3:   Monetary reform

A Simultaneous Policy measure in process

Where does money come from? Whoever creates money, makes a profit. At present 97% is created by private banks. Shouldn't it be the government?

This was the theme of the It's Simpol ! newsletter Winter 2004/2005.

Simpol-UK held a policy forum at the House of Commons on 2 March 2005. Expert speakers gave their views of possible approaches to monetary reform. Development of possible measures for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy package is still in process.

If you have a particular interest in this issue contact Brian Wills to join with Adopters in developing proposals. His summary of the issue is given below with links to the text of the presentations of experts at the policy forum (Visit the site to download as a Word document).

Government or private? Reform of our unsustainable monetary system is long overdue

The current unjust situation. Lack of political will to end the abuse of money as a public resource for private profit deprives the British government of about £45 bn/year of funds potentially usable for welfare and other socially beneficial purposes, while commercial banks receive a hidden subsidy of over £20 bn/year. Similar abuses occur in many other countries.

Is there an achievable solution through global political action? Yes, because through its Adopters around the world the Simultaneous Policy (‘SP’) is developing a package of measures that address such global problems as climate change, unfair trade and unregulated corporate power. In a combined process-and-policy strategy, Adopters undertake to vote at elections for any politician, within reason, who pledges to implement such SP measures simultaneously with other governments, or to encourage their preferred party to support SP. An increasing number of politicians now recognise this no-risk strategy enables them to work for global change within their own democracies.

James Robertson (author with John Bunzl of Monetary Reform: Making it Happen!)

(The presentation is based on Chapters 1 and 2 of this book. The text can be downloaded free from For details about paperback copies, email [email protected]. Contact: [email protected].)

Introduction and context

Rightly or wrongly increasing numbers of people around the world are seeing the money system as a threat to democracy and a major cause of the economic inefficiency, destructiveness and injustice that they experience under the present form of globalisation. Monetary reform will be one important response to that.

Monetary reform is about changing the way new money is created. And the first thing to remember is that whoever creates new money makes money (unless they give it away).

At the national level the money supply is now very largely created (over 90% in UK) by commercial banks. They are allowed to write electronic money out of thin air into the bank accounts of their customers as profit-making loans.

The rest of the money supply is banknotes and coins (paper and metal money) created by agencies of the state and put into circulation debt-free a source of public revenue.

At the international level the main international currency now is the US dollar. The US is estimated to receive over $400 bn a year from other countries, especially poorer countries, for using it.

To save time this evening I will not say more about international monetary reform. But note that the proposal in Monetary Reform - Making it Happen follows the same general principles as the proposal for national monetary reform.

The national monetary reform proposal

1. Central banks should create non-cash money (i.e. bank-account money) out of thin air, as the commercial banks do now.

At regular intervals they should create as much as they decide is needed to increase the money supply.

They should transmit these amounts to their governments as debt-free public revenue.

Governments should then put the money into circulation by spending it like other revenue as they decide.

2. It should be made illegal for anyone else, including commercial banks, to create new bank-account money denominated in the national currency, just as it is already illegal to forge coins or counterfeit banknotes.

3. In order to regulate increases in the money supply the central bank will no longer need to manipulate interest rates in order to influence the amount of new money created by commercial banks.

4. In order to lend money, commercial banks will have to borrow already existing money from elsewhere. They will become brokers, linking potential lenders to potential borrowers as many people wrongly assume they are now.

5. This reform will parallel what happened to banknotes in the 19th century. Banknotes, issued by the banks, were then recognised to have become real money and no longer merely "credit notes". When that was accepted, the central bank took over issuing them. Similarly now, electronic bank-account money is recognised to have become real money, ready for immediate spending not just something called "credit". It is time to transfer responsibility to the central bank for creating it.

6. On the best available estimates this would mean about £45 bn a year in new public revenue, and loss of a hidden subsidy of over £20 bn now enjoyed by the banks.

7. The reform will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Since nationalisation in 1946, the Bank of England has continued to evolve from being a commercial bank with a special relationship to the government, towards becoming a straightforward agency of the state, as central monetary authority.
Meanwhile, the commercial banks have become somewhat less monopolistic, somewhat more competitive businesses, with fewer public service functions, subsidies and controls.

For both the Bank of England and the commercial banks, the proposed reform is clearly the next evolutionary step.

8. Two things monetary reform does Not propose:

a. Public spending. The reform will not affect the power of elected government to decide how the new money, or any other public revenue, is spent. (It will not give the Bank of England any power in that respect.)

b. Borrowing and lending. It will not restrict the borrowing and lending of already existing money.

Benefits of monetary reform

1. Reductions in taxation and government debt and increases in public spending, up to £45 bn a year.

2. The value of a common resource the national money supply will become a source of public revenue rather than private profit. That will remove an economic injustice and a distortion of economic efficiency.

