Авторы: 159 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

Книги:  184 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

2. Free Banking in Scotland

After the founding of the Bank of England, English banking, during the eighteenth and first half of the

nineteenth centuries, was riven by inflation, periodic crises and panics, and numerous—and in one case,

lengthy—suspensions of specie payment. In contrast, neighboring Scottish banking, not subject to Bank of

England control and, indeed, living in a regime of free banking, enjoyed a far more peaceful and crisis-free

existence. Yet the Scottish experience has been curiously neglected by economists and historians. As the

leading student of the Scottish free banking system concludes:

Scotland, an industrialized nation with highly developed monetary, credit, and banking

institutions, enjoyed remarkable macroeconomic stability through the eighteenth and

early nineteenth centuries. During this time, Scotland had no monetary policy, no

central bank, and virtually no political regulation of the banking industry. Entry was

completely free and the right of note-issue universal. If the conjunction of these facts

seems curious by today’s light, it is because central banking has come to be taken for

granted in this century, while the theory of competitive banking and note-issue has

been neglected.7

Scotland enjoyed a developing, freely competitive banking system from 1727 to 1845. During that

period, Scottish bank notes were never legal tender, yet they circulated freely throughout the country.

Individual banks were kept from overissue by a flourishing note exchange clearinghouse system. Since each

bank was forced to toe the mark by being called upon for redemption, each bank would ordinarily accept

each other’s notes.8 [p. 186]

Whereas English country banks were kept weak and unreliable by their limitation to partnerships of six

or fewer, free Scottish banks were allowed to be corporate and grew large and nationwide, and therefore

enjoyed much more public confidence. An important evidence of the relative soundness of Scottish banks is

that Scottish notes circulated widely in the northern counties of England, while English bank notes never

traveled northward across the border. Thus, in 1826, the citizens of the northern English counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland petitioned Parliament against a proposed outlawing of their use of Scottish

bank notes. The petition noted that Scotland’s freedom from the six-partner restriction “gave a degree of

strength to the issuers of notes, and of confidence to the receivers of them, which several banks established in

our counties have not been able to command. The natural consequence has been, that Scotch notes have

formed the greater part of our circulating medium.” The petitioners added that, with one exception, they had

never suffered any losses from accepting Scottish notes for the past fifty years, “while in the same period the

failures of banks in the north of England have been unfortunately numerous, and have occasioned the most

ruinous losses to many who were little able to sustain them.”9

In contrast to the English banking system, the Scottish, in its 120 years of freedom from regulation,

never evolved into a central banking structure marked by a pyramiding of commercial banks on top of a single

repository of cash and bank reserves. On the contrary, each bank maintained its own specie reserves, and was

responsible for its own solvency. The English “one-reserve system,” in contrast, was not the product of natural

market evolution. On the contrary, it was the result, as Bagehot put it, “of an accumulation of legal privileges

on a single bank.” Bagehot concluded that “the natural system—that which would have sprung up if

Government had left banking alone—is that of many banks of equal or not altogether unequal size.” Bagehot,

writing in the midnineteenth century, [p. 187] cited Scotland as an example of freedom of banking where there

was “no single bank with any sort of predominance.”10

Moreover, Scottish banking, in contrast to English, was notably freer of bank failures, and performed

much better and more stably during bank crises and economic contractions. Thus, while English banks failed

widely during the panic of 1837, a contemporary writer noted the difference in the Scottish picture: “While

England, during the past year, has suffered in almost every branch of her national industry, Scotland has passed

comparatively uninjured through the late monetary crisis.”11