суббота, 30 июня 2012 г.


The Bank of Amsterdam was a forerunner of the Bank of Stockholm (Riksbank), which began operating in 1656 and was divided into two departments: one responsible for the safekeeping of deposits (using a 100-percent reserve ratio) and modeled after the Bank of Amsterdam; and another devoted to loans. Although the departments supposedly functioned separately from one another, in practice they were separate only on paper, and the Bank of Stockholm soon abandoned the standards set by the Dutch bank. The Swedish authorities
nationalized it in 1668, making it the first government bank of the modern world. Not only did it violate the traditional principles which guided the Bank of Amsterdam, but it also initiated a new fraudulent and systematic practice: the
issuance of banknotes or deposit receipts for a sum higher than actual deposits received in cash. This is how banknotes were born, along with the lucrative practice of issuing them for a higher amount than the total of deposits. Over time, this activity would become the banking practice par excellence, especially
in the centuries that followed, during which it deceived scholars, who failed to realize that the issuance of banknotes had the same repercussions as artificial credit expansion and deposit creation, two practices which, as A.P. Usher has noted, had been at the core of the banking business from its origins.
The Bank of England was created in 1694 and was also patterned after the Bank of Amsterdam, due to the considerable influence Holland exerted on England following the accession of the House of Orange to the English throne. However, the bank was not constituted with the same legal guarantees of safekeeping as the Bank of Amsterdam. Instead, one of its main aims from the outset was to help finance public expenditures.
For this reason, although the Bank of England was intended to stop the commonplace, systematic abuses committed by private bankers and the government, in practice this goal was never achieved. In short, the Bank of England eventually failed, despite its privileged role as the government’s banker,
its monopoly on limited liability in England and its exclusive authorization to issue banknotes. As a result of its systematic neglect of the safekeeping obligation and its practice of granting loans and advances to the Treasury against the bank’s deposits, the Bank of England eventually suspended payments in 1797 after various colorful vicissitudes, including the South Sea Bubble.
Also in 1797, the same year the Bank of England was forbidden to return deposits in cash, it was declared that taxes and debts were to be paid in bills issued by the bank, and an attempt was made to limit advances and loans to the government. This was the dawn of the modern banking system, based on a fractional-reserve ratio and a central bank as lender of last resort.


The history of money and banking in eighteenth-century France is closely linked to the Scottish financier John Law and the “system” he concocted and put into practice there. Law persuaded the French regent, Philippe d’Orleans, that the
ideal bank was one that made use of the deposits it received, since this increased the amount of money in circulation and “stimulated” economic growth. Law’s system, like economic interventionism in general, arose from three different, though interconnected factors. First, disregard for traditional legal and moral principles, particularly the requirement for continual safekeeping of 100 percent of deposited money. Second, a reasoning error that appears to justify violating legal principles to attain seemingly beneficial goals quickly. Third, the fact that there will always be certain agents who view in proposed reforms an opportunity to make huge profits. The combination of these three factors allowed a political dreamer like Law to launch his “banking system” in France at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In fact, once the bank had earned people’s trust, it began to issue banknotes far exceeding deposits on hand and to extend loans against deposits.
The quantity of bills in circulation increased very rapidly, and as is logical, a significant artificial economic boom resulted. In 1718 the bank was nationalized (becoming the royal bank) and began churning out even more bills and granting more loans. This encouraged stock market speculation in general, and in
particular speculative buying and selling of shares of Law’s Compagnie de la Lousiane ou d’Occident or Mississippi Trading Company, aimed at fostering trade and advancing colonization of this French territory in America. By 1720 the absurd proportions of the financial bubble had become clear. Law tried desperately to stabilize the price of the company’s stock and the value of his bank’s paper money: the bank and trading company were merged, company stock was declared legal tender, coins lost part of their weight in an attempt to restore their relationship to bills, etc. However, all was in vain and the
inflationary bubble burst, bringing financial ruin not only to the bank but also to many French investors who had placed their trust in it and in the trading company. The losses were so heavy and the suffering so immense that for over a hundred years it was even considered a faux pas in France to utter the word “bank,” a term which for a time was synonymous with “fraud.” The ravages of inflation plagued France again a few decades later, as evidenced by the serious monetary chaos during the revolutionary period and the uncontrolled issuance of assignats at that time. All these phenomena made a permanent impression on the collective psyche of the French, who are still aware today of the grave dangers of paper money inflation and preserve the custom of storing considerable amounts of gold coins and ingots. In fact, France, together with India, is one of the countries whose people hold the largest stock of gold on a private basis.
All of the above notwithstanding, and in spite of his illfated banking experiment, John Law made some contributions to monetary theory. Although we cannot accept his inflationist and proto-Keynesian views, we must acknowledge, as Carl Menger did, that Law was the first to formulate a sound theory on the spontaneous, evolutionary origins of money.

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