Courtesy of Mish.
In response to Can Bernanke Force Banks to Lend by Halting Interest on Excess Reserves?, Australian economist Steve Keen pinged me with the following …
That “increase reserves to increase lending” argument is so hard to shake, but reserves can’t be lent from simply from a double-entry bookkeeping point of view.
The way that accountants keep track of the “assets equals liabilities plus equity” rule is to record an increase in assets as a positive and an increase in liabilities as a negative (your liabilities rise, so a negative gets bigger). Reserves are an asset, as are loans, and shown as a positive. Deposits–which are created by a loan–are a liability and shown as a negative
So to lend to a customer, a bank has to show a negative on that customer’s accounts. This can be matched by a positive on the loans entry–because the loan has increased in size. No problem.
But if banks were to lend from reserves, they would need to record a minus there–reserves have fallen. And on the liabilities side, they want to … also show a negative. Whoops! No can do.
The end result of this logic is that reserves are there for settlement of accounts between banks, and for the government’s interface with the private banking sector, but not for lending from.
Banks themselves may (if they are allowed–I simply don’t know the rules here) swap those assets for other forms of assets that are income-yielding, but they are not able to lend from them.
P.S. On my debt jubilee idea, I’d welcome a debate with you over it. There is an issue, whether you support a “strong money” gold-backed currency system or a reformed credit system, of dealing with the mess left by this one we currently have. My idea is a way to cancel the impact of debt that should never have been lent in the first place (and to prevent speculation taking off again on the other side by reforms to asset markets that make debt much less attractive).
It would be good to have a back-and-forth with you on the dilemma we’re in and the alternative ways out of it, whatever our desired end-system might be.
Debt Jubilee Revisited
Steve Keen is looking to discuss what to do about excess debt….