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Canadian Banks, Envy Of The World

The Times ran a--if not exactly interesting, then very worthy op-ed on Saturday about the Canadian banking system, which the World Economic Forum apparently considers the sturdiest in the world. (The American banking system weighs in at number 40.) Canada's secret to avoiding a financial crisis? Being boring. Well, that and heavy regulation. As the op-ed notes:

The five major chartered banks, the few regional banks and handful of large insurance companies are all regulated by the federal government. Canadian banks are relatively constrained in the amounts they can lend. Canadian banks are required to have a bigger cushion to absorb losses than American banks. ...

Canadian banks are known to be risk-averse, and this has served them well. While their American counterparts were loading up their books with risky mortgages, Canadian banks maintained their lending requirements, largely avoiding subprime mortgages.

Several times in recent months I've heard libertarian types argue that insufficient regulation couldn't have been the problem with our banks, since they're one of the most regulated sectors of the economy. But, of course, just because something's heavily regulated doesn't mean it's regulated enough, or that the regulations are the right ones.

--Noam Scheiber