3. Withdrawing the present hidden subsidy to the banks will result in a freer market for money and finance, and a more competitive banking industry. The recently published huge bank profits, and Don Cruickshank's recent outspoken criticisms of UK government policies are very relevant.

4. A debt-free money supply will help to reduce present levels of public and private indebtedness. They are partly caused by the fact that nearly all the money we use has been created as debt, which has to be paid back and on which interest has to be paid.

5. The economy will become more stable. Banks want to lend more and their customers want to borrow more at the peaks of the business cycle and less in the troughs. So, linking the creation of new money to the readiness of banks to lend and of bank customers to borrow, automatically amplifies the booms and busts that destabilise the economy.

6. The central bank will be better able to control inflation. It now tries to control inflation indirectly, by raising interest rates (the costs of bank loans). But raising those costs actually helps to cause inflation as well as bankrupting businesses and individuals.

7. Environmental destruction will be reduced. When, as now, almost all the money we use started out as debt, people have to produce and sell more things in order to repay the principal and interest of the debt than they would if all our money had started its life debt-free.

Obstacles and objections to the reform

The following are among the obstacles to national monetary reform and the objections against it by Ministers and MPs. They are documented and, in most cases, refuted in Monetary Reform - Making it Happen, where the names of particular MPs and Ministers are given.

1. Powerful opposition from banking and financial interests, and associates official, professional, academic, corporate, political. The threat that even raising possibility of monetary reform will damage the economy.

2. Public ignorance and confusion about how money is now created.

3. Positive wish for public and political ignorance.

4. Misunderstanding and misrepresentation about what the monetary reform proposal actually is.

5. Fear, genuine and spurious, that monetary reform will involve further centralisation of state power.

6. Knee-jerk reaction that monetary reform will be inflationary.

7. Knee-jerk reaction that monetary reform will 'crowd out' investment in the private sector. This ignores (a) that there is no compelling reason why it should, and (b) that the Private Financial Initiative (PFI ) was brought in precisely in order to channel private sector finance into public sector investment!

8. Depriving banks of their hidden subsidy will increase the costs of borrowing and payment services, and force banks to cut costs, close branches and reduce jobs. (But why should banks be subsidised any more than other industries?)

9. It will damage the international competitiveness of UK banks and therefore of the UK economy as a whole.

10. No other country has seriously considered it.

Relevance of the Simultaneous Policy

Logically, it should be possible to refute most of the objections. Many of them are spurious. But, genuine or spurious, fears of losing international competitiveness are very widespread and strong. An international citizens' movement for monetary reform can help to overcome them.

The Simultaneous Policy movement can obviously help to give momentum to such a movement provided it is clear that SP does NOT mean: "Nothing can be done to promote monetary reform until every country agrees to introduce it simultaneously".

An additional note about the power of the state.

To make an agency of the state directly and transparently responsible for controlling the public money supply, which it now controls indirectly by manipulating interest rates, will not give excessive new power to the state only clarify an existing responsibility.

Consider taxation a parallel case. Agencies of the state are directly responsible for taxation. Does anyone seriously support "decentralising" the power of the state by giving the Big Four banks responsibility for raising taxes on a profit-making basis?

Simpol and the Simultaneous Policy -- see

Simpol promotes the Simultaneous Policy (SP), which aims to deliver social justice around the world, resolve global problems like environmental destruction and regulate the economic power of international capital for the good of all. Simpol seeks solutions to problems that individual national governments cannot resolve by acting alone. This is because the problems transcend national boundaries, and because the global competitive system means that any government that acted alone to try and resolve such problems could effectively make its country uncompetitive.

Simpol aims to achieve these objectives by encouraging ordinary people around the world to oblige their political representatives and governments to move toward co-ordinated international resolution of global issues for the good of all. This is because it is only by countries all agreeing to implement changes at the same time that problems no individual government dares tackle alone can be resolved in a satisfactory way. Simultaneous implementation of such policies would ensure that no country became uncompetitive as a result of pursuing policies that were right for the planet and which embodied people’s higher aspirations.

All you need to do is sign up as a Simultaneous Policy Adopter which costs you nothing. By so doing you agree in principle to vote at elections for any candidate, within reason, who has signed a pledge to implement the Simultaneous Policy alongside other governments. Alternatively, if you have a party preference, your Adoption signifies you will encourage your preferred party to make this pledge. This is the simple mechanism Adopters use to advance their cause.

Simpol's approach is peaceful, open, and democratic. If you Adopt you will have the opportunity to contribute to the formation of specific policies that answer global problems and join with others in using your vote in a new and effective way to drive the politicians of all parties to implement these policies.