Happy 100th Birthday, Bank of North Dakota!

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“Ethical Markets joins in wishing the public Bank of North Dakota another 100 years of success!

~Hazel Henderson, Editor“


On its 100th birthday this weekend, Bank of North Dakota thrives

The Bank of North Dakota opened for business on July 28, 1919, a full century ago. As its 100th birthday approaches, historian Mike Jacobs describes in the Grand Forks Herald the conditions that drove the creation of the public bank — conditions that are echoed today. A celebration will take place at the Bank in Bismarck on Monday July 29 (Facebook event).

Jacobs writes:

The real catalyst, however, was a dysfunctional private banking system. The state had far too many privately owned banks, more than 800 of them in 1920. Many of them were seriously undercapitalized and all of them were dependent on Twin Cities banks. At the same time, milling and transportation interests preyed on the state’s farmers. A long effort to establish a state-owned terminal elevator failed, and frustrated farmers took matters in their own hands, accepting a program to develop the state’s economy by using the state’s own financial resources.

Read BND’s updated website about the value BND returns to the state’s residents today. For a full historical overview, see BND’s new microsite. For more inspiration, read Insurgent Democracy by Michael J. Lansing and watch Northern Lights, the award-winning film (Cannes) set in the bitter winter of 1915 that chronicles the beginnings of the Nonpartisan League.

In California, the California Public Banking Alliance has organized a Public Banking 100 Years Day of Action on July 29 to support CA’s Public Banking Act AB 857 as it makes its way through one last Senate committee, the floors of Assembly and Senate, and if successful, onto the Governor’s desk.

The Hill Opinion article puts public banks on the national political radar

The Hill, Capitol Hill’s influential political newspaper, published an opinion piece this week endorsing public banks, putting them squarely in the national political spotlight. Eric Heath, senior policy counsel for the Northeast-Midwest Institute, details how state public banks will both deliver affordable green investment and improve states’ financial health:
“[T]his public interest-orientation can allow a state bank to extend financing to projects that other banks would not consider. This is not because green investments are unprofitable, but because their profits slowly accumulate and are widely shared across a community. Furthermore, because members of the community affected by these investments will be the ones governing the bank, there will be a greater impetus to address the pressing environmental concerns of the community.”

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Has the time come for democratically controlled banks?

Sarah Holder writes in City Lab of how a coalition of public bank activists in ten California cities has enabled both elected officials and the general public to envision and rally behind building democratic financial institutions. Holder talks with several of these groundbreaking advocates from California Public Banking Alliance including Julian LaRosa, Sushil Jacob, and David Jette:

“‘We’re at that moment where housing and environmental and education crises are especially acute in California,’ said LaRosa. ‘It’s time to act now, instead of waiting for another decade and hoping things will get fixed.’ …

“‘Every politician is talking about affordable housing, but it would be so much more powerful if they had a bank that was financing affordable housing,’ said Sushil Jacob, the director of Economic Justice for Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights SF, and one of the architects of the state and local legislation.”

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