Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Stock Markets and the History Chart of the End of the World (With Presidential Cycles) - 28th Aug 20
2.Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook... AI Tech Stocks Buying Levels and Valuations Q3 2020 - 31st Aug 20
3.The Inflation Mega-trend is Going Hyper! - 11th Sep 20
4.Is this the End of Capitalism? - 13th Sep 20
5.What's Driving Gold, Silver and What's Next? - 3rd Sep 20
6.QE4EVER! - 9th Sep 20
7.Gold Price Trend Forecast Analysis - Part1 - 7th Sep 20
8.The Fed May “Cause” The Next Stock Market Crash - 3rd Sep 20
9.Bitcoin Price Crash - You Will be Suprised What Happens Next - 7th Sep 20
10.NVIDIA Stock Price Soars on RTX 3000 Cornering the GPU Market for next 2 years! - 3rd Sep 20
Last 7 days
Stock Market Enters Early Summer Correction Trend Forecast Time Window - 11th May 21
GOLD GDX, HUI Stocks - Will Paradise Turn into a Dystopia? - 11th May 21
Cathy Wood Bubble Bursts as ARK Funds CRASH! Enter into a Severe Bear Market - 11th May 21
Apply This Technique to Stop Rushing into Trades - 10th May 21
Stock Market Entering Early Summer Correction Trend Forecast - 10th May 21
CHIA Getting Started SSD Crypto Mining by Plotting and Farming on Your Hard Drives Guide - 9th May 21
Yaheetech Mesh Best Cheap Computer /. Gaming Chairs on Amazon Review - 9th May 21
Breaking US Trade Embargo with Cuba - Build 7 Computers in 14 Hours Before Ship Sales Challenge - 9th May 21
Dripcoin Applies New Technology That Provides Faster Order Execution - 9th May 21
Capital Gains Tax Hike News: Was It REALLY to Blame for Sell-off? - 7th May 21
Stock Market Transportation Index Continues To Grind Higher - 7th May 21
SPX Stock Market Correction Arriving or Not? - 7th May 21
How to Invest in an Online Casino? - 7th May 21
Gold & Silver Begin New Advancing Cycle Phase - 6th May 21
Vaccine Economic Boom and Bust - 6th May 21
USDX, Gold Miners: The Lion and the Jackals - 6th May 21
What If You Turn Off Your PC During Windows Update? Stuck on Automatic Repair Nightmare! - 6th May 21
4 Insurance Policies You Should Consider Buying - 6th May 21
Fed Taper Smoke and Mirrors - 5th May 21
Global Economic Recovery 2021 and the Dark Legacies of Smoot-Hawley - 5th May 21
Utility Stocks Continue To Rally – Sending A Warning Signal Yet? - 5th May 21
ROIMAX Trading Platform Review - 5th May 21
Gas and Electricity Price Trends so far in 2021 for the United Kingdom - 5th May 21
Crypto Bubble Mania Free Money GPU Mining With NiceHash Continues... - 4th May 21
Stock Market SPX Short-term Correction - 4th May 21
Gold & Silver Wait Their Turn to Ride the Inflationary Wave - 4th May 21
Gold Can’t Wait to Fall – Even Without USDX’s Help - 4th May 21
Stock Market Investor Psychology: Here are 2 Rare Traits Now on Display - 4th May 21
Sheffield Peoples Referendum May 6th Local Elections 2021 - Vote for Committee Decision's or Dictatorship - 4th May 21
AlphaLive Brings Out Latest Trading App for Android - 4th May 21
India Covid-19 Apocalypse Heralds Catastrophe for Pakistan & Bangladesh, Covid in Italy August 2019! - 3rd May 21
Why Ryzen PBO Overclock is Better than ALL Core Under Volting - 5950x, 5900x, 5800x, 5600x Despite Benchmarks - 3rd May 21
MMT: Medieval Monetary Theory - 3rd May 21
Magical Flowering Budgies Bird of Paradise Indoor Grape Vine Flying Fun in VR 3D 180 UK - 3rd May 21
Last Chance to GET FREE Money Crypto Mining with Your Desktop PC - 2nd May 21
Will Powell Lull Gold Bulls to Sweet Sleep? - 2nd May 21
Stock Market Enough Consolidation Already! - 2nd May 21
Inflation or Deflation? (Not a silly question…) - 2nd May 21
What Are The Requirements For Applying For A Payday Loan Online? - 2nd May 21
How to Invest in HIGH RISK Tech Stocks for 2021 and Beyond - Part1 - 1st May 21
INDIA COVID APOCALYPSE - 1st May 21
Are Technicals Pointing to New Gold Price Rally? - 1st May 21
US Dollar Index: Subtle Changes, Remarkable Outcomes - 1st May 21
Stock Market Correction Time Window - 30th Apr 21
Stock Market "Fastest Jump Since 2007": How Leveraged Investors are Courting "Doom" - 30th Apr 21
Three Reasons Why Waiting for "Cheaper Silver" Doesn't Make Cents - 30th Apr 21
Want To Invest In US Real Estate Market But Don’t Have The Down Payment? - 30th Apr 21
King Zuckerberg Tech Companies to Set up their own Governments! - 29th Apr 21
Silver Price Enters Acceleration Phase - 29th Apr 21
Financial Stocks Sector Appears Ready To Run Higher - 29th Apr 21
Stock Market Leverage Reaches New All-Time Highs As The Excess Phase Rally Continues - 29th Apr 21
Get Ready for the Fourth U.S. Central Bank - 29th Apr 21
Gold Mining Stock: Were Upswings Just an Exhausting Sprint? - 29th Apr 21
AI Tech Stocks Lead the Bull Market Charge - 28th Apr 21
AMD Ryzen Overclocking Guide - 5900x, 5950x, 5600x PPT, TDC, EDC, How to Best Settings Beyond PBO - 28th Apr 21
Stocks Bear Market / Crash Indicator - 28th Apr 21
No Upsetting the Apple Cart in Stocks or Gold - 28th Apr 21
Is The Covaids Insanity Actually Getting Worse? - 28th Apr 21
Dogecoin to the Moon! The Signs are Everywhere, but few will Heed them - 28th Apr 21
SPX Indicators Flashing Stock Market Caution - 28th Apr 21
Gold Prices – Don’t Get Too Excited - 28th Apr 21
6 Challenges Contract Managers Face When Handling Contractual Agreements - 28th Apr 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

