Money as Debt
DVD2006 47 Minutes
A provocative look at the debt crisis by animator Paul Grignon.
'Money As Debt' is not entertainment - far from it. The film offers amazingly elementary facts about the creation of money, narrated by a soothing voice, which could make for a bland presentation, yet the film's message is anything but vapid. In fact, if it doesn't leave your blood boiling, it behoves you to check your vital signs. Beginning with the most fundamental question of all, Grignon asks: Where does money come from?
The answer to this question will almost never be found in grammar school or even college. What we aren't told in formal education is that money is created by central banks. Banks create money, not from their own earnings or from the funds deposited by customers, but from the borrowers' promises to repay loans. Most importantly, borrowers not only promise to repay, but to repay with interest, and the bank writes the amount of money of both into the borrower's account.
Grignon opens with a story from antiquity. In the days before paper money, goldsmiths produced gold coins and kept them safe for the purchaser in the same way that banks hold deposits today. These goldsmiths soon noticed, however, that purchasers rarely came in for their actual gold and almost never all at the same time. So the gold merchants began issuing claim notes for the gold which made the exchange of gold in the marketplace easier and less cumbersome.
Thus began the power to create money out of nothing, but it wasn't long before bank runs began, and banking regulations evolved regarding how much money could be lent out. However, the regulations allowed a ratio of 9 to 1 - that is, banks could lend out 9 times the amount of the deposits that were already there. This policy has come to be known as Fractional Reserve Banking. Regulation also arranged for central banks to support local banks with emergency infusions of gold, and only if there were many runs at once would the system crash.