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When I was a graduate student in international monetary theory, my adviser and others occasionally suggested that I read Walter Bagehot some time. My mistake! In the process, he illuminated in a mere few hundred brilliant pages what distinguishes a Central Bank from a commercial bank, both on a daily basis and during crises such as bank panics and recessions. The constitutions of most national Central Banks were reinvented and forever changed as a consequence. The U.
Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market
Among central bankers and fellow traveling academics and financiers, a common trope has arisen to celebrate this once obscure nineteenth century editor of The Economist magazine. That trope goes something like this. In Lombard Street , Bagehot became the first to articulate what a central bank should do to prevent a panic from becoming a crisis. The rest is part of a mythology that has arisen around Bagehot. Lombard Street has become a classic in the sense of the word often attributed to Mark Twain: a book everyone cites but no one reads.
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The book was initially printed in Great Britain by Henry S. The book was in part a reaction to the financial collapse of Overend, Gurney and Company , a wholesale discount bank located at 65 Lombard Street, London , from which the book draws its title. Lombard Street is known for its analysis of the Bank of England 's response to the Overend-Gurney crisis. Bagehot's advice sometimes referred to as "Bagehot's dictum" for the lender of last resort during a credit crunch is summarized by Charles Goodhart  as follows:. Bagehot's dictum has been summarized by Paul Tucker  as follows:. In Bagehot's own words Lombard Street , Chapter 7, paragraphs 57—58 , lending by the central bank in order to stop a banking panic should follow two rules:.