The old guard trying to stay relevant and failing

I am doing the Thursday is Wednesday trick again today, given that I posted Part 2 of my detailed response to enquiries about MMT and what I term the MMT Project yesterday, and that I have promised myself to use Wednesday’s for other writing. I am also quite busy in Helsinki today with commitments so only a short post today. So just a brief comment on the latest fiasco from ‘Mr Spreadsheet’ Kenneth Rogoff as he stares into the abyss of irrelevance and is trying to hand on like grim death to any shred of credibility. He has none. If he ever did, the spreadsheet scandal finished it. But he never did anyway.

Apparently more negative interest rates are what we need

One of the themes I am promoting in my current European and UK teaching and speaking tour is that we are amidst a paradigm shift in macroeconomics, which provides Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists with a fantastic opportunity to fill the gap as the old neoliberal consensus starts to fracture.

There are various forces driving this shift.

First. there is clearly an anti-establishment revolt underway as the mainstream Left political parties decay and lose relevance.

They signed their own death warrant when they adopted the mainstream macroeconomics as their centrepiece, claiming they would ‘do’ surpluses bigger and better than the conservatives.

In some nations, while in power, they inflicted the neoliberal austerity more harshly than the conservatives, all in the name of ‘fiscal consolidation’ and appeasing the financial markets.

They also tried to divert attention from that reality by talking incessantly about identity issues.

The only way these parties could continue to claim they were left of centre is because in surrendering to the core neoliberal agenda, they pushed the centre way to the right.

The old conservative stances of the 1950s/1960s now look positively progressive when compared to the ‘left’ parties now who are lost somewhere out in the right.

This lacuna has allow extreme elements on Right to strengthen.

The ‘popularist’ Right movements have provided a coherent response to the widespread and growing-yearning for greater territorial or national sovereignty.

There is a desire among people to regain some degree of collective control over politics and society and take it away from the elites who have crafted policies to suit themselves.

There is also a desire to ensure flows of capital, trade, and people – that constitute the essence of neoliberal globalisation – do not work against society.

And there is a desire to reverse the neoliberal depoliticisation that has allowed elected governments to divert responsibility to ‘external’ agencies or ‘independent’ central banks for the harsh policy regimes that have undermine our material standards of living and retrenched public services.

In Europe, the experiment with Emmanuel Macron, who was seen as the ‘extreme centre’, has failed. The on-going struggles with the gilets and the repressive response from state instruments such as the police and troopers to their demonstrations is evidence enough.

Britain is now free from the neoliberal dictates of the European Union. They can now call the shots.

And we have the real prospect of a Trump versus Sanders Presidential election later this year, if the DNC doesn’t get its way and sabotage the latter, which would represent a major shift in American politics.

These are two outsiders, largely divorced from the mainstream Republican and Democrat elites, but representing them all the same. Both happy to abandon the neoliberal austerity.

Second, there is now widespread acceptance that economic policy is creating dissonant outcomes. Growth is faltering, inequality is rising, and precarious work is on the rise.

Even central bankers are now making political statements, making a mockery of their so-called ‘independence’ (or exposing the lie that they were independent).

They have admitted that monetary policy has nowhere to go and is now an ineffective counter-stabilisation tool. It was never effective but at least they are making that reality public now.

Their calls for a return to fiscal dominance is also driving the paradigm shift.

It is obvious that monetary policy has been proven to be ineffective. The expansion of central bank balance sheets as they funded deficits (via QE) in search of higher inflation rates has failed.

The ECB, for example, has systematically failed to achieve its primary policy goal – price stability – but, meanwhile, has been effectively operating outside of the Treaty by funding government deficits.

Finally, the extremes that monetary policy have been pushed as governments refuse to engage in fiscal interventions of any sizeable scale, are now undermining the top-end-of-town – financial capital.

The latter are finally realising that listening to mainstream economists is a bad bet and the exclusive use of monetary policy has pushed the parameters (rates, yields, etc) to levels that actually undermine profitability in the financial sector and push large insurance and pension funds to the brink of insolvency.

They are also calling for an end to the monetary policy madness and for governments to start investing significant amounts on public infrastructure to repair the damage that austerity has created, and, obviously, to give them investment opportunities that will make profits.

