From The Times reprinted in The Australian. Insane enough just as an economic principle, but to have it endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and then presented as a sensible idea by the Economics Editor of The Times in London [!!!!!] shows how low we have fallen. If someone cannot work out how insane this is, they cannot be said to have even the most preliminary grasp of how an economy works. But let me give you a hint. The aim is to open the spigot to public spending almost to an infinite extent since a government printing money in one’s own economy and then spending it apparently has no downside. And then when the price level starts to rise, you increase taxes to put things right again. I love the idea of trying to raise taxes as prices are rocketing while interest rates are held level. That this is not seen as obvious idiocy and an invitation to disaster really makes me wonder how far gone economic theory now is. That it is even being published in respectable newspapers is more depressing than almost anything else. But he certainly gets one thing right: the policies adopted after the GFC have been a complete failure. Now on to the column.
Modern Monetary Theory: Who’ll be brave enough to try it?
In the past decade, the world has suffered two global crises: the financial disaster of 2008 and the eurozone sovereign debt crisis two years later. Policymakers responded with bailouts, cheap funding schemes, zero interest rates and quantitative easing. In one sense, the past ten years was a period of intense economic experimentation. In another, nothing has changed.
Following previous crises, macroeconomic ideas were replaced. After the Second World War, Keynesian, under which governments spend to create demand and protect jobs, was ascendant. After the inflation-induced recessions in the 1970s, the big idea was monetarism, using interest rates and the money supply to keep prices under control.
And now, after two existential crises? Nothing. The fundamental macroeconomic ideas have not changed. Labour and the Tories do battle on the scale of the deficit, like two old fools arguing who should pay for the last round long after the bar has closed. Beyond that, John McDonnell’s socialist revolution is pilfered from crumbling communist textbooks. It’s all a bit disappointing.
A new idea is slowly gaining momentum, though, particularly in the United States, where the charismatic Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been championing it. The idea is modern monetary theory and, as with many new ideas, it is not actually that new. Its origins date back to 1993 and it even featured in the 2016 US election. Bernie Sanders’ economic adviser was Stephanie Kelton, a prominent advocate of MMT.
At first glance, the theory seems barmy. As long as a government borrows in its own currency, it need never default because it can always print the money it needs. Described that way, MMT sounds like that other MMT, the magic money tree, or Jeremy Corbyn’s “People’s QE” – the kind of thing Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe tried with devastating inflationary consequences. But that’s because we’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope….
What MMT does prove, however , is that we will not run out of new ideas as long as we can describe the world in different ways. That, at least, is encouraging.
He thinks it’s great that we have new ideas to consider. We will certainly never run out of stupid ideas. One more post-modernist crank. This was the most acute comment at The Oz which exactly states what needs to be said, written by “Tony”.
This is seriously dangerous stuff. Fundamentally, money is not wealth, i.e. income producing assets, goods and services etc, but rather just a system for exchanging such. One can argue about Keynesian and Monetarist policy till the cows come home but ignoring the fundamentals of wealth creation through favorable investment (not speculative) conditions and rising productivity always produces rising living standards for workers and good margins for capital. The State can then appropriate (Tax) a portion of that generated wealth. Fundamentally, increasing the money supply by Gov does not produce more wealth- that is impossible- but at the margins it is useful for ironing out the natural cycles of investment but that is it.
It is bananas to think that printing money actually creates real wealth and is safe to do so as long as we borrow from ourselves or foreigners in our own dollars. If this fallacy were true, why would anyone invest or work at all? Lets just print money and borrow in AU$ and sit at home relaxing on a “universal income” paid by Gov. Wow, that sounds great. Where do I sign up? OK, vote Greens or ALP, no probs.
Having gone through the entire comments thread, there was not a single positive comment made by even a single person who had read this nonsense through. There is hope for us yet but only marginally if this is the kind of stupidity that is now gaining currency on the left.