A surplus of trade discussions

It is Wednesday and so I am only writing a few thoughts today for the blog, preferring to spend the day writing other more detailed academic material and doing final edits on our next Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook (current publication date with Macmillan, November 2018). But I wanted to briefly reflect on the discussions over the last week about trade which seem to have sparked some emotion and disagreement. In particular, there has been a lot of misrepresentation of the MMT position and also a lot of mistaken reasoning. After that I will go back to listening to some post minimalist piano music.

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Australia’s national broadcaster puts out economic misinformation

I am using today to sketch out some ideas for my next book with Thomas Fazi as a follow up to Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017). I am also lying low from the Australian media given that it is less than a week to go before the Australian Treasurer delivers his annual fiscal statement (aka ‘The Budget’). The standard of commentary and hysteria about this event and what it means seems to be getting worse. So I have a radio blackout today and am listening to music as I work instead. But here is a snippet of what Australians are being fed – in this case from our national broadcaster who, with public money, sets out (probably in a state of ignorance) to deceive its listeners (and these days, its readers). It is shocking really to think that a public broadcaster in this day and age can render such a biased (and error-ridden) rendition of a subject matter that is so important.

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100 years ago today in France …

Today is a public holiday (ANZAC Day) where we remember the efforts of our past generations who fought in wars. I am not very enamoured by the hype that surrounds these days – commercialisation reigns and the black/white nature of the narrative (we were good they were evil) obscures the reality of war and the political machinations that typically accompany it. In Australia’s case our involvement in several wars has been the product of unnecessary colonial master-servant type arrangements (us being the servant) and/or ridiculous alliances with the war mongering US. But the soldiers certainly did it tough and I have sympathy with that – and personal association with my grandparents and parents. Some history to follow as a reflection and some music that I was listening to on the plane as I winged North today.

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Progressive cause in Australia seriously undermined by … progressives

I am travelling most of today with heavy commitments at the other end so only a short blog today with some great music to calm the soul. Yesterday, a group of high-profile, so-called progressives in Australia placed a paid-for advertisement in the leading daily newspapers as part of a new campaign for the government to increase taxes to get back into surplus so that (as their narrative goes) it can afford to maintain services for the needy. Yes, it was not the Right voices in our debate articulating this. The campaign is being led by a group that is often referred to as ‘left-leaning’ and calls itself the “most influential progressive think tank” in Australia. Modesty doesn’t exist it seems. But these sorts of descriptors are when the English language loses all meaning. The advertisement and subsequent follow-up interviews in the media yesterday by signatories and supporters of the “Letter” articulate a pure neoliberal line of deception about fiscal positions, the role of taxes and the virtuousness of fiscal surpluses. From my assessment, this headline-grabbing display of stupidity will set back the progressive debate in Australia even further. A total disgrace.

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US Democratic Party should be dissolved

Tomorrow, I will consider the furore that has arisen in the last few days after the US Congressional Budget Office released its latest forecasts, which showed the US deficit will rise, and, because they still insist in matching the deficit with bond-issuance to feed the corporate welfare machine, public debt will also expand. With an on-going jobs gap and depressed labour force participation rate, the rising deficit if properly targetted would be desirable. The rising public debt is a negative but only as a result of its unnecessary corporate welfare dimension rather than any concerns about capacity to pay etc. But today, given it is Wednesday and a ‘blog light’ day for me now I have only one related observation to make, which will contextualise tomorrow’s more detailed discussion. For today though I am mostly engaged in revising the final manuscript of our new, upcoming Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook after receiving edits from the publishers, Macmillan.

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Basic income guarantee progressives cosy up with the worst CEOs in the world

A short blog post today (Wednesday and all). I am working on the revisions to our Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook that will be published by Macmillan-Palgrave in November 2018. We have all the editorial and external reviews available now and are working through the editorial process to complete the final version. Mostly clarifications and style issues. There will be a slight rearrangement of chapter order and emphasis but nothing major. In the meantime, some thoughts on UBI and some music for today. A more detailed blog post will come along tomorrow.

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My blog is on holiday today

The blog is on holiday today (Easter Monday) and will return with Part 3 (and final) of my response to a German critic tomorrow (Tuesday, April 3, 2018). I have been travelling a lot today and decided to spend the rest of the free time on some writing and other things. You might want to spend your free time today playing the new Google – Where’s Wally? – game, which has some really nice drawings available. Go to Google maps and test yourself out. Music accompaniment if you click on …

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Neoliberalism corrupts the core of societal values

It is Wednesday and just a brief comment on current affairs today. Tomorrow I will have Part 2 of my response to the German attack on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Nations more often and not claim to identify with a value system that is intended to bind the citizens together. It is a fine line between this and nationalism. The US for example, claims to be the land of the free, although that is a patently ridiculous thing to hold out given the nature of its society. Australia has long traded on the claim that it elevates sportspersonship, fairness, honesty above all else. In a sports’ obsessed nation, we hold ourselves out to be ‘fair but tough’. We play very hard – competitively – but honour sporting traditions. At times, this claim is at the sanctimonious extremes and we regularly criticise other sporting nations for what we perceive to be rule breaking – even rule stretching doesn’t escape our ‘holier than thou’ media and commentators. That myth has now been exposed. In fact, our most elevated national team – the Australian cricket team – has demonstrated that it stoops to deliberately conceived cheating (not spur of the moment) in order to win. And now these revelations are obvious, the national scandal that has followed, reveals how out of touch we have become with what has happened to our Society in this neoliberal era.

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Now people pay to work for free

I am back on my regular pattern which means there will be no detailed Wednesday blog – just some snippets if anything. This morning, I did a radio interview on the national broadcaster (ABC) about the growing spread of unpaid work experience. It was clear the interviewer thought that work experience was a good thing. I indicated that it was a creeping disease that has become part of the neoliberal agenda to erode the rights of workers. In Australia, this disease has morphed into a cost-shifting exercise where employers have pushed their responsibility to train their workforces onto the public education system and are now demanding payment from students to allow them to undertake so-called ‘work experience’. Increasingly, this practice is become built-into educational programs, which compromises the quality of the education. But while it is dressed up in mighty descriptions such as ‘preparing our youth for an exciting future’ it amounts to nothing more than unpaid work. The latest iteration is that now people pay to work for free. Our trade unions are largely silent on this scandal.

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Video of my public lecture in Helsinki, February 27, 2018

Thursday is my last day in Helsinki and I have a lot of travelling to do later in the afternoon after I finish teaching. So I am posting this in the early hours of Thursday (Oz time), even though I am still in Helsinki. The new Post Graduate program in Global Political Economy, which we have launched at the University of Helsinki is a great development. I have been conducting lectures in a subject – From Modern Money Theory to Global Political Economy and Revival of Classical Political Economy. The class is largely made up of non-economics students and so the challenge has been to develop a set of conceptual and analytical tools fairly quickly and apply them to the major debates of the day. I think the time I have spent working out how to do that will be of great use when we launch programs under the MMT University banner later in the year. After my trip to Barcelona last weekend, we are hoping to introduce a similar type of course into the University there as part of an expanding network where students will be able to learn the principles of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and apply them to real world problems. More later on other developments.

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