The Experience of Free Banking

Much of what economists tell each other and the public about the nature and necessity of central banking lacks historical grounding. The Experience of Free Banking, just issued in a free, enlarged second edition by the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, discusses the extensive historical experience of monetary systems with competitive provision of currency. Such systems spanned more than 60 countries and hundreds of years up until the mid 20th century. Most were stable and showed no inherent tendency toward or need for establishing a central bank.

The first edition of the book was issued in 1992 by an academic publisher, and was priced accordingly. This expanded edition, in which I have three chapters, will be available in hard copy for those who prefer physical books, and is free in PDF here.

No free banking systems exist today, but the experience of free banking is relevant to today’s debates about privately provided cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies, and financial regulation. It presents a challenge both to economic theory and to the way economists and historians have continued to write financial history. They have generally ignored rather than addressed the ideas and facts that research in free banking has raised over the last generation. A notable exception is CFS Advisory Board member Charles Goodhart, whose 1988 book The Evolution of Central Banks remains the most serious and comprehensive answer on the pro-central banking side.

Readers who find want to know more about free banking can start with the bibliography by Elizabeth Qiao, here. The introduction contains a short list of suggested readings. At the time she compiled the bibliography, Qiao was a student of CFS Special Counselor Steve Hanke.

CFS Monetary Measures for October 2023

Today we release CFS monetary and financial measures for October 2023. CFS Divisia M4, which is the broadest and most important measure of money, fell by 1.0% in October 2023 on a year-over-year basis, following a decrease of 1.7% in September.

For Monetary and Financial Data Release Report:

For more information about the CFS Divisia indices and the data in Excel:

Bloomberg terminal users can access our monetary and financial statistics by any of the four options:

3) ECST –> ‘Monetary Sector’ –> ‘Money Supply’ –> Change Source in top right to ‘Center for Financial Stability’
4) ECST S US MONEY SUPPLY –> From source list on left, select ‘Center for Financial Stability’