Tag Archives: legal tender

Do Banks Create Money out of Nothing?

One of my correspondents recently referred me to an article and asked for my opinion about it. The article is Creating Money out of Nothing: The History of an Idea, by Mike King, dated April 2012 .

I read the abstract, the conclusions, and part of the body text, but could not bring myself to make a detailed read. “The history of an idea” is not relevant to my interests nor to the debt crisis that plagues civilization. Verbose and tedious, it seems to be an academic exercise that I doubt  will be of interest even to historians.

On the positive side, it did prompt me to write a few words of clarification on the question, words that I think are both pertinent and helpful to those who truly wish to understand the nature of money and the role of banks in today’s world.

The accusation that banks create money out of nothing has, according to King, been made by many famous economists, including Schumpeter, von Mises, and Keynes. I too must admit to having once or twice used that statement as a sort of shorthand criticism of the global money and banking system.

It is surely true that saying that banks make “money out of nothing” is an exaggeration that can be misleading to the uninitiated.

Bank actually create money out of something. The question is, what is that something, and what is wrong with it?

The short answer is that banks create money on the basis of the promises of their borrowers to repay.

Mr. King would have us believe that banks simply take in money from savers and lend it out to borrowers. That is clearly wrong. Even the Federal Reserve, in its own publications, says that,

The actual process of money creation takes place primarily in banks.(1) As noted earlier, checkable liabilities of banks are money. These liabilities are customers’ accounts. They increase when customers deposit currency and checks and when the proceeds of loans made by the banks are credited to borrowers’ accounts.

In the absence of legal reserve requirements, banks can build up deposits by increasing loans and investments so long as they keep enough currency on hand to redeem whatever amounts the holders of deposits want to convert into currency. This unique attribute of the banking business was discovered many centuries ago.–Modern Money Mechanics

As I’ve pointed out in all of my books, banks serve two primary functions. They act as both depositories, reallocating funds from savers to borrowers, and banks of issue that monetize the promises of their borrowers. I’ve explained that in detail in Chapter 1 of my book, Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, and in Chapter 9 of my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

But not all promises provide a proper basis for creating money. As Edward Popp, describes it, banks create both bona-fide and non-bona-fide money. (See Money, Bona Fide or Non-Bona Fide at http://www.reinventingmoney.com/documents/bonafidePopp.pdf).

The vast majority of the non-bona-fide money that banks create, is created on the basis of loans made to national governments (when banks buy government bonds). Further large amounts of non-bona-fide money are created when banks make loans to finance purchases of consumer goods and real estate (see my books for details). This is a violation of the principle that money should be created on the basis of goods and services on the market or soon to arrive there, which includes promises of established producers who are ready, willing and able to sell for money the things they ordinarily offer.

The bottom line remains: the present global, interest-based, debt-money system, is dysfunctional and destructive.

The creation of money on the basis of interest-bearing loans is the cause of the growth imperative, and the creation of non-bona-fide money is the cause of inflation.

If we are to achieve a sustainable society and assure the survival of civilization, we must transcend the present money and banking paradigm and reinvent the exchange process.  – t.h.g.

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Hurrah! Free Money once again a topic of debate in U.S. politics

Once more, Congressman and Presidential candidate, Ron Paul has championed the cause of honesty and freedom, this time by introducing a bill (H.R. 1098) that would promote free competition in currency and end the monopoly control of money and finance by the banking and political elite. Seth Lipsky’s article below tells the story.

I’ve not read the bill, so I don’t know the details, and I don’t expect it to get very far in a Congress that is, by and large, bought and paid for by the same interests that the bill seems to challenge, but its very existence and the fact that is getting some media coverage could go a long way toward educating the public about the vital issues and systemic flaws that are involved in the money system.

The survival of democracy and the future of civilization depend on, one way or another, on liberating the credit commons from monopoly control. Action from the bottom up (the organization of private, free exchange alternatives) combined with action from the top down (popular pressure for legislative action) might eventually be sufficient to crack the nut.—t.h.g.

Ron Paul, Upping the Ante in His Campaign for Liberty, Hoists the Flag of Hayek

Offers a Bill To Allow Free Competition in Currencies

By SETH LIPSKY, Special to the Sun | September 29, 2011

http://www.nysun.com/opinion/ron-paul-upping-the-ante-in-his-campaign/87502/

The first time I met Friedrich Hayek was in 1980 at California, where he was staying at the home of another economist. Then a young editor for the Wall Street Journal, I’d asked to call on the Nobel laureate for a book review I was writing. His host invited me for dinner. Before the meal, Hayek and I retreated, alone, to the far end of the host’s living room, for a chat.

