Insightful and educational article by Ellen Brown on our banking system, and why North Dakota has a model well worth emulating in the rest of the country. Highly recommended for those interested in better understanding our current financial situation, and for some real-world, workable public interest solutions to effectively solving them.
Pouring money into the private banking system has only fixed the economy for bankers and the wealthy; it has not done much to address either the fundamental problem of unemployment or the debt trap so many Americans find themselves in.
In this dark firmament, however, one bright star shines. The sole state to actually gain jobs is an unlikely candidate for the distinction: North Dakota. North Dakota is also one of only two states expected to meet their budgets in 2010. (The other is Montana.) North Dakota is a sparsely populated state of less than 700,000 people, largely located in cold and isolated farming communities. Yet, since 2000, the state’s GNP has grown 56 percent, personal income has grown 43 percent and wages have grown 34 percent. The state not only has no funding problems, but this year it has a budget surplus of $1.3 billion, the largest it has ever had.
Why is North Dakota doing so well, when other states are suffering the ravages of a deepening credit crisis? Its secret may be that it has its own credit machine. North Dakota is the only state in the Union to own its own bank. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) was established by the state legislature in 1919, specifically to free farmers and small businessmen from the clutches of out-of-state bankers and railroad men. The bank’s stated mission is to deliver sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota.
The BND’s populist organizers originally conceived of the bank as a credit union-like institution that would free farmers from predatory lenders, but conservative interests later took control and suppressed these commercial lending functions. The BND is now chiefly a “bankers’ bank.” It acts like a central bank, with functions similar to those of a branch of the Federal Reserve. It avoids rivalry with private banks by partnering with them. Most lending is originated by a local bank. The BND then comes in to participate in the loan, share risk and buy down the interest rate.
The BND studiously avoids competition with private banks, but a publicly-owned bank could profitably engage in commercial lending. A successful model for that approach was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia , which served both central bank and commercial bank functions. For nearly a century, the publicly-owned Commonwealth Bank provided financing for housing, small business, and other enterprise, affording effective public competition that “kept the banks honest” and kept interest rates low. Commonwealth Bank put the needs of borrowers ahead of profits, ensuring that sound investment flows were maintained to farming and other essential areas; yet, the bank was always profitable, from 1911 until nearly the end of the century.
Indeed, it seems to have been too profitable, making it a takeover target. It was simply “too good not to be privatized.” The bank was sold in the 1990s for a good deal of money, but it’s proponents consider it’s loss as a social and economic institution to be incalculable.
A State Bank of Florida?
Could the sort of commercial model tested by Commonwealth Bank work today in the United States? Economist Farid Khavari thinks so. A Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, he proposes a Bank of the State of Florida (BSF) that would make loans to Floridians at much lower interest rates than they are getting now, using the magic of fractional reserve lending…
The state could earn billions yearly on these loans, while saving hefty sums for consumers. It could also refinance its own debts and those of its municipal governments at very low interest rates. According to a German study , interest composes 30 percent to 50 percent of everything we buy. Slashing interest costs can make projects such as low-cost housing, alternative energy development, and infrastructure construction not only sustainable, but profitable for the state, while at the same time creating much-needed jobs.
Also, for more on issues regarding the almost ponzi-like scams inherent in our current banking system, check out Brown’s webofdebt.com