The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

499. Yoshiro Miwa & J. Mark Ramseyer, Industrial Finance Before the Financial Revolution: Japan at the Turn of the Century, 12/2004; subsequently published as "Japanese Industrial Finance at the Close of the 19th Century: Trade Credit and Financial Intermediation" in Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 43, Issue 1, January 2006, 94-118.

Abstract: In a series of pathbreaking articles, Sylla argues that successful economies experience "financial revolutions" before they undergo their periods of rapid growth. In turn, governments generate these revolutions by putting public finance in order, and thereby giving private investors the incentive to create banks and securities markets. In the U.S., suggests Sylla, Hamilton masterminded the revolution. Might Matsukata, he continues, have done the same in Japan?

Consistent with much of Sylla's work, Japan did indeed experience a financial revolution in the late 19th century. Matsukata, however, did not mastermind the revolution in advance of private-sector demand. Instead, private investors created the financial infrastructure in response to demand from industrial firms. What is more, most firms (at least in the pivotal silk industry) raised the funds they needed through trade credit rather than securities markets or banks.

In this environment, the financial revolution contributed to economic growth in three ways: (a) the new securities markets funded the very largest firms, particularly the railroad firms; (b) the new banks sold the transactional services that merchants used to provide their trade credit, and (c) the banks supplied some of the funds that the merchants as intermediaries then re-lent to the manufacturing firms.

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