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Money neutrality – another ideological contrivance by the conservatives

I have noted in recent weeks a periodic reference to long-run neutrality of money. Several readers have written to me to explain this evidently jargon-laden concept that has pervaded mainstream economics for two centuries and has been used throughout that history, in different ways, to justify the case against policy-activism by government in the face of mass unemployment. It is once again being invoked by the deficit terrorists to justify fiscal austerity despite the millions of productive workers who remain unemployed. I have been working on a new book over the last few days which includes some of the theoretical debates that accompany the notion of neutrality. There will also be a chapter in the macroeconomics text book that Randy Wray and I are working on at present on this topic. Essentially, it involves an understanding of what has been called the “classical dichotomy”. It is a highly technical literature and that makes it easy to follow if you are good at mathematical reasoning. It is harder to explain it in words but here goes. I have tried to write this as technically low-brow as I can. The bottom line takeaway – the assertion that money is neutral in the long-run is a nonsensical contrivance that the mainstream invoke to advance their ideological agenda against government intervention. It is theoretically bereft and empirical irrelevant. That conclusion should interest you! But be warned – this is just an introduction to a very complex literature that spans 200 years or so.

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Martians are (probably) better than this

I have given some further consideration to the Co-Chairs Draft Proposal from the US National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was released on Wednesday (November 11, 2010). This was in the context of reading an article over the weekend that said the the co-chairs’ report reads like a document from Mars. I can’t say I know much about Mars but I thought this description was a bit unkind to any life forms that might exist there. Does the author of that comment have any insights about Mars that we do not have? Given my propensity to be hopeful rather than assume the worst I prefer to think of the unknown Mars as being occupied by nice, thoughtful, smart, considered and above all realistic people. They would never produce such a silly document as the co-chairs have had the audacity to inflict on the public policy debate. Martians are (probably) better than this.

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Saturday Quiz – November 13, 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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Australian labour market slack rises sharply

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the Labour Force data for October 2010. As usual the bank economists got it wrong predicting the unemployment rate would drop to 5 per cent. In fact it rose from 5.1 per cent to 5.4 per cent because employment growth was too weak to match the expansion of the labour force. Further, employment growth fell this month and full-time employment declined. The only reason there was any employment growth was courtesy of the expansion of part-time employment. Finally, some of the bank economists recognised today (in their comments) that business conditions are easing. The previous rhetoric about an economy exploding at the seams now seems very wan indeed. There is no jobs boom going on at present. The mining states are showing deteriorating labour conditions (falling participation and rising unemployment). The data definitely doesn’t support the claims by the Government and the RBA that there is an inflation threat building. There is still plenty of slack in the Australian labour market and last month the degree of slack rose sharply.

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They have been smoking some doobies

I suddenly realised what has been going on all this time. They have been smoking some doobies – some real strong doobies and their heads are not what they used to be. How cool is that conclusion? It explains everything – why they typically miss the point of everything; why they say really dumb things most of the time; why they usually look half asleep; why they think down is up or up is down; why they continually think that what is good for them is bad for them and vice versa and all of that funk. I am so relaxed now – I actually thought there was a problem. But a bit of weed is doing it. I guess it is time for them to ease up on their intake though or their lack of concentration and awareness of reality will become entrenched. We need all the citizens we have thinking clearly and working together.

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Back to basics – aggregate demand drives output

Sometimes we get lost in detail and forget the simple macroeconomic relationships that sit below the complexity. I also like to get lost in detail too – to work out tricky little aspects of the financial system, etc but it is always a sobering experience to go right back to the beginning. I have been forcing myself to think “basic” lately as I progress the macroeconomics textbook that my mate Randy Wray and I are writing at present. It seems that our national governments have lost their perspective to think at this basic level – to really understand what drives prosperity in their nations. The evidence for this statement lies in the various fiscal austerity plans that are being rehearsed around the world at present. The most blatant and severe example of this in the non-EMU world has just been announced in Britain. This is a case of a government driven by ideology deliberately inflicting massive damage on its citizens while lying to the population about the necessity for such a policy. Its fits my definition of a state-motivated terrorist attack. If only the people of Britain understood the most basic economic relationship – aggregate demand drives output and national income. Cut spending and prosperity falls. Only by lying to the people, has the British government been able to take this policy path.

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Job Guarantees and social democracy

Today is my last day in London and I am tied up all day with meetings and activities and then later I am travelling back to Australia. So I invoked the guest blogger facility and asked Victor Quirk to share his views on employment guarantees. Victor has just finished a doctoral dissertation and has produced one of the most compelling research efforts I have had the pleasure to supervise. He chose a very challenging topic overall – the political constraints on full employment – and compiled a very rich argument based on a substantial interrogation of an extensive array of primary documents which he sourced from various national archives in Australia, Britain and the US. Now that Victor has finished his work I hope he will share more of it as a guest blogger. So … over to Victor.

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We can conquer unemployment

Many readers have written to me asking me to explain the British Treasury view during the Great Depression. This view was really the product of several decades of literature which culminated in the political process during the 1929 British election where the number one issue of the day was mass unemployment. The Treasury View was thoroughly discredited in the immediate period after it was articulated and comprised one side of the famous Keynes versus the Classics debate. When propositions – such as the Earth was flat – are shown to be incorrect constructions of reality the ideas cease to be knowledge and instead become historical curiosities which allow us to benchmark how far our education systems have taken us. However, the same cannot be said for my profession.

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Saturday Quiz – September 18, 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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Australian labour market – when is a boom a boom?

