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A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence

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  • Werner, Richard A.

Abstract

How do banks operate and where does the money supply come from? The financial crisis has heightened awareness that these questions have been unduly neglected by many researchers. During the past century, three different theories of banking were dominant at different times: (1) The currently prevalent financial intermediation theory of banking says that banks collect deposits and then lend these out, just like other non-bank financial intermediaries. (2) The older fractional reserve theory of banking says that each individual bank is a financial intermediary without the power to create money, but the banking system collectively is able to create money through the process of ‘multiple deposit expansion’ (the ‘money multiplier’). (3) The credit creation theory of banking, predominant a century ago, does not consider banks as financial intermediaries that gather deposits to lend out, but instead argues that each individual bank creates credit and money newly when granting a bank loan. The theories differ in their accounting treatment of bank lending as well as in their policy implications. Since according to the dominant financial intermediation theory banks are virtually identical with other non-bank financial intermediaries, they are not usually included in the economic models used in economics or by central bankers. Moreover, the theory of banks as intermediaries provides the rationale for capital adequacy-based bank regulation. Should this theory not be correct, currently prevailing economics modelling and policy-making would be without empirical foundation. Despite the importance of this question, so far only one empirical test of the three theories has been reported in learned journals. This paper presents a second empirical test, using an alternative methodology, which allows control for all other factors. The financial intermediation and the fractional reserve theories of banking are rejected by the evidence. This finding throws doubt on the rationale for regulating bank capital adequacy to avoid banking crises, as the case study of Credit Suisse during the crisis illustrates. The finding indicates that advice to encourage developing countries to borrow from abroad is misguided. The question is considered why the economics profession has failed over most of the past century to make any progress concerning knowledge of the monetary system, and why it instead moved ever further away from the truth as already recognised by the credit creation theory well over a century ago. The role of conflicts of interest and interested parties in shaping the current bank-free academic consensus is discussed. A number of avenues for needed further research are indicated.

Suggested Citation

  • Werner, Richard A., 2016. "A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 361-379.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:finana:v:46:y:2016:i:c:p:361-379
    DOI: 10.1016/j.irfa.2015.08.014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Maciej Albinowski, 2017. "The role of fractional-reserve banking in amplifying credit booms: evidence from panel data," Working Papers 2017-024, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis.
    2. Decker, Frank & Goodhart, C. A. E., 2018. "Credit mechanics: a precursor to the current money supply debate," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 100017, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Ponomarenko, Alexey, 2019. "Do sterilized foreign exchange interventions create money?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-16.
    4. Mariusz Kapuściński, 2017. "The Role of Bank Balance Sheets in Monetary Policy Transmission: Evidence from Poland," Eastern European Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(1), pages 50-69, January.
    5. Halim, Hafeez & Masih, Mansur, 2017. "The causal relationship between islamic bank financing and macroeconomic variables: evidence from Malaysia based on ARDL approach," MPRA Paper 95697, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Charles O. Manasseh & Godfrey I. Ihedimma & Felicia C. Abada & Ifeoma C. Nwakoby & Benson O. Njoku & Jude T. Kesuh & Chizoba G. Okeke & Felix C. Alio & J. U. J. Onwumere, 2020. "Did Global Financial Crisis Worsen Oil Price Volatility and Banking Sector Nexus in Selected ECOWAS and G-7 Member Countries?," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 10(6), pages 390-395.
    7. Imad A. Moosa, 2018. "The economic rationale for the proposed banking reform in Iceland," Journal of Banking Regulation, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 19(4), pages 317-326, November.
    8. Li, Boyao & Wang, Yougui, 2020. "Money creation within the macroeconomy: An integrated model of banking," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    9. Bernal-Ramirez, Joaquin & Ocampo, José Antonio, 2020. "Climate change: policies to manage its macroeconomic and financial effects," Working papers 63, Red Investigadores de Economía.
    10. Krug, Sebastian, 2018. "The interaction between monetary and macroprudential policy: Should central banks 'lean against the wind' to foster macro-financial stability?," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 12, pages 1-69.
    11. Леиашвили, Паата, 2017. "Правда И Ложь О Банках, Деньгах И Кредите [The truth and untruth about banks, money and credit]," MPRA Paper 84396, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Galvin, Ray & Sunikka-Blank, Minna, 2018. "Economic Inequality and Household Energy Consumption in High-income Countries: A Challenge for Social Science Based Energy Research," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 78-88.
    13. Maciej Albinowski, 2017. "The role of fractional-reserve banking in amplifying credit booms: evidence from panel data," Working Papers 2016-024, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis.
    14. Ibrahim Ari & Muammer Koc, 2019. "Sustainable Financing for Sustainable Development: Agent-Based Modeling of Alternative Financing Models for Clean Energy Investments," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(7), pages 1-1, April.
    15. Decker, Frank & Goodhart, Charles A, 2018. "Credit mechanics - a precursor to the current money supply debate," CEPR Discussion Papers 13233, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Boukhatem, Jamel & Djelassi, Mouldi, 2020. "Liquidity risk in the Saudi banking system: Is there any Islamic banking specificity?," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 206-219.
    17. Emir Phillips, 2017. "The On-Going Price of Perceiving Money as a Veil," International Journal of Economics and Finance, Canadian Center of Science and Education, vol. 9(12), pages 215-228, December.
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    19. Clavero, Borja, 2017. "A contribution to the Quantity Theory of Disaggregated Credit," MPRA Paper 76657, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. David Orrell, 2018. "Quantum Economics," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 7(2), pages 63-81, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bank accounting; Bank credit; Credit creation; Economics; Financial intermediation; Foreign borrowing; Fractional reserve banking; Money creation;

    JEL classification:

    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • E40 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - General
    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General

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