The State as the Investor of Last Resort: A Comparative Study of Banking Crises in Denmark and Sweden

Hans Sjögren, Martin Jes Iversen

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This article addresses the role of the state in bailouts, i.e. government objectives and measures during banking crises. Our main question concerns the incentives and measures that governments pursue in a state of a systemic banking crisis, and why they are launched. What have been the objectives and operations when a government has decided to act as an investor of last resort and take control of commercial banks? The answer is limited to cover the financial history of two countries. The study unveils government interventions in the latest crises in Denmark and Sweden, and critically analyse which objectives justified the setting up of organisations for financial stability. The two country-cases differ in terms of historical experience, context, and time-period. We compare intrinsic principles and perceptions for government intervention, with a focus on bailouts and state-owned banks. We argue that the implementation of measures dates back to the early phases of capitalism in the 19th century i.e. is part of a historical institutional pattern. The similarities shown indicate that there is an international standard for a public–private arrangement ensuring financial stability. Our results relate to the discussion of launching effective and legitimate state policies during and after a systemic banking crisis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)171-189
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Bailout
  • Banking crisis
  • Government intervention
  • State-ownership
  • Path dependency

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