The Guernsey Experience

The Other Way to Deal with the National Debt
By Bob Blain – The Progressive Review (June 1994)

The Guernsey Experience . . .

Guernsey is an island state located among the British Channel Islands about 75 miles south of Great Britain. In 1816 its sea walls were crumbling, its roads were muddy and only 4 1/2 feet wide. Guernsey’s debt was 19,000 pounds. The island’s annual income was 3,000 pounds of which 2,400 had to be used to pay interest on its debt. Not surprisingly, people were leaving Guernsey and there was little employment.

Then the government created and loaned new, interest-free state notes worth 6,000 pounds. Some 4,000 pounds were used to start the repairs of the sea walls. In 1820, another 4,500 pounds was issued, again interest-free. In 1821, another 10,000; 1824, 5,000; 1826, 20,000. By 1837, 50,000 pounds had been issued interest free for the primary use of projects like sea walls, roads, the marketplace, churches, and colleges. This sum more than doubled the island’s money supply during this thirteen year period, but there was no inflation. In the year 1914, as the British restricted the expansion of their money supply due to World War I, the people of Guernsey commenced to issue another 142,000 pounds over the next four years and never looked back. By 1958, over 542,000 pounds had been issued, all without inflation.

In 1990 there was $13 million in interest-free state issued notes. A visitor to the island that year later wrote:

“I returned from Guernsey last weekend. It is a fascinating little island. There are about 60,000 permanent residents on the island. The average family owns 3.3 cars, their unemployment rate is zero and their standard of living is very high. There is no public debt. There is a surplus of public funds which earn interest. The Guernsey Treasury increased the Ml of the island by 40 percent in the last three-year period, and this increase did not do anything to inflation. The price for a gallon of gasoline in England translates to about $5US whereas, the price in Guernsey is about $2US. Contrary to the teachings of current economics in all higher institutions, inflation is not related to the volume of money but rather to the size of the commercial debt.”

1 Comment

  1. The island of Guernsey also does well as a tax haven and financial privacy center for billions of dollars. It may have issued interest free bonds to prop up its government, but it also made its shores available for international finance.

    One does have to wonder who bought the interest free bonds, and for what reason. Clearly not to earn a return on their money.

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