Banking: Intermediation or Money Creation
Roundtable 1 Prompt

Contributors: Morgan Ricks, Marc Lavoie, Robert Hockett, Saule Omarova, Michael Kumhof, Zoltan Jakab, Paul Tucker, Charles Kahn, Daniel Tarullo, Stephen Marglin, Howell Jackson and Christine Desan

Prompt for Discussion

Commercial banks are, indisputably, at the center of credit allocation in virtually all modern economies. Astonishingly, however, it remains controversial exactly how banks expand the money supply.

According to one view, banks operate as intermediaries who move money from savers to borrowers. The basic idea is that banks extend the monetary base by lending out of accumulated funds in a reiterative way. In round 1: a bank takes a deposit, sets aside a reserve, lends on the money; round 2 – the money lands in another bank, that bank sets aside a reserve, lends on the money; round 3 – the process repeats. Money’s operation is effectively multiplied in the economy because banks transmit funds constantly from (passive) savers to (active) borrowers, thus distributing money across those hands. The system works because savers, who are content to leave their funds alone, are unlikely to demand more than the (respective) reserve amounts back from any round. Banks balance their flow of funds over time as borrowers repay their loans.