Some commentators consider fractional reserve banking as a major vehicle for the expansion in the money supply growth rate. What is the nature of this vehicle?
We suggest that fractional reserve banking arises because banks legally are permitted to use money placed with them in demand deposits. Banks treat this type of money as if it was loaned to them. However, is this really the case?
When John places $100 in a safe deposit box with Bank One he does not relinquish his claim over the $100. He has an unlimited claim against his money. Likewise, when he places $100 in a demand deposit at Bank One he also does not relinquish his claim over the deposited $100. Also in this case John has an unlimited claim against his $100.
Now let’s assume that Bank One takes $50 out of John’s demand deposit without getting any consent from John in this regard and lends this to Mike. By lending Mike $50, the bank creates a deposit for $50 that Mike can now use.
Remember that John still has an unlimited claim against the $100 while Mike has now a claim against $50. What we have here that the Bank One has generated an extra spendable power to the tune of $50. We can also say that Bank One has $150 deposits that are Bank’s One liabilities, which are supported by $100 cash, which are Bank’s One reserves. Note that the reserves comprise 66.7% of Bank’s One deposit liabilities. This example indicates that Bank One is practicing fractional reserve banking.
Although the law allows for this type of practice, from an economic point of view, this results in money out of “thin air” which leads to consumption that is not supported by production, i.e., to the dilution of the pool of real wealth.
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