Smith was concerned that without controls, funds “… would be lent to prodigals and projectors, who alone would be willing to give this high interest. Sober people … would not venture into the competition.”Bentham (1790) thought restrictions would stall the engine of economic growth but failed to persuade Smith to change his opinion (e.g., Persky 2007).
In Defense of Usury Laws
Version of Record online: 6 NOV 2009
© 2009 The Ohio State University
Journal of Money, Credit and Banking
Volume 41, Issue 8, pages 1691–1703, December 2009
How to Cite
COCO, G. and DE MEZA, D. (2009), In Defense of Usury Laws. Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, 41: 1691–1703. doi: 10.1111/j.1538-4616.2009.00274.x
We thank David Webb and an anonymous referee for very helpful suggestions. Giuseppe Coco gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Italian Ministry for University and Research (MIUR) PRIN project 2007RR7HCN.
- Issue online: 6 NOV 2009
- Version of Record online: 6 NOV 2009
- Received July 9, 2008; and accepted in revised form February 9, 2009.
- usury law;
- interest rate caps;
- moral hazard
Usury law is often criticized by economists for curtailing lending and thus creating deadweight costs. This paper shows that if moral hazard leads to credit rationing, a just-binding usury law creates a deadweight gain. This property also holds in most market-clearing equilibria. Independent of social insurance benefits, or curbing present-biased preferences, interest rate caps have merit.