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The Weekend Quiz – February 27-28, 2021 – 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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Some historical thinking about the Job Guarantee

I noted yesterday that I was appearing at a Seminar via Zoom with my MMT colleague, Pavlina Tcherneva, where we will discuss the concept of a social contract and where Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) fits into that, especially in the context of our idea of employment guarantees. The seminar – MMT and the new social contract: Lessons from Covid-19 – will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2021, from 10:00 Australian Eastern Daylight time and you can find details of how you can participate – HERE. I was thinking about what I would contribute to this workshop and rather than just rehearse the standard discussion about the Job Guarantee I have thought going back to square one would be a good place to start. This is especially a good thing to do, given that I increasingly see progressive people embrace the concept but try to do ‘too much’ with it. That is, place too much emphasis on it, especially in the context of Green Transitions. Pouring all our activist and political energy into getting a Job Guarantee up is not a sensible strategy for reasons I will explain. Second, a lot of critics, especially those who talk big on Twitter about ‘Bill Mitchell wanting people to starve’, clearly haven’t gone back to understand the roots of the concept and where it fits in. So today, I want to further clarify some significant issues that arise when both sides – pro and con – come in contact with the concept of employment buffer stocks for the first time and think they know all about.

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Enforced poverty and torture for the victims of government policy failure – welcome to modern Australia

My Wednesday blog post with a few snippets. Don’t forget to enrol in our MOOC which begins next week. Also, some news from Britain that shows once again the British Labour Party has the gun aimed straight at its foot. And some comments on yesterday’s Australian government decision to increase the unemployment benefit by $25 per week and claiming this was appropriate – when it still means the recipients are $163 per week below the accepted poverty line. Enforced poverty by a government that refuses to create enough jobs and then punishes the victims of the policy failure. This all amounts to War and we can sing along to that after getting angry about the rest.

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Have mainstream economists really embraced large deficits and central bank bond purchases?

When John Maynard Keynes wrote his essay – Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren – which was published in 1930 he considered that workers would be able to work just 15 hours a week because of the likely technological shifts over the 100 years from the date of his publication. He was right about the productivity gains that have been created but wrong about the benefits workers would gain from them. He thought the productivity would be more evenly shared out. He underestimated the capacity of capital to extract the gains for profits and capture the state to ensure it used its legislative and regulative capacity to suppress wages growth. Mainstream economists have aided and abetted the rising inequality and the reconfiguration of the state as a agent for capital. This bears on how we understand some of the apparent shifts in views by mainstream economists about fiscal deficits and central bank debt purchases. Yesterday, it was all bad. Today, all good. History warns us to be cautious in how we appraise these shifts. There is something to be said for consistency.

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The ‘disciplining role of markets’ should be replaced by the disciplining role of democracy

When we elect governments we should expect that they will do what they promised and represent our best interests. We don’t expect them to represent a small, privileged sector of the economy at the expense of the rest of it. The problem is that we overlay these aspirations onto an economic ownership system which has a different logic to our understanding of the operations of a democratic state. And mainstream economics gives reverence and priority to the logic of capitalism rather than ensuring that the quality of democracy is maintained. Which reflects its origins – as an apologist for the unequal ownership of the material means of production and the consequences that arise from that inequality. We keep seeing a restatement of that priority from prominent policy makers and while that generation is in charge it will be hard to really shift the paradigm.

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The Weekend Quiz – February 20-21, 2021 – 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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Australian labour market stumbling along – no case to withdraw support yet

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force, Australia, January 2021 – released today (February 18, 2021), shows that the labour market is stumbling along and the pace of recovery has slowed considerably. Employment increased by 0.1 per cent (29,100) in the month, half the growth that was recorded in December 2020. Unemployment fell by 34,300 to 877,600 persons and the unemployment rate fell by 0.2 points although that was largely due to the decline in the participation rate. Underemployment also fell by 0.4 points and the broad labour underutilisation rate (sum of unemployment and underemployment) fell by 0.6 points, but some of that is due to the special monthly hour movements in January. The main uncertainty now is that the recovery is slowing and the current (extensive) government support is due to end in March 2021. Given the labour market is still quite a margin from where it was in March 2020, the idea that the government would withdraw its fiscal support is not a compelling option. Overall, the recovery is still too slow and more government support by way of large-scale job creation.

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Britain banking regulation to tighten as a consequence of leaving the neoliberal EU

It is Wednesday and so just a short blog day. I note that the British Remainer Left fall over themselves to signal whenever there is any bad news about Britain that it must be because of Brexit – “see, we told you so sort of stuff”. And with the pandemic and government incompetence there have been lots of opportunities for this lot to do that. I guess it makes them feel better as the Labour Party designs its comeback based on the ‘flag’ and ‘patriotism’ and expunging any relics of Jeremy Corbyn. Good luck with that, it is bound to work! But the future of Britain will actually be determined by a range of factors now in the control of the authorities and how they handle the transition away from EU law will be a significant element in that ensuring that future works for the people rather than just isolates Britain as a neoliberal hell-hole. We received our first sign of how things might work out last week when the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority released their latest Consultation Paper (CP5/21, (February 12, 2021) – Implementation of Basel standards – which marked a sharp shift away from the lax EU banking standards. The Remainers were silent on this.

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