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Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in banking, the placing of money and securities in circulation.

In the capitalist countries, money is issued by central banks (or banks of issue) and treasuries, which issue, respectively, bank notes and treasury notes and coins. Commercial banks handle noncash payments, which are made by means of checks based on deposits; the volume of checks issued considerably exceeds that of bank notes. In the capitalist countries that have the highest concentration of bank capital, most of the deposits are held by the biggest monopoly banks.

The different issue systems that have evolved in different countries are designed to regulate the issue of bank notes, the amounts issued, and the norms and forms of availability of the issue. In Great Britain, an act adopted during the ministry of Robert Peel (1844) imposed a firm ceiling on fiduciary issue (issue not backed by gold) at £14 million; all bank notes in excess of the ceiling had to have 100-percent gold backing. The act, however, did not place a general ceiling on the issue of bank notes.

The issue system established in France in 1870 imposed a ceiling of 1.8 billion francs on the total issue of bank notes, whether or not backed by metal. The Bank of France was authorized to determine the extent of metal backing of an issue; the ceiling on issues was subsequently raised, and on the eve of World War I it amounted to 6.8 billion francs. In Germany, according to a law of 1875, the ceiling on issue not backed by gold was set at 250 million marks for the Reichsbank and 135 million marks for 32 other German issuing institutions; in addition, the principle of “one-third backing” for bank notes was introduced—that is, bank notes required at least one-third metal backing. In 1897, Russia established an issue system that authorized the State Bank to issue up to 300 million rubles in bank notes not backed by gold and up to 600 million rubles in bank notes with at least 60-percent gold backing; all issue exceeding the limit had to have 100-percent gold backing.

Some countries have allowed the legal ceiling on unbacked issue to be raised upon payment of an “issue tax.” In 1875, Germany instituted a tax amounting to 5 percent of the excess sum over the legally authorized ceiling. In the United States, a law passed in 1913 stipulated a tax of 1 percent to accompany the reduction of the backing standard from 40 percent to 32.5 percent; further reductions would be accompanied by corresponding increases in the tax—for example, a tax of 1.5 percent would be imposed with a further 2.5-percent reduction of the backing standard.

In the early 20th century, the metal backing of bank notes diminished in importance. The chief problem was to ensure the elasticity of monetary circulation in connection with the acute monetary and credit crises and the accompanying cyclical fluctuations in business conditions. The paper-credit backing of issues rose in importance. Thus, according to the law of 1913 instituting the Federal Reserve System (FRS) of the USA, at least 40 percent of the bank notes issued were to be backed by gold, and the other 60 percent by discounted promissory notes and acceptances (transferable bills of exchange).

With World War I, issues of paper money not backed by metal increased enormously. The gold standard, which had been restored in reduced form in the 1920’s, collapsed in virtually all countries during the world economic crisis of 1929–33. Gold reserves were transferred by the central banks to the currency stabilization funds of the various treasuries, and in most countries they ceased to be used to back internal issues. The gold standard was kept at 40 percent in Switzerland, 33 percent in Belgium, and 25 percent in Portugal. In the USA the standard metal backing, reduced from 40 percent to 25 percent in 1945, was maintained until 1968; in practice, however, it had only formal significance.

Government securities became the major form of backing of bank notes. As of Jan. 1, 1977, bank notes in circulation in the USA amounted to $83.7 billion and were backed by $97 billion in government bonds belonging to the FRS. Bank notes circulating in Great Britain in November 1976 amounted to more than £6.6 billion and were backed by approximately £8 billion in government bonds on deposit in the Bank of England. The issuance of a large volume of bank notes backed by government securities is an important factor in the inflationary rise in prices and in the progressive devaluation of money.

The regulation of deposits and the checking of transactions are more complicated than the regulation of cash issues. Banks in the capitalist countries try to regulate deposits by limiting the cash reserves of commercial banks; they cannot, however, maintain the officially established rate of increase of monetary issue in view of the spontaneous inflation of money in circulation. In Great Britain, for example, the average annual increment in the money supply (including demand deposits) between 1971 and 1976 was generally from 14 to 19 percent, which was several times greater than the growth rate of the gross national product and trade turnover. The same is true with respect to the circulation of money in Japan, Italy, Canada, and the USA.

Securities (stocks and bonds) are issued by stock companies operating in industry, trade, utilities, consumer services, and credit and finance; they are also issued by the central and local agencies of the bourgeois states. Furthermore, foreign stock companies or banks may issue their own securities in the money market of a given country.

Securities issued by stock companies serve as a means of mobilizing long-term capital (known as floated capital). Modern monopolies issue small shares of stock and have hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of stockholders. The financial oligarchy has actual control over the stock companies. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, an increasingly high proportion of the bonds issued, instead of being sold on the market to individual investors, were distributed among a small group of financial institutions (for example, insurance companies) through the sale of the bonded debt in its entirety.

In 1975, private companies in the United States issued $53.3 billion in securities (including $10.9 billion for the replacement of expired securities). Of this sum, $40.5 billion were in the form of bonds, and $12.8 billion in stocks. In addition, local authorities floated $30.6 billion in bond issues. In Great Britain, securities issued by private enterprises in 1975 amounted to more than £1.8 billion, including almost £0.3 million in foreign securities; securities issued by local authorities and state enterprises amounted to more than £1 billion.

The steadily increasing volume of government bonds issued in the capitalist countries reflects the chronic imbalance of budgets burdened by huge state expenditures, including defense spending and the cost of state-monopoly regulation of the economy. In the USA, for example, the federal debt increased from $45.9 billion in 1939 to $620.4 billion in 1976. The major increase in the volume of government bonds issued took place during World War II and at the time of the war in Vietnam (1964–73).

A special category of securities is that of international issues; these amounted to $30 billion in 1976, including foreign bonds placed on the market in the USA ($1.0 billion) and in other countries ($5.8 billion), as well as Eurobonds ($14.1 billion), which represent part of the European capital market ($230 billion as of the end of September 1976).

In the socialist countries, money is issued in the form of bank notes and treasury notes in accordance with the requirements of the national economy and is regulated on a planned basis. In the USSR, money is issued or withdrawn from circulation by the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank) in accordance with credit and cash plans. Starting in 1922, bank notes issued by Gosbank had 25-percent metal backing—in gold and other precious metals— while the remaining percentage was backed by other Gosbank assets. Reserve funds of bank notes and coins have been established in the various Gosbank institutions for the operational manipulation of issuable resources. The ceiling placed on such reserve funds is confirmed by the Council of Ministers of the USSR for the national economy as a whole, and by the Gosbank board or republic offices for individual institutions. Money is placed into circulation on the basis of a special authorization for its issue

The only kinds of securities issued in the socialist countries are state bonds. The funds obtained through such borrowing are used by the state to develop the socialist economy and to finance sociocultural undertakings.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, ch. 3. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3, chs. 34, 35. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2.
Denezhnoe obrashchenie i kredit SSSR. Moscow, 1976.
Usoskin, V. M. Finansovaia i denezhno-kreditnaia sistema SShA. Moscow, 1976.
Denezhnoe obrashchenie i kredit kapitalisticheskikh stran. Moscow, 1977.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.