All these factors reflect different motivations but they are pushing the debate in one direction.

We are now entering a period of fiscal dominance.

Only Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has advocated the effectiveness of fiscal policy against massive mainstream opposition.

That is the fact.

Of course, all this presents a wee problem for the mainstream macroeconomists who have been caught out by the shift.

Several of them are now trying to save face by publishing papers claiming that they advocated fiscal policy interventions all along and stealing ideas from MMT and other writers to fill the gap in their public record.

The ‘we knew it all along’ strategy.

They just look like sneaky fools.

But that is always the case when a paradigm shifts gets underway. Some of the old guard will try to stay relevant by attempting to capture the emerging challenger’s ideas and presenting them, unreferenced, as if they were their own.

Meanwhile, they actively attack the challenger in the media to try to discredit it in the eyes of the public as they steal its ideas and relabel them as their own work.

Enter Kenneth Rogoff again. He is working hard on this ‘rats deserting the sinking ship’ strategy.

On March 4, 2019, he wrote a Project Syndicate article – Modern Monetary Nonsense – which was a catalogue of lies.

Next day, he put out another article for MarketWatch – Opinion: Modern Monetary Theory is smoke and mirrors nonsense.

They told us that he hadn’t actually read much of our work.

More recently, he has been busy trying to salvage his place in the debate.

This blog post – Discredited academic dinosaurs continue to seek relevance (December 12, 2019) – analysed one of those attempts published by the UK Guardian.

It seems the UK Guardian has become one of his outlets, which discredits that masthead.

But with Brexit done – I know – there are all the agreements to finalise – but it is done in the sense that Britain has LEFT – the UK Guardian has to publish something I suppose.

So it gives further voice to the Rogoff stuff.

Fighting back all the forces that are pushing the paradigm shift, Rogoff has decided on what he must think is a clever, differentiating strategy.

In his latest UK Guardian article – West Wing-style fiscal policies aren’t the only way to fight the next recession (February 4, 2020) – he writes that fiscal policy should not be used to provide stimulus in a downturn because it “involves messy, hard-fought compromises”.

That is, politicians, who we elect, make decisions after considering the range of views.

Rather he wants the “modern, independent, technocratic central bank” to be in charge. Unelected, unaccountable, opaque and detached from the voters.

It is the typical argument people like Rogoff make. Depoliticise so that democratic choices are swept aside.

But within his argument we see how confused he is.

Earlier he writes:

… that the time has come for activist fiscal policy, given the limits to monetary policy in an environment of ultra-low interest rates. Many leading central bankers also maintain that, instead of just playing its traditional role of deciding the allocation of government spending, investment, taxes, and transfers, fiscal policy can substitute for monetary policy in economic fine-tuning and fighting recession.

So these technocrats in the central banks have admitted they cannot be effective any longer.

That the neoliberal obsession with the primacy of monetary policy has pushed the parameters to ridiculous levels (negative rates etc).

Then he says:

… central banks have succeeded in doing with monetary policy.

The selective quote here is that monetary policy has been “consistent, stable, and predictable”, which he claims is “the greatest innovation in macroeconomics since John Maynard Keynes pioneered demand management.”

Yes, definitely “consistent, stable, and predictable”, but the only problem is that it hasn’t worked.

Even central bankers have admitted that despite building the asset-side of their balance sheet up to ridiculous levels, they have not been able to get inflation close to their price targets.

Why not?

Because they have been presuming the economy works like the mainstream textbooks say it works. Like Rogoff thinks the system operates.

And the reality is that the mainstream macroeconomics operates in a fictional world.

So for Mr Rogoff, the solution is:

… by finding ways to use negative rates more fairly and effectively.

Tell that to the asset managers in the big pension and insurance funds who are staring at widening maturity mismatches and pushing their companies to the brink of insolvency.

