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Central bank digital currency coexisting with bankmoney

October 25, 2018

In January, Joseph Huber sent a link to an article on Monetary Reform Light: Sovereign digital currency coexisting with bankmoney.  He now adds that the discussion on central bank digital currency (coexisting with bankmoney rather than replacing it) has made much headway:

“As it turns out, the devil is in the details. Whether the entire approach serves to maintain the bankmoney regime or whether it might really be the first step towards a gradual system change towards a sovereign money system depends on a number of design principles as outlined in my new paper on Digital Currency – Maintaining or Overcoming the Bankmoney Regime? Design principles that make the difference, at or





THE BUILDING OF GOSABA: a legitimate use of money

September 23, 2018


Ken Palmerton is the co-founder of a small ecumenical group (Muslim, Jewish, Christian) called the Institute for Rational Economics, which has been active in several areas, including the promotion of local currency schemes and reform of banking systems. For years he has been trying to find out if there are any traces\memories\further records left of the scheme he describes below.

This project is an example of the legitimate use of money, which should not be treated as a commodity but as a medium enabling the exchange of goods and services in situations where direct barter would have posed difficulties. Used within a sound financial system, ‘honest’ money can serve the community by facilitating trade and above all can ensure the application of the talents and labour of each person to the meeting of his or her community’s needs.

Millions of people in the subcontinent of India, despite its great natural wealth in land and labour, live in poverty. A detailed examination, however, reveals local small-scale patterns of success that hold out hope in a world where hope is at a premium.

One historic example was a co-operative scheme undertaken in Gosaba, a previously uninhabited area of the Ganges delta in West Bengal.

In 1903 a Calcutta businessman, Sir Daniel Hamilton, (left) took out leases on tidal swamp land. During the next thirty years the flood-prone area was drained and turned into productive agricultural land, supporting about 12,000 people.

Schools, dispensaries, small industries, river transport and the means of processing the surplus crops for sale in the city were organised on co-operative lines – and the co-operative movement eventually spread throughout Bengal.

In its twenty-five villages, all disputes were settled locally and there was no alcohol in evidence.

A photograph of his bungalow taken in 2013 by Lokenrc, Creative Commons licence


A radical method of funding made this development possible.

From the first, Sir Daniel had issued notes called ‘hachitta’, in exchange for work done and redeemable at a co-operative store set up to supply the needs of the community.

The official backing for these notes was a deposit of 11,00 rupees, supposedly held at the estate office, but in fact they were simply a medium of exchange as the wording on one side of the notes explained:

Sir Daniel Mackinnon Hamilton promises to pay the bearer on demand, at the Co-operative Bhundar, in exchange for value received, one Rupees worth of rice, cloth, oil, or other goods.

Signed: D.M.Hamilton

On the other side was written: “The value received in exchange for this note may be given in the form of bunds constructed, or tanks excavated, or land reclaimed, or buildings erected, or in medical or educational services. The note may be exchanged for coin, if necessary, at the estate office. This note is made good not by the coin, which makes nothing, but by the assets created, and the services rendered. The note is based upon the living man, not on the dead coin. It costs practically nothing, and yields a dividend of one hundred per cent in land reclaimed, tanks excavated, and houses built, etc. And in a more healthy and abundant life”.



Read more here:







A regional co-operative development bank for Wales?

August 21, 2018

John McDonnell, in his 2016 speech about socialist economic policy, said, “For too long major decisions about what and where to invest have been taken by Whitehall and the City. The result has been underinvestment and decline across the country. It’s time for our regions and localities to take back control. So we will create new institutions”.

A Labour government would set up a £250billion National Investment Bank to supply the long-term, patient finance needed to sustain a new, more productive economy. It will be backed up by a network of regional development banks, with a clear public mandate to supply finance to regional and local economies. They will have a mandate to provide the patient, long-term investment needed.

The Co-operative and Community Benefit Society Act (2014) allowed co-operatives to hold a deposit-taking licence for the first time, clearing the way for full service high-street retail banks to be owned by their customers.

Tony Greenham, who promotes the creation of regional co-operative banks writes: “In response, the Community Savings Bank Association was established in 2015. Its purpose is to help set up a network of 18 regional co-operative banks across the UK with a mission to serve all people on equal terms and to focus on honest and transparent savings, loans and banking services for SMEs, community groups and households of ordinary means. By providing the back office functions and regulatory frameworks to operate a bank – a ‘bank in a box’ – this model allows smaller regional banks to stay close to their customers while also enjoying the cost efficiency advantages of national scale. The banks will be controlled by their customers, one member one vote”.

