The Italian elections were held last Sunday (March 4, 2018) and the results are devastating for the Europhiles that think that the EU and the Eurozone, in particular, can be reformed to bring the people together in some sort of democratic paradise. Anti-establishment parties including the far right Lega Nord (who want to expel all migrants) have made spectacular gains. This follows elections in several nations where rather extreme results have emerged. What is apparent is that social democratic parties have started to lose electoral supports in large swathes and, in some, cases are now diminished and ruined forces. After hearing what the Shadow Treasurer in Australia said yesterday I can only hope the same electoral whitewash of the Australian Labor Party occurs at the next election. The message from the various national elections is pretty clear. Voters have seen through all the neoliberal nonsense that they have been bombarded with over the last decades and the miserable actual outcomes that have followed in terms of things that matter for peoples’ prosperity – jobs, real wages growth, income security, public services and infrastructure etc. They are sick of seeing the top-end-of-town walk off with the largesse while government’s attack the poorer elements in the name of ‘budget repair’. The neoliberals have pushed their luck to far. Sunday’s Italian result is just part of the evidence mounting to support that view. But, back in the Southern Hemisphere the Labour government in New Zealand the Labor opposition in Australia do not seem to have understood the trends. They are still thinking it is clever to ape the neoliberal nonsense about fiscal surpluses, AAA credit ratings and war chests to help fight future recessions. Sad sad sad.
Regular readers will know I was doing some speaking engagements in New Zealand a few weeks ago. Please read my blogs – Travelling all day today but here is something to watch and listen to and Reflections on a visit to New Zealand – for more coverage of that visit. New Zealand is in the midst of a national election campaign and it seems that one of the aspiring parties – The Opportunities Party (TOP) – which is trying to carve out a niche for itself as an ‘anti-establishment’ party in opposition to neo-liberalism – obviously determined that the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) message that I introduced many progressive New Zealanders to during my visit threatened their own credibility (which is a reasonable perception). So, to kill off the threat TOP went on the attack, although as you will read they found it impossible producing a credible critique of MMT and still maintain their alleged anti-neoliberal stance. Whatever, I would hope not too many New Zealand voters get lulled into believing that TOP is somehow a progressive force. Their macroeconomic narrative is strewn with neo-liberal falsehoods that are like neon-signs advertising their roots!
Last Friday, I gave a public lecture organised by the strategy group Strategy2040 and the full presentation is available on YouTube – Thinking in a Modern Monetary Theory Way (I made it available in yesterday’s blog). After that presentation I was invited to a ‘Roundtable’ meeting (although the layout was rectangular) which comprised about 30 or so people (mostly economists as I gather) being given the opportunity for 90 minutes to question me about the presentation etc – to tear me apart really. There was a call from an former senior central banker in the audience to have Chatham House rules governing the meeting. I declined acceptance of that constraint. Opinions should be owned. But what the meeting taught me was that, despite the GFC and the failure of the mainstream macroeconomics to predict it, deal with it when it arrived and then change its approach in the aftermath, very little has changed within the mainstream narrative. The same myths are being propagated and academic and senior policy economists seem blithe to reality.
I am travelling most of today and thus my usual blog will resume tomorrow. Yesterday, an interview that I did for RadioNZ (the public broadcaster) on Friday was aired on their popular Sunday Show. You can access the interview overleaf. You can also access the video of my presentation on Friday (July 28, 2017) at the University of Victoria, Wellington. That should keep you all busy.
I am travelling for most of today to New Zealand (Wellington) to honour some engagements promoting a new political movement that is keen to use Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as a basis for a progressive political agenda in a nation that has been in the throes of a neo-liberal infestation for several decades now. In fact, New Zealand was one of the first to sink into neo-liberal oblivion. I wrote about the devastating consequences of this policy shift in this blog – The comeback of conservative ideology. It was a very sorry tale indeed. The sociopaths took over. You can see a rich portrayal of how the neo-liberals set about wrecking the social fabric of this wonderful nation by watching the documentary film – In a Land of Plenty – which runs for 1 hour and 44 minutes. It is compelling and worth the investment of your time. You will get angry. But maybe getting angry is the first step towards getting active and joining collective movements to do something about this nonsense. Indeed, that is what I am up to over the next few days – helping a new political movement develop narratives to counter the insidious dominance of the neo-liberals. Building a true oppositional Left is the imperative now for all activists.
Today I have been writing about the resurgence of the conservative ideology. Some are even saying the crisis is over. Others are more circumspect and try to appear reasonable – “it is not the time to cut back yet but we need a transparent plan for fiscal retrenchment outlined”. That sort of argument. But there is an increasing number of contributions from past players who were in various ways at the forefront of the neo-liberal putsch. The challenge for progressives is to assemble a united front to combat this growing and strident conservative comeback. I see modern monetary theory (MMT) as a vehicle for that defence. Unfortunately, the progressives are so divided about almost everything that there is little chance of a common front emerging. More the fools us. Anyway, in this blog I wander over the Tasman to New Zealand to remind myself and all of us what the zealots are capable of.