European and UK Teaching and Speaking Tour, February 2020

  • Wednesday, February 05, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207.
  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45 Main building, Hall 16.
  • Friday, February 07, 2020 – Presentation at Italian Parliament, Rome – details to follow.
  • Saturday, February 08, 2020 – Events in Rome with activists – details to follow.
  • Sunday, February 09, 2020 – Travel.
  • Monday, February 10, 2020 – Breakfast presentation – ‘The future of monetary policies’ – Nordic West Group, Helsinki.
  • Monday, February 10, 2020 – Speaking on ‘What is the meaning of political economy today?’ at Think Corner, Helsinki – 17:00 to 19:00
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania room 723.
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207.
  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45 Main building, Hall 16.
  • Friday, February 14, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 – Athens.
  • Monday, February 17, 2020 – Meetings and Presentations, Athens.
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – Paris, Reception, French Senat, Palace of Luxembourg – 18:00.
  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Paris, events and interviews – details to follow.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Paris, Presentation to French Senate Commission, Palace of Luxembourg – 8:30-10:30.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – London, GIMMS presentation, MMT education – afternoon – Details.
  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Manchester, GIMMS presentation, The Harwood Room in the Barnes Wallis Building, University of Manchester, Details.
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 – MMTed Masterclass Workshop, London, for Details and Tickets. Limited spaces available.
  • Sunday, February 23, 2020 – Amsterdam – travel home.

This tour is fully booked. I will be back in Europe in June-July 2020. If you want to book an event or a meeting, then please contact me.

You can see the current June-July schedule – HERE.

GIMMS Events, London and Manchester, February

As more detail, to encourage you to support these public events in the UK:

1. February 20, 2020 – I will speaking in London about the recent political events in the UK and how an understanding of MMT is essential to rebuild a progressive political force in Britain. Criminologist Steve Hall will also talk and will focus on the current rise of populism in the West.

The event will be at the Unite the Union (Diskus Theatre) in central London and will run from 13:30 to 17:00.

For – Details.

2. February 21, 2020 – The same show moves to Manchester.

The event will be at the Barnes Wallis Building (The Harwood Room) at the University of Manchester and will run from 13:30 to 16:30.

For – Details.

3. February 22, 2020 – MMTed – with help from – GIMMS – will hold a three-hour MMT Masterclass in London between 14:00 and 17:00.

This is a teaching seminar exclusively and will suit those who want to build their understanding of macroeconomics from an MMT perspective.

For more details – MMT Masterclass, London.

There are still vacancies available.

Music for the cold

I am away from home at present – working in Finland and doing other events around Europe and the UK. It is cold here.

And yes, it is time for Santana’s Moonflower album – especially Track 5 – I’ll Be Waiting – which has some great guitar playing (although that mostly happens on a Santana track).

It was released in 1977 and I think I purchased it soon after. At the time, I was a little over the Latin Jazz Fusion era (which this album remained embedded within) but I still liked several of the tracks.

Europa (Track 4 on the flip side of the first album – it was a double album) is one of my favourite pieces of music.

Anyway, good antidote to the cold weather and being away.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Hi Bill: This bit seems a bit unclear. Did you mean to include a not between “have and “been” here?
    “Even central bankers have admitted that despite building the asset-side of their balance sheet up to ridiculous levels, they have been able to get inflation close to their price targets.

    Why not?”

  2. Dear J. Christensen (at 2020/02/06 at 2:36 am)

    Thanks for picking that up. I have fixed it now.

    best wishes

  3. Great post Bill. You and MMT are actually winning this thing. I think that for the past few years the most interesting economic debates are really between those who understand what MMT, and especially you Bill, have been teaching them. It’s almost comical the extent that many mainstream economists have moved their positions to reflect what MMT has always pointed out clearly. They never give any credit to you of course- but we all here know where the credit is due. Thanks Bill. I just hope Bernie Sanders can be as successful as MMT has been.

  4. I seemed to have missed this new period of fiscal dominance.
    Here is hoping I see some soon

  5. Just recently I read an interesting description of the mainstream nonsense that passes for dogma.This quote is not 100% verbatim. [I can’t recall who wrote it initially]

    “Modern economics[not MMT modern] resembles pre-Darwinian biology . Before Darwin, biologists believed life on earth was created by GOD. This seductive idea stunted scientific progress for centuries, before Darwin’e dangerous idea – evolution by natural selection, gave meaning to all the evidence all around us”

    Besides that Tim Morgan published in his blog “Surplus Energy Economics” “Tales from Mt Incomprehension” on 24 January;
    Using his SEEDS data system [surplus energy economics data system] Figures that explain the downturn we are experiencing from the ECoE perspective. The world economy ceased to grow when the ECoE was in 2000 4.1% [secular stagnation] 5,6 % in 2008 [credit adventurism], and 8% by 2018.[growth goes into reverse].
    It’s worth reading his blog to get the fuller picture.
    But MMT needs to factor in these energy costs, as part of the MMT Project you have initiated.

