The interest group origins of the Bank of France

Originally published in Public Choice

This paper contrasts different interpretations of the creation of the Bank of France. I argue that the Bank of France was the product of rent-seeking behavior rather than the pursuit of public interest, as is commonly supposed. I explain how the changing institutional constraints faced by both politicians and bankers can account for changes in France’s monetary constitution. The creation of the Bank in 1800 followed the fall of the Directory and the establishment of Napoléon’s autocratic regime. I argue that as parliamentarism and the separation of powers were weakened by Napoléon, the cost of establishing and maintaining a monopoly privilege in banking evaporated and the creation of the Bank of France became more likely.

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