Saturday Quiz – September 24, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Self-inflicted catastrophe

In the last few days, while MMT has been debating with Paul Krugman, several key data releases have come out which confirm that the underlying assumptions that have been driving the imposition of fiscal austerity do not hold. Ireland led the way in early 2009 cheered on by the majority of my profession who tried to sell the world the idea of the “fiscal contraction expansion”. Apparently, there were millions of private sector spenders (firms and consumers) out there poised to resurrect their spending patterns once the government started to reduce its discretionary net spending. Apparently, these spenders were on strike – and saving like mad – because they feared the public deficits would have to be paid back via higher future taxes and so the savings were to ensure they could pay these higher taxes. It is the stuff that would make a sensible child laugh at and think you were kidding them. Now, the disease has spread and the data is telling us what we already knew. The economists lied to everyone. None of them will be losing their jobs but millions of other will. And the worse part is that the political support seems to be coming from those who will be damaged the most. Talk about working class tories! This is a self-inflicted catastrophe.

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The system in deep trouble and it is waiting to blow

Today is rather historic because it is the 40th anniversary of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system. On August 15, 1971, the then US President Nixon gave an address to the nation – The Challenge of Peace – where he announced the “temporary” suspension of the dollar’s convertibility into gold – and by closing the “gold window” the fixed exchange rate system was over. The demise of the fixed exchange rate system – and by implication the introduction of the fiat monetary system – provided governments with the scope to pursue domestic policies without tying monetary policy to defending the parity. It gave fiscal policy the capacity to sustain full employment no matter what else occurred. It is a pity that since then governments have been steadily white-anted by conservatives who have aimed to undermine the capacity to ensure there are enough well-paid jobs available at all times. The 2008 crisis that is now reverberating again is a direct result of the conservative political success since that time – not only directly but also indirectly, by pushing the political spectrum so far to the right that the “left” are not “right”. The result of all this is that the “system in deep trouble and it is waiting to blow”.

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Saturday Quiz – August 13, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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I blame the British government for the riots

There has been a lot of “opinion” expressed over the last few days about the causes of the British riots. If I had a meter to assess the ideological biases given breath in the press over this issue to date it would be swinging out there in the right-wing of opinion – “cultural problem”, “lawless lazy youth fed by the welfare state”, “criminality”, “intolerable monsters” all words I have read or heard in the media recently. Anyway who has my view is labelled a “left-wing cynic” who want to “makes excuses for thugs”. Opinion is after all just that so it is always of benefit to temper it with research evidence. Anyway, the short conclusion – supported by the research evidence – is that I blame the British government for the riots.

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US labour market in decline – leadership gone missing

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published the latest labour force data on Friday and the results can be summarised in one word – shocking. Meanwhile the so-called US political leadership met at the White House to determine how they could make sure the US labour market deteriorated even faster than the latest BLS data shows it is. Other senior White House officials appeared on American TV networks engaging in what can only be related to early teenage male behaviour – ours will be bigger than our opponents. The ours being the trillions they plan to cut from the US federal deficit. With the US labour market in clear decline and the top level talks being about trillions of cuts in public spending you can only conclude one thing – the US leadership has gone missing.

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Saturday Quiz – July 2, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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BIS = BS – the I used to stand for integrity

I checked my calendar today thinking I must be a few months out. Upon checking I determined that it wasn’t April 1. So what the hell is going on? I refer to the announcement of a senior appointment at the World Bank. They have just appointed to the role of Vice President and Treasurer the former Lehman Brothers Global Head of Risk Policy who then was Lehman’s Global Head of Market Risk Management as they sailed into bankruptcy. Hilarious. As the Twitter-verse noted – Did they also interview Bernie Madoff? Anyway, I saw this news piece come in as I was studying the 81st Annual Report 2010/11 of the Bank of International Settlements – the central bank of the central banks – which was released yesterday (June 26, 2011). My conclusion: BIS = BS – the I is gone and used to stand for integrity

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Saturday Quiz – June 25, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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In policy you have to wish for the possible

I am travelling today and so have to steal time to write this blog between other commitments. Later this week I am presenting a paper at a workshop on stock-flow consistent macroeconomics and I was thinking over the weekend just gone what I would do with the time I have for the presentation (1 hour). I started putting together a database of IMF forecasts out to 2016 for various nations and simulating the implications for the sectoral balances. Then I thought I would discuss the internal inconsistencies of those forecasts from a stock-flow perspective and the implications of those inconsistencies. I will write a blog later in the week on that once I have finalised the presentation. But the preliminary thinking led to today’s blog. In policy you have to wish for the possible.

