The Roadblock to a Sovereign Bankruptcy Law

Sachs, Jeffrey D.

Bankruptcy law is a necessary feature of a modern economy, and the principles for a bankruptcy apply whether the debtor happens to be a sovereign or not. The essential point is that markets cannot handle situations of extreme financial distress or debtor-creditor workouts in an efficient manner without a sound legal framework. Indeed, Adam Smith himself was a champion of applying bankruptcy processes to insolvent sovereign debtors, arguing that when the situation warranted it, bankruptcy was a sensible alternative to the chaotic ways that sovereign insolvency was otherwise handled. Thus, the fact that the private financial community continues to oppose a sovereign bankruptcy law is quite unconvincing, especially since an enormous number of countries has had a sovereign workout at some point in history.



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Earth Institute
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September 30, 2009


Cato Journal, vol. 23, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2003), pp. 73-77.