The Faults of Fractional Reserve Banking

Currencies / Fiat Currency Dec 23, 2010 - 10:50 AM GMT

By: Thorsten_Polleit

Currencies

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleIn a November 1, 2010, blog post titled "Could the World Go Back to the Gold Standard?," Martin Wolf, the Financial Times chief economics commentator, comes to the conclusion that "we cannot and will not go back to the gold standard."

Among a number of mainstream-economics arguments leveled against the desirability and feasibility of the gold standard, Mr. Wolf puts forth a line of reasoning that can serve particularly well as a starting point for debating his position. Mr. Wolf writes,


Economists of the Austrian school wish to abolish fractional reserve banking. But we know that this is a natural consequence of market forces. It is wasteful to hold a 100 per cent reserve in a bank, if depositors do not need their money almost all of the time. Banks have a strong incentive to lend some of the money deposited with them, so expanding the aggregate supply of money and credit.

Austrians Do Not Call for Establishing a Gold Standard by Decree

To get the ball rolling, Austrian economists (in particular those in the Misesian-Rothbardian tradition) uncompromisingly call for replacing fiat money with free-market money — money that is produced by the free interplay of the supply of and demand for money.

Such a recommendation has a firm economical-ethical footing: free-market money is the only monetary order that is compatible with private-property rights, the governing principle of the free-market society.

The focus on private-property rights does not only follow from natural-rights theory (in the Lockean tradition), but it can be ultimately justified on the basis of the self-evident, irrefutable axiom of human action, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has shown.[1]

Austrians therefore argue for privatizing money production, shutting down central banks, and letting the market decide what kind of money people want to use. Government wouldn't have to play any active role in the workings of a free-market monetary system.

One may hold the view that precious metals — in particular gold and silver, and to some extent copper — would be the freely chosen, universally accepted means of exchange. In other words, they could become money once people have a free choice in monetary matters.

However, Austrian economists wouldn't call for establishing a gold standard, let alone a gold standard with (government-sponsored) central banking: they would argue for free-market money, under which, presumably, gold would become the freely chosen money.[2]

Fractional-Reserve Banking Violates Property Rights

Now let us turn to fractional-reserve banking. It means that a bank lends out money that clients have deposited with it. Fractional-reserve banking thus leads to a situation in which two individuals are made owners of the same thing.[3]

Fractional-reserve banking thus creates a legal impossibility: through bank lending, the borrower and the depositor become owners of the same money. Fractional-reserve banking leads to contractual obligations that cannot be fulfilled from the outset.

As Hoppe, Block, and Hülsmann note, "any contractual agreement that involves presenting two different individuals as simultaneous owners of the same thing (or alternatively, the same thing as simultaneously owned by more than one person) is objectively false and thus fraudulent."[4] A "fractional reserve banking agreement implies no lesser an impossibility and fraud than that involved in the trade of flying elephants or squared circles."[5]

The truth is that fractional-reserve banking amounts to violating the nature of the law of property rights. And so the argument that fractional-reserve banking represents sensible money economizing — an argument that Mr. Wolf brings up against a gold standard — doesn't hold water.