We were but a few minutes into our conversation when, suddenly, Hayek clapped a hand over his nose and mouth and started coughing convulsively, before slumping onto the couch. I raced back to the host to exclaim that Professor Hayek seemed to be in trouble, only to be told that it was okay, he was just taking his snuff. A jolt of the divine herb, it seems, and the sage was back on his feet.

Hayek died 12 years later at the age of 93. I never came to know him well. But this week I found myself imagining that were his long-ago collapse-into-a-coughing fit to occur in front of me today, I’d whip out a copy of a new bill in Congress, H.R. 1098, called the Free Competition in Currency Act of 2011, and wave that under the great economist’s nose. It’s hard to think of anything, even a pinch of the strongest snuff, being a greater pick-me-up for his spirits.

For Hayek was an advocate of, among other things, private money — competing currencies — and HR 1098 would end a ban on them that has obtained here in America since the Civil War. The new bill in Congress, introduced in March by Rep. Ron Paul, would repeal the legal tender laws, prohibit taxation of certain coins and bullion, and clean up other sections of our coinage laws.

It is not a measure the Congress is going to pass in a hurry. But it is being nursed by advocates of monetary reform, and it would be unwise to discount it entirely. Few, after all, gave Congressman Paul much of a chance to win passage of a measure to audit the Federal Reserve, but when it eventually passed it was with an overwhelming, bipartisan vote. It may yet be enforced by the courts.

The Free Competition in Currency Act is far more important. It comes amid a historic collapse in the value of the dollar to less than a 1,600th of an ounce of gold. The dollar has gained a bit of value in recent days, but it is still worth less than a sixth of what it was worth as recently as, say, the start of President George W. Bush’s first term.

One of the things the government has done in the face of that collapse is seek to enforce a prohibition against private “uttering” — that is, putting into use — of coins of gold, silver, or other metal as current money and making or even possessing likenesses of such coins. H.R. 1098 would end the ban on private uttering of coins and, presumably, stop any current prosecution of such uttering.

The drive for the bill is animated, if only in part, by the case of Bernard von NotHaus, who was convicted in March of issuing a private medallion called the Liberty Dollar. The government prosecuted von NotHaus even though the coins he issued were made of silver and are today worth much more, in terms of Federal Reserve Notes, than when they were issued.

What the government is doing in the Von NotHaus case is seeking to suppress sound money in order to protect the unsound, fiat money the government has been issuing via the Fed. A federal judge in North Carolina has agreed to consider post-conviction motions to throw out the von NotHaus verdict, partly on the argument that the Constitution does not enumerate a power of Congress to outlaw privately-minted coins, which were widely produced in America’s early decades.

H.R. 1098 would go way beyond the Von NotHaus case, by asserting the virtue of the idea of private money as a system. The idea was sprung by Hayek not long after he won his Nobel Prize, in the mid-1970s. He started with a lecture. He later wrote, in a slim volume called “Denationalization of Money,” that he’d been in “despair about the hopelessness of finding a politically feasible solution to what is technically the simplest possible problem, namely to stop inflation.”

“The further pursuit of the suggestion that government should be deprived of its monopoly of the issue of money opened the most fascinating theoretical vistas and showed the possibility of arrangements which have never been considered,” he wrote. He came to the view that a plethora of privately issued money would enable mankind’s millions to find their own mediums of exchange, and good money would end up driving out bad.

Hayek concluded “Denationalization of Money” by calling for what he termed “a Free Money Movement comparable to the Free Trade Movement of the 19th century.” He came to the view that the gold standard was not the solution, though it was “the only tolerably safe system” if the management of money were going to be the preserve of the government.

The Free Competition in Currency Act got an early hearing in Congress this month in the House Subcommittee on Monetary Policy. The hearing wasn’t widely attended, but there was testimony by the president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Monetary Education, Lawrence Parks, and by a professor at George Mason University, Lawrence White, who talked about how FedEx and UPS’s private competition with the Post Office has brought benefits to American consumers. He extended the analogy to money.

It’s too bad Hayek couldn’t have been at the hearings. He viewed the denationalization of money as the “cure” for “recurrent waves of depression and unemployment that have been represented as an inherent and deadly defect of capitalism.” In other words, as a cure for ills like the current crisis. How Hayek, who once called for a global debate on socialism versus capitalism, would have thrilled to the moment, pausing only for the occasional pinch of his favorite snuff.

