BANK ROBBERY – HOW BANKS STEAL FROM EVERYONE

Article from the Positive Money Website – the campaign to reform the corrupt and self evidently broken monetary system

http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Banking_Vs_Democracy_Web.pdf

Written By: Andrew Jackson and Ben Dyson 

Special thanks to: Anthony Molloy

Produced with the support of The JRSST Charitable Trust

© February 2012 Positive Money

PRIVATISATION BY STEALTH

The common misconception of how banks work is

that they take people’s savings and lend them out

in the form of loans. In this vision, banks merely

operate as the middlemen between savers and

borrowers, but this is simply not what happens.

When a bank makes a loan it does not take the

money out of anyone else’s account. Instead, it

simply creates a new account for the customer and

types a number into it.

When a customer is approved for a loan (of say

£1,000), she signs a contract with the bank obliging

her to pay back £1,000 plus interest over a period

of time. According to accounting conventions, the

£1,000 loan can then be recorded as an asset of the

bank. At the same time the bank opens an account

for the customer and types £1,000 into it. As the

bank owes the customer this money, it is recorded

on the liabilities side of the bank’s balance sheet. By

this process, the bank has simultaneously created

new money in the borrowing customer’s account

and a corresponding debt. The bank’s new asset

(the debt) balances out the new liability (the newly

created money) so that in accounting terms, the

books balance.

The customer now has £1,000 of new money to

spend on whatever they choose. No money was

taken out of anyone else’s bank account. New

money has been created out of nothing.

In the UK, over 97% of the entire money supply was

created in this way and exists in the form of ‘digital’

money, numbers in the bank accounts of members

of the public and businesses.

NO ACCOUNTABILITY TO CUSTOMERS

Unlike pension funds, banks are not required to

disclose how they will use their customers’ money.

As 97% of the UK’s money supply is effectively held

with banks, this allows them to allocate a larger

sum of money than either the entire pension fund

industry or the elected government itself. Conse-

quently the UK economy is shaped by the invest-

ment priorities of the banking sector, rather than

the priorities of society.

Just five banks hold 85% of the UK’s money, and

these five banks are steered by just 78 board

members whose decisions shape the UK economy.

This is a huge amount of power concentrated in very

few hands, with next to no transparency or account-

ability to wider society.

******

It is common knowledge that anyone found printing

their own bank notes can expect to find the police

kicking down the door at two o’clock in the morning.

However, it has only been illegal for individuals and

companies to create their own £5 or £10 notes since

1844.

Prior to 1844, the state had a legal monopoly only

over the creation of metal coins dating from the

time when this had been the only form of money.

But keeping lots of metal and carrying it around was

inconvenient so customers would typically deposit

their metal coins with the local jeweller or goldsmith

who would have secure storage facilities. Eventually

these goldsmiths started to focus more on holding

money and valuables on behalf of customers rather

than on actually working with gold, and thereby

became the first bankers.

A customer depositing coins would be given a piece

of paper stating the value of coins deposited. If the

customer wanted to spend his money, he could take

the piece of paper to the bank, get the coins back,

and then spend them in the high street. However,

the shopkeeper who received the coins would then

most likely take them straight back to the bank. To

avoid this hassle, shopkeepers would simply accept

the paper receipts as payment instead. As long as

the bank that issued the receipts was trusted, busi-

nesses and individuals would be happy to accept the

receipts, safe in the knowledge that they would be

able to get the coins out of the bank whenever they

needed to.

Over time, the paper receipts came to be accepted

as being as good as metal money. People effectively

forgot that they were just a substitute for money

and saw them as being equivalent to the coins.

The goldsmiths then noticed that the bulk of the

coins placed in their vaults would be gathering dust,

suggesting that they were never being taken out.

In fact, only a small percentage of all the deposits

were ever being claimed at any particular time. This

opened up a profit opportunity—if the bank had

£100 in the vault, but customers only ever withdrew

a maximum of £10 on any one day, then the other

£90 in the vault was effectively idle. The goldsmith could lend out that extra £90 to borrowers.

