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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: August 2009

9 - Lessons from the past



In 1999 the international capital market, although still not a perfect market by an economist's definition of the term, is certainly much broader and almost certainly more efficient than it was two and a half decades ago. In fact, its breadth and efficiency have caused a number of highly respectable economists to suggest arguments that almost certainly would, only recently, have been considered heresy: namely, that “perfection” carries with it some serious problems and that, at times, it may constitute a considerably less than perfect institutional structure. There have been financial crises in Mexico and Latin America in the early 1980s, and again in the mid-1990s. Since the mid-1990s the Japanese miracle has become a bad dream. In 1998 and 1999 a major Asian crisis – a crisis that has already begun to impact Brazil and threatens to engulf markets throughout the western world – has had a dramatic effect on the financial infrastructure of developing Asian countries, countries like Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Given these apparently continuing problems, could policy makers have learned anything from the history of the world's financial markets in the years leading up to World War I?