Preface: Most people think that banks lend solely from their base of deposits. Some also know that with fractional reserve banking, they can loan out many times more than they actually have in reserves.
But very few people – with the exception of those in the banking industry and financial experts – know where credit really comes from. Many Naked Capitalism readers are in the banking industry or financial experts, so this may seem obvious.
I apologize if my populist tone is over-the-top. I am not trying to needlessly slam any type of business people, simply trying to advocate on behalf of a more sustainable system that will benefit the most people.
Finally, as usual, any incorrect information in this essay is mine alone, and not Yves’ or the site’s.
Germany’s central bank – the Deutsche Bundesbank (German for German Federal Bank) – has admitted in writing that banks create credit out of thin air.
As the Bundesbank states in a publication entitled “Money and Monetary Policy” (pages 88-93; translation provided by Google translate, but German speaker and NC reader Festan von Geldern confirmed the basic translation):
4.4 Creation of the banks money
Money is created by “money creation”. Both [central banks] and private commercial banks can create money. In the euro monetary system [money creation] arises mainly through the granting of loans, as well as the fact that central banks or commercial banks to buy assets such as gold, foreign currencies, real estate or securities. If the central bank granted a loan from a commercial bank and crediting the amount in the account of the bank at the central bank, created “central bank money.”
Money creation by commercial banks
The commercial banks can create money itself, the so-called bank money. The money creation process through which commercial banks can be explained by the related postings: If a commercial bank to a customer a loan, they booked in its balance sheet as an asset against a loan receivable the client – for example, 100,000. At the same time, the bank writes down the customer’s checking account, which is run on the liabilities of the bank’s balance sheet, 100,000 euros good. This credit increases the deposits of customers on its current account – it creates deposit money, which increases the money supply.
In other words, money is created as book-entry by purchasing assets or entering credits on the left side of the balance-sheet and corresponding deposits on the right side. In other words, credit is created out of thin air.
Frontiers of money creation
The above description might leave the impression that the commercial banks are able to draw an infinite amount of money in bank accounts. If this were really so, this could be inflationary. The central bank therefore takes effect on the extent of lending and money creation. It requires commercial banks to hold the reserve.
As I’ve previously pointed out, the Federal Reserve is taking the same tack, creating conditions that guarantee that American banks will have huge excess reserves so as to prevent inflation. Back to the publication:
Central banks, commercial banks can typically obtain only by the fact that the central bank granted them credit. For these loans, commercial banks have to pay the central bank interest rate. Increase this rate, the central bank, the “prime rate”, the commercial banks usually raise their part, the rates at which they lend themselves. There will be a general rise in interest rates. This, however, dampens the tendency of businesses and households, the demand for loans. By raising or lowering the key interest rate the central bank can thus influence the business sector demand for credit – and thus on Lending and bank money creation.
The commercial banks need central bank money to cover not only for the reserve, but also to the cash needs of its customers. Each bank customer may be credit in the bank account into cash to pay off. If the stocks of the banks in cash to be in short supply, the central bank can create only remedy. Because only they are permitted to bring additional notes in circulation. To meet the cash needs of its clients, the commercial bank must therefore include, where appropriate, with the central bank for a loan. This leads to the creation of central bank money. The so-purchased assets for central bank money can pay off the commercial bank in cash let. Thus, the cash is in circulation: from the central bank to commercial banks and from these to the bank customers.
Central Bank money is also to cover the non-cash payments are required: a customer transfers money from its credit to a customer at another bank, this results in many cases led to the sending bank central bank needs to transfer money to the receiving bank. The central banks then moves from one bank to another.
The commercial banks can use the surplus of central bank money and to award additional credits to businesses and households. As previously described, arises from the award of additional credits additional demand for central bank money – which can be covered in this special situation of great uncertainty among banks by the existing excess liquidity. The abundant supply of liquidity relief, a bank that wants to provide a loan, from the traditional consideration of how much money they need after the award of credit is, how it is constituted, and at what cost. Using the so-called money creation multiplier can be estimated how large the potential for additional Credit limit is.
Do you get it now?
Private banks don’t make loans because they have extra deposits lying around. The process is the exact opposite:
(1) Each private bank “creates” loans out of thin air by entering into binding loan commitments with borrowers (of course, corresponding liabilities are created on their books at the same time. But see below); then
(2) If the bank doesn’t have the required level of reserves, it simply borrows them after the fact from the central bank (or from another bank);
(3) The central bank, in turn, creates the money which it lends to the private banks out of thin air.
It’s not just Bernanke … the central banks and their owners – the private commercial banks – have been running the printing presses for hundreds of years.
Of course, as I pointed out Tuesday, Bernanke is pushing to eliminate all reserve requirements in the U.S. If Bernanke has his way, American banks won’t even have to borrow from the Fed or other banks after the fact to have reserves. Instead, they can just enter into as many loans as they want and create endless money out of thin air (within Basel I and Basel II’s capital requirements – but since governments are backstopping their giant banks by overtly and covertly throwing bailout money, guarantees and various insider opportunities at them, capital requirements are somewhat meaningless).
The system is no longer based on assets (and remember that the giant banks have repeatedly become insolvent) It is based on creating new debts, and then backfilling from there.
It is – in fact – a monopoly system. Specifically, only private banks and their wholly-owned central banks can run printing presses. Governments and people do not have access to the printing presses (with some limited exceptions, like North Dakota), and thus have to pay the monopolists to run them (in the form of interest on the loans).
At the very least, the system must be changed so that it is not – by definition – perched atop a mountain of debt, and the monetary base must be maintained by an authority that is accountable to the people.
Hat tip to Festan von Geldern.
Note 1: When I receive a better translation I will post it.