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The Weekend Quiz – October 7-8, 2017 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’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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Contrasting narratives about the outcomes of the euro

I have presented to a diversity of participants at the various events we have attended in the US, UK and Europe over the last 2 weeks. One way of expressing this diversity is in terms of the type of audience. At many events, the audience has been comprised of people who would see themselves as activists on the progressive side of politics. Some have been students, others, members of Leftist political parties, local business people, and community organisations. They uniformly express concern over the state of Europe, and the Eurozone in particular. They express concern about unemployment, underemployment, precarious work, poor wages growth, welfare cuts, infrastructure degradation, and other uncertainties relating to the state of politics. I sense that some of the participants were pro-Europe and pro-euro, but, there was an overwhelming feeling that the monetary union had failed and would be difficult to retrieve. On the other hand, I have addressed events where politicians, central bankers, private bankers, finance ministry officials and the like have been the main participants. Here the message changed significantly. I heard politicians, firmly wedded to the European ideal, talk about how the Eurozone had brought unlimited benefits to the Member States and how solidarity among states and citizens enhanced by European Commission leadership was taking Europe to a new, higher level. Hello! Earth calling! It was quite an eye-opener to see how much denial there is among those who have done well from the system.

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Video of Reclaiming the State presentation, Brighton, UK September 25, 2017

I am now in Helsinki where the weather is distinctly cooler (did I say colder) than it has been down in Southern Europe the past week. I don’t have much time for writing today. Tomorrow, we will be conducting a dual book launch (see www.reclaimthestate.org for details) and on Thursday, I will be presenting a public lecture at the University of Helsinki which is open to all to attend. For today’s blog, I am now able to provide a full video (minus Q&A) of my presentation at the British Labour Party Annual Conference Fringe Event – Economics for a Progressive Agenda at Brighton (UK) on September 25, 2017.

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A former UK Chancellor attempts to save face and just becomes confused

On May 6, 1997, just 4 days after coming to office in what was to become Tony Blair’s retrogressive regime, the then British Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that Labour would legislate the so-called independence of the Bank of England. The BBC claimed this was the “most radical shake-up in the bank’s 300-year history”, which gave “the bank freedom to control monetary policy”. Gordon Brown’s legacy to the British people, of course, is in his famous ‘light touch’ regulation, which he boasted about in the lead up to the GFC but went silent about soon after. But he has come out of the woodwork recently to reflect on his decision to set up the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) within the Bank of England and abandon the practice where the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank would meet on a monthly basis to determine interest rates. He claims that decision kept Britain out of the euro and was a great success. But then in the same speech he railed against the ‘political’ intrusion of the MPC into broader fiscal policy debates and its failure to conduct monetary policy correctly during the GFC. A very confused narrative. The point is that central banks can never be independent of treasury departments and the claims to the contrary were just part of the depoliticisation of policy that accompanied neoliberalism. Brown is also wrong that setting up a separate MPC kept the nation out of the euro. Britain realised the euro would be a disaster long before 1997.

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Mainstream macroeconomics credibility went out the window years ago

The Vice President of the European Central Bank, Vítor Constâncio, gave the opening speech – Developing models for policy analysis in central banks – at the Annual Research Conference, Frankfurt am Main, on September 25, 2017. Last time I heard Constâncio speak in person, in Florence 2015, he was in typical Europhile central bank denial. He thought the Eurozone was fine, a great success given the low inflation, inferring that the ECB’s conduct had something to do with that. He didn’t talk about the millions of people that had deliberately been rendered jobless because of the austerity obsession of the Troika, of which his institution was an integral part. Things might be changing a bit as the evidence mounts that the mainstream approach to macroeconomics and monetary theory is moribund, at best. But the changes are really just more of the same. There is no willingness to admit that the whole framework is without merit. The mainstream profession is lost in my view and clutching at anything they can to stay credible. But credibility went out the window years ago.

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