Washington Teach-In Counter Conference

The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference was held at George Washington University in Washington D.C. today (Wednesday US time that is – April 28, 2010). It was a grass roots exercised designed to counter the conference organised by the arch deficit-terrorists at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which was also held today in Washington D.C. While that event will also talk about “fiscal sustainability”, the reality is that it will merely rehearse the standard and erroneous neo-liberal objections to government activity in the economy. The objections are underpinned by religious-moral constructions dressed up as economic reasoning.

Here is a narrated version of the talk I gave at the Teach-In today which I did prior to the live talk. I was up early this morning and I thought it would be useful to put some narration to my slideshow and make it available for the benefit of those who could not come and hear it is person. You might have to turn the volume up at your end a bit in case it is too quiet. The talk goes for just over 45 minutes.

I tried embedding the video in the blog but it gave me some problems so I decided to make it available in download format tonight as a download. I will fix the embedded version at the weekend. You can download the video file (34 megs) and view it in your normal video player (VLC is best).

You can also see a live blogging transcript produced by the indefatigable Lambert Strether. It will give you an excellent documentary trail of the presentations and questions.

I would add that it was a really nice group that attended and I was very happy to meet a lot of those mysterious characters that are part of the billy blog community as commentators: joebhed; rebel capitalist; rvm; and others (excuse me for being impersonal).

There is now another effort being planned for Boston perhaps in late June.

Now I have to face going back home tomorrow. I will spend a few hours in Los Angeles tomorrow and will write a blog from there.

Short blog today!

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Thanks, Bill. Sorry I couldn’t make it, but looks like it went real well. Late June, you say? Great. Can’t make that, either, unless you hold it in Switzerland.

  2. Here is an old post I came across. It proposes an excellent idea. I wish I had the expertise to carry it off. Perhaps one of the very knowledgeable poster could do it? Anyway, here it is.

    MMT for Dummies
    By tjfxh on Sun, 12/13/2009 – 2:06pm

    See L. Randall Wray, Understanding Modern Money (1998), available for reading on Google Books.

    Randy has done a great job in this book simplifying a rather complex subject. But this is a 185 page book that requires some investment. So, a simple site is needed that gives visitors a quick hit on the main points, and shows how they relate to policy. Blogs are good for what they do, but the info is up and gone too quickly and requires searching to dig out. A static web site and Wiki particles are needed to provide a place to send people so that they can get pooped up quickly with minimum hassle.

    A lot of content has already been developed. For example, the intros to his chapters are excellent summaries in themselves and could be used as a template. Warren is also very good at simplifying this stuff and relating it to political concerns. It’s a skill to take complex material and simplify it without making it simplistic or getting things wrong. So, it really requires professionals to do it. The web site also needs to be nicely designed with excellent navigation to make it super-accessible and attractive. That requires folks who know what they are doing, too.

    Bill Mitchell is a professional economist and full professor of economics who lives in Australia. He was just in Uzbekistan advising the government, for example. He and Steve Keen are pretty active there in countering the Australian political establishment. He only occasionally writes about specifically US issues, but his work is universally applicable. Warren Mosler and Marshall Auerbach (New Deal 2.0) are probably the most politically active in the US, although Scott Fulwiler is also out there, too. There are some commentators on their blogs who are very knowledgeable, too. These are the content folks.

    The opportunity cost of not being proactive in getting this out there are too great. Credible macro and economic policy-making are just not possible without this understanding of how the monetary system works to facilitate commerce, improve productivity, and encourage innovation, along with maintaining full employment with price stability, and furthering the overall public purpose of advancing the general welfare. Progressivism is just not credible without this knowledge being widespread, because otherwise the funding seems impossible and gives conservatives the ability to attack progressives as “tax and spend lib’ruls.”

    So this is where progressives need some activism. The knowledge folks have provided the content and continue to do so. Political activists are needed to get it out there effectively.

    Read your FDL posts, letsgetidone, good stuff. But let’s aggregate this material and make it permanently available in convenient one place at a dedicated site.


  3. Lance, it’s not 100% clear to me what the idea is from reading this old post. Perhaps itemizing it would help.


    About “he was just in Uzbekistan advising the government, for example.”. You probably keep in touch with the people you have been advising. Are you seeing the progress that you were expecting?


