Free bankers have been fighting a war on two fronts. On one they face champions of central banking and managed money. On the other they struggle against advocates of 100-percent reserve banking. Although the second front is a lot smaller than the first, it’s far from being unimportant, in part because the battle there is being fought against people who generally favor free markets, who might have been expected to join rather than to oppose our cause.The rest of the posting is a great read for those interested in this topic.
They oppose it for a variety of reasons, one of which is their belief that, in a truly free-market setting, fractional reserve banking wouldn’t survive. Instead, they insist, 100-percent reserve banks would prevail. That they haven't is due, in their opinion, to a banking industry playing field slanted in favor of favor fractional-reserve banks, especially by either implicit or implicit deposit guarantees financed through forced levies upon all banks, and sometimes by taxation or inflation. In short, fractional-reserve banking has been nurtured by government subsidies.
Free bankers have tried responding to this argument by noting how fractional reserve banking has prevailed under every sort of bank regulatory regime, from the earliest beginnings of banking, not excepting regimes that involved very little regulation, like those of Scotland, Canada, and Sweden, and that lacked even a trace of government guarantees or other sorts of artificial support. But since some 100-percenters seem unmoved by this approach, I here take a different tack, which consists of pointing out that every significant 100-percent bank known to history was a government-sponsored enterprise, which depended for its existence on some combination of direct government subsidies, compulsory patronage, or laws suppressing rival (fractional reserve) institutions. Yet despite the special support they enjoyed, and their solemn commitments to refrain from lending coin deposited with them, they all eventually came a cropper. What’s more, it was these government-sponsored full-reserve banks, rather than their private-market fractional reserve counterparts, that were the progenitors of later central banks, starting with the Bank of England.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
The state and 100 percent reserve banking
At the Free Banking blog George Selgin looks at the history of 100 percent reserve banking and points out that every significant 100-percent bank known to history was a government-sponsored enterprise, which depended for its existence on some combination of direct government subsidies, compulsory patronage, or laws suppressing rival (fractional reserve) institutions. Selgin writes,