Friday, 11 March 2016

Capital III, Chapter 28 - Part 11

For the Bank of England, whose issuance was restricted by the Bank Act, in order to obtain additional funds, it had to sell government securities in its possession, and thereby obtain notes in return for them, which it could then advance as loans, “... in that case, the bank's own notes represent a portion of its mobilised bank capital.” (p 456)

Even if the currency was entirely made up of precious metals, Marx says, the gold reserves could be drained to cover import costs, but the outflow of gold would be matched by an increase in collateral to cover the advances it made, but he says, “... would flow back to it in the form of deposits or in payment of due bills of exchange; so that, on one side, the total treasure of the bank would decrease with an increase of the securities in its hands, while on the other, it would now be holding the same amount, which it possessed formerly as owner, as debtor of its depositors, and finally the total quantity of currency would decrease.” (p 456-7)

At first glance, it may not seem apparent that if the gold is advanced to cover the cost of imports that there is an increase in deposits, because the payments are made into foreign banks. But, then these imports are sold, in the home market, so that money is withdrawn from circulation to cover their purchase, and this money is then deposited in domestic accounts.

But, loans do not have to be made in notes, and usually they are not. It is usually the case that loans are made by banks by creating a credit account for the borrower. In effect, two accounts are created. On the one hand, an account is created which, for all intents and purposes, looks like an account created for anyone that has deposited money with the bank. Payments can, therefore, be made from this account. On the other, an account exists of equal amount, which is how much the borrower owes to the bank. If A has such a credit account, instead of being given just bank notes, they simply write cheques to cover their payments. These cheques are then paid by the recipients into their own bank accounts. These banks then process the cheques, through the bank clearing house, so that the total amount of money owed, in cheques, drawn on bank X, and in the possession of bank Y, is netted against the value of cheques drawn on bank Y and in the possession of bank X, so that only the difference has to be paid in money, and in fact, even this is effected by a book transfer.

In so far as what is demanded is capital, it is only money-capital.

“Capital, therefore, represents here only money-capital, and, if not available in the actual form of money, it represents a mere title on capital. This is very important, since a scarcity of, and pressing demand for, banking capital is confounded with a decrease of actual capital, which conversely is in such cases rather abundant in the form of means of production and products, and swamps the markets.” (p 457-8)

Conversely, the kind of financial crisis that Marx describes in Capital I, which originates in and affects the banks, stock exchange etc. can present itself as an excess of this bank capital, and potentially an inadequate amount of real capital. The surfeit of bank capital arises because the assets on the banks books become inflated due to speculation, which in turn can prompt additional accommodation by the bank, on the back of this apparent, but, in fact, only fictitious capital.

“It is, therefore, easy to explain how the mass of securities held by a bank as collateral increases, hence how the growing demand for pecuniary accommodation can be satisfied by the bank, while the total mass of currency remains the same or decreases.” (p 458)

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