Moritz Schularick is professor of economics at the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Free University of Berlin, Germany. He has also been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and worked in the financial industry for several years. His current work focuses on credit cycles, the determinants of financial crises, and the international monetary system. Together with Niall Ferguson, he coined the term “Chimerica” to describe the intimate financial relations between the United States and China. Working at the crossroads of monetary and international economics as well as economic history, his contributions can be found in the American Economic Review, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Economic Growth, the Journal of Economic History, and several other journals.
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In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, few would dispute the risks of excessive borrowing. But which debts should one worry about – public or private? This column presents new research on the interplay of public and private debts since 1870 in 17 advanced economies. History demonstrates that excessive private-sector borrowing plays a greater role than fiscal profligacy in generating financial instability. However, when the credit boom collapses, the government’s capacity to alleviate the downturn is limited by the prevailing level of public debt.
This paper tracks the development of sectoral saving and borrowing in the US economy over the past 50 years.
Taking a long‐run view from economic history, I make three points about instability in financial markets. First, I argue that economic historians have a relatively good understanding of the proximate causes of financial crises.