  4. Bill,
    I attended the conference on Wednesday, and I was very impressed by the entire panel. It was very well done and understandable. Thank you very much for all of your efforts.

    I guarantee this will be a topic of conversation for me in the foreseeable future and I wanted to ask some questions so that I don’t unwittingly add to the confusion on this issue.

    Is a voluntary budget constraint a political choice by a sovereign, currency issuing, government to abstain from a certain degree of consumption of the nations available resources? Can I say that they are voluntary limits on the command of the public sector over the nations real wealth? Can I characterize taxes as an initially involuntary, eventually voluntary (in a democracy) budgetary constraint on the private sectors claim to the nations real resources? Are bonds voluntary (induced by an incentive to earn interest) private budgetary constraints, insofar as the purchasers agree to defer some purchasing power in exchange for interest? Are these correct characterizations or dangerous oversimplifications?

    Thanks again,

  5. Hey, prof 😉

    Thanks for the link to Corrente. And thanks for, oh, the last 15 years or so of work.

    We’re working to put up a transcript, along with audio and video as well. (Yes, the AV came through, so we’re very happy). Let the viral propagation begin!

  6. Looks like your teach-in and the follow-up in Huffington Post is scaring the shit out of some “economists”. I just read the venting about it on Cafe Hayek. I’m really wondering why anybody is willing to to save a lot of money or incur big loans to get his kids educated in economics at the GMU department of Donald Boudreaux? Every second letter this human-letter-writing-robot is producing and without being asked for disseminating to every possible outlet in the US is only ridiculous.

  7. frolix22,

    This is similar to the 7DIFs + 2 other myths.

    I respectfully suggest to its authors (I believe Warren & Bill) that they don’t simply say what it means for a gov to pay down it’s debt, but also contrast it with a loan in the private sector (anyone can relate to that), because even if they agree with the transfer from saving to checking analogy, my guess is the wider public will simply think : so what?

  8. The wider public is of mediocre intelligence by definition. It is also a passive entity, being a collectivity, by definition. Meaningful things are always accomplished by an accomplished minority. To think the majority has to be brought into play is the democratic myth that demagogues pander to so as to manipulate the public. Therefore Warren and Bill and others should keep doing exactly what they are doing; they will gradually influence the people who are capable of assimilating ideas without the interference of knee jerk prejudices and bias. Publicity is important, to be sure, but the truth of what you are publishing is what is crucial. Truth is benefic by its very nature, and since it is in accord with reality, it will eventually have the last word; the possibilities of illusions and errors are not limitless. Of course, meanwhile the US could go to the dustbin of history. It certainly seems that way.

  9. What I’ve said to Lynn Parramore after reading her HuffPo article, I say to you after looking at your PPT sheets at the Fiscal Sustainability Teach In in Washington (with thanks to Selise). It’s never easy to be a messenger with a message that provokes conventional wisdom and advocates for a paradigm shift and new thinking. We humans are habitual creatures, and most of our learning is reactive learning, whereby thinking is governed by established mental models and doing is governed by established habits of action. Thank you for encouraging deeper levels of learning on fiscal sustainability, and increasing my awareness on this issue. I hope that people (as world-citizens) will critically test and evaluate these knowledge claims, instead of just trying to ridicule and marginalize them. We all know what happens if it is left to politicians to decide which knowledge claims will survive (based on their authority or power). It seems to me that these MMT-claims are hard to falsify. I would have loved to watch you in person at this Fiscal Sustainability Teach In: chapeau for the organizers. And my deepest respects for you; an Australian goes to the Washington to educate me in The Netherlands. It’s a small world, and … with limited resources for our well-being. And I didn’t mean money.

  10. James, What do you define as mediocre intelligence? and what do you define as meaningful? you’re actually saying alot without saying much. I don’t think general statements will help the situation, it’s important to look at this from a sociological perspective and understand why some people have the necessary information and others don’t and work on methods to allowing people to access information, after this you may have more people agreeing with your views, but if they don’t they may not necessarily have ‘mediocre intelligence’ they may just see the situation from a different perspective. I don’t think we should define perspectives on the economy as either of a minority or majority, but rather try to understand varying perspectives and encourage others to do the same. No disrespect and sorry to single you out on this blog.

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