Money Owed and Owned
We have developed a slide presentation we call "Money Owed and Owned" which is approximately 75 minutes in length. It is described in more mathematical detail in Part II of .
The money creation system (which is "debt-free" at point of issue) that we focus upon in both our slide presentation and our book is based on the "Public Credit Money System" as laid out by Thoren and Warner in .
Slides 22 through 34 of this slide presentation as well as our book The Two Faces of Money describes fractional reserve deposit expansion which most textbooks and experts even today say is part of our "credit-as-money" system. Relatively recent changes in banking practices requires a bit of additional discussion concerning "fractional reserve deposit expansion" which was laid out decades ago in Modern Money Mechanics, an informational workbook put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The opening paragraph is key to understanding the "deposit expansion" concept as it has been understood historically:
Under the sub-heading titled What Determines the Money Supply well known economist Anna J. Schwartz offers this "for the sake of simplicity" explanation:
This explanation notwithstanding, former IMF economist Dr. Michael Kumhof cites numerous sources going back to 1969 stating that banks create loans first and look for reserves later. Most recently, a landmark paper was published by Richard A. Werner, who is a professor in economics and banking at Oxford, showing that individual banks can and do create "money out of nothing" independent of the fractional reserve system. See Can Banks Individually Create Money Out of Nothing? The Theories and the Empirical Evidence.
At a minimum, the implications of Werner, Kumhof, etal (particularly for the "modern" era) is that the deposit expansion (or money multiplier) model provided by Modern Money Mechanics and other sources as the means by which the Fed can control the money supply applies less to today's modern central banks due to the fact that todays' economic environment requires central banks to be committed to supply as many reserves (and cash) as banks demand, and are relying on low interest rates to do so. Technological innovations also play a role, more about which later.
By January of 2019, the Federal Reserve proposed and then adopted an "Ample-reserves regime" in which "active management of the supply of reserves is not required."
Irrespective of whether banks are constrained by central bank reserves requirements, they still must pay attention to reserves needed to maintain their own profitability and solvency. Hence the growing dependence on a separately functioning "split circuit" system of money circulation, described by Dr. Huber below, which explains how banks are increasingly able "to look for reserves later".
Manipulation of interest rates, along with the amount of available reserves and reserve requirements are, theoretically speaking, the primary methods by which central banks exert a modicum of control over the credit-as-money creation system. In recent years, central banks are increasingly being forced to choose historically low interest rates as the prime method for dealing with an economy that has become dangerously overburdened by debt relative to money with which to pay off said debt. (Importantly, the dollar has been undergoing continuous and systematic devaluation due to accumulated and growing debt. This is precisely why a 1910 dollar could be used to obtain far more goods and services than the same dollar of today. It all has to do with the well known mathematical law of exponential increase, or as Economist and Historian Michael Hudson puts it, the "Law of increase.")
The Federal Reserve System utilizes two different interest rate mechanisms through which it ostensibly controls the availability/accessibility of credit aka "bank money." The first is the Fed Funds Rate which is "The interest rate at which banks and other depository institutions lend money to each other, usually on an overnight basis." The Fed Funds rates in turn "can be viewed as the base rate that determines the level of all other interest rates in the U.S. economy."
The second interest rate tool employed by the Fed is the Discount Rate, which is "the interest rate charged to commercial banks and other depository institutions on loans they receive from their regional Federal Reserve Bank's lending facility--the discount window." A Federal Reserve essay on monetary policy explains that "When the Federal Reserve lends [through its discount window], all else equal, the total amount of deposits of depository institutions increases."
This same essay also says that "an increase in the Federal Reserve's holdings of securities also raises the level of deposits [reserves] of depository institutions."
Following the 2008 crisis, the Fed acquired several trillion dollars in securities through its various "QE" programs, which - until the so-called Covid crisis - it had been slowly "unwinding" through its tapering program, thus reducing acquisition of securities which are in turn used as "reserves." In addition the Fed's interest rate policies have kept the Fed Discount Rate at roughly double the Fed Funds Rate, which then means that member banks will do what they can to avoid borrowing from the Fed's "discount window."
Essentially the Fed was utilizing this interest rate policy as a means by which to encourage banks to get more money aka "bank money" into circulation. Externally imposed reserve requirements have become almost a non-issue particularly for smaller banks (which tend to serve the main street economy). Thus as Kumhof concludes, "the quantity of reserves in modern banking has become a consequence and not a cause of bank lending and money creation." Kumhof explains how this works.
Professor Joseph Huber, who is considered by many to be among the top monetary reform economists in the world, has added another element to discussions concerning how modern banking has shifted away from the 2-tier banking structure (fractional reserve or money multiplier model). The traditional explanation he says is dead wrong because it conceals an important fact about how the two tier structure actually now involves a "split circuit" of money circulation.
Echoing Dr. Kumhof and others, Huber asserts that "money" (or what he calls bank money) creation has been increasingly bank led, with the central bank adding reserves only when needed by the commercial banks. This trend has been developing over the last 40 or so years as improving technology allows for speedier transfers of money.
As Dr. Huber explains it, reserves represent the first tier or circuit of money circulation, which is completely separate from the second tier, or circuit, involving "demand deposits" (short term savings, checking accounts and so forth). Each circuit operates completely independently of the other, although the 2nd tier or circuit is, as of old, dependent on the first tier, or circuit, where "reserves" circulate back and forth between banks as they settle their accounts each day, this due to increased velocity permitted by modern technology.
Since the money represented by the first circuit (reserves) circulates much faster than "bank money" which is often parked in savings accounts, etc. in the second circuit, fewer reserves are needed to settle accounts than previously. Bottom line though, what Huber calls "bank money" has over the past one to two centuries very nearly driven out sovereign money. Huber's discussion, which includes a chart showing the gradual increase of "bank money" versus "sovereign money" over the last 100 years, is well worth watching.
Keeping in mind today's monetary crisis, it may also be worthwhile to consider the still useful basic precepts taken from Modern Money Mechanics and other sources. Or as explained by Investopedia the "money multiplier effect" of reserve requirements is only a way to represent the possible impact of the fractional reserve system on the money supply. As such, while it is useful for economics teachers, it is generally regarded as an oversimplification by policy makers.
In terms of alternative money systems, we come down firmly on the side of the Jeffersonians, the late nineteenth century Populists and a very long line of others throughout our history in support of government-issued money, which needs to be debt-and-interest free at the point of issue. Although other alternative and "debt Free" money creation systems have been and are yet being proposed we chose the "Public Credit Money System" because we believe it to be tailor made for the American system of government. As stated elsewhere on this website, by far and away the best, most Constitutionally faithful and well-designed piece of legislation to have ever been introduced to Congress has been The NEED Act.