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Presentation at the Italian Senate building, Rome, February 7, 2018

Thursday is my last teaching day in Helsinki. The Tour moves onto Dublin tomorrow where I hope to learn a lot about the implications of the recent Irish election where Sinn Féin came out of nowhere, as they say, to gain the most votes by some margin and 37 seats, only one less than right-wing conservative party Fianna Fáil and two more than the other right-wing conservative party, the ruling Fine Gael. I have various meetings coming up in Helsinki on Thursday as I finish up this year’s Helsinki visit (although I will be back in June for other commitments). So today I am publishing the video of my presentation at the Italian Senate last Friday (February 7, 2020).

This visit to Rome last week was at the invitation of – Senator Gianluigi Paragone – who entered the Senate as a member of the Five Star Movement, but at the start of this year left the Party and is now an independent.

He was excluded by the M5S because he voted against the Government’s 2020 fiscal law.

I spoke on the theme ‘MMT: A new paradigm in economics to get us out of crisis’.

The event was held in collaboration with Nuovo Direzione and the venue was the Italian Senate building – the Palazzo Giustiniani, Rome.

The date was Friday, February 7, 2020.

The video goes for about 35:25 minutes.

The video footage and audio was kindly supplied by Enrico Cavaglia from Rome.

And Thomas Fazi provided the interpreting services for the event. The video cuts all the Italian interpreting out and that is why there are a lot of cuts and you see Thomas occasionally.

Sequential translation like this is the hardest format for a speaker because one has to stop every few sentences or so and then try to keep the thread going after the translation is finished.

The speaker has to avoid the use of colloquialisms and mostly refrain from jokes because they lose immediacy in this format.

So if the presentation appears somewhat stilted and without humour that is why.

The audio is very ‘spacy’ but that is mostly due to the old room I was speaking in. I could only massage so much of the echo out of the original.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 19 Comments
    1. Of course the cess-pool of Twitter was awash with right-wing people up in arms about Sinn Féin’s performance. Calling them a ‘communist-terrorist disaster for Ireland.’

      Regarding the presentation (and in general) : I must ask, is the Job Guarantee not an economic policy, and also a core MMT principle? If not, then what is it?

      MMT is a lens for seeing the actual workings of the monetary system, but it wouldn’t it be rather odd for a right-wing government to accept and view the economy through that lens and still maintain a right-wing agenda? In that respect I can’t imagine it ever being palatable to governments operating in the interests of those wanting to transfer wealth to upper minorities. I may be misguided in this, but I’d certainly like to hear how MMT could ever be useful to traditional conservative governments with their inbuilt commitments to ‘fiscal responsibility’ along the lines of small governments. Accepting MMT just wipes that out, so in this sense it surely IS an economic theory offering more to social progressives.

    2. Bill, so wonderful, seeing you on this Europe-tour.

      This all appears to me, as if the light of the enlightenment now finally reaches the field of macroeconomics, and the „Galileo’s“ of our days are standing up and speaking up gently but firmly. As the great man said: „In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.“

      I am thinking of two different kinds of economy, which are equally important but very different. A „horizontal“, human to human relationship economy, which achnowledges the human as an individual who wants to be free and self-expressive. This is the liberal market-economy.
      And there is a „vertical“ economy, the economy between the state (authority …) and the individuals, acknowledging the social dimension of the human being, and here we find social responsibility.

      After so many centuries of extremism on both sides, MMT appears to me as a wonderful integration of both, giving space for individuality, highlighting the crucial importance of a vertical economy for the wellbeing of all, and also criticizing the devastating extremism and absolutism of a neo-liberal-only agenda.

      Thank you again, Michael, Germany

    3. @Ferdinand

      I suppose a “right wing” government could use the MMT lens to understand the policy space available fiscally to undertake all manner of retrograde pursuits, maximizing real resource utilization via functional finance. Think exotic weapons programs, intrusive security apparatuses, lavish subsidies for plutocrats and so forth. Not a consummation to be wished, of course, but clearly within the realm of possibility.

