Sunday, 7 April 2013

How private bankers enslaved Canada.

This is a brilliant article by Ellen Brown about how the Canadian government used to borrow from its own central bank at a zero rate of interest till 1974, when it was persuaded by the Basel Committee to borrow instead from private banks.
Of course the private banks didn’t actually have the funds to lend to the Canadian government: those banks just created the money out of thin air. They did a few book keeping entries and charged billions for doing so: something the Canadian central bank had long been doing for decades and at no cost to taxpayer/citizens.
The incompetence and the stupidity are a wonder to behold. Or perhaps, as Ellen Brown points out, it’s not stupidity at all: it’s very likely a case of private bankers pulling wool over the eyes of politicians and central bank staff. And to some extent it will be a case of private bankers who manage to get into positions of power at central banks pulling wool over everyone’s eyes, and as a reward, being offered lucrative jobs at a private bank on leaving their central bank.

“Government borrowing from its own central bank” is meaningless.
It is important to note that having a government borrow from its own central bank is a near meaningless concept. That activity amounts essentially to government and central bank between them printing new money and spending it into the economy as and when appropriate (and possibly raising taxes and “unprinting” money when inflation looms): exactly what Positive Money, Richard Werner, and the New Economics Foundation advocate.
Of course, the potential problem with letting a government print money is plain as a pikestaff. But if the decision as to how much to print is put into the hands of an independent committee of economists, that should solve the problem.
Indeed, the decision as to how much stimulus to apply is ALREADY IN THE HANDS of independent committees to a large extent in the UK : the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee and the Office for Budget Responsibility. Same goes for numerous other countries.

Debts owed to foreigners.
Another problem with having government borrow from private banks (or the private sector generally) is that foreigners can buy up that debt: it leads to the country becoming indebted to foreigners. And that poses a temptation for politicians: that is, the INITIAL effect for a country of having foreigners fund its expenditure is a rise in living standards, just like you enjoy a temporary rise in living standards when running up a debt on your credit card. And what all politicians want is a rise in living standards while they are in office (that way they get voted back into office), with the resulting mess being left to their successors to sort out.
Hat tip to Mike Ellwood aka Montmorency at “Simon Thorpe's Ideas”.


  1. Thanks for the HT Ralph!

    Whatever we eventually do about money reform in the UK, we are still going to face the problem of how to "allocate credit" once it is created. Positive money in their latest proposal are being very cautious about the money creators not having any say in the way that credit is spent.

    They seem happy to leave it to the banks to decide who they lend to, as now. True the banks won't be able to create that credit, but it's still a problem if it's not going into productive investment.

    As Werner says in his Green QE proposal central banks have always made allocation decisions.

    Further, in his Towards Stable and Competitive
    Banking in the UK – Evidence for the ICB

    he makes a strong case for credit guidance, along German and Japanese lines. Admittedly, that paper goes a bit beyond the scope of the Positive Money proposal, but I do worry that Positive Money aren't going quite far enough.

    I presume that they are afraid that a too radical proposal will just be rejected out of hand, and that they have to find something which is broadly acceptable. I understand that.

    But if we are not very careful, we will end up with a half-way-house with a lot of the problems of the old system, and without all the benefit from monetary reform that we could obtain, if it were a little more daring.

    To be fair to Positive Money, their proposals, if accepted, should be a great step forward, and "credit guidance" could be added incrementally, as the new system began to settle down.

    Mike Ellwood, aka Montmorency.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Assuming PM’s latest ideas are simply an update on the ideas they’ve been proposing for the last two years or so – and it looks very much that way from the summary – I don’t see any big need for “credit guidance”. I.e. under full reserve, commercial banks would decide who to lend to in exactly the same way as they currently do.

      It’s certainly a popular view (shared by PM) that banks lend too much to property and not enough to industry. However, the idea that industry or small and medium size firms are much more productive than house building etc is very questionable because it’s well established that failure to repay loans is twice as common by industry and SMEs as compared to property. That fact is recognised in the Basel risk weightings.

      Also, full reserve automatically cuts down on property price bubbles like the one that preceded the recent crisis: under fractional reserve, commercial banks can lend more money into existence when the value of collateral is rising (e.g. property prices).


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