However, the borrowers again would choose to use

the paper receipts as money rather than taking out

the metal coins from the bank. This meant that the

bank could issue paper receipts to other borrowers

without necessarily needing to have many—or even

any—coins in the vault.

The banks had acquired the power to create a substitute for money which people would accept as being money. In effect, they had acquired the power to create money: perhaps this is when the goldsmiths became real bankers.

The profit potential drove bankers to over-issue

their paper receipts and lend excessive amounts,

creating masses of new paper money quite out of

proportion to the actual quantity of state-issued

metal money. As it always inevitably will, blowing

up the money supply pushed up prices and destabi-

lised the economy (of the many crises, particularly

galling was the Bank of England having to borrow £2

million from France in 1839). In 1844, the Conserva-

tive government of the day, led by Sir Robert Peel,

recognised that the problem was that they had

allowed the power to create money to slip into irre-

sponsible private hands and legislated to take back

control over the creation of bank notes through the

Bank Charter Act. This curtailed the private sector’s

right to print money (and eventually phased it out

altogether), transferring this power to the Bank of

England.

However, the 1844 Bank Charter Act only addressed

the creation of paper bank notes. It did not refer to

other substitutes for money. With growth in the use

of cheques, the banks had found another substitute.

When a cheque is used to make a payment, the

actual cash is not withdrawn from the bank. Instead,

the paying bank periodically communicates with the

receiving bank to settle any net difference remaining

between them once all customers’ payments in both

directions have been cancelled out against each

other. This means that payments can be made even

if the bank has only a fraction of the money that

depositors believe they have in their accounts.

Following on in the spirit of financial innovation,

after cheques came credit and debit cards, elec-

tronic fund transfers and internet banking. Cheques

are now almost irrelevant as a means of payment

but over 99% of payments[b] (by value) are made

electronically.

Today the electronic numbers in your bank account

do not represent real money. They simply give you a

right to demand that the bank gives you the physical

cash or makes an electronic payment on your

behalf.

In fact, if you and a lot of other customers

demanded your money back at the same time—a

bank run—it would soon become apparent that

the bank does not actually have your money.

For example, on the 31st of January 2007 banks held

just £12.50 of real money (in the form of electronic

money held at the Bank of England) for every £1000

shown in their customers’ accounts. Even among

those who are aware that what banks do is more

complicated than merely operating as middlemen

between savers and borrowers, there is a wide-

spread belief that banks are obliged to possess a

sum corresponding to a significant fraction of their

liabilities (their customers’ deposits) in liquid assets,

i.e. in cash or a form that can be rapidly converted

into cash. In fact, such laws were emasculated in

the 1980s in response to lobbying from the industry

(although some effort is now being made to

re-impose such rules in the aftermath of the crisis).

When a run starts (like the one on Northern Rock

on the 14th September 2007) it becomes almost

impossible to stop.

Once the bank has paid out any cash which it holds in the branch to individuals (and transferred all of its reserves to other banks) other depositors will have to wait for the bank to sell off its remaining assets before they see their money.

And because the bank has to sell these assets

quickly, it will find it hard to receive a fair price.

Because of this it is unlikely the proceeds from these

sales will cover the value of their deposits and other

liabilities, and therefore most customers are likely to

lose a large proportion of their savings. Because this

type of personal ruin is a tragedy and, even more

importantly, because one bank run is likely to lead

to others (as confidence in the banking system falls

through the floor) the government insures deposits,

guaranteeing some level of payback in the event of

bank failure. Thus, because the system is inherently

unstable, and because almost all of our money

exists on banks’ balance sheets, the banking sector

has to be underwritten and rescued by the taxpayer,

all as a result of the failure of legislation to keep up

with technology and financial innovation since 1844.

******

When money is created, it can be put into the

economy in two ways: it can either be spent in

exchange for goods and services or lent out. When

banks create money, they put most of it into the

economy through lending. Exactly who this newly-

created money is given to is crucial because it will

determine the shape of the economy.

