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Friday – when banks were banks

It is my Friday lay day and I am quite distracted with other commitments. But at the London presentation a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I would scrap central banks and consolidate their functions within a division of what we now think of as Treasury departments (or Finance Ministries). Whenever you say that there is a ridiculous response from those who claim to know something about banking along the lines of either, it would cause hyperinflation or that the politicians cannot be trusted. Both arguments are as I say – ridiculous. There are some things that central banks do that are necessary, for example, maintain financial stability through the integrity of the payments system. They also, depending on the nation, manage foreign reserves although that function is unnecessary if exchange rates float. Yes (flame suit on) I know less developed countries face exchange rate volatility and have to import food to survive. Which brings me to the point. The first part of scrapping central banks is to eliminate their ideological/political function. They are bastions of conservative mythology – pick whichever one you like – expanding the money supply is inflationary, ‘printing money’ is inflationary, politician meddling in monetary policy is inflationary, financial markets will desert a country that does not have an independent central bank, etc ad nausea. Politicians also use the so-called independence of the central banks as a way of deflecting policy responsibility for mass unemployment. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) does not advocated doing away with the functions that are legitimately performed within the current central banks. It would stream-line some and make other functions redundant, but what it would do away with is this incessant cycle of ideology that emanates from these institutions.

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