I am travelling a lot today and do not have enough time to think much less write a blog. I am travelling where the wind blows strong and rain is always expected. A perfect place to write once I land and have some other things to complete. On Monday, I will post Part 3 in the series I have been working on this week on EMU reform proposals. The quiz will be back tomorrow as usual. For the moment I am listening to …
This blog continues the discussion from yesterday’s blog – The EMU reform ruse – Part 1 – where I consider the reform proposals put forward by German academic Fritz Sharpf, which have been held out by Europhile Leftists as the progressive way out of the disaster that the Eurozone has become. Yesterday, I considered his first proposal – to continue with the enforced structural convergence to the Northern model – the current orthodoxy in Brussels. Like Sharpf I agree that the agenda outlined in the 2015 The Five President’s Report: Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union would just continue the disaster and would intensify the political and social instability that will eventually force a breakup of the monetary union. Sharpf’s second proposal is that the EMU dichotomise into a Northern hard currency bloc while the Southern states (and others less inclined to follow the German export-led, domestic-demand suppression growth model) reestablish their own currencies and peg them to the euro with ECB support. While it is an interesting proposal and certainly more adventurous than the plethora of proposals that just tinker at the edges (for example, European unemployment insurance schemes, Blue Bond proposals and the like), it remains deeply flawed. While it is assumed that the Northern bloc would comprise core European nations such as Germany and France, it is not clear that either would prosper under the new arrangement. France and Germany were never been able to maintain stable currencies prior to the EMU. Further, the ‘exit’ proposal ties the poorer nations into a vexed fixed exchange rate arrangement, which would always compromise their domestic policy freedom, just as it did under the earlier versions of the Snake or the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Far better to just break the whole show up and let the nations go free with floating exchange rates.
On October 31, 2017, my blog – Europhile Left deluded if it thinks reform process will produce functional outcomes – countered some of the nonsense coming out of Europe (from the so-called progressive side) that the Eurozone hadn’t failed when judged by it bias towards mass unemployment and increasing precariousness of its citizens. I particularly noted the terrible record in terms of youth unemployment and NEETs. Yesterday’s blog – Massive Eurozone infrastructure deficit requires urgent redress – documented how much damage the austerity bias of the Eurozone has caused to essential productive infrastructure – human and physical and the ridiculous underinvestment by governments locked into mindless Stability and Growth Pact (and its recent derivatives) rules. Unphased, the Europhiles keep telling me that reform processes are underway and that we need to be patient. That the glorious vision outlined in the October 1990 European Commission Report – One Market, One Money Report, which, apparently outlined a vision of domestic-demand driven convergence bliss for the Economic and Monetary Union. I analysed that Report in detail in my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – and have to say that anyone who holds it out as a plan for the future must have been reading a different report or affected by heavy drugs. Today, I am considering recent reform proposals put forward by German academic Fritz Sharpf, who considers the neoliberal Eurozone experiment has failed but can be resurrected without abandoning the essential mechanics of the monetary union. Tomorrow, I will start to consider a so-called progressive proposal that breaks the EMU into two tiers – a Northern hard currency zone and a ‘Southern’ zone where nations reintroduce their own currencies, but peg them against the euro with ECB support. It will not surprise regular readers to know that I disagree with Sharpf’s reform agenda.
The latest – EIB Investment Report 2017/2018 – published last week by the European Investment Bank tells anyone who cares to take those Europhile Rose Coloured Glasses off for just a second how deep the failure of the European policy making structures are and how long the negative impacts of those failures will resonate. This is the true ‘burden for our (their) grand kids’ sort of stuff. In claiming they had to run tight fiscal policy biased towards surpluses to avoid forcing the future generations to carry an unfair burden, these European policy makers and leaders have done exactly the opposite, as predicted – they have created an appalling future for their youth and their children to follow. The whole European monetary experiment is a failure and is beyond reform. It needs to be scrapped, national sovereignty restored and people within their own countries left, through democratic institutions to determine how the public sector operates in their best interests. The Troika technocrats should be led out to pasture. And, to the Europhile Left: take of your rose coloured glasses.