"Fractional-reserve banking thus creates a legal impossibility: through bank lending, the borrower and the depositor become owners of the same money."

Arguing in favor of fractional-reserve banking would in fact be tantamount to saying that it is legal (or rightful or even lawful) that Mr. A does whatever he wishes with Mr. B's property — without requiring Mr. B's consent.

What, however, if the bank and the depositor both agree voluntarily that money deposits should be used for credit transactions via the issuance of fiduciary media? Even such a voluntary agreement would be in violation of the law of property rights.

While bank and depositor benefit from such a trade (or expect to), what about those who receive fiduciary media? They would be falsely lured into exchanging goods and service against an item (fiduciary media) that is already claimed as property by others — something the seller presumably wouldn't agree to if he had only known the very nature of the trade.

What if all market agents voluntarily agreed to engage in fractional-reserve banking? The conclusion above wouldn't change: voluntarily accepted fractional-reserve banking would represent a monetary system that is, by its very nature, in violation of the nature of the law of private-property rights. It would produce economic chaos on the grandest scale.

Fractional-Reserve Banking Has Not Emerged "Naturally"

To be sure, fractional-reserve banking is not, as Mr. Wolf notes, "a natural consequence of market forces." It is a result of, and has been upheld by, government law.

In a free-market system, the practice of fractional-reserve banking would be illegal by its very nature. And so fractional-reserve banking would be ended (sooner rather than later) under the auspices of a functioning law of private-property rights.

The reason that fractional-reserve banking has been around for quite some time is due to government law — which, of course, must be distinguished from the natural law of property rights. Of course, government can make fractional-reserve banking legal in a formal sense. However, even government law does not change the nature of things. As Murray N. Rothbard puts it succinctly,

fractional reserve banks … create money out of thin air. Essentially they do it in the same way as counterfeiters. Counterfeiters, too, create money out of thin air by printing something masquerading as money or as a warehouse receipt for money. In this way, they fraudulently extract resources from the public, from the people who have genuinely earned their money. In the same way, fractional reserve banks counterfeit warehouse receipts for money, which then circulate as equivalent to money among the public. There is one exception to the equivalence: The law fails to treat the receipts as counterfeit.[6]

Fractional-Reserve Banking under Commodity Money versus Fiat Money

In a commodity-money regime — such as the gold standard — fractional-reserve banking is, as Austrian economists show, in effect a form of counterfeiting. However, what about fractional-reserve banking under a system of fiat money?

Under fiat money, banks' liabilities vis-à-vis clients (as far as demand deposits are concerned) are payable in the form of base money, or central-bank money — a type of money that can only be produced by (government-sponsored) central banks.

Central banks hold the monopoly over the production of base money. They can increase the base-money supply at any one time at any amount deemed politically desirable. It is the central bank that eventually determines whether or not banks can meet their payment obligations.

It may well be that the central bank decides, once a bank is called upon by its clients to pay out demand deposits in cash, to provide sufficient amounts of notes — by loaning them to the bank and/or by purchasing part of the bank's assets.

The essential point is, however, that banks that engage in fractional-reserve banking in a fiat-money regime create contractual obligations they cannot fulfill from the outset. Rothbard notes that

it doesn't make any difference what is considered money or cash in the society, whether it be gold, tobacco, or even government fiat paper money. The technique of pyramiding by the banks remains the same.[7]

The Uncomfortable Truth about Fractional-Reserve Banking

Austrian economists, and Ludwig von Mises in particular, have shown that fractional-reserve banking under commodity money necessarily causes economic problems on a grand scale. This is because banks then engage in circulation-credit expansion — that is, they issue money through lending that is not backed by real savings.[8]

Circulation bank credit is inflationary, and it causes economic disequilibria and overindebtedness of the private sector — in particular on the part of governments. It is also the very cause of the "boom-and-bust" cycle.

The latter, in turn, opens the door for ever-greater doses of government interventionism — regulations, nationalizations, price controls, etc. — that, over time, erodes and even destroys the very principles on which the free-market society rests.

This conclusion doesn't change when there is fractional-reserve banking under fiat money. Fiat money — or, to be more precise, its production — is already a violation of the free-market principle; and fractional-reserve banking amounts to leveraging the economic consequences of fiat money.

For the sake of preserving prosperous and peaceful societal cooperation, the very opposite of Mr. Wolf's conclusion must hold true: namely that we can and will return to sound money, and the gold standard is one particular form that is fully acceptable from an economical-ethical perspective — if and when it is freely chosen by the people.

Thorsten Polleit is Honorary Professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Send him mail. See Thorsten Polleit's article archives. Comment on the blog.

© 2010 Copyright Ludwig von Mises - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in