8 Jul 2015

How Money is Created

One of the things that seems to be very difficult for people to grasp is the idea of how money is created. So I noted that we see a lot of German people complaining that their tax euros have been lent to Greece. But that money lent to Greece does not come from tax dollars, or savings, or Germany's wealth. The loans create entirely new money. And when the loan is repaid that money ceases to exist.

The Bank of England was one of the first central banks to create money in this way - from the time it was created in the 17th century. Staff from the  Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate have prepared a paper explaining this form of money creation. They note:
"Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money."
 It is vitally important that we understand this. Part of the problem in 2007 was that banks had made too many loans and created too much money. When the sub-prime mortgage scam erupted what happened was that many people defaulted on their loans at once. It was not capital that was wiped out in this situation, it was the revenue stream of the rent that people were paying for the loan. We call this "interest" but it is a form of rent, especially in relation to the other products of the factors of production: wages from labour; and profit from capital. Rent is what is paid for use of a resource. And banks certainly see the loans they make as assets. So some companies, such as Lehman's brothers found their revenue stream curtailed. This meant that although Lehman's had many assets (loans) they did not have enough money coming in (rent) in order to pay their own creditors. So they went bankrupt. But that meant that rent the bank was paying also suddenly stopped.

The other reason it's important to understand the creation of money is that it is the rationale behind the idea of the Debt Jubilee. If the money of a bank loan was simply created out of nothing, and will return to nothing when it's paid off, then forgiving such a debt costs nobody anything. Except that the revenue stream gets cut off or reduced. Since a default amounts to the same thing, but creates all kind of illwill and political tension it is better to get ahead of it and arrange debt relief. This has happened many times in Europe.

You would think that any creditor with half a brain would be happier with some repayment than none. So a deal to repay less or slower would be preferable to a default in which there is no repayment. But this is not what we are seeing happening in Greece. The ECB and EU are demanding all or nothing. And if nothing they plan to force Greece out of the Eurozone (which as far as I can tell is illegal, because there is no provision for it in the treaty establishing the EZ).

But this view of money creation helps to explain why Greece's creditors don't have much to lose any more. They have been using the last five years to ensure that their income stream from rents on imaginary money is securely coming from elsewhere. So that when Greece defaults it won't cause a contagion of the kind that happened in the USA in 2007. Had they been concerned about the loss of revenue from Greece any more they would be more willing to negotiate. They literally have nothing to lose. And they also know that if they renegotiate the repayment schedule with Greece other nations, where their revenue streams come from, might also want to renegotiate. And there are a lot of countries overburdened with debt and implementing austerity programs that were the condition for the loans.

Understanding how money is created is a basic piece of information for intelligent participation in civil life. Lack of understanding is currently being preyed upon by Neoliberal governments to create narratives that promote their interests over the interests of the citizenry. We're being lied to on a regular basis.

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Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.