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In addressing the banking crisis in his maiden speech, Steve Baker calls for an examination of government’s role in the money and bank credit system

Steve Baker Commons At the general election, Steve Baker inherited the Wycombe constituency from Paul Goodman, now of this parish.

Steve began his maiden speech on Tuesday with a warm tribute to Paul:

"The most consistent theme of my candidacy was, above all, the tribute to my predecessor, and I feel I can scarcely do him justice. Paul Goodman enjoyed the respect and admiration of all sections of the community, his parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House and his party. He set out aspiring to Sir Ray Whitney's qualities of shrewdness, courtesy, unselfishness and kindness. I know that Paul surpassed his own aims and that this House will miss him."

He then quoted Disraeli, a former (unsuccessful) candidate in the constituency, to sum up his own political outlook:

“I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.”

But it was on the subject of the banking crisis that he concentrated his remarks during the debate on the Queen's Speech:

"As a trustee of a charity for economic education, I would like to give what is perhaps an alternative perspective on the cause of the banking crisis; I hope that Members will indulge me. I should like to put to them a proposition that is uncontroversial: around the world, the system of money is a product of the state. Our monetary system is characterised by private banking, with a fractional reserve controlled by a central bank, which determines monetary policy and has a monopoly on the issue of legal tender. A Monetary Policy Committee sets interest rates.

"The banks have the legal privilege of treating depositors’ money as their own. In the words of Irving Fisher, “our national circulating medium is now at the mercy of loan transactions of banks”. In the other place, in the Banking Bill debate of 5 February 2009, the Earl of Caithness explained eloquently the base of 19th-century judicial decisions—and yes, our system of money has evolved since then—that enabled that situation to take place. He called it:

“the fault which has led to every major banking and currency crisis during the past 200 years, including this one.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 February 2009; Vol. 707, c. 774.]

"The Bank Charter Act 1844 ended the practice of banks over-issuing notes, but it left them virtually unmolested in their ability to issue deposit currency to be drawn by cheque. That loophole haunts us today. Unlike the situation in respect of any other commodity, in the case of money, price controls do not drive the product off the market. Artificially lowered interest rates increase the demand for credit, and decrease the supply of savings, but the legal privilege granted to banks means that they can meet demand by extending credit that is unbacked by real savings. There is a good argument to say that that causes the boom-and-bust cycle, the misdirection of resources in the capital structure of production, and over-consumption by consumers."

"Today, money is a product of the state. The Bank of England controls the price, quantity and quality of money. Perhaps if we were talking about any other commodity, there would be far less confusion over and questioning of the cause of the crisis. If money is a product of the state, we should ask ourselves, “Is this a good idea?”

"In the coalition, we have a Government ideally suited to be conservative to preserve what is good, but radical to change all that is bad. If we are to have a once-in-a-generation, fundamental review of the role of government, let us also examine government’s role in the system of money and bank credit."

Jonathan Isaby


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