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Why the financial markets are seeking an MMT understanding – Part 2

This is Part 2 (and final) in my discussion about what the financial markets might learn from gaining a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) understanding. I noted in Part 1 – that the motivation in writing this series was the increased interest being shown by some of the large financial sector entities (investment banks, sovereign funds, etc) in MMT, which is manifesting in the growing speaking invitations I am receiving. This development tells me that our work is gaining traction despite the visceral, knee-jerk attacks from the populist academic type economists (Krugman, Summers, Rogoff, and all the rest that have jumped on their bandwagon) who are trying to save their reputations as their message becomes increasingly vapid. While accepting these invitations raises issues about motivation – they want to make money, I want to educate – these groups are influential in a number of ways. They help to set the pattern of investment (both in real and financial terms), they hire graduates and can thus influence the type of standards deemed acceptable, and they influence government policy. Through education one hopes that these influences help turn the tide away from narrow ‘Gordon Gekko’ type behaviour towards advancing a dialogue and policy structure that improves general well-being. I also hope that it will further create dissonance in the academic sphere to highlight the poverty (fake knowledge) of the mainstream macroeconomic orthodoxy.

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The Weekend Quiz – April 15-16, 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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The Weekend Quiz – January 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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Indexed bank reserve support schemes will not expand credit

On the Wikipedia page for economist Ricardo Reis we learn he was “Influenced by: Greg Mankiw”, which basically should tell you everything. Everything that is that would lead to the conclusion that his macroeconomics is plain wrong. Yet his connections in the profession are strong and has prestigious academic appointments, is ensconced in senior editorial positions on influential economics journals, advises central banks in the US and has regular Op Ed space in a leading Portuguese newspaper (his homenation). These facts tell you what is wrong with my profession. That someone can write articles that are just so off the mark yet have significant influence in the profession and be held out in the public debate as to be someone who is worth listening to and being reported on. I have received many E-mails in the last few days about the proposal offered by Reis at Jackson Hole last week. Many readers are still confused and actually thought the proposal had credibility. Let me be clear – bank lending is not influenced by the reserve positions of the banks. Without credit-worthy borrowers lining up to access loans, the banks could have all the reserves in the world and the central bank could invoke any number of nifty ‘indexing’ or other support payment schemes on those reserves, and the banks would still not lend. And with those credit-worthy borrowers lining up to access loans, the banks will always lend irrespective of their current reserve position or the nifty support schemes the central bank might dream up. Core Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) 101!

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PQE is sound economics but is not in the QE family

The conservative forces including those ‘Tories’ that are within the British Labour Party (aka New Labourites) continue to gather their forces to counter the growing threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn to their secure world as neo-liberal, Tory-lite hopefuls. They are part of a phalanx of critics, including mainstream economists who seek to diminish his credibility. At the extreme end of this bunch are the evil ones who have accused Corbyn of being antisemitic and a friend to Islamic terrorists. I am reliably informed that the same tactics have been deployed against Bernie Sanders in the US. It tells us that desperation has replaced any sense of decency or reason. It also tells us that the Tory-lites are finally seeing the evidence that their day in the sun has gone and they are being cast into irrelevance. Not before time, I should add. But all is not clear on the Corbyn front either. Today, I want to discuss what appears to be a major economic policy proposal – the so-called People’s Quantitative Easing (or PQE). There are elements of a good idea in this proposal but the QE reference and the resulting language is all wrong, in that it betrays as lack of understanding of the difference between a monetary policy operation and a fiscal policy intervention. The concept should be re-framed so that a consistent narrative can be provided and that a good policy proposal gains the wings it needs. PQE is a wealth generating policy which is in contradistinction to QE which just shuffles wealth portfolios.

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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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Greek bank deposit migration – another neo-liberal smokescreen

There was a news report on Al Jazeera on Friday (January 5, 2015) – Greece’s left-wing government meets eurozone reality – which contained a classic quote about the supposed incompetence of the new Greek Finance Minister. A UK commentator, one Graham Bishop was quoted as saying “If you’re a professor of macroeconomics and a renowned blogger, you probably don’t understand precisely how the banking systems works”. Take a few minutes out to recover from the laughing fit you might have immediately succumbed to on reading that assessment. As if Bishop knows ‘precisely’ how the system works! The context is the current news frenzy about the deposit migration out of Greek banks as a supposed vote of no confidence in the anti-austerity stand taken by Syriza. Having voted overwhelmingly for Syriza, Greeks are now allegedly voting against the platform by shifting their deposits out of the Greek banking system. A close look at things suggests that is not going on and it wouldn’t matter much if it was.

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Options for Europe – Part 70

The title is my current working title for a book I am finalising over the next few months on the Eurozone. If all goes well (and it should) it will be published in both Italian and English by very well-known publishers. The publication date for the Italian edition is tentatively late April to early May 2014.

