For centuries economists have been analysing how regulations governing the operation of markets may improve the workings of an economic system. In the past twenty years, particularly in the United States, there has emerged a large body of research which analyses the role of a particular type of regulation: those operating in financial markets. Much of this research reflects the particular forms of regulation of financial ‐ and in particular banking ‐ oper‐ations in the United States. As in the UK, there are forms of supervision and regulation of financial markets in the United States which are unique to that sector of the economy. This has prompted a whole range of questions ‐ can the existence of special forms of regulation for banks and other financial institutions be justified in terms of some fundamental differences between these and other (non‐finan‐cial) firms? Who benefits from the restrictions on financial firms? What are the costs of the particular forms of supervision which are used?
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