A Second Model for Regaining Control of Our Money

modernising money

(This is the fifth in a series of posts about stripping private banks of their power to issue money)

Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed

by Andrew Jackson and Ben Dyson (Positive Money 2012)

Book Review

Modernizing Money lays out a model for restoring government control of the money supply that’s very similar to the Chicago Plan. However it differs from the Chicago Plan in several important ways. Unlike the Chicago Plan, this second model isn’t obsessed with sovereign debt repayment. This, in my view is the most significant difference. Given the IMF’s singular focus on servicing debt, their heavy emphasis on debt repayment isn’t terribly surprising.

In allowing publicly accountable government bodies to assume responsibility for issuing money, both models ensure decisions around money creation are based on the needs of a productive economy, rather than the profit profile of private banks.

Thus both go a long way towards ending bubbles and boom and bust cycles, as well as reducing debt and minimizing inflation and deflation. The 2008 economic downturn was triggered by sudden deflation, i.e. the permanent loss of 60-200 trillion dollars from the global economy.*

Because income inequality increases in direct proportion to debt levels, nationalizing the money supply will also reduce income inequality.

A Radical Change in the Function of Banks

The function of banks changes radically under both proposals. In both cases, private would function purely as money brokers, like credit unions and savings and loan associations. They would only be permitted to loan money from existing assets, from customers’ investment accounts or from reserves borrowed from the central bank. Under both plans, there would be no bank bailouts or bank depositor insurance. When private banks cease to serve the essential function of creating and maintaining the money supply, they will cease to be “too big to fail.” Those that continue to make risky speculative investments will be allowed to go bankrupt.

How the Two Proposals Differ

The proposal Positive Money puts forward in Modernising Money is based on the British economic system, whereas the Chicago Plan is based on the US system. Thus the transition would be somewhat easier in the UK, where the central bank (the Bank of England) has been government-owned since 1946. In contrast the US the central bank (the Federal Reserve) is a consortium of privately owned banks.

Unlike the Chicago Plan, the Positive Money model would use newly created sovereign money for other purposes that paying down existing debt. Under the Chicago Plan, using the new debt-free money to repay sovereign debt (aka national debt or public debt) would be one of the first steps in the transition. The Chicago Plan would also use the new money to issue a citizens dividend that businesses and households would use to pay off private debt.

The Positive Money proposal would simply transfer all existing public and private debt (i.e. mortgage and consumer debt) to the Bank of England balance sheet. Businesses and households would continue to make loan repayments to the Bank of England according to the terms agreed with their bank. This new revenue accruing to the BOE would be spent into the economy in one of five ways. At the discretion of the British government, it could be used to increase public spending, cut taxes or repay government debt. It could also be used to issue a citizens’ dividend (which households and businesses would be required to use for repayment of existing debts) or new loans to businesses.

Ensuring Adequate Credit for the Business Sector

Positive Money is also more explicit about how they would ensure there is adequate credit in the economy to make sure new businesses have adequate access to loans for productive business investment. They would use a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, including the existing Credit Conditions Survey. They would then auction off a specified amount of new credit to private banks. This new credit could only be used for business loans and not mortgages or consumer credit.

*Both proposals also make the claim that nationalizing the creation of money would also end real estate speculation and bubbles by restricting the funds available for mortgage loans. However given that both proposals spend new money into the economy, there’s still a good chance this could be used for real estate speculation. In my view, the only way to prevent this would be to implement a Land Value Tax simultaneously with the transition to government-issued money.