It was during the 1980s when I was doing my research for what became Elegant Technology that I stumbled across the history of the Non-Partisan League. I was searching for examples of Producers (farmers, in this case) seizing political power and discovered that the best story, by FAR, was from North Dakota. What was even better for my own purposes was that this organized uprising had accomplished an enormously ambitious agenda which included the establishment of a state-owned bank.
Over the years, the Bank of North Dakota has been a very conservative institution--especially when compared to the ideas of its founders. Actually, it isn't much of surprise because young people with big ideas and plans tend to leave the state at the first possible opportunity. So even though the the Bank of North Dakota may theoretically be the most innovative banking institution in the country, it would hard to distinguish its operation from any other legally-run bank. My guess is that if other states were to follow North Dakota's lead, they would be as innovative as local conditions permit.
The history of the Non-Partisan League is probably best told in a book called Political Prairie Fire. This book was the basis of an incredible movie called Northern Lights which won an award at Cannes. Please understand, in spite of the tongue-in-cheek use of the word socialism below, the Non-Partisan League was largely composed of sane Republicans (yes Virginia, there once were sane and enlightened Republicans.)
Bank Of North Dakota: America's Only 'Socialist' Bank Is Thriving During Downturn
BY DALE WETZEL | 02/16/10 04:27 AM |
But now officials in other states are wondering if it is helping North Dakota sail through the national recession.
Gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Oregon and a Washington state legislator are advocating the creation of state-owned banks in those states. A report prepared for a Vermont House committee last month said the idea had "considerable merit." Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore promotes the bank on his Web site.
"There's a lot of hurt out there, a lot of states that are in trouble, and they're tying the Bank of North Dakota together with this economic success that we're having right now," said the bank's president, Eric Hardmeyer. more
How the Nation’s Only State-Owned Bank Became the Envy of Wall Street
— By Josh Harkinson
| Fri Mar. 27, 2009 5:33 PM PDT
The Bank of North Dakota is the only state-owned bank in America—what Republicans might call an idiosyncratic bastion of socialism. It also earned a record profit last year even as its private-sector corollaries lost billions. To be sure, it owes some of its unusual success to North Dakota’s well-insulated economy, which is heavy on agricultural staples and light on housing speculation. But that hasn’t stopped out-of-state politicos from beating a path to chilly Bismarck in search of advice. Could opening state-owned banks across America get us out of the financial crisis? It certainly might help, says Ellen Brown, author of the book, Web of Debt, who writes that the Bank of North Dakota, with its $4 billion under management, has avoided the credit freeze by “creating its own credit, leading the nation in establishing state economic sovereignty.” Mother Jones spoke with the Bank of North Dakota’s president, Eric Hardmeyer. more