Staff Report 80

The Free Banking Era: New Evidence on Laissez-Faire Banking

Arthur J. Rolnick | Senior Vice President and Director of Research, 1985-2010
Warren E. Weber | Retired Economist

Published May 1, 1982

The purpose of this paper is to begin a reevaluation of the Free Banking Era by developing and examining individual bank information on the population of banks which existed under the free banking laws in four states. This information allows us to determine the number of free banks which failed and to estimate the resulting losses to their note holders. While the new evidence suggests there were problems with free banking, it presents a serious challenge to the prevailing view that free banking led to financial chaos.

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