risk. Within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has a national staff of bank examiners who conduct on-site reviews of the 1,500 or so of the largest national banks. The bank examiners also review any foreign banks that have branches in the United States. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also monitors and regulates about 800 savings and loan institutions.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) supervises credit unions, which are nonprofit banks owned and run by their members. There are over 6,000 credit unions in the U.S. economy, though the typical credit union is small compared to most banks.

The Federal Reserve also has some responsibility for supervising financial institutions. For example, conglomerate firms that own banks and other businesses are called “bank holding companies.” While other regulators like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency supervises the banks, the Federal Reserve supervises the holding companies.

When the supervision of banks (and bank-like institutions such as savings and loans and credit unions) works well, most banks will remain financially healthy most of the time. If the bank supervisors find that a bank has low or negative net worth, or is making too high a proportion of risky loans, they can require that the bank change its behavior—or, in extreme cases, even force the bank to be closed or sold to a financially healthy bank.

Bank supervision can run into both practical and political questions. The practical question is that measuring the value of a bank’s assets is not always straightforward. As discussed in Money and Banking, a bank’s assets are its loans, and the value of these assets depends on estimates about the risk that these loans will not be repaid. These issues can become even more complex when a bank makes loans to banks or firms in other countries, or arranges financial deals that are much more complex than a basic loan.

The political question arises because the decision by a bank supervisor to require a bank to close or to change its financial investments is often controversial, and the bank supervisor often comes under political pressure from the owners of the bank and the local politicians to keep quiet and back off.

For example, many observers have pointed out that Japan’s banks were in deep financial trouble through most of the 1990s; however, nothing substantial had been done about it by the early 2000s. A similar unwillingness to confront problems with struggling banks is visible across the rest of the world, in East Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia, and elsewhere.

In the United States, laws were passed in the 1990s requiring that bank supervisors make their findings open and public, and that they act as soon as a problem is identified. However, as many U.S. banks were staggered by the recession of 2008–2009, critics of the bank regulators asked pointed questions about why the regulators had not foreseen the financial shakiness of the banks earlier, before such large losses had a chance to accumulate.

Bank Runs

Back in the nineteenth century and during the first few decades of the twentieth century (around and during the Great Depression), putting your money in a bank could be nerve-wracking. Imagine that the net worth of your bank became negative, so that the bank’s assets were not enough to cover its liabilities. In this situation, whoever withdrew their deposits first received all of their money, and those who did not rush to the bank quickly enough, lost their money. Depositors racing to the bank to withdraw their deposits, as shown in Figure 14.4 is called a bank run. In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, the bank manager, played by Jimmy Stewart, faces a mob of worried bank depositors who want to withdraw their money, but manages to allay their fears by allowing some of them to withdraw a portion of their deposits—using the money from his own pocket that was supposed to pay for his honeymoon.

This image is a photograph of people lining up outside of a bank in hopes of withdrawing their funds during the Great Depression.
Figure 14.4 A Run on the Bank Bank runs during the Great Depression only served to worsen the economic situation. (Credit: National Archives and Records Administration)

The risk of bank runs created instability in the banking system. Even a rumor that a bank might experience negative net worth could trigger a bank run and, in a bank run, even healthy banks could be destroyed. Because a bank loans out most of the money it receives, and because it keeps only limited reserves on hand, a bank run of any size would quickly drain any of the bank’s available cash. When the bank had no cash remaining, it only intensified the fears of remaining depositors that they could lose their money. Moreover, a bank run at one bank often triggered a chain reaction of runs on other banks. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, bank runs were typically not the original cause of a recession—but they could make a recession much worse.

Deposit Insurance

To protect against bank runs, Congress has put two strategies into place: deposit insurance and the lender of last resort. Deposit insurance is an insurance system that makes sure depositors in a bank do not lose their money, even if the bank goes bankrupt. About 70 countries around the world, including all of the major economies, have deposit insurance programs. In the United States, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is responsible for deposit insurance. Banks pay an insurance premium to the FDIC. The insurance premium is based on the bank’s level of deposits, and then adjusted according to the riskiness of a bank’s financial situation. In 2009, for example, a fairly safe bank with a high net worth might have paid 10–20 cents in insurance premiums for every $100 in bank deposits, while a risky bank with very low net worth might have paid 50–60 cents for every $100 in bank deposits.

Bank examiners from the FDIC evaluate the balance sheets of banks, looking at the value of assets and liabilities, to determine the level of riskiness. The FDIC provides deposit insurance for about 6,509 banks (as of the end of 2014). Even if a bank fails, the government guarantees that depositors will receive up to $250,000 of their money in each account, which is enough for almost all individuals, although not sufficient for many businesses. Since the United States enacted deposit insurance in the 1930s, no one has lost any of their insured deposits. Bank runs no longer happen at insured banks.

Lender of Last Resort

The problem with bank runs is not that insolvent banks will fail; they are, after all, bankrupt and need to be shut down. The problem is that bank runs can cause solvent banks to fail and spread to the rest of the financial system. To prevent this, the Fed stands ready to lend to banks and other financial institutions when they cannot obtain funds from anywhere else. This is known as the lender of last resort role. For banks, the central bank acting as a lender of last resort helps to reinforce the effect of deposit insurance and to reassure bank customers that they will not lose their money.

The lender of last resort task can come up in other financial crises, as well. During the panic of the stock market crash in 1987, when the value of U.S. stocks fell by 25% in a single day, the Federal Reserve made a number of short-term emergency loans so that the financial system could keep functioning. During the recession of 2008–2009, the “quantitative easing” policies (discussed below) of the Federal Reserve can be interpreted as a willingness to make short-term credit available as needed in a time when the banking and financial system was under stress.

Citation/Attribution

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book is Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/principles-macroeconomics-ap-courses/pages/1-introduction
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/principles-macroeconomics-ap-courses/pages/1-introduction
Citation information

© Oct 23, 2020 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.