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The process of how banks create money shows how the quantity of money in an economy is closely linked to the quantity of lending or credit in the economy. Indeed, all of the money in the economy, except for the original reserves, is a result of bank loans that are re-deposited and loaned out, again, and again.

Finally, the money multiplier depends on people re-depositing the money that they receive in the banking system. If people instead store their cash in safe-deposit boxes or in shoeboxes hidden in their closets, then banks cannot recirculate the money in the form of loans. Indeed, central banks have an incentive to assure that bank deposits are safe because if people worry that they may lose their bank deposits, they may start holding more money in cash, instead of depositing it in banks, and the quantity of loans in an economy will decline. Low-income countries have what economists sometimes refer to as “mattress savings,” or money that people are hiding in their homes because they do not trust banks. When mattress savings in an economy are substantial, banks cannot lend out those funds and the money multiplier cannot operate as effectively. The overall quantity of money and loans in such an economy will decline.

Watch a video of Jem Bendell discussing “The Money Myth.”

Money and banks—benefits and dangers

Money and banks are marvelous social inventions that help a modern economy to function. Compared with the alternative of barter, money makes market exchanges vastly easier in goods, labor, and financial markets. Banking makes money still more effective in facilitating exchanges in goods and labor markets. Moreover, the process of banks making loans in financial capital markets is intimately tied to the creation of money.

But the extraordinary economic gains that are possible through money and banking also suggest some possible corresponding dangers. If banks are not working well, it sets off a decline in convenience and safety of transactions throughout the economy. If the banks are under financial stress, because of a widespread decline in the value of their assets, loans may become far less available, which can deal a crushing blow to sectors of the economy that depend on borrowed money like business investment, home construction, and car manufacturing. The Great Recession of 2008–2009 illustrated this pattern.

The many disguises of money: from cowries to bit coins

The global economy has come a long way since it started using cowrie shells as currency. We have moved away from commodity and commodity-backed paper money to fiat currency. As technology and global integration increases, the need for paper currency is diminishing, too. Every day, we witness the increased use of debit and credit cards.

The latest creation and perhaps one of the purest forms of fiat money is the Bitcoin. Bitcoins are a digital currency that allows users to buy goods and services online. Products and services such as videos and books may be purchased using Bitcoins. It is not backed by any commodity nor has it been decreed by any government as legal tender, yet it used as a medium of exchange and its value (online at least) can be stored. It is also unregulated by any central bank, but is created online through people solving very complicated mathematics problems and getting paid afterward. Bitcoin.org is an information source if you are curious. Bitcoins are a relatively new type of money. At present, because it is not sanctioned as a legal currency by any country nor regulated by any central bank, it lends itself for use in illegal trading activities as well as legal ones. As technology increases and the need to reduce transactions costs associated with using traditional forms of money increases, Bitcoins or some sort of digital currency may replace our dollar bill, just as the cowrie shell was replaced.

Key concepts and summary

The money multiplier is defined as the quantity of money that the banking system can generate from each $1 of bank reserves. The formula for calculating the multiplier is 1/reserve ratio, where the reserve ratio is the fraction of deposits that the bank wishes to hold as reserves. The quantity of money in an economy and the quantity of credit for loans are inextricably intertwined. Much of the money in an economy is created by the network of banks making loans, people making deposits, and banks making more loans.

Given the macroeconomic dangers of a malfunctioning banking system, Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation will discuss government policies for controlling the money supply and for keeping the banking system safe.

Problems

Humongous Bank is the only bank in the economy. The people in this economy have $20 million in money, and they deposit all their money in Humongous Bank.

  1. Humongous Bank decides on a policy of holding 100% reserves. Draw a T-account for the bank.
  2. Humongous Bank is required to hold 5% of its existing $20 million as reserves, and to loan out the rest. Draw a T-account for the bank after this first round of loans has been made.
  3. Assume that Humongous bank is part of a multibank system. How much will money supply increase with that original loan of $19 million?

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References

Bitcoin. 2013. www.bitcoin.org.

National Public Radio. Lawmakers and Regulators Take Closer Look at Bitcoin . November 19, 2013. http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-11-19/lawmakers-and-regulators-take-closer-look-bitcoin.

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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