Mr Greenham is working with similar projects in London and Bristol. In Greater London, two local authorities have put up £10 million towards the £20 million needed to get a co-operative bank licence.

Ellen Brown, in an earlier post on this site, reminds us that there are over 50 similar initiatives taking place all over the USA, from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska, involving citizens, civic leaders  and elected officials, bankers and stakeholders from all walks of life who want to break the chain of dependence on mainstream banks and then looks further afield, writing:

“Greater access to finance for Welsh businesses has long been a key political issue. Brexit has both added to the need and opened new possibilities”.

After years of discussion, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru have finally agreed on a compact which includes a commitment to establish a development bank focused on finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to be formalized in the Fifth National Assembly. A Welsh Development Bank would target particular sectors and types of business that have difficulty getting funding, such as microbusinesses and new businesses.

Members of the Public Bank for Wales Action Group, which includes Arian Cymru, Responsible Finance, Move Your Money, WCVA, Wales Co-Op Centre and WLGA have significant experience and knowledge of other US and European models that may be particularly relevant to the Welsh project. The group had two public meetings last year with the Welsh government, including the chief economist and the local government and finance minister. A public meeting in Cardiff in January last year led to the first commissioned report on a Public Bank for Wales and the Public Bank for Wales Action Group is in dialogue with the Welsh government about commissioning a more detailed report.

Ellen points out that the US state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) and the German community-owned Sparkassen banks, have been remarkably successful. She writes: “One key to their success is that rather than simply lending their capital as a revolving fund or development agency does, they can leverage their capital into roughly ten times that sum in loans. This is something all banks can do – but only if they take deposits”.

If Labour’s National Development Bank comes into being, a Welsh regional co-op bank could be one of the network of twelve regional development banks under a Labour government, with a clear public mandate to supply finance to regional and local economies.





In November Los Angeles will choose whether to set up a public bank with a mandate to serve the people

July 31, 2018

Voters in LA will be the first in the United States to choose whether to set up their city’s own public bank to serve the people, instead of private interests.

LA’s charter currently prohibits the creation of industrial or commercial enterprises by the city without voter approval. The City Council voted on June 29th to put a measure on the November ballot that would allow the city to form its own socially and environmentally responsible, state-chartered public bank.

Public Bank LA banner

Public Banking Institute Chair Ellen Brown reported on this in a recent article:

The [Los Angeles] bank is expected to:

  • save the city millions, if not billions, of dollars in Wall Street fees and interest paid to bondholders,
  • inject new money into the local economy,
  • generate jobs
  • expanding the tax base,
  • reinvest in low-income housing,
  • critical infrastructure projects
  • and clean energy.

The City of Los Angeles paid over $109 million in fees and interests to commercial banks in 2016.  With a city-owned bank, our revenues will stay within our city. By cutting out Wall Street as the middle man, banking profit will be reinvested back into our communities.


Public Bank LA writes:

“Imagine a City Public Bank revolution where every major city has its own public bank with a social and environmental charter, explicitly designed to serve the needs of the local community” and ends:

“It’s time for our banking system to evolve into publicly-owned financial institutions prioritizing people and planet over profit”.





Climate change should be placed “front and centre” of the central bank’s mandate to boost green investment

July 12, 2018

A Green Bank of England, Central Banking for a Low-Carbon Economy


Delphine Strauss (Financial Times) summarises advice in this report (link to pdf above) from the campaign group Positive Money.

It recommends that climate change be placed “front and centre” of the Bank of England’s mandate so that the central bank can boost green investment.

The report has won backing from Lord Deben, who chairs the independent Committee on Climate Change which was set up by the government to monitor the UK’s progress in meeting its statutory targets for cutting emissions:

“They are right to seek some radical measures, because the issues are radical. I think that monetary policy does need to reflect these risks”, he said, adding that central banks should do more to ensure the availability of green finance and divest from fossil fuel companies that showed no inclination to change their business.

The BoE has been reviewing UK insurers and banks’ exposure to climate-related risks and supports efforts to develop international standards for voluntary disclosure.

