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Throughout much of the twentieth century, economists paid little heed to the role of financial intermediaries in procuring a beneficial allocation of capital. By the end of the century, however, some financial historians had begun to turn the tide, and the phrase 'finance-growth nexus' became part of the lexicon of modern economics. Recent experience has added another dimension in that countries with broader, deeper and more active financial systems might be prone to financial crises, particularly if regulatory structures are inadequate. In this book, Peter L. Rousseau and Paul Wachtel have gathered together some of today's most distinguished financial historians to examine this finance-growth nexus from both historical and modern perspectives. Some essays examine the nexus in a particular historical or cross-country context. Others, in the light of recent experience, explore the expanded nexus of finance, growth, crises, and regulation.
We trace directors through time and across firms to study whether acquirers’ access to nonpublic information about potential targets via their directors’ past board service histories affects the market for corporate control. In a sample of publicly traded U.S. firms, we find acquirers about 4.5 times more likely to buy firms where their directors once served. Effects are stronger when the acquirer has better corporate governance, the interlocked director has a larger ownership stake at the acquirer, or the director played an important role during past service. The findings are robust to endogeneity of board composition and controls for contemporaneous interfirm interlocks.
Studies have shown a connection between finance and growth, but most do not consider how financial and real factors interact to put a virtuous cycle of economic development into motion. As the main transportation advance of the nineteenth century, railroads connected established commercial centers and made unsettled areas along their routes better candidates for development. We measure the strength of links between railroads and banks in seven Midwest states using an annual transportation geographic information system (GIS) database linked to a census of banking. These data indicate that those counties that already had a bank were more likely to see their first railroad go through over the next decade, while new banks tended to enter a county a year or two after a railroad was built. The initial banking system thus helped establish the rail system, while the rapid expansion of railroads helped fill in the banking map of the American Midwest.
The rapid growth of deposits in New York over the late nineteenth century is often attributed to the release of pent-up demand for transactions services. I advance a complementary explanation that emphasizes the market for bank shares. The stock market was important because it generated quotations that signaled depositors about the condition of individual banks as innovations in banking practices allowed confidence to grow. A new database of prices, dividends, and balance sheet items for traded banks and a series of dynamic panel models show that fluctuations in bank prices influenced the course of the expansion.
John Boyd and Bruce Champ have put together a very useful survey of the literature on inflation and the real economy and have produced some empirical updates and refinements. The basic lesson, which is sensible, is that inflation is bad. Theory offers good intuition as to why that should be the case. Mainly, inflation can have a direct impact on the optimization strategies of economic agents. For instance, banks may alter their incentives to lend as the opportunity cost of money changes with inflation. Similarly, firms may modify their choice between using internally generated funds or external sources to finance new capital investments. That, in turn, may have an additional impact on banks' decision making because banks perceive a modification in the quality distribution of prospective entrepreneurs.
I offer a main point of discussion. This should not be read as a criticism of Boyd and Champ but as an observation on possible directions to improve the current literature. Boyd and Champ state that their main objective is to increase mutual awareness between theorists and applied economists. The underlying text of their comment is that perhaps theory and empirical analysis of inflation have proceeded in an independent fashion, and this may have limited the scope of the results attained so far. I agree fully with this characterization, and I dare to add that perhaps theorists have been ahead of the game in this particular line of research.