- What to Expect from the Central Banks in 2017
- The ECB is Clearly NOT Hawkish
- Bank of England On Hold Until November
- Trump’s Proposal “Print the Money” Echoes Franklin and Lincoln
- Japan's Helicopter Money Play
- Brexit and the Derivatives Meltdown
- Central Banks Gaming
- Is that Buzzing Sound Helicopter Money?
- Is the Influence of the Central Banks Fading?
- Reinventing Banking
- Negative Interest, the War on Cash, and the $10 Trillion Bail-in
- The Future of Central Bank Monetary Policy
- Jeremy Corbyn’s Controversial Quantitative Easing Proposal
- Central Bank Season Heats Up
- Reserve Bank of New Zealand Rate Decision
- What has the ECB been Buying
- Four Central Banks Meet but FOMC is the Key
- Federal Overnight Reserve Repurchase Repo and Fed Funds Implications for 2015
- BoJ and ECB expected QE policies
- Unfitting Policies Will Not Save the Euro-area or Japan in 2015
- Can the $40 Drop In the Price of Oil Bankrupt the Biggest Banks?
- New G20 Banking Rules
- Central Banks Are Playing the Stock Markets
- A Public Bank Option for Scotland
- Preparing To Asset-strip Local Government The Fed’s Bizarre New Rules
- The Fed could Keep Rates at Zero through 2015
- Are Public Banks Unconstitutional? No. Are Private Banks? Maybe.
- New Challenges for an Old FED
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Are Public Banks Unconstitutional? No.
Are Private Banks? Maybe.
The movement to break away from Wall Street and form publicly-owned banks continues to gain momentum. But enthusiasts are deterred by claims that a state-owned bank would violate constitutional prohibitions against “lending the credit of the state.”
California’s constitution is typical. It states in Section 17: “The State shall not in any manner loan its credit, nor shall it subscribe to, or be interested in the stock of any company, association, or corporation . . . .”
The language sounds prohibitive, but what does it mean? Hundreds of state and local government entities extend the credit of the state. State agencies make student loans, small business loans, and farm loans. State infrastructure banks explicitly leverage the credit of the state. Legally, state and local governments are extending their credit to private banks every time they deposit their revenues in those banks. When money is deposited, it becomes the property of the bank by law. The depositor becomes a creditor with an IOU or promise to be repaid. The state or local government has thus lent its money to the bank.
How can these blatant extensions of the state’s credit be reconciled with the constitutional prohibitions against the practice?
North Dakota’s constitution has particularly strong language. Article 10, Section 18, provides:
"The state, any county or city may make internal improvements and may engage in any industry, enterprise or business, not prohibited by article XX of the constitution, but neither the state nor any political subdivision thereof shall otherwise loan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation except for reasonable support of the poor, nor subscribe to or become the owner of capital stock in any association or corporation. "
Yet this prohibition has not prevented the state from establishing its own bank. Currently the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, the Bank of North Dakota has been a stellar success and has been going strong ever since 1919. In Green vs. Frazier, 253 U.S. 233 (1920), the US Supreme Court upheld the bank’s constitutionality against a Fourteenth Amendment challenge and deferred to the state court on the state constitutional issues, which had been decided in the state’s favor.
In the nineteenth century, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, and Indiana all had their own state-owned banks. Some were extremely successful (Indiana had a monopoly state-owned bank). These banks, too, withstood constitutional challenge at the US Supreme Court level.
Were the prohibitions against “lending the credit of the state” simply ignored in these cases? Or might that language have meant something else?