Over the decade leading up to the 2008 financial

crisis, the amount of money lent out by banks

tripled but this steep rise is largely accounted for by

loans advanced for the purposes of buying property

and for financial speculation. The amount dedicated

to productive investment remained more or less

constant throughout this period meaning that the

proportion of the money supply that was dedicated

to enhancing production steadily waned.

*****

Between November 1982 and November 2006 the

banking sector increased the money supply—by

creating new money through lending—by an

average of 10% a year.

Between November 2007 and November

2008, £258 billion of new money was created. If

government were to increase the money supply

at this rate, it would be accused of following the

policies of Zimbabwe, but because few people

understand that banks create money via lending,

this is completely overlooked.

This huge growth in the money supply is hardly

surprising when we consider the incentives that

banks have to increase their lending. In confident

times, all of a banker’s incentives push him to

lend as much as possible: by lending more, they

maximise short-term profits and, more specifically

their own bonuses, commissions and prospects

of promotion and profits. There is no reward for

bankers who are prudent and choose not to lend

or only lend judicious sums. In short, the supply

of money into the economy depends on the confi-

dence and incentives of bankers rather than what is

best for society as a whole.

Investing in machinery to make factories

more efficient is productive investment whilst

lending to buy existing property through mortgages

is non-productive as it simply pushes up house

prices without increasing production.

The £1.16 trillion of new money created by

the banks over the last ten years could have been

used to: pay off the national debt (which currently

stands at around £977 billion); invest in public

transport, hospitals, schools or renewable energy;

or exempt the poorest ten per cent of the popula-

tion from tax. Instead, it has been used by the

banking sector to fuel a housing bubble that has

made buying a home unaffordable for all but the

very rich.

The last few years have proven the business model that enables banks to create money is fundamentally unstable, requiring rescue by the government from time to time.

When this happens, taxpayer funds are diverted

from public spending and spent on salvaging failing

corporations. This further reduces the power of

government to do what it was democratically

elected to do, weakening democracy in the process.

By handing the power to create money over to

the banks, the government reduces its revenue,

compromises its capacity to carry out the activities

that it has been mandated to carry out and under-

mines the potential of the democratic system to

change society for the better.

THE HIDDEN TAX THAT BANKS POCKET

Giving banks the power to create money results in

two hidden and undemocratic ‘taxes’ being levied

on the public.

The first of these ‘taxes’ is inflation, when increases

in the amount of money in the economy feed

through into higher prices. If the money supply

is increased quickly then the new money pushes

up prices, especially in housing to where much of the new lending is destined.

Of course, it is now banks that create the vast

majority of new money. They have increased the

amount of money in the economy at an average of

10% a year between 1981 and 2007, (by lending)

and pumped this money mainly into the housing

market.

As a result, house prices shot out of the

reach of ordinary people, whereas those who got

the ‘first use’ of the money (by borrowing first)

received most of the benefit. Meanwhile those who

were not already on the housing ladder became

significantly poorer, in real terms, because the

relative cost of housing doubled in just 10 years

(between 1997 and 2007).

Consequently, the inflation caused by allowing banks to create money is also effectively a ‘tax’ accruing to the banks (through their increased interest income on ever greater mortgages) and those who borrow early on (to buy property and other assets).

The second of these hidden taxes corresponds to

interest. Because banks create 97% of the UK’s

money supply, essentially through making loans,

the entire money supply is ‘on loan’ from the

banking sector. For every pound created, somebody

somewhere goes one pound into debt and starts

paying interest on it. By virtue of their power

to create money, banks have the right to collect

interest on nearly every pound in existence.

A hidden tax collected by private corporations

because they have a power that most people would

consider—and believe—to be a prerogative of the

state can hardly be considered democratic.

Written By: Andrew Jackson and Ben Dyson

Special thanks to: Anthony Molloy

Produced with the support of The JRSST Charitable Trust

© February 2012 Positive Money

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One Response to “BANK ROBBERY – HOW BANKS STEAL FROM EVERYONE”

  1. Dan Connew Says:

    Could you please stop emailing me I have unsubscribed from this distribution list.

    Thankyou for your prompt attention in this matter.

    Sent from Samsung tablet

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