Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

Civic Banks: Their time has come.

Posted Oct 5, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 4 Comments

To free our government from commercial interests, we need to restore and to expand the civic realm.  We need civic institutions that are free from and yet can support commercial businesses.  We could begin the restoration of the civic by creating civic banks.

Our “private” banking system is a mess.  Bankers make money—this is not a metaphor—with our money, and leave us poorer as they become richer.  In the privacy of their offices, they brought about the financial crisis that continues to suppress our ingenuity and imagination.  Instead of our government issuing new money when we have good reasons to be do, we pay them interest for loaning us our money. They have extracted so much from us—from our land, our labor, and our savings—and left us with so little.  We need a banking system that provides for us instead of exploits us.

A civic bank would not be a money making machine.  It would be a steward of the people’s money.  The government would issue money to civic banks where it would be available for loans to finance the work that needs to be done in our communities.  The interest on the loans would be limited to pay the expenses of running a bank.  Bankers should be paid a living wage.  They deserve it as much as anyone else.

It may be that we cannot reform our current banks.  They may be not only too big to fail, but too big to reform.  What we can do is create a new banking system that may eventually replace the current system, but at least will provide the people with the credit we need to get to work.

4 Responses to “Civic Banks: Their time has come.”

  1. JD Moyer says:

    October 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    The 1980 solution to international competition from banking-investment firms was to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had previously separated banking and investment). A better solution might have been to pressure other countries to enact their own Glass-Steagall acts. As you suggest, that ship has sailed, and it may be too late to reform the mega-banks. If there was a civic bank option I might use it. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind sticking with Wells Fargo (for example), if they were reduced to only accounts and loans. I'm not sure if there's any wrong with a reasonably regulated private banking sector. Obviously massive deregulation has led to global financial chaos. Recently read The Big Short by the way -- have you read it?
  2. Marvin Brown says:

    October 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Heard of it but not read it. A think a civic bank would be different from Wells Fargo in that the government would supply the money to the bank, which would then be loaned to businesses and others to do what needs to be done. I don't see why our government should pay a bank interest on the money the government finally creates. Civic banks would not turn money into a commodity that they could sell to others.
  3. Mark says:

    October 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

    What about credit unions? Why "create" civic banks when something close to what you're talking about already exists? Credit unions are certainly not perfect, but it makes more sense to build on existing efforts than to start from scratch. During the past few years, in direct response to the financial crisis, many people have been moving their money to credit unions:
  4. Marvin Brown says:

    October 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Credit unions certainly should be supported. Civic banks, however, would be recipients of money from the government, which would allow them to provide loans to get the work done that needs to be done.

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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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