Current Scholarship

This page contains abstracts and links to recent scholarship on monetary design and related issues. We also welcome posts to older scholarship that should be flagged.

Please submit abstracts to Dan Rohde:

Current Scholarship
A Public Option for Bank Accounts

Authors: Morgan Ricks, John Crawford, and Lev Menand
This paper argues that restricting central bank accounts to an exclusive clientele (banks) is no longer justifiable on policy grounds if indeed it ever was. We propose giving the general public—individuals, businesses, and institutions—the option to hold accounts at the central bank, which we call FedAccounts. FedAccounts would offer all the functionality of ordinary bank accounts with the exception of overdraft coverage. They would also have all the special features that banks currently enjoy on their central bank accounts, as well as some additional, complementary features. Government-issued physical currency is already an open-access resource, available to all; the FedAccount program would merely do the same for nonphysical or “account” money. The FedAccount program would bring genuinely transformational change to the monetary-financial system, in ways both obvious and unexpected.

Ricks, Morgan and Crawford, John and Menand, Lev, A Public Option for Bank Accounts (Or Central Banking for All) (December 2, 2018). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper 18-33; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 287. Available at SSRN: or

Current Scholarship
Money as Infrastructure

Author: Morgan Ricks
Traditional infrastructure regulation—the law of regulated industries—rests atop three pillars: rate regulation, entry restriction, and universal service. This mode of regulation has typically been applied to providers of network-type resources: resources that are optimally supplied as integrated systems. The monetary system is such a resource; and money creation is the distinctive function of banks. Bank regulation can therefore be understood as a subfield of infrastructure regulation. With few exceptions, modern academic treatments of banking have emphasized banks’ intermediation function and downplayed or ignored their monetary function. Concomitantly, in recent decades U.S. bank regulation has strayed from its infrastructural roots. This regulatory drift has been unwise.

Ricks, Morgan, Money as Infrastructure (March 11, 2018). Columbia Business Law Review (2018). Available at SSRN: or

Current Scholarship
Money as a Legal Institution

Author: Christine A. Desan
This chapter summarizes the case for considering money as a legal institution. The Western liberal tradition, represented here by John Locke’s iconic account of money, describes money as an item that emerged from barter before the state existed. Considered as an historical practice, money is instead a method of representing and moving resources within a group. It is a way of entailing or fixing material value in a standard that gains currency because of the unique cash services it provides. The evidence to that end comes from coin itself, the practice of free-minting, judicial commentary, and academic theorizing. As the second half of the chapter details, the relationships that make money work are matters of governance carried out in law. Thus law defines public debt, allocates authority to create money, and determines what counts as a ‘commodity’. Comparing medieval, early American, and modern money law on money demonstrates the dramatic importance of that legal engineering

Desan, Christine A., Money as a Legal Institution (September 5, 2013). In: David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst, ‘Money in the Western Legal Tradition’, 2015, Forthcoming; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-34. Available at SSRN:

Current Scholarship
How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking

Author: Mehrsa Baradaran
The United States currently has two banking systems — one for the rich, one for the poor. It wasn’t always this way. Throughout U.S. history, the government has enlisted certain banking institutions to serve the needs of the poor and offer low cost credit to enable low-income Americans to escape poverty. Credit unions, savings and loans and Morris Banks are three prominent examples of government-supported institutions with a specific focus of helping the poor. Unfortunately, these institutions are no longer fulfilling their missions and high-cost, usurious, and sometimes predatory check-cashers and payday lenders have quickly filled the void. These fringe banks do not provide the poor with useful credit and further bury them in debt. This article tracks the neglected history of government sponsored institutions designed to offer credit to the poor and explains how each abandoned its initial purpose. In doing so, the article highlights the shifts in modern banking that rapidly increased competition among banks and caused homogenization in form. Alternative banking institutions could not survive deregulation and were forced to assimilate and operate like mainstream banks with heightened profits as their sole objective. The poor were the victims.

This article proposes to re-establish government-sponsored banks to serve the poor. Options include redesigning existing government measures as well as a novel proposal to use the existing postal service branches to offer low-cost, short-term credit to the poor. Such proposals have strong historic roots and could allow millions of low-income Americans the opportunity to escape …

Current Scholarship
Just Prices

Authors: Robert C. Hockett and Roy Kreitner
In what sense do market prices represent or convey value? At first glance, such prices might look like the upshot of spontaneous social aggregation without exogenously imposed order: uncoordinated individual trading decisions yield “price information” that is said both to induce socially efficient productive decisions and to set a framework that facilitates coherent and welfare-enhancing consumer choice. But while some trading decisions might well be uncoordinated, far from all of them are; and the rules within which trade is conducted are in any event the product of social choice. When we recognize that these rules of trade and certain public practices of trade affect the terms of trade, we cannot but ask whether the rules, the relevant practices, and the prices they partly produce can underwrite just social arrangements. The shorthand rendition of this question is when are market prices just? In this symposium contribution we set out to untangle some of the economic and philosophic issues implicated by this loaded question, and to propose a set of considerations that can aid evaluation of the justice (or otherwise) of market prices.

Hockett, Robert C. and Kreitner, Roy, Just Prices (November 12, 2017). 27 Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy __ (2018) ; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-49. Available at SSRN:

Current Scholarship
Negotiating the Lender-of-Last-Resort: The 1913 Fed Act as a Debate Over Credit Distribution

Author: Nadav Orian Peer
“Lending of last resort” is one of the key powers of central banks. As a lender-of-last-resort, the Federal Reserve famously supports commercial banks facing distressed liquidity conditions, thereby mitigating destabilizing bank runs. Less famously, lender-of-last-resort powers also influence the distribution of credit among different groups in society and therefore have high stakes for economic inequality. The Fed’s role as a lender-of-last-resort witnessed an unprecedented expansion during the 2007-9 Crisis when the Fed invoked emergency powers to lend to a new set of borrowers known as “shadow banks”. The decision proved controversial and spurred legislative reform narrowing the Fed’s authority as well as an ongoing scholarly debate. Participants in this debate, the article argues, limited their focus to financial stability considerations, thereby neglecting those powers’ considerable distributive implications. The article contributes to the current literature by demonstrating the distributive stakes of lender-of-last-resort powers through a concrete historical example: the legislative debate around the 1913 Federal Reserve Act that established the Fed. During that time, three different groups debated the legal definition of “eligible collateral” that the Fed could accept from borrowers to secure emergency loans. The first group was corporate financiers, who were interested in supporting capital markets. The second group was the Democratic framers of the Act, who tried to divert credit away from corporate securities and into small businesses. The third group was farmers that needed credit for developing the agrarian periphery. I argue that each of these groups tried to shape the definition of …