As a physics major, before getting her hands dirty in New York, she had assumed that money is printed by a nation’s central bank, from where it is distributed to commercial banks. But while this is indeed how cash is created, cash accounts for only 3 per cent of all money. What of the remaining 97 per cent? Surprise and then foreboding were the reactions of every student to whom she had explained how the missing 97 per cent was created – and by whom: not by central banks but by commercial and investment bankers. At this point, her students would ask, ‘Without access to state-sanctioned printing presses, how do private bankers create money?’ ‘Simple,’ she would reply. ‘Every time a banker approves a loan of, say, one million dollars for Jack, a typical business customer, the banker just types 1,000,000 on Jack’s bank statement. However incredible it may seem, that’s all it takes. Bankers create money by granting loans by typing in some numbers!’ The crucial thing, she would explain, is that these numbers are typed into a shared database – or ledger – to which only the bankers have access. When their customers transfer this ‘money’ between them – when Jack transfers numbers from his account to the account of a supplier, say Jill, or of a builder, say Bob, or of a worker, say Kate, and when in turn, Jill, Bob and Kate transfer their numbers on, in the same way, to others to whom they owe money – these numbers simply migrate from one cell in the database to another. For this system to be sustainable, and not merely a pyramid scheme, there is a single condition: that, somewhere down the line, the one million dollars which some banker typed into existence on Jack’s behalf results in new goods and services whose total market value exceeds one million dollars. It is from this surplus that the banker takes his interest and Jack his profit. This is what Iris was referring to as a fool’s wager when she said that bankers plundered value from the future, or when Costa had once claimed that capitalism, like science fiction, trades in future assets using fictitious currency. It is in their nature that the wealthier bankers become by creating money, the more money they tend to create. The danger of such a system, of course, is that the banks end up typing into existence sums of money vastly larger than the market value of the goods and services created as a result of Jack, Jill, Bob and Kate’s endeavours. At the point when the bankers have collectively created money sums greater than the resulting values, the present can no longer repay the future for the money it borrowed from it. The moment Jack, Jill, Bob and Kate get a whiff of this, they may demand their bank balances in cash, sensing that the total value on the bankers’ database is lower than the actual value of their customers’ assets. ‘At that point, a bank run sets in,’ Eva would tell her students, ‘and that’s when the system comes crashing down.