Banks As Social Accountants: Credit and Crisis Through an Accounting Lens
Bezemer, Dirk J
This paper probes the role of banks and credit in our socio-economic system using the metaphor of banks as social accountants (Stiglitz and Weiss 1988). It highlights the credit nature of money, and thus the fact that money is an accounting construct. This motivates the viewing of financial booms and crises through an accounting lens. By accounting necessity, credit creation in deposit-taking institutions implies debt creation. The analysis is that self-amortizing credit to the real sector grows apace with the size of the economy while credit to financial asset markets creates a net debt overhead on the real economy, as illustrated by dissection of long-term credit flows in the US economy. The long boom in credit to the financial sector so led to the growth of debt since the 1980s and onto the credit crisis. Turning to the behavioral aspects of credit and debt growth, the paper also discusses the role of banks and regulators in facilitating the boom. It identifies three ways in which debt growth was de-emphasized in monitoring and policy making.
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