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The central question of financial regulation in developed capitalist economies is whether government regulation of financial markets and institutions enables the financial system to operate more efficiently or alternatively obstructs or even counteracts that goal. The latter state of
affairs, labelled "moral hazard" by economists, is at the heart of current debates. This article argues that the financial system constitutes a public good essential to contemporary society, and that the recent global financial crisis has reopened political questions not seriously asked since
the 1970s and the onset of the "deregulation" paradigm, which treated financial markets and institutions as private goods. Without government rules, restrictions, and support, financial markets tend to be beset by monopolistic behaviour, excessive risk-taking, fraud, and periodic crises, thus
becoming even more inefficient. In this context, the concept of the "efficiency" of financial markets is contested too. Does it mean profit-making and "shareholder value" for market actors and institutions, as proposed by many economists, or does it mean the efficient reallocation of capital
and economic resources from investors to producers in ways that promote stable, continued, and equitable economic growth? Furthermore, the globalization of financial markets has made effective regulation infinitely more complex. This article surveys a number of core issue areas that cut across
diverse levels of governance, leading to some mixed and partially effective reregulation but also much scope for interest group politicking, regulatory arbitrage, regulatory capture, and regulatory fatigue.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: May 1, 2011
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The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.