Iceland’s Sovereign Money Proposal – Part 2

In Part 1, I briefly outlined the Sovereign Money System proposal (SMS) advanced by the Icelandic government as a way forward in banking reform. I also demonstrated that the banking collapse in Iceland in 2008 could hardly be seen as being caused by the banks having the capacity to create credit. Much more was in play including the fact that banks had stopped behaving as banks and were serving the doubtful aspirations of their owners rather than any notion of public purpose. While the Icelandic report claims that the commercial bank lending destabilised the growth cycle in Iceland the reality is that it was other factors that led to the explosion of their balance sheets. The money supply did expand faster than “was required to support economic growth” but that is because the financial system was deregulated and the banksters and fraudsters were allowed to serve their own interests and compromise the national interest. As we will see that sort of duplicity can be reigned in with appropriate structural regulation without scrapping the capacity of the private banks to create credit. In this Part 2, I consider some of the mechanics of the SMS and argue that essentially we cannot get away from the fact that a central bank always has to fully fund a monetary system. If it tries to restrict funds yet maintain private bank lending then recession would surely follow and interest rates would rise beyond the control of the central bank. I also provide some ideas on where more fundamental monetary system reform is currently needed.
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    Posted in Central banking, Economics | 61 Comments

    Iceland’s Sovereign Money Proposal – Part 1

    In a way this blog is being written to stop the relentless onslaught of E-mails coming, which seek to promote so-called positive money. I am regularly told that I need to forget Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and instead see the benefits of this alleged revelationary approach to running the economy. Other E-mailers are less complimentary but just as insistent. Then there are the numerous E-mails recently with the following document attached – Monetary Reform: A Better Monetary System for Iceland – which I am repeatedly told is the progressive solution to bank fraud and, just about all the other ills of the monetary system. The Iceland Report was commissioned by the Icelandic Prime Minister and is being held out as the solution to economic and financial instability because it would wipe out the credit-creating capacity of banks. It has been endorsed by the British conservative Adair Turner, who formerly was the chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority and who recently advocated so-called overt monetary financing (OMF) as a way to resolve the Eurozone crisis. I agree with OMF but disagree with his view that it is the credit-creation capacity of banks that caused the crisis. The crisis was caused by banks becoming non-banks and engaging in non-bank behaviour rather than their intrinsic capacity to create loans out of thin air. A properly regulated banking system does not need to abandon credit-creation. Further, I am aware that in holding this view, I and other Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) proponents are accused of being lackeys to the crooked financial cabals that hold governments to ransom and brought the world economy to its knees. Let me state my position clearly: I am against private banking per se but consider a properly regulated and managed public banking system with credit-creation capacities would be entirely reliable and would advance public purpose. I also consider a tightly regulated private banking system with credit-creation capacities would also still be workable but less desirable.
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      Posted in Central banking, Economics | 66 Comments

      Mixed metaphors, same old fiscal myths

      The ABC news report (May 4, 2015) – Budget figures likened to Stephen King novel as Deloitte predicts $14.1 billion blowout for 2015-2016 – is one of the worst pieces of journalism you will ever read. There is no critical scrutiny in this report at all. It clearly just takes the press release from the private consulting firm and summarises it for public consumption. That is not balanced reporting or good journalism. The ABC is our national broadcaster, funded from the public purse and reaches all the population. It is also a free resource so there are no barriers to entry to consumption. It therefore has a responsibility to provide balanced reporting and should never become partisan. The problem is that on economics matters it has become a neo-liberal mouthpiece and continually gives headline space to mainstream economics organisations who make money from selling spurious advice about the economy. The only reasonable thing that this ABC Report is that the headline likens the fiscal analysis of Deloitte Access Economics, a Canberra-based economic consultancy firm, to fictional prose, which I think is an accurate assessment.
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        Posted in Economics, Fiscal Statements | 11 Comments

        Saturday Quiz – May 2, 2015 – answers and discussion

        Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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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          Saturday Quiz – May 2, 2015

          Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Friday lay day – the hopelessness of the Greek situation

