The Bank Deposit ‘Confiscation’
What is new is that bank deposits will be “taxed”. The proper term is “confiscated”. Like everywhere in the EU, bank deposits in Cyprus are guaranteed up to €100,000. Depositors have arranged their wealth accordingly, only to be told that the guarantee has been changed ex post.
Taxing stocks is optimally time-inconsistent (Kydland and Prescott, 1977). It is a great way of raising money but it has deep incentive effects as it destroys property rights. What is at stake is the credibility of the bank deposit guarantee system throughout Europe.
The system was shaken in 2008 but in the opposite direction. Followed by all other countries, Ireland offered a full guarantee in a successful effort to stem an impending bank run. The cost to the government was such that it triggered a run on the public debt that led to the second bailout after the Greek “unique and exceptional” one.
That move has now been recognised as a mistake, which may explain how Cyprus is now being treated.