We Can Have Banks That Work For the People


We all know the banking system is broken. It’s easy to become pessimistic in the face of corporate and political corruption, but the system can be changed. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

One pathway to genuine reform is “public banking”: the establishment of banks which are owned at operated by the government, and which serve people and small businesses directly. Here’s why public banking should be included in the agenda for deep and genuine financial reform.

There’s a working model for state banking.

Reform groups like the Public Banking Institute often cite the state-owned Bank of North Dakota as a model worth emulating. The Bank was created in 1919 to “promote agriculture, commerce, and industry” and to be “be helpful to and assist in the development of… financial institutions… within the State.”

The Bank of North Dakota operates a little bit like the Federal Reserve. It’s primarily a “bank for bankers,” rather than an institution that serves customers. It does provides student loans, and individuals can deposit money, but it doesn’t have ATMs or other customer service amenities. (Individual deposits make up less than 2 percent of its assets.)

continue reading »