Does Saving Increase the Supply of Credit? A Critique of Loanable Funds Theory

Fabian Lindner


The paper presents a critique of loanable funds theory by using simple accounting relationships and standard excess demand analysis. It is shown that many economists identify saving and the credit supply by interpreting the macroeconomic saving-investment identity as a budget constraint. According to that interpretation, more saving through lower consumption (and government spending) leads to a higher supply of credit, lower interest rates and thus more funds to be used by firms for investment. The paper shows that proponents of this theory confuse quite different economic phenomena and commit serious fallacies of composition. In the first step, the concepts of “saving” and “credit” will be clearly distinguished using simple accounting. It will be shown that credit is not limited by anybody’s saving and that no one has to abstain from consumption in order for a credit to be provided. Also, it will be shown that financial saving (an increase in net financial assets) through a reduction in expenditures reduces other economic units’ revenues and thus their ability to spend and save. Using the concept of excess demand and supply, it will be shown that excess saving does not lead to an excess supply of credit − which would lower interest rates − but to an excess supply of goods, services and/or labor which will lower prices and production. How interest rates change is not determined by excess saving: They could increase, stay the same or decrease. Finally, it will be argued that the identification of saving with the provision of credit is likely to stem from the invalid application of neoclassical growth models to a monetary economy.

Published on 9 Feb 2015 in World Economic Review No 4, 2015