It's common knowledge that printing your own £10 notes at home is frowned upon by Her Majesty's police. Yet there's a small collection of companies that are authorised to create – and spend – more new money than the counterfeiters have ever been able to print. In industry jargon, these companies are called "monetary and financial institutions", but you probably know them by their street name: "banks".
The money that they create, effectively out of nothing, isn't the paper money that bears the logo of the government-owned Bank of England. It's the electronic money that flashes up on the screen when you check your balance at an ATM. Right now, this electronic money makes up over 97% of all the money in the economy. Only 3% of money is still in that old-fashioned form of real cash that can be touched.
Hard to believe, isn't it? Martin Wolf, one of the experts who sat on the independent commission on banking, put it bluntly, saying in the Financial Times that "the essence of the contemporary monetary system was the creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks' often foolish lending".