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Economic History

The Road to the Future

In this book Takeo Hoshi and Anil Kashyap examine the history of the Japanese financial system, from its nineteenth-century beginnings through the collapse of the 1990s that concluded with sweeping reforms. Combining financial theory with new data and original case studies, they show why the Japanese financial system developed as it did and how its history affects its ongoing evolution.

The authors describe four major periods within Japan's financial history and speculate on the fifth, into which Japan is now moving. Throughout, they focus on four questions: How do households hold their savings? How is business financing provided? What range of services do banks provide? And what is the nature and extent of bank involvement in the management of firms? The answers provide a framework for analyzing the history of the past 150 years, as well as implications of the just-completed reforms known as the "Japanese Big Bang."

Hoshi and Kashyap show that the largely successful era of bank dominance in postwar Japan is over, largely because deregulation has exposed the banks to competition from capital markets and foreign competitors. The banks are destined to shrink as households change their savings patterns and their customers continue to migrate to new funding sources. Securities markets are set to re-emerge as central to corporate finance and governance.

Old Ideas and New Tools

The "oligopoly problem"—the question of how prices are formed when the market contains only a few competitors—is one of the more persistent problems in the history of economic thought. In this book Xavier Vives applies a modern game-theoretic approach to develop a theory of oligopoly pricing.

Vives begins by relating classic contributions to the field—including those of Cournot, Bertrand, Edgeworth, Chamberlin, and Robinson—to modern game theory. In his discussion of basic game-theoretic tools and equilibrium, he pays particular attention to recent developments in the theory of supermodular games. The middle section of the book, an in-depth treatment of classic static models, provides specialized existence results, characterizations of equilibria, extensions to large markets, and an analysis of comparative statics with a view toward applied work. The final chapters examine commitment issues, entry, information transmission, and collusion using a variety of tools: two-stage games, the modeling of competition under asymmetric information and mechanism design theory, and the theory of repeated and dynamic games, including Markov perfect equilibrium and differential games.

Do events of the 1930s carry a message for today? Lessons from the Great Depression provides an integrated view of the depression, covering the experience in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. It describes the causes of the depression, why it was so widespread and prolonged, and what brought about eventual recovery.

Peter Temin also finds parallels in recent history, in the relentless deflationary course followed by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and the British government in the early 1980s, and in the dogged adherence by the Reagan administration to policies generated by a discredited economic theory—supply-side economics.