    4. Ferdinand. My thinking is that the wealthy and the powerful will never endorse or publicly accept MMT. Select minds will learn and employ it to their ends. As with Keynesian thought, when the truth runs against the interests of the wealthy and the powerful, the wealthy and the powerful step on the truth.

    5. There is nothing to stop someone acknowledging the reality of money creation and the possibilities for general betterment that a true understanding offers, yet preferring to keep taxes, wages, and government intervention low for ideological reasons.

      I think John Redwood, a right-wing UK Tory MP, gets it as far as money creation is concerned, but is still a neoliberal free marketeer.

      Certainly Donald Trump knows that deficits matter little when you create your own currency, and publicly stated as much, but you wouldn’t exactly call him progressive either.

    6. (Sorry, on Ireland for the moment, not Italy): Sinn Féin coming out of nowhere is one of those (as Harold MacMillan probably only apocryphally said) “events […dear boy, events”] that come along unexpectedly, and upset what had looked like the normal direction of travel. Sinn Féin are problematic in that they are traditionally associated with the IRA and all that that involves. Fortunately, the people directly involved with the IRA during “The Troubles” are gradually dieing out or have faded out of public life, although I’m not quite sure if that is sufficient to make them respectable in Northern Ireland at least.

      They are also potentially problematic in normally conservative Irish politics because of their somewhat left-wing orientation. How left wing they would remain under pressure from the EU, and once they smelt the whiff of power, remains to be seen.

    7. Ferdinand, you ask a question that has occurred to me and, I’m sure, many others as well. One possible use of MMT by the elite would be to justify telling the non-elite that they don’t need to take money from the rich to meet their own socioeconomic needs. Progressives, of course, would still want to tax the rich at sufficient rates to minimize their political influence and redistribute wealth in a more healthy manner. But doesn’t MMT tell us rather clearly that, no, we don’t need the elite’s money to improve the lives of average citizens?

    8. @ Mikey Ellwood:

      “Sinn Féin are problematic in that they are traditionally associated with the IRA and all that that involves.”

      Let’s not contaminate a progressive economics discussion with such careless remarks. As if the British Establishment was an exemplary institution…

    9. How special that here we are witness to the birth of new paradigm that -like human rights after WWII- will bring new international relations, less or no unemployment, a cultural and economic renaissance with emphasis on diversity and sovereignty (instead of globalisation), …
      This is a rare time worth cherishing.

    10. I think it highly likely that the new tory Chancellor will put the fiscal rule book in the bin. Austerity is going to continue, with no let up of the withdrawal of central funding of local authority expenditure. So we will see what a right wing government can do with the aid of an MMT lens.

    11. Mark Russell
      Friday, February 14, 2020 at 5:10
      @ Mikey Ellwood:

      Let’s not contaminate a progressive economics discussion with such careless remarks. As if the British Establishment was an exemplary institution…

      Au contraire, Mr Russell. It was a carefully considered and factually accurate statement by someone who has been around since well before the “modern” “Troubles” began, and has studied them and their consequences in some detail. (For those who doubt their accuracy, check out the history of people like Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams, and also read the relevant Wikipedia entry). Bill began this article by referring to Sinn Féin, so it’s a valid subject for discussion. Unless or until Bill decides to edit out my comments, I won’t be lectured to by an obvious enemy of free speech.

      Mike (not Mikey) Ellwood (who does not profess to speak for the British establishment under any circumstances)

    12. Mike Ellwood writes:
      “Sinn Féin are problematic in that they are traditionally associated with the IRA and all that that involves” .

      Yes… well of course the English should never have invaded Ireland in the 12th century…
      fast forward; ” In the December 1918 election, the republican party Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in Ireland” …”In May 1921, Ireland was partitioned under British law by the Government of Ireland Act, which created Northern Ireland.”…
      (another example of Britain leaving behind a terrible legacy eg partition of India, partition of Palestine)…

      So much for “the IRA and all that involves” . One man’s freedom fighters are another man’s terrorists?