            Its my Friday lay day blog. Every day now, the Euro news is dominated with the machinations regarding Greece. As it should be I suppose, given the scale of the tragedy in place. It might have escaped the attention of some but Eurostat released its latest labour force report yesterday (April 30, 2015) – Euro area unemployment rate at 11.3% – which told us that despite all this talk of a Eurozone recovery, the unemployment remains at 11.3 per cent in March 2015 (no change on February 2015) and only 0.4 per cent lower than a year ago (March 2014). The Greek unemployment rate remains at 25.7 per cent (as at January 2015) and more than 50 per cent of 15-24 year olds are unemployed. But the worst news I saw this week related to the results of a survey of Greek people about the current situation. It tells me that things are very desperate indeed.
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              Posted in Eurozone, Friday | 32 Comments

              US economy slows down sharply, government undermining growth

              On Tuesday, the British National Accounts data was published and the preliminary estimates revealed that the British economy was slowing and there would return to recession if the Government was re-elected and put in place its plans for the next three years. Please read my blog – The slowest recovery in modern history just slowed down again. Yesterday, the US Bureau of Economic data release – Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2015 (advance estimate) – showed that the US economy took a turn to the South and “increased at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015″ after having increased by 2.2 per cent in the fourth-quarter 2014. It is a preliminary (“advance”) estimate and revisions will be published on May 29, 2015. But don’t expect too much to change. The reason for the slowdown is down to a slowdown in personal consumption, exports and non-residential investment and state and local government spending. Federal government spending helped keep the economy in positive growth. Households have lifted their saving ratio a bit (5.5 per cent of disposable personal income compared to 4.6 per cent last quarter).
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                Posted in US economy | 4 Comments

                The slowest recovery in modern history just slowed down again

                The British Office of National Statistics released the data – Gross Domestic Product Preliminary Estimate, Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2015 – yesterday, which should tell the British voters that the Conservative government has failed. There is no political spin that is capable of changing that conclusion. With a general election next week in Britain, the real GDP figures (and related data – productivity, real wages, per capita income etc) should spell the end of the Conservatives. Especially, given their plans for the next few years. But then the British people have as an alternative the Labour Party which has proposed more or less the same thing except they will be “fairer”. Pigs might fly! Britain is continuing to demonstrate that fiscal austerity is bad for economic growth and that on-going deficits are good.
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                  Posted in UK Economy | 9 Comments

                  A “Budget Responsibility Lock” – a ridiculous proposal

                  The US Koch brothers provide substantial funds to the George Mason University to ensure it remains a bastion of so-called libertarian, free-market thinking. The brothers don’t really want a free market but it just serves their political and commercial aims to tell everyone that is what it is all about. The Economics Department at this university pumps out propaganda about the virtues of deregulation. One academic (Bryan Caplan) goes further and claims that democracy is a bad idea when compared to taking the advice of economists who advocate free markets. This idea that somehow policy choices conditioned by what would advance the best interests of the public are inferior to those advocated by economists who know what is best for all of us has permeated the debate over the last few decades and led to some very undesirable developments. This was on my mind when I was reading the Manifesto of the British Labour Party which proposes, wait for it – a “Budget Responsibility Lock” – as a framework for fulfilling its responsibilities to the British public. This is a ridiculous proposal.
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                    Posted in Economics, UK Economy | 19 Comments

                    The Job Guarantee would enhance the private sector

                    There are still those who criticise the concept of a Job Guarantee. I have received a lot of E-mail’s lately about a claim that the introduction of a Job Guarantee would be de-stabilising in a growth phase unless there is some time limit put on the jobs or the wage is flexible. Apparently, in a growing economy, the stimulus provided in the form of Job Guarantee wages (relative to what occurs when unemployment buffer stocks are deployed) will drive the economy into an inflationary spiral, which will then necessitate harsher than otherwise fiscal and monetary policy contraction. Further, the Job Guarantee is claimed to limit the size of the private sector relative to a system of unemployed buffer stocks and this distorts resource allocation and would undermine our overall material standards of living. The criticisms have been dealt with before – there appears to be a cyclical sort of pattern where newcomers seize on past criticisms and recycle them, without bothering to read the original literature on employment buffer stocks, which includes my work and several other authors. That literature considered all these possible issues – 15-20 years ago.
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                      Posted in Job Guarantee | 28 Comments