Naked Capitalism • January 25, 2011
Once in a while, you’ll see stories pop up about state governments looking into setting up a state bank, Washington being the latest sighting, along the lines of the only state bank in the US, the Bank of North Dakota. And there’s good reason. The Bank of North Dakota has an enviable track record, having remained profitable during the credit crisis. Moreover, in the ten years prior, the bank returned roughly half its profits, or roughly a third of a billion dollars, to the state government. That is a substantial amount in a state with only 600,000 people. The bank was also able to pay a special dividend to the state the last time it was on the verge of having a budget deficit, during the dot-bomb era, thus keeping state finances in the black.
But the good financial performance is simply an important side benefit. The bank’s real raison d’etre is to assist the local economy. And it has done so for a very long time. It was established in 1919 as part of a multi-pronged effort by farmers to wield more power against entrenched interests in the East.
And the most important potential use of this type of bank in our era could again be to level the playing field with powerful interests, in this case, the TBTF banks.
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