  6. Does the BIS statement (issued 2 weeks ago, during Davos) that “central banks might have to buy the coal industry”, indicate that BIS know central banks are constrained by available resources, not money?

    Of course, when Australian treasurer Frydenberg was asked to comment on that statement (the next day), he said “I don’t think that will happen”.

    But it *could* happen, right?

    In fact, the BIS itself *could* be authorised (by the UN?) to buy the fossil industry, and finance the transition to green…

    Meanwhile tonight on ABC’s ‘7.30’ program, Fydenberg was forced to fend off stupid questions from Leigh Sales who continually tried to get him to admit that the ‘longed-for’ budget surplus was not achievable. So much for the mainstream media, they are dumber than politicians.

    Meanwhile it’s great that Biden came last in the Iowa primaries; as Bill says, the mainstream is becoming increasingly “on the nose” in the electorate.

  7. ‘The ‘popularist’ Right movements have provided a coherent response to the widespread and growing-yearning for greater territorial or national sovereignty.’

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘coherent’. if that means ‘internal consistency’ without reference to values that lie outside it, I suppose that could be argued.

    let’s take the case of Bolsonaro: An appeal to pentecostal style religious fervour, the notion that the country’s natural resources (Rain Forest) are infinitely exploitable (which often fits with an evangelical Christian view that God has provided the earth for our ‘enjoyment’), the persecution of Indigenous peoples as an impediment to the exploitation of the nations resources. The murder of political opponents, the exaggeration of masculinity and its concomitant militarisation and homophobia.

    I suppose one could still argue internal ‘coherence’ in so far as the ideology forms a self-consistent outlook once certain presuppositions are accepted.

    In the UK we have a Government exploiting the ‘take back control’ meme without the public having any notion of what take back control might mean in terms of private debt, unaffordable housing, poor quality jobs and unaffordable rail travel as well as highly polluted and congested cities and the continuing ghastly treatment of vulnerable welfare claimants not to mention the complete absence of social care policy. We also have Government that dismisses rail nationalisation as ‘dirigiste’ while nationalising a failed train operator.

    So how would be argue coherence here? I suppose you could argue that the concept of national sovereignty and the abstracted notion of ‘taking back control’ provides a sort of coherence within itself as long as one doesn’t look ‘outside the box.’

    I suppose Bill suggests the concept of this ‘coherence’ has the referent: ‘yearning for greater territorial or national sovereignty’ then the above examples might be ‘coherent.’

    Interestingly, Trump has been able to sustain his MAGA message for four years with very little changing on the ground and will probably be elected again in November. So maybe the ‘coherence’ is about something operating on an SSRI brain chemistry level.

  8. ‘These are two outsiders, largely divorced from the mainstream Republican and Democrat elites, but representing them all the same. Both happy to abandon the neoliberal austerity.’

    Hmm…not so sure of that. The recent impeachment proceedings have shown that the Republican elites are more than happy to shore Trump up and there is only very isolated dissent in the Republican camp to Trump.

    In the case of Sanders, it seems to be true: The Democratic elites will attempt to undermine him and there is a move from the DNC to do do just that:

    Nothing like this is happening in the Republican camp as far as I can tell (although I don’t fully understand the American political system so might have missed something).

  9. Bill, if you are in Manchester on the evening of Friday 21st, this may interest you ?

    I might have come to some of your lectures but am going to the next night of the 3 date tour in Birmingham.

    If you are not in Manchester on Friday evening, you could catch them in London on Sunday 23rd if this fits in with your itinerary.


  10. Thanks Bob Wilkinson (at 2020/02/07 at 2:33 am)

    But I will miss all their events unfortunately.