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States beginning to assert their money power

Bills have recently been introduced in several states to try to address the money problem. In an article that appeared in Financialsense.com, Robert Kientz describes actions that are occurring in several states. It is unclear how much support the various bills might have, or what their chances of passage might be, but Kientz implies that the state of Virginia has already taken official action to at least study the matter of using alternative payment media other than Federal Reserve currency. He says:

Virginia announced yesterday that the state would commission a study of alternative currencies including gold and silver in House Joint Resolution No. 557. A selected quote from Resolution 557:

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States in Lane County v. Oregon, 74 U.S. (7 Wallace) 71, 76-78 (1869), and Hagar v. Reclamation District No. 108, 111 U.S. 701, 706 (1884), has ruled that the States may adopt whatever currency they desire for the purposes of performing their sovereign governmental functions, even to the extent of adopting gold and silver coin for those purposes while refusing to employ a currency not redeemable in gold or silver coin that Congress has designated “legal tender”;

Such actions are a hopeful sign that the money power, and the political power that goes along with it, are devolving away from Wall Street and Washington and back to our states and communities. The states have a powerful weapon in the form of the United States Constitution, which declares that, no state shall make any thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.

Of the two metals, I much prefer silver as the value standard, for several reasons. My main objection to gold is that it is closely held by a few banks and governments that are able to manipulate its market price, and thus manipulate the economy if gold were to play a major monetary role. Silver is much more abundant and widely held, and while present market mechanisms enable a few entities to manipulate its market price, I think parallel  mechanisms can be put into place that would assure a freer market giving silver a more stable value. Ideally, however, trading entities will ultimately adopt an objective value measure using a composite commodity standard composed of a “market basket” of basic commodities.

Keynes was not wrong in calling gold “a barbarous relic,” but that’s not the whole story. We must also recognize that central banks, legal tender laws, and credit monopolies are relics even more barbarous than gold. The separation of money and state must ultimately be gained in order to have a truly free and harmonious society.

Ron Paul Bill Seeks to End Legal Tender and Taxes on Coins

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill in Congress that would really break the logjam of monopolized money and economic depression. This article from Coin News gives the highlights.

Here’s one significant quote:

“There is nothing in the Constitution that grants the Congress the power to enact legal tender laws. We, the Congress, have the power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, but not to declare a legal tender. Yet, there is a section of US Code, 31 USC 5103, that purports to establish US coins and currency, including Federal Reserve notes, as legal tender.”

More…

Rep. Ron Paul introduces bill to repeal legal tender laws

In his weekly column, Texas Straight Talk, Congressman Ron Paul reports that he has introduced a bill to repeal legal tender laws, which would force the Federal Reserve note to compete with “alternate currencies” in the market and help to reign in the profligate borrow-and-spend policies of both parties.

The End of Money: Take Power Back From the Money and Banking Monopoly

Alternet has just published another one of my articles, The End of Money: Take Power Back From the Money and Banking Monopoly.

The dysfunctional nature of the dominant global system of money and banking has for a long time been apparent to anyone who has cared to look at it. Now, in light of the present financial meltdown, it has become painfully obvious to virtually everyone. What most people have failed to recognize is that, regardless of the nominal form of their government, their political power has been neutralized and exhausted by the privatization and misallocation of credit money.

The political money and banking system disempowers communities and enables a small elite to use the present centralized control mechanisms to their own advantage and purpose. It misallocates credit, making it both scarce and expensive for the productive private sector while enabling central governments to circumvent, by deficit spending, the natural limits imposed by its above-board revenue streams. more..

What’s Wrong About the Political Money and Banking System?

To cut through all of the peripheral points, the main problems with the political money and banking system are:
1. The issuance of money on improper bases, mainly government debt, real estate, and assets of questionable value.
Principle: Money should be issued on the basis of goods and services already in the market or shortly to arrive there. All other needs (capital formation and consumer spending) should be financed out of savings.
2. Legal tender laws that force acceptance at par of debased political currencies.
Principle: Legal tender laws should be abolished. Only the issuer of a currency should be required to accept it at par. In the absence of legal tender, debased currencies will either be refused or pass at a discount in the market.
3. The charging of interest on credit money that is created as “loans.”
Principle: Money should be created interest free as a generalization of trade credit that facilitates the exchange of goods and services.

— t.h.g.