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A History of Inflationary Money: From 1844 to Nixon

A History of Inflationary Money: From 1844 to Nixon

So that we can understand the financial and banking challenges ahead of us, this article provides an historical and technical background. But we must first get an important definition right, and that is the cause of the periodic cycle of boom and bust. The cycle of economic activity is not a trade or business cycle, but a credit cycle. It is caused by fractional reserve banking and by banks loaning money into existence. The effect on business is then observed but is not the underlying cause.

Modern banking has its roots in England’s Bank Charter Act of 1844, which led to the practice of loaning money into existence, commonly described as fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking is defined as making loans and taking in customer deposits in quantities that are multiples of the bank’s own capital. Case law in the wake of the 1844 act, having more regard for the status quo as established precedent than for the fundamentals of property law, ruled that irregular deposits (deposits for safekeeping) were no different from a loan. Judge Lord Cottenham’s ruling in Foley v. Hill (1848) 2 HLC 28 is a judicial decision relating to the fundamental nature of a bank which held in effect that

The money placed in the custody of the banker is to all intents and purposes, the money of the banker, to do with it as he pleases. He is guilty of no breach of trust in employing it. He is not answerable to the principal if he puts it into jeopardy, if he engages in haphazardous speculation.

This was undoubtedly the most important ruling of the last two centuries on money. Today, we know of nothing else other than legally confirmed fractional reserve banking. However, sound or honest banking, with banks acting as custodians, had existed in the centuries before the 1844 act and any corruption of the custody status was regarded as fraudulent.

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