Mark Carney, the BoE’s governor, has repeatedly warned of the physical damage climate change could wreak on the economy and the risks to financial stability that might result from a sudden revaluation of carbon-intensive assets.

Positive Money argued that this concern for financial stability will look “incoherent” unless the BoE does more to boost investment in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its report urged the government to rewrite the mandate of the Monetary Policy Committee to include green objectives explicitly and called on the BoE to look at ways to build climate-related risks into its macroeconomic models.

The Positive Money report urges the BoE to set an example:

  • by disclosing the carbon risks of assets on its own balance sheet
  • by ending the practice of buying bonds issued by fossil fuel companies
  • and by financing green projects via quantitative easing during any recession.

It argued that the BoE has unintentionally promoted high-carbon sectors because its criteria for asset purchases favoured the bonds of large fossil fuel companies.




Switzerland’s Vollgeld initiative: inspired by Joseph Huber and James Robertson, backed by Martin Wolf

June 8, 2018

Quartz magazine and many other media outlets report that Switzerland votes in its “sovereign money” referendum on Sunday to decide whether banks will be prohibited from lending more money than they have in deposits, meaning only the central bank will be allowed to “create” new money.

At the 2014 launch of the Vollgeld Initiative, in the Media Center Bern, Switzerland, Hans Ruedi Weber, president of the NGO Monetary Modernization said:

Just over six years ago, at the height of the crisis in 2007/08, the book “Creating New Money” by Joseph Huber and James Robertson (pdf here) was translated into German. At that time we decided to start a sovereign money (Vollgeld) initiative in Switzerland”. 

By November the “Vollgeld Initiative” had successfully managed to collect 100,000 signatures – the number required to trigger a nationwide referendum on the issue.

Switzerland’s Vollgeld Initiative is backed by Martin Wolf. He explains that to make the system safer, banks would be stripped of the power to create money, by turning their liquid deposits into “state” or “sovereign” money. He writes:

“The proposal raises questions about the purposes to which the new sovereign money might be used. The obvious possibility is to use the money to finance the government. This idea is highly objectionable to some: it would surely create big challenges.

“Yet those challenges are nothing like as fundamental as was transferring responsibility for a core attribute of the state — the creation of sound money — to a favoured set of profit-seeking private businesses, co-ordinated by a price-setting government institution, the central bank.

“In no other economic area is public power so mixed with private interests. Familiarity with this arrangement cannot make it less undesirable. Nor can familiarity with its performance”.

Wolf states the advantage of the Vollgeld proposal: “It is a credible experiment in the direction of separating the safety rightly demanded of money from the risk-bearing expected of private banks. With money unambiguously safe, it would be far easier to let risk-taking institutions bear the full consequences of their failures”.  He ends:

“The Vollgeld proposal could provide an illuminating test of a better possible future for what has long been the world’s most perilous industry.


“May the Swiss dare”.






Thomas Attwood would have saluted the creation of the second American public bank

June 1, 2018

American Samoa is creating the second public bank in the United States. The Federal Reserve is allowing the Territorial Bank of American Samoa access to the U.S. payments system nearly two years after the bank first applied.

Federal funds and public assistance will be deposited in the bank and business loans will be provided to the small-business community.

The Territorial Bank opened its doors in October 2016 but lacked access to the payments system which enables transaction to take place with other U.S. institutions and offer traditional amenities to customers, such as cheques, debit and credit cards.

American Samoa is a U.S. territory covering 7 South Pacific islands and atolls. It has its own democratically elected legislature and governor, but all laws must be approved by the U.S. president, who retains the power to dissolve the legislature. Its people are not American citizens, but American nationals, with the right to live and work in the states.

Officials across the seven islands have been seeking a way to maintain local banking services since the Bank of Hawaii announced in 2012 it was leaving the territory. Only the Australian bank ANZ remained in the territory but its profits leave Guam and it has given no help to develop the territory’s economy.

The other American public bank – a model?

States like New Jersey and cities like Seattle and San Francisco are receptive to the idea of forming new public banks as a way to help the local economy.

Public-bank supporters see the Fed approval as a sign that there won’t be regulatory hurdles to the creation of additional public banks in the U.S. “It does set a precedent,” said Ellen Brown, founder and president of the Public Banking Institute, which is backing the New Jersey effort. “It definitely will add impetus.”

The model is vigorously opposed by the banking industry and conservatives, who view state-run enterprises as government intrusion in the market.