      “How left wing they would remain under pressure from the EU, and once they smelt the whiff of power, remains to be seen”.

      Maybe as left wing as the Danes?

    13. “Yes… well of course the English should never have invaded Ireland in the 12th century…”

      And neither should the Scots (who, confusingly, actually were Irish) have invaded Scotland even earlier and subjugated the indigenous Picts – so well known to the, yet earlier, Roman invaders of Britain …

      What goes around comes around, as they say…

    14. @ Neil Halliday
      “One man’s freedom fighters are another man’s terrorists? “.

      Not in my book anyway.

      Terrorism – of any stripe – is disgusting and ought never to be accorded any approval, however shaded, whatsoever – under any circumstances. Its hallmark is that it targets the innocent and defenceless, not excluding children.

      “(another example of Britain leaving behind a terrible legacy …”

      Except that Britain didn’t leave it behind – not until December 2019 with the signing of the revised EU Withdrawal Agreement. So that’s “not for ninety-eight-and-a-half years” – which isn’t bad going – during which time the IRA didn’t confine itself just to murdering people on the island of Ireland. (In fact the turning-point could be said to be a bit earlier when the Good Friday Agreement was signed).

      And don’t get me started on Palestine…

    15. Dear Robert,
      No I won’t get you started on Palestine; but the fact remains we DONT have an international rules based system (and so no point in discussing England’s invasion of Ireland in the 12th century!) BECAUSE we humans are driven 95% by self-interested emotion, and only 5% rationality (through use of our “thinking” brain, which devotes most of its capacity to justifying the ego’s emotions); I like that analysis of the “human condition” that I picked up today from David Williamson, one of Australia’s great polymaths – psychologist, mathematician, and playwright.

      If you can join me in promoting an international rule based system ie, by reforming the UNSC including abolition of the UNSC veto, we will be able stop the endless “what goes around comes around”. …but beware of being side-tracked by your emotions…

    16. Newton Finn, in my opinion MMT says that our government does not need the money the wealthy possess in order for us to have it increase spending on any policy goal- whatever that goal is. But that is a very carefully worded statement there.

      If the wealthy have ownership of a huge percentage of the real resources that a country has, like perhaps most of the ‘good’ land for example, or if the wealthy are consuming ‘too much’ of the possible output of an economy, then MMT ‘the economic theory’ does not really deal with that. But it would recognize that it needs to be dealt with if that offends our sense of economic justice and that is our policy goal.

      Because ‘effective’ government spending is limited by the amount of real resources that it can make available for its use. Making those resources available may very well require limiting the resources the wealthy are able to use for themselves. Taxes are one way that could allow for freeing those resources from their previous uses.

      In those two examples above, MMT does not provide much of a rationale for the elite wealthy to exploit.

    17. Jerry, I get what you’re saying, and thus I indicated in my prior comment that the rich should be taxed for important reasons other than the inaccurate one of raising revenue for public spending. There’s no doubt that if the rich have substantially monopolized available resources as in your scenario, then MMT is not left much room to operate. But why couldn’t sufficient fiat money be created to acquire and redistribute those resources? And in terms of political space, wouldn’t using fiat money to publicly and exclusively fund elections help counter the current plutocratic buying of governments as commodities necessary to continue elite control? Until MMT, the agency of the left was constrained (in its misguided collective mind) by having to claw back sufficient funds from the private sector to finance its progressive agenda. One of the most staggering revelations of MMT is that this is NOT necessary, that money is inherently a public resource, created by the federal spending decisions of a currency-sovereign state, and thus there is no requirement to siphon money back from private hands before vital social and environmental programs can be implemented.

    18. Newton, Thank you, Beautifully expressed;

      “One of the most staggering revelations of MMT is that (prior taxation or borrowing) is NOT necessary, that money is inherently a public resource, created by the federal spending decisions of a currency-sovereign state, and thus there is no requirement to siphon money back from private hands before vital social and environmental programs can be implemented”..

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