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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > October 2016 > Don’t let the banks coin it

Don’t let the banks coin it

Smuggled into Rogoff’s proposal to axe cash is the privatisation of the currency. Let’s cling on to our notes, until publicly accountable central banks are ready to create digital reddies

The proposal to abolish cash has a certain superficial appeal, but—even before we get to the myriad practical problems—it could turn out to smuggle in a dangerous agenda of stealth privatisation. Kenneth Rogoff’s argument that we can simply abolish physical cash and switch to using electronic money, completely misses one crucial difference between the two—the institutions that create them.

“Electronic money”—that is, the numbers in your bank account, which change every time you spend on a debit card—are not fully equivalent to physical cash. They’re actually IOUs, or deposits created by banks when they issue loans. As the Bank of England recently confirmed: “Commercial banks create money, in the form of bank deposits, by making new loans. When a bank makes a loan, for example to someone taking out a mortgage, it does not typically do so by giving them thousands of pounds worth of banknotes. Instead, it credits their bank account with a bank deposit of the size of the mortgage. At that moment, new money is created.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s October issue: Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz tells our new Editor Tom Clark why globalisation has made him more radical. Rachel Holmes asks whether more women leaders really help women. Five hundred years on, what does Thomas More’s “Utopia” tells us about political idealism. And Tristram Hunt on why Labour needs another Clement Attlee. Also in this issue: David Runciman on why more members isn’t always a good thing for a political party. Will Self on why we’re all turning into robots. Your handy graphic guide to Brexit. Plus: David Willetts on what Theresa May’s industrial strategy should look like. And Kenneth S Rogoff argues we should abolish cash.
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