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Saturday Quiz – April 23, 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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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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Australia – communists driving prosperity, while the neo-liberals squander it

The morning news headlines today (April 1, 2011) were all touting our Prime Minister’s tough talk last night while giving the Inaugural Gough Whitlam Oration. She outlined a plan to introduce harsh spending cuts in the upcoming May Federal Budget to preserve the strength of the economy. This is an economy that is barely growing and has 12.2 per cent of its available labour (at least) idle! Her speech was a frightening display of how far the public debate on macroeconomics has moved away from being based on an understanding of how things work to being driven by conservative fears about budget deficits based on a series of lies. Depressingly, which ever way one turns over here you have to conclude that the neo-liberals rule in Australia and seek to undermine our prosperity. At the same time, ironically, our prosperity is being saved by some communists .

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How are the laboratory rats going?

I am all done writing letters – at least for today. I forgot to send both. I noted someone mentioned that he had never read any admissions of error from me. True enough. Over the course of my academic career I have made many predictions and none have turned out to be qualitatively wrong (sometimes the quantum us shaky but the direction is correct). But I am not trying to sell tickets for myself. Economists like me who comment regularly on current affairs are always subject to empirical scrutiny. So I am regularly putting my neck on the line – in written word (blog, Op-Eds etc) and speech (presentations, media interviews etc). So far so good. I note that a correct empirical observation doesn’t mean the underlying theoretical explanation which might have motivated the prediction is correct. But it is a lot better than missing the empirical boat altogether and suggests that there is some worth in the theoretical framework being employed. From a personal perspective the current period of economic policy is very shattering (if you share my values about the dignity of work etc). But from an intellectual perspective, as an economic researcher, the current period is very interesting. It is providing us with real world data which directly relates to theoretical statements made by economic schools of thought. So I am keeping a running tally of how the laboratory rats are going? You can judge which theoretical structure you consider useful yourself when thinking about what is happening at present.

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Saturday Quiz – February 12, 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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Saturday Quiz – February 5, 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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Saturday Quiz – January 22, 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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Imagine if we treated humiliation itself as a cost

I am currently writing a piece for the US weekly The Nation which is focusing my mind on issues relating to what a social democratic narrative should look like and in what way does it have to change from that which dominated government policy and the relationship the state had with its citizens in the Post WWII period up until the neo-liberal resurgence in the mid-1970s. It is an interesting topic and my deadline looms. Serendipitously, while I was driving back from the airport the other day I was listening to a repeat of an ABC radio program Big Ideas (thank god for our public broadcaster) which was a repeat of a lecture – What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy? – given by the late Tony Judt as the 2009 Remarque Lecture at New York University on October 19, 2009. The lecture nicely dovetailed into my current thoughts and challenged the “left” to wake up to themselves and revive the collective narrative and to get angry about what we have lost over the last 30 years. There are many memorable lines in this speech and the title – imagine if we treated “humiliation itself as a cost” is just one of them (more about which later).

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Saturday Quiz – November 27, 2010 – 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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Saturday Quiz – October 9, 2010 – 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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A new progressive agenda?

Today I am heading into the lands of austerity – those scorched, barren places where people with increasingly hollowed out faces are being forced by their misguided polities to forego wages and conditions and pensions and their happiness because some neo-liberal told them that government deficits were bad and all that. I am off to London this afternoon (I am typing this on the train to Sydney) and then to Maastricht University where visit each year and my colleague Joan Muysken is located. I have been thinking about various efforts that have emerged in the recent period suggesting that a new progressive agenda (narrative) is required to reverse the onslaught of neo-liberalism. This is clearly a topic close to my own heart. I have been thinking about the development of an alternative economic paradigm for my whole academic career. So whenever I see some progressive efforts I am always interested. This blog considers that question. So now a long flight then I will report on how hollow those faces are becoming.

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Income distribution matters for effective fiscal policy

I read a brief report from the US Tax Policy Center – The Debate over Expiring Tax Cuts: What about the Deficit? – last week which raises broader questions than those it was addressing. I also note that Paul Krugman references them in his current New York Times column (published August 22, 2010) – Now That’s Rich. The point of my interest in these narratives is that I have been researching the distributional impacts of recession for a book I am writing. The issue also bears on the design of fiscal policy and how to maximise the benefits of a stimulus package.

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Saturday Quiz – July 17, 2010 – 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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Saturday Quiz – July 3, 2010 – 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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Saturday Quiz – March 6, 2010 – 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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When you’ve got friends like this … Part 2

… who needs enemies. Today’s blog is Part 2 in a series I am running about the propensity of self-proclaimed progressive commentators and writers to advance arguments about the monetary system (and government balances) which could easily have been written by any neo-liberal commentator. The former always use guarded rhetoric to establish their “progressive” credentials but they rehearse the same conservative message – the US has dangerously high deficits and unsustainable debt levels and an exit plan is urgently required to take the fiscal position of the government bank into balance. In doing so, they not only damage the progressive cause but also perpetuate myths and lies about how the monetary system operates and the options available to a currency-issuing national government.

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L’horreur economique

Tonight’s blog title L’horreur Economique is taken from one of my favourite (though depressing) books by a French writer (Viviane Forrester). I will discuss the book a bit at the end of the blog. But I was thinking about it (and re-reading it) today when I reflected on the US President’s most recent Radio address on the reining in budget deficits. We – collectively – have allowed the most grotesque set of lies, half-truths and irrelevancies to become the centrepiece of the public debate on the economy. The crisis exposed the lack of credibility that mainstream economics has and should have dispatched the ideas to the rubbish bin forever. Instead, as unemployment and poverty rates continues to rise the mainstream ideas are now taking centre-stage again. And the policies that result will be to our collective misfortune. It really is “L’horreur economique”.

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One should become more radical as one grows older

In a sea of conservative media, two articles stood out this weekend which captures a debate that should be raging but will be quickly buried under the re-emerging neo-liberal hubris unless significant new alliances are formed. In recent weeks, as different economies are showing some signs of recovery, some key players within mainstream economics have been coming out in defence of the profession. They have been accusing critics of misunderstanding what economics is all about and saying that economists have actually saved the world. I covered some of this sort of positioning in Friday’s blog. In this blog I continue that theme but from a different angle. The conclusion is that if we want real change then “one should become more radical as one grows older”. We will see what that means as we go.

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More calls for job creation … but then

In the last few days I have seen more calls from commentators for policy makers to take new initiatives to generate jobs and growth. Some of these calls have come from commentators and research centres that sit on the “progressive” side of the macroeconomic debate. Unfortunately, their proposals are always compromised by their demonstrated lack of understanding of how the monetary system operates. In my view these proposals actually undermine the need to advance an understanding that sovereign governments can create true full employment and should do so as a matter of urgency. By playing ball with the conservatives and choosing to focus on deficit outcomes these progressives divert the policy focus away from the real issues. In short, the federal budget deficit outcome should never be the focus of policy.

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