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Fiscal space is a real, not a financial concept

Japanese economist Richard Koo recently (July 9, 2013) published his latest report on the world economy – Japan, US, and Europe face different issues – which updates some of the latest data available from the economies listed in the title. I am sorry that I cannot link to the Report as it is a subscription service (thanks to Antoine for my copy). I discussed some of Richard Koo’s ideas and how they sat with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) concepts in this 2009 blog – Balance sheet recessions and democracy. While the basic concept of a balance sheet recession is important to grasp and the policy prescriptions that flow from it clearly point to the need for more fiscal stimulus, once you dig a little deeper into Koo’s conceptual framework you realise that he is very mainstream – more insightful than the average mainstream economist, who typically fails to even grasp the reality of the current situation, but mainstream nonetheless. And that means there are some things in his theoretical framework that are plain wrong when applied to a modern monetary economy

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Saturday Quiz – June 8, 2013 – 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 – October 27, 2012 – 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 – October 20, 2012 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you understand the reasoning behind the answers. 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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Fear of inflation scales new heights

The scaremongering about inflation and higher interest rates continues to flood out of the mainstream economics community. The conversation has become a little more sophisticated since the claims in the early stages of the crisis that the fiscal and monetary policy innovations introduced by governments would be inflationary. Now we are hearing stories about longer lags – channelling Milton Friedman who also fell foul of the evidence more often than not. So inflation is just around the corner rather than coming tomorrow. As in the past, the mainstream macroeconomics has a serious credibility problem. It is no wonder it keeps making erroneous predictions. It begins with an erroneous construction of reality. It is all downhill for them after that.

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If only they were operating in the tradition of Minsky!

In the last week, it was alleged that economists such as the IMFs Olivier Blanchard were alleged to be working in the tradition of Hyman Minsky, which by association inferred that they were on top of the crisis – foresaw it, understand why it occurred and offer the best ways out of the mess. Please read my earlier blog – Revisionism is rife and ignorance is being elevated to higher levels – for an introduction to this issue. I argued that this attempted association is plainly false and Blanchard’s monetary economics is more in the Monetarist tradition, which is the anathema to the endogenous money framework that Hyman Minsky worked within. This is no small issue. The economists mentioned are often in leading positions (media, universities, policy) and influence the way the public (and students) think about the policy choices available. By promoting erroneous understandings of the way the monetary system operates, such economists become part of the problem not the solution, no matter if they are currently opposing fiscal austerity. If only they were operating in the tradition of Minsky!

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Saturday quiz – May 12, 2012 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you understand the reasoning behind the answers. 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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Fiscal policy is the best counter-stabilisation tool available to any government

In yesterday’s blog – A nation cannot grow without spending – I challenged a view that dominates the European debate which says that fiscal austerity (choking discretionary net public spending) supplemented with vigorous so-called “structural reforms” (aka ransacking wages and working conditions) will promote growth. The corollary of this view is that fiscal austerity alone will fail and the reason Europe is going backwards is not because of the austerity but rather, because the structural reforms process has not been implemented quickly or deeply enough. In all of this there is a basic denial of the fundamental macroeconomic insight – spending equals output which equals income. An economy can only growth if there is spending (aggregate demand) growth. That requires a demand-side solution irrespective of the state of the supply side. Supply improvements might reduce the danger of inflation or improve the quality of output but people still have to purchase the output for growth and innovation to persist. A related argument is that fiscal stimulus aimed at fostering growth will cause inflation and be self-defeating. This view prevails in mainstream macroeconomics as taught in the universities of the world. Some mainstream economists do qualify this view and give conditional support to the fiscal stimulus solution by appealing to what they term the “liquidity trap”. This blog is about that argument.

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The catechism of the IMF

In early January 2012, the IMF published the following working day – Central Bank Credit to the Government: What Can We Learn from International Practices? (thanks Kostas). In terms of the title you can’t learn very much if you start off on the wrong foot. The bottom line is that if the theoretical model that you are using is flawed in the first place then you wont make much sense applying it. The other point is that while this paper presents some very interesting facts about the legal frameworks within which central banks operate and provide a regional breakdown of their results, their policy recommendations do not relate to the evidence at all. This is because they fail to recognise that the patterns in their database (the legal practices) are conditioned by the dominant mainstream economics ideology. So concluding that something is desirable because it exists when its existence is just the reflection of the dominant ideology gets us nowhere. Their conclusions thus just amount to erroneous religious statements that make up the catechism of the IMF and have no substance in reality.

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Saturday Quiz – November 5, 2011 – 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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Paul, its time to update your textbook

Textbooks get out of date and need revision in the light of recent data or events. Some textbooks are exposed as being just plain wrong and should be re-written completely. Obviously authors in the latter category are reluctant to admit that their textbook is not an adequate description of the way – for example, the economy works – and so they not only resist updating their offering but they also defend it against all the evidence. Anyway, after reading Paul Krugman’s most recent attempt to come to grips with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) I concluded that it was way past the date that he should be rewriting his macroeconomics textbook. Otherwise he is misleading the students who are forced to use it in their studies. So Paul, its time to update your textbook.

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Why we should abandon mainstream monetary textbooks

I have noticed some discussions abroad that criticise Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) on the basis that none of the main proponents have ever actually worked on the operations desk of a central bank. This sort of criticism is in the realm of “you cannot know anything unless you do it” which if true would mean almost all of the knowledge base shared by humanity would be deemed meaningless jabber. It is clearly possible to form a very accurate view of the way the monetary system operates (including the way central banks and the commercial banks) interact without ever having worked in either. However, today, I review a publication from the Bank of International Settlements which dovetails perfectly with the understandings that MMT has provided. It provides a case for why we should abandon mainstream monetary textbooks from the perspective of those who work inside the central banking system.

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