Monday, April 9, 2018

Modern Money Theory (MMT) vs. Structural Keynesianism

By Thomas Palley

A journalist sent me some questions about MMT. My answers are below.

1. What are the major flaws you see within Modern Monetary Theory?

(A.) I like to say that MMT is a mix of “old” and “new” ideas. The old ideas are well known among Keynesian economists and are correct, but the new ideas are either misleading or wrong.

The essential old idea, which everybody knows, is government has the power to issue money. We used to talk of “printing” money. In today’s electronic world we talk about “keystroke” money created by electronic credit entries.

Everyone knows that because government has the capacity to create money, it can always pay its bills and debts by printing money. But having the capacity is not the same thing as saying it should, which is the beginning of where MMT goes astray.

In economic debate and economic journalism there is a “demand for difference”. On one side you have extreme budget hawks who see every deficit as a dire existential threat. MMT is the counterpart to the hawks. And here’s the rub. MMT is needed as an anti-dote to austerity hawks, but neither make for good economic theory.

That creates a dilemma for progressive economists. On one hand, there is need for a powerful progressive polemic to counter neoliberal austerity polemic. The basic MMT message that government has a lot more fiscal space than mainstream economists say, is correct. On the other hand, MMT’s theoretical arguments are not novel, and are sometimes incorrect.

My past criticism has focused on MMT as economic theory (here and here for more academic references).

B) I have found it is difficult arguing with MMT economists because they tend to change their positions. But here are some objections I have made in the past.

Read rest here.

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