Costly Intermediation and the Big Push

Zsolt Becsi, Ping Wang, and Mark A. Wynne
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Working Paper 98-16
August 1998

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Many existing theories of financial intermediation have difficulty explaining why financial activity can generate large real effects. This paper argues that the large real effects may reflect a multiplicity of equilibria. The multiple equilibria in this paper are generated by the dynamic interactions between the savings decisions of workers and the monopolistically competitive behavior of banks. We characterize the equilibria by showing the comparative-static responses of key aggregates to changes in the pure rate of time preference, investment uncertainty, and bank costs. We find that the results depend crucially on the intertemporal elasticity of labor supply and the aggregate level of employment. Small changes in the financial system may cause the economy to shift between low- and high-employment equilibria. The high-employment, high real interest rate equilibrium is consistent with the development experience of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan with repressed financial systems.

JEL classification: E44, O41

Key words: financial intermediation, economic development, imperfect competition

The authors thank Marco Espinosa, Peter Rousseau, Bruce Smith, and participants at the 1997 AEA-CEANA Meetings in New Orleans for insightful comments. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or Dallas or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to Zsolt Becsi, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 104 Marietta Street, NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2713, 404/498-8785, 404/498-8058 (fax),; Ping Wang, Department of Economics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, 814/865-1525, 863-4775 (fax),; or Mark A. Wynne, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 2200 North Pearl Street, Dallas, Texas 75201, 214/922-5159, 214/922-5194 (fax),