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.
Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
Maybe the British Labour Party could get Nancy Pelosi to do some stupid tweets for them as well. She is an expert at it – see my blog – When neoliberals masquerade as progressives. She thinks it is smart progressive politics to post tweets criticising her political opponents for a policy that “explodes the deficit … dumping … debt on every man, woman & child in America”. A fallacious argument. But moreover, a very stupid strategic argument because it fails to educate the public on what deficits and public debt are and what the capacities of a currency-issuing government and locks the progressive side of politics into no-win dilemmas. When it is their turn to govern they quickly find that they have no room to move on government spending because their own taunts when in opposition are thrown back at them. Same the world over. The progressive side of politics seems to have a lame obsession with meaningless aggregates – like the size of the fiscal deficit or public debt to GDP ratio. Pathetic is not the word.
The head of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), which was created in 1998 as part of the sham to separate regulation from policy and pretend the Reserve Bank of Australia was independent, gave a speech in Sydney yesterday (November 21, 2017) – Housing – The importance of solid foundations. The reason the speech is important is because it demonstrates the disconnect in policy making and the failure of key policy makers and regulators to connect macroeconomic dots. Australia – like the rest of the world – needs politicians and officials who understand how the macroeconomic aggregates are connected. One cannot have a conversation about household debt without recognising that it is, in part, directly related to the fiscal position of the government and the nation’s external position. While the APRA boss is correct to highlight the precarious nature of household balance sheets given the record and increasing debt levels being borne by households who are experiencing a wages squeeze and a government intent on austerity cuts, he should be educating the public on the broader context. Then there would be more acceptance of expanding discretionary fiscal deficits and a wages policy designed to bring real wages growth back into line with productivity growth. If that was the case, much of the idiotic conversations – some masquerading as ‘research’ results would disappear.
Here is a summary of another interesting study I read last week (published March 30, 2017) – Happiness at Work – from academic researchers Jan‐Emmanuel De Neve and George Ward. It explores the relationship between happiness and labour force status, including whether an individual is employed or not and the types of jobs they are doing. The results reinforce a long literature, which emphatically concludes that people are devastated when they lose their jobs and do not adapt to unemployment as its duration increases. The unemployed are miserable and remain so even as they become entrenched in long-term unemployment. Further, they do not seem to sense (or exploit) a freedom to release some inner sense of creativity and purpose. The overwhelming proportion continually seek work – and relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job, rather than living without a job on income support. The overwhelming conclusion is that “work makes up such an important part of our lives” and that result is robust across different countries and cultures. Being employed leads to much higher evaluations of the quality of life relative to being unemployed. And, nothing much has changed in this regard over the last 80 or so years. These results were well-known in the 1930s, for example. They have a strong bearing on the debate between income guarantees versus employment guarantees. The UBI proponents have produced no robust literature to refute these long-held findings.
I read a very interesting Report last week – False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015 – published on May 8, 2017 by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and written by Robert Atkinson and John Wu. The title is indicative of the message. Somehow, contemporary commentators including many on the so-called progressive Left are stuck in the ‘robots are coming for your jobs’ narrative, which then somehow morphs into a resignation that there will never be enough jobs for all those who desire them, and then surrender, we need a basic income to keep people eating. Apparently, then human creativity will spring forth from the despair of unemployment because the pittance received from the basic income will allow people to engage their inner entrepreneurial spirit with businesses popping up all over the place, great works of art and music being pumped out and all the rest of the basic income camp’s vision of blithe happiness. Pigs might fly! Of course, if this was happening at the pace that some would have us believe then productivity growth would be booming and investment to GDP ratios high. The robots camp then say – well it is only a matter of time – business needs time to adapt to the new technologies available (for example, Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics). Technological change is on-going and there have been great leaps in techniques in history. But the ITIF research suggests that the current era does not signal it is one of these great leaps, and, in fact, the “US labor market is experiencing unprecedented calm” right now.