The national ABC news carried the headline – Unemployment slashed by jobs boom after the ABS released the Labour Force data for August 2010. While the net employment change was more than the market economists predicted (why would that surprise anyone given their tendency to continually get it wrong) I would hardly call the outcome a jobs boom. Further, the broader indicators of labour underutilisation deteriorated in the August quarter of 2010 with underemployment rising by 0.4 percent. There are 12.5 per cent of workers (at least) idle in one way or another (unemployed or underemployed). The fact that our teenagers continue to experience negative employment growth is also telling. While the bank economists have hailed today’s figures as indicative of “very strong across the board” performance and are whipping up the inflation bogey, the reality is different. We continue to waste a huge amount of our potential capacity and there are no inflationary pressures coming from the labour market at present.

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Australia continues to grow but the signs are not all good

Well its officially Spring in Australia and today in Newcastle it is a very warm 23 degrees (warm for this time of year) and it looks like being a long hot (beautiful) summer. The statistics world is looking very bright today as well with the release by the Australian Bureau Statistics of the National Accounts data for the June quarter. The media are today beating up a story about the Goldilocks economy which on first glimpse is a reasonable conclusion. But given that growth has been driven by rising personal consumption and falling saving when household debt remains at dangerous levels, and export growth which is mostly due to terms of trade effects which will not last for much longer and government fiscal stimulus spending which is now being withdrawn something has to happen to private investment soon for the growth to endure. Further, if you take the government contribution out over the last year then things look very sick indeed. The fiscal intervention definitely kept the Australian economy afloat over the last year although that impact is now waning significantly.

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There is no solvency issue for a sovereign government

Yesterday, I indicated that I would provide some commentary on the latest Morgan Stanley briefing (August 25, 2010) – Sovereign Subjects – which received a lot of press coverage in the last few days and roused the interest of many of my readers. I cannot link to it as it is copyrighted. But the MS document is another example of how you can spread nonsense by ignoring the elephant that is sitting in the corner of the room. The MS briefing is essentially a self-aggrandising rant which perpetuates the standard neo-liberal myths and offers nothing new. I sincerely hope that the author’s company and all of their clients take his advice and lose significant amounts of their investment funds. The more losses are made in this respect the more quickly people will see through the cant that is served up by these clowns.

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Saturday Quiz – August 14, 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 31, 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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Where are the gold bugs, Austrians and deficit terrorists?

On July 20, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published the Minutes of its last board meeting (July 6, 2010). This caused headlines for the day – the journalists must have been bored that day – because it raised the possibility that the RBA would increase interest rates in August – right in the middle of an election campaign (the federal election is late August). The bank economists as usual predicted rising rates and significant spikes in the inflation rate. Well today the the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the Consumer Price Index, Australia data for the June quarter and it showed that inflation is moderate and falling. The market economists were “surprised”. I wonder if their organisations have any money dependent on the judgement of their economists? I wouldn’t bet a cent on the basis of their opinions. They continually make false predictions on the outcomes of all the major data releases – always claiming that the economy is overheating and that fiscal support has to be withdrawn. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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Defunct but still dominant and dangerous

I am reserving Friday’s for no blog, short blog or normal blog depending on whether I can do other things and keep my weekend’s free of blog activity. In general I will use Friday’s to put a Quiz up for Saturday and prepare the Answers and Discussion for Sunday. If I have some “blog” time left and there is something interesting to write about then I will post it – like today. There was an interesting article in the UK Guardian (July 21, 2010) by Robert Skidelsky who was the biographer of John Maynard Keynes. The article – What do deficit slashers wear under their hair shirts? – probes the “assumptions made by the economists who demand rapid ‘fiscal consolidation'”. I thought that was interesting given that most of the published justifications for austerity rather vaguely invoke failed economic theories like Ricardian Equivalence and Rational Expectations. Skidelsky’s point is that these defunct macroeconomic doctrines which got us into this mess are now resurfacing as the dominant narrative. That spells disaster.

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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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Labour market – just marking time

Today the ABS released the Labour Force data for June 2010 which show that the unemployment rate is stable at 5.1 per cent (last month was revised down to 5.1 per cent) with virtually no change in the number of jobless. While employment growth is remains positive it is just keeping pace with the growth in the labour force. Further, the recent trend towards full-time employment growth has moderated and part-time growth dominated this month’s employment gains. As a result, aggregate hours worked fell in June which suggests that underemployment will have risen slightly. But a positive note is the reversal in the falling participation rate. While the bank economists have hailed today’s figures as indicative of an economy “near full capacity”, the reality is that the data is consistent with a broad array of statistics showing the Australian economy is slowing as the effects of the fiscal stimulus dissipate and and private spending remains subdued.

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Something is seriously wrong

The Toronto G-20 leaders’ meeting is being held this weekend (June 26-27, 2010) and one expects it will endorse the position taken at the recent G-20 annual Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in South Korea. The communiqué released from that meeting illustrates how influential the deficit terrorists have become. At the Pittsburgh meeting of the G-20 leaders in September 2009 the communiqué talked about the sufficiency and quality of jobs. Six months later they had abandoned that call and are now preaching higher unemployment and increased poverty via austerity packages imposed on fragile communities. This is in the context of dramatic increases in global poverty rates in 2009 due to income losses associated with entrenched unemployment. Then I note that the recently released 2010 World Wealth Report shows that the world’s rich got richer during the 2009 recession. The only reasonable conclusion is that something is seriously wrong in the world we have constructed.

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Saturday Quiz – May 15, 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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