Paul Krugman’s February 1 column in The New York Times entitled “Good and Boring” compares Canada and the U.S. to get a sense of what might be the cause of the financial crisis.
The point is that when Canadian and U.S. experience diverge, it’s a very good bet that policy differences, rather than differences in culture or economic structure, are responsible for that divergence.
First, the similarities:
Both were confronted with the same flood of cheap goods and cheap money from Asia.
But the outcomes were different:
In the United States, mortgage defaults soared, some major financial institutions collapsed, and others survived only thanks to huge government bailouts. In Canada, none of that happened.
- Interest rates – both countries kept them low
- Big banks – relatively speaking, Canada’s banks are bigger
- Lending practices – Canada has more protections for borrowers
- Leverage – Canada allows banks a lot less
- Diversification – Krugman doesn’t mention this, but the flip side of Canada’s large banks is that they are better diversified across that nation
There’s a great deal of similarity here to the arguments that I’ve made in class that national features – like low interest rates – don’t do much to explain why Nebraska isn’t having much of a recession at all.