It may be the case that legal academics in the U.S. are no longer rewarded for writing treatises. Fortunately for us, the same standard appears not to apply to our British counterparts. Rosa M. Lastra, one of the leading experts on central banks and a pioneer in central banking law, has written the second edition of her treatise on international financial and monetary law, and students of these disciplines are the better for her diligence, expertise, and creativity in addressing these fast-developing issues. (Full disclosure: Rosa is my co-author and a personal friend.)
The book charts an ambitious course, divided into three parts. In the first, Lastra discusses financial and monetary law on a national level. That is, when and how do national governments regulate the flow of capital? The emphasis here is on the nation-state, and Lastra discusses theories of monetary sovereignty and legal theories of money, ranging from Machiavelli to Hobbes to the perhaps overlooked (at least to me) British legal theorist Frederick Mann. From these excursions into political theory and history, Lastra draws together discussions of the basis for banking laws, central banks, and capital market regulations. It is by no means an exhaustive account of any nation’s system, but it is an exhaustive overview of the issues.
One of the best parts of Part I—and indeed, the entire treatise—is Lastra’s discussion of the development of central banking law, a field Lastra is uniquely able to address: her Master’s thesis from Harvard was on central bank independence was written in 1991. For context, one of the defining empirical pieces by Alberto Alesina and Larry Summers that put CBI on separate footing as a subdiscipline in economics was written in 1993. Lastra is one of the pioneers of the academic study of central banking, and the first mover in their legal study.
In Part II, Lastra takes a deep dive into the history, economics, politics, and especially law of European Monetary Union and the Euro (although these terms are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably). This chapter is especially welcome to U.S. scholars. The often unfortunate reality of scholarship about banking law is that we tend to be parochial in our inquiries. Capital is mobile, but scholarly inquiries can stop at the water’s edge. The virtues of Lastra’s volume is that she is not at all parochial and invites readers to get much smarter about how these institutions have evolved in an inherently international space.
Part III takes readers through the law of international coordination, but it is in fact a treatise on the laws of the International Monetary Fund. I would have appreciated more coverage of the Bank of International Settlements and its Basel Committee on Bank Supervision, more on bilateral investment treaties, and on sovereign debt resolutions. But books have to end somewhere, and a treatise on the architecture of financial and monetary law nationally, in the EU, and at the IMF is an important and timely contribution. The book is well worth the purchase for experts and libraries.