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Ineluctably compromised

Today I was reflecting on the role of students in social change. I was a student activist and took that role very seriously when I was a full-time student. I did have a sense of entitlement that it was our future and we had to rock the boat to make it work in the way we wanted. I probably proposed things without fully understanding them – that is the nature of being a student – enthusiasm gets ahead of judgement. But I also was lucky to have a few really great mentors in my earlier days who helped me. It is the role of the mentors and teachers to steer that youthful zeal to develop mature, knowledge-based assessments and informed action. I find my profession to be seriously defective in that sense because they indulge more in propaganda than they do in educating the students who want to learn economics. I do not think the average economics program to be of much educative value. But I understand the conservative nature of my profession and the reasons they behave in that way. What is more objectionable is when a self-styled progressive organisation engages in the same sort of exercise with students yet denies that they are doing it. The problem then is the beautiful enthusiasm of our youth becomes manipulated by their mentors and what should have been an educative process becomes a compromise ideological exercise serving the top-end-of-town. So today – continuing my truth theme – I am writing about processes and organisations that become ineluctably compromised.

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When a former US president makes things up

Some years ago – I did not have sexual relations with that woman – were the famous words that seemed to redefine everything we had come to think of sexual relations between two consenting partners. Suddenly we could have sexual relations without having them. The same person has come up with a new conclusion – the US never ran “permanent structural deficits of any size before 1981”. Hmm, you mean that for 84 per cent of those years from 1930 when the US federal government ran deficits they were just cyclical events indicating deteriorating economic conditions? Maybe the former president might say a structural deficit equivalent to 3 per cent of GDP was not of “any size”. My conclusion is different – that this statement like the previous one was another case of a former US president making things up.

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Who the cap fits?

In his recent New York Times column (April 21, 2011) – What Are Taxes For? – continues to engage with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) but trips up because his mainstream view (dressed up as a progressive) reveals serious flaws in reasoning about the way a fiat currency system operates viz-a-viz the former monetary system based on convertibility via some commodity standard. In this blog I correct some of the analytical mistakes that appear in that article. Krugman concludes by claiming that he is really disturbed by those who don’t get mainstream logic – and is especially upset by “a lot of people with Ph.D.s in economics who can throw around a lot of jargon, but when push comes to shove, have no coherent picture whatsoever of how the pieces fit together”. My only response is to look in a mirror Paul or in the words of Bob Marley ask “who the cap fits”.

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Saturday Quiz – April 16, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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The full employment fiscal deficit condition

Many readers ask me to provide a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) rule for sound fiscal management. I had done this often but apparently not concisely enough. It is important to understand what the limits on fiscal deficits are in term of prudent fiscal practice given that terms such as fiscal sustainability, fiscal consolidation, fiscal austerity are in the media almost every day without fail. The mainstream version of fiscal responsibility is based on false premises and is not an applicable guide for sovereign governments to base their policy decisions on. MMT provides a coherent fiscal position for governments to aim for. In this blog, I juxtapose that position with the sort of narrative that is now coming out of the OECD with renewed vigour – after they went a bit quiet once it was clear they were exposed by the magnitude of the economic crisis. But they are back, strutting and arrogant as before and threatening the jobs of millions. So here is the full employment fiscal deficit condition that makes a mockery of the IMF and OECD narratives.

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Saturday Quiz – April 9, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Life in the IMF fantasy world

I gave an interview on the national broadcaster ABC about the latest talk in Australia to ramp up the pernicious Work for the Dole program. I noted that the unemployment problem in Australia at present reflects a systematic failure to produce enough jobs rather than the personal failures of the unemployed themselves. Standard stuff. The interview got me thinking of about make work schemes and unproductive labour and boondoggling! and leaf-raking. My mind turned, immediately, to the IMF which runs one of the largest make work programs in the world and employs thousands of workers on good pay to do nothing constructive at all. The IMF is the exemplar of leaf-raking. You only have to read their working paper series – where multiple authors attach their name to senseless reports about nothing. These papers are always “Authorized for distribution by x” – that is, some higher-up leaf-raker who spent years learning the craft of being occupied doing nothing. All IMF economists aspire to be the person who sits in the office and authorises for distribution the papers that all the peons pump out which provide nothing useful to anyone. At least aggregate demand is being maintained via the workers’ wages. Pity the IMF couldn’t find something more productive for their workforce to do. Perhaps they are not skilled enough though. Anyway, life in the IMF fantasy world!

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Saturday Quiz – April 2, 2011 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Europe is still pursuing the wrong goal

Europe has another … yes, yet another … solution. But we have to wait until June for it so be fully revealed. Meanwhile Portugal is about to go under. There are simmering stories emerging that the banking system in Europe is teetering despite there being silence on the viability of the banking system in Europe from the Euro bosses. Despite the decisions (or rather non-decisions) of the European Council last week – the intent is the same – fiscal consolidation including retrenchment of safety net benefits supplemented with further labour market deregulation which will further reduce living standards, especially for the poor. Their position is a denial of basic macroeconomic understanding and doesn’t address the inherent design flaws in the monetary union. I predict things will get worse. The political leaders in Europe have the wrong goal in mind (stubbornly saving the euro) and do not even have an effective solution to defend that goal, flawed as it is. The problem is that Europe is still pursuing the wrong goal.

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