    All the best

  11. I agree with Rogoff.

    What we need to do is upgrade the Central Banks – from Independent to Autonomous. Remove the faulty wetware from the process completely.

    Set base rates at zero and require the Central Bank to purchase all spare labour offered to it at a fixed price. Both of which can be programmed into the computers in an afternoon. Then sack everybody involved in the old process and leave the machines to chug away.

  12. @Neil Wilson

    The Central Bank may be able to be programmed in order to remove “wetware” – but it can’t be programmed to assign jobs autonomously despite being able to generate £10 per hour for each idle human resource and monitor the uptake of employment without intervention – otherwise we are talking about a UBI, surely?

    I’m always intrigued by your input, and there’s usually a well-thought out rationale behind your comments. Could you expand on how/why the CB should organise the work to be done by the resources it pays? Surely the work required is a variable – how could its value be autonomously generated?

  13. @JonM,

    The JG is intended to be implemented and administered at local level, with communities – local authorities, and/or citizens’ assemblies(?) – determining local needs and priorities, and perhaps re-purposed JobCentres providing the administration services, with the funding provided directly by Govt (BoE).

    I expect Neil is just referring to the funding part, which is the most easily automated – numbers supplied daily from local JG administrators automatically generate £10ph per JG worker.

    A simple enough process, I would have thought – just dont ask the DNC to organise it!

  14. Thats how the matrix starts, Neil. =)

    @Mr Shigemitsu I am laughing my butt off at all the ties the app company has.

    Funny how my university makes a big deal that we cannot even have the appearance of conflict of interest as employees of the university, but when it comes to choosing our highest office, nobody gives a damn.

  15. @ jon and neil,

    obviously there has to be a coordinating public service sitting between the central bank and the client.

    and this where the devil in detail comes in . projects have to comes first and the people to fill them second.

  16. @simon cohen,

    the republicans have no choice but to hoist themselves onto trumps petard.

    trumps approval has gone up 10% points since impeachment. the democrats are just committing suicide trying to go after a demagog like trump. all that does is re ignite his base and the turn out.

    and as long as americans are feeling better off about their economic circumstances , he will win.

    if trump can keep the economy and the share market ticking along , the impeachment proceedings have just handed the election to trump, because he will get enough turn out and the dems wont.

    sanders is the front runner for the dems, but dont discount warren. biden , to slick to establishment, and not really a good communicator. he wont get there.

    if sanders or warren get the nomination, trump will kick the big spending ,big taxing pinko can all the way to election day , just like morrison did to labour.

    the democrats cant win this

  17. Hi Bill, the thing I am struggling with in your writing is the way I see you using the same rhetorical techniques which we in the UK are awash with. And the problem I am having is that what you have to say is really valuable, and for me it’s getting lost in these pieces.

    For example… “Britain […] can now call the shots”

    It’s as meaningless as “take back control”. Let’s ask a question, who is calling these shots?

    I know it’s not me, nor my friends, nor any of the people I meet day to day. It’s not even me as a group of voters. We have a system where a minority vote share usually gives a large parliamentary majority. This Government has 43% of the popular vote, and apparently are self styling themselves as “the people’s Government” A majority of us wanted something else.

    And it’s not even the entire 43% who voted who called the shots on election day, it’s actually a comparatively very small number of people called swing voters who decide which Government we get.

    And then you might think it’s the Government who call the shots, except it isn’t, because a Government has to keep a very small select group of people happy. So for instance when David Cameron came to power, pretty much the first person invited round for an informal chat was Paul Dacre. Boris Johnson shortly after being elected disappears off to a party run by a russian oligarch, and is meanwhile sitting on a report into Russian interference. There is also a large network of think tanks with opaque funding, who funnel “information” into the public domain.

    And soon the Government is going to engage in trade negotiations first with the EU, and then probably the USA. Our Government wants zero regulatory alignment while enjoying zero tariff trade with the EU. The so called Singapore-on-Thames model. And of course the last thing the EU want is a Singapore-on-Thames sat just across the channel. So it’s not clear who is going to be calling what shots exactly, but my suspicion is that it will look very much like what happened with the Withdrawal Agreement, which was basically the first model proposed by the EU.

