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The Banking System

The origin of the banking system was the practice of depositing money for safe keeping with the goldsmiths and paying them for this service. The goldsmiths subsequently adopted the practice of paying interest to the depositor, and they re-lent the money at a higher rate of interest to a borrower. This was only an indirect way of the depositor himself lending his money at interest to the borrower. Whether the goldsmith acted as intermediary or whether the lending was done directly the general effect was the same, i.e., the owner of the money (representing a command over goods) was lending it to a borrower, who would thus, for a specified time, have at his disposal the means of buying goods. It was not an act of "creating" goods or values, but only of lending them, the banks being intermediaries between lenders and borrowers.

Fundamentally, the same process underlies the modern banking and credit system. People who deposit cash and cheques in the banks are, in effect, placing at the disposal of the banks a command over goods, expressed as a certain sum of money. The banks pay to the depositor a fluctuating rate of interest on most of the deposits, and place the deposits at the disposal of other persons and companies who wish to borrow. Again, it is, in effect, a process of transferring the command over goods from the saving section to the borrowing section. As the banks need security for their loans to industry the borrower in fact (or in effect) pledges his factory, his stock-in-trade, etc. The bank is just like a pawnbroker, except that the bank largely works on borrowed money. The banks are intermediaries between one set of property owners and another set. The borrowers pay interest to the banks, who pay a smaller or no interest to the lenders. The whole of the interest comes ultimately out of the productive process.

(Socialist Standard, May 1933)