    Then there is the USA, and we know some of the things they want, such as lengthening patent durations on pharmaceuticals, and also interestingly exemptions/reductions of UK employment legislation. And here is the thing, Boris Johnson will be under pressure to come away with a deal. In trade negotiations size matters.

    But lets go back to the first bit… us voters “calling the shots”

    It turns out voters in general are not very keen on progressive policies, nor voting in political parties who promote them. I read a piece of research looking at vote share between Labour and Conservative parties going back to the Thatcher era, and this correlation popped up…

    Every time the Labour Party’s manifesto swung to the left, they lost vote share. The election of Tony Blair coincided with the biggest rightward shift in policy. The Labour party also benefited from a Conservative to Liberal swing. And as they shifted leftward after this, the Labour party started to lose vote share again.

    The UK is characterised by a strong elderly vote, who are typically conservative in their outlook. And it turns out that the swing in those northern constituencies was mainly in conservative voters who traditionally voted Labour. And this was pointed out by a local Conservative canvasser, who said that the people in his constituency were actually “natural” Conservative voters.

    So while I would love to see a truly progressive Government in the UK, one which did not hamstring itself with a neoliberal framework, I have no idea how such a thing can be achieved.

  18. Dear Mark Redwood (at 2020/02/09 at 9:25 pm)

    I am sorry to disappoint.

    Who calls the shots in Britain? The government does. I wasn’t saying you should like the particular government in place.

    And moaning about your particular electoral system doesn’t help much – would you have cried about the stupid first-past-the-post system if Labour had have won?

    And once the referendum had been decided, all Labour Party supporters should have pushed the Party to become the ‘Brexit Party’. They didn’t, particularly the urban members who couldn’t get past their disdain for the Leave voters.

    And if you don’t like the current government then you can act as a citizen.

    (a) Join local party branches and agitate so that decent candidates are elected rather than the neoliberal mishmash that Labour seems to put forward.

    (b) Push to purge the Party of the apparatchiks who created this mess.

    (c) Stop moaning about being powerless and get organised.

    And, I write the way I like and do not charge anyone to read it nor confront them with advertisements etc.

    best wishes

  19. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your response. Rather than me complaining about FPTP or not liking the Government, or feeling powerless (i don’t, although i do realise that my personal power is limited as is anyone’s).

    Rather my point was how metaphorical language is used to frame debates in a particular way. Its used extensively by our politicians. It’s quite fascinating how it works to convey an impression of something concrete being said, when in fact very little is being said.

    And as i understand it your point about progressive groups using neoliberal framing is that it confines them to a neoliberal mindset whether they like it or not.

    In other words…

    How something is said controls what can be said.

    So i am curious about your framing this as a military engagement… Are we at war with the EU? Who is doing the shooting? And what targets are we shooting at? Because now we are allowed to shoot, and we werent before?

    I think however the reality of the UK’s position is much more complicated, and indeed messy.

    What i notice is how debate & discussion almost invariably focuses on individuals. Personal power, personal responsibility, personal failure, and personal blame.

    Very rarely do we look wider and understand these events from a structural point of view.

    So we might imagine an individual marksman calling out when he has hit the target, but the targets he is allowed to shoot at, aren’t really decided by him. He is part of an army, which sits inside a political/cultural/geopolitical system.

    If he shoots the wrong target, or misses the target because he has the wrong weapon, is the marksman to blame?

    I am i think curious about the bullets you like to use, and just wondering if they are the right ones.

    I do really like your blog, i just like to ask questions.

  20. “I do really like your blog, i just like to ask questions.”

    Nothing wrong with that.

    But to my mind it’s not what you’re actually doing. If your so-called “questions” really were that they’d be seeking – sometimes even naively perhaps – for information or guidance.

    Yours are patently polemical, challenging. They strongly convey opinions. For instance, that you don’t like fptp,

    Again, nothing wrong with that – it’s a free country (I still believe). But you could try putting forward the odd *answer* now and then. To balance things out.

    “A majority of us wanted something else”.

    You seem to have conveniently forgotten that that majority was far from all wanting the same thing. How many of the SNP votes for instance were a proxy vote for Scottish independence not for remaining in the EU? (and no, I don’t know the answer to that; does anyone?)

  21. Hi Robert,

    What i am curious about is who is Bill writing for. Bill has strong opinions and is keen to promote MMT.

    And i would recommend people i know that they read Bill’s blog if they want to understand how MMT could be used to enable progressive Government.

    But I won’t, because while my friends are generally progressive in their outlook, they are also remainers, and they also have a hard time getting their heads round the idea that the Government is an issuer not a user of currency. And i think that the way Bill writes sometimes would turn them off from MMT.

    And as far as my opinions go, such as my opinion on FPTP, is that any system has advantages and disadvantages.

    FPTP does generally produce clear election results, and it does suit an adversial political style, but it does risk political disengagement.

    PR is not a panacea either, and i wonder how successful the UK political system would be in shifting to a consensus system. The past three years of chaos suggest to me that the UK would struggle.

    My point about a minority popular vote producing a large majority was not to argue that the remaining 57 per cent were homogenous. SNP voters will have different priorities to LD voters, who both will have different priorities to Labour voters. Rather it was to point out that a significant sector of the electorate can end up feeling unrepresented by the governing party.

    But i am much less concerned by which democratic system we use, than i am about the way in which that system is influenced by often powerful vested interests, and the way the narratives that are promoted limit the kinds of conversations we can have.

    So my question really is around how do you get an idea like MMT a fair hearing?

    Is an adversarial style the best way to go about this?

    How do you explain MMT to ordinary people who are continually exposed to a government as a household narrative, and therefore see it as common sense?

    Because i read Bill’s blog, and these are the questions i have.

  22. Dear Mark Redwood (at 2020/02/10 at 10:12 am)

    If your friends – the remainers – are so delicate about the EU that they cannot differentiate that issue from other issues – then we are surely in bad shape.

    My blog posts are a combination of technical information (MMT) and my own views on matters which are informed by an MMT understanding. An informed audience should be able to tell the difference.

    The posts under Debriefing 101 tend to be more technical.

    best wishes

  23. “So my question really is around how do you get an idea like MMT a fair hearing?
    …. How do you explain MMT to ordinary people … ?”

    I would imagine myself to be no less of an “ordinary person” than any of those you have in mind when you use that phrase (for the avoidance of doubt, I must stress that my use of it certainly does not axiomatically exclude anyone who is a Brexiter).

    For instance, I’m not an economist nor did my education include at any stage any teaching of economics whatsoever (thank goodness!). I didn’t even start to become interested in such arcane matters as our modern monetary system until well after I retired. Also, I’m hopeless at maths (especially arithmetic – therefore anything to do with accountancy). And I had no idea how to read a balance-sheet (not that I have much now, at any rate not easily). I could go on but you’ll probably have got the picture.

    Despite that, and despite having at first been very resistant to MMT’s message as conveyed via Bill’s blog, and still being far from “fluent” in all too many of the technical aspects, I began from quite an early stage to understand the theory and was won over to it by the sheer force of Bill’s (and other MMT leading lights) arguments.

    My point is:- that if I could “learn” MMT so could anyone else who has a mind to, provided they’re willing to make the effort. For some (me for instance) it’s harder than for others but anyone who can think can do it – provided only that they’re prepared to have to jettison a great deal of what they’ve been (mis)educated into believing. But there are no shortcuts: mere soundbites don’t get anyone anywhere.

  24. Hi Robert,

    Willingness to learn, and continue engaging with something is very important, i would say essential, as you point out.

    There are two things that occur to me.

    One is that people generally engage in one dimensional thinking. Things are either good bad, right or wrong, true or false.

    MMT requires you to think 2 dimensionally. So you can’t talk about Government debt without also talking about a private sector asset.

    When another referendum was being argued about, with one argument being people didnt know what they were voting for, the reaction l from leave voters (generally) was hostility, they did know what they were voting for.

    Actually both statements are correct, its just that each statement is using a different frame of reference.

    And the second thing is that i generally find sonething called the socratic method is generally quite a good system for challenging beliefs.

    James obrien in his book how to be right provides numerous examples of this technique. He is a leaver turned remainer mind, but you cant have everything i suppose.

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