The 4th Godley-Tobin Lecture given by Marc Lavoie, a co-author of Wynne Godley, and one of the leading Post Keynesian authors.
Video of the lecture by Michael Lazzara and Esteban Pérez Caldentey, part of the seminar on Memories of Neoliberalism at Bucknell University.
This piece shows very clearly the limits to deregulation in the case of energy markets. Jamie's oped was published in Project Syndicate, and a slightly different version is available here at INET, in which we find out that radical free market policies ended up in what he termed 'selective socialism.' The relevant paragraph:
the price mechanism failed completely. Wholesale prices rose a hundred-fold – but retail prices, under contract, did not, except for the unlucky customers of Griddy, who got socked with bills for thousands of dollars each day. ERCOT was therefore forced to cut power, which might have been tolerable, had it happened on a rolling basis across neighborhoods throughout the state. But this was impossible: you can’t cut power to hospitals, fire stations, and other critical facilities, or for that matter to high-rise downtown apartments reliant on elevators. So lights stayed on in some areas, and they stayed off – for days on end – in others. Selective socialism, one might call it.
There is a short video here too.
New textbook by Alex M. Thomas, from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India. From the back cover:
Macroeconomics: An Introduction provides a lucid and novel introduction to macroeconomic issues. It introduces the reader to an alternative approach of understanding macroeconomics, which is inspired by the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Piero Sraffa. It also presents a critical account of mainstream marginalist macroeconomics. The book begins with a brief history of economic theories and then takes the reader through three different ways of conceptualizing the macroeconomy. Subsequently, the theories of money and interest rates, output and employment levels, and economic growth are discussed. It ends by providing a policy template for addressing the macroeconomic concerns of unemployment and inflation. The conceptual discussion in Macroeconomics is situated within the context of the Indian economy. Besides using publicly available data, the contextual description is instantiated using excerpts from works of fiction by Indian authors.
Buy it here.
New Working Paper with Esteban Pérez at the networkideas. From the abstract:
The name and work of Raúl Prebisch are often associated with the problem of long-term economic development in Latin America. Less well known and explored is Prebisch’s contribution to the study of the monetary and financial problems of the countries of the periphery in relation to those of the center. Prebisch analyzed the post-WW-II monetary plans of John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White from the perspective of their compatibility with his national autonomous monetary policy proposal. He thought that both plans had important shortcomings that would prevent the achievement of their intended objective, international equilibrium in the balance-of-payments. The plans ignored the differences in the levels of development between center and periphery. These differences implied that economic and monetary phenomena could not be viewed through the same lens and that all countries could not be subject to the same norms in monetary policy. Prebisch’s concerns were shared by John H. Williams and also, by Michal Kalecki.
By Thomas PalleyThis paper presents a macroeconomics-friendly Post Keynesian model of the firm describing both an inventory theoretic approach and an entry deterrence approach to choice of excess capacity. The model explains why firms may rationally choose to have excess capacity. It also shows the two approaches are complementary and reinforcing of each other. Analytically, the paper makes three principal contributions. First, it provides a simple framework for understanding the microeconomics of capacity utilization choice. Second, it reframes the Post Keynesian discussion of capacity utilization by making excess capacity choice the key to understanding normal capacity utilization. Third, it implicitly challenges Neo-Kaleckian wage-led growth theory as the model shows choice of the optimal excess capacity rate is independent of the level of demand.
The rise of the regulatory state during the Gilded Age was closely associated with the development of Institutionalist ideas in American academia. In their analysis of the emergent regulatory environment, Institutionalists like John Commons operated with a fundamentally marginalist theory of value and distribution. This engagement is a central explanation for the ultimate ascendancy of neoclassical economics, and the limitations of the regulatory environment that emerged in the Progressive Era. The eventual rise of the Chicago School and its deregulatory ambitions did constitute a rupture, but one achieved without rejecting preceding conceptions of competition and value. The substantial compatibility of the view of markets underlying both the regulatory and deregulatory periods is stressed, casting doubt about the transformative potential of the resurgent regulatory impulse in the New Gilded Age.
Download full paper here.
A few weeks ago I bought the little book on top (a new edition of a previously published one, I think). Sadly not long after I learnt of Leo Panitch's untimely death (obit by Chibber here). The book tries to account for three recent defeats of the democratic socialist left in recent times, even though it was written before the ultimate defeat of Bernie Sanders by the establishment candidate earlier this year. He and his co-authors discuss the rise of democratic socialism, and the consequences of the defeat, or one might say the caving, suffered by Syriza, which they point out was "the only party to the left of traditional social democracy in Europe that succeeded in winning a national election"* (p. 29), and what they call "the devastating defeat Corbyn suffered at the hand of Boris Johnson in December 2019" (p. 67).
The main lesson about the Syriza failure, even before the somewhat expected electoral defeat in 2019, was the absence of a Plan B. It could not back it's challenge to the Troika's austerity plans, since there was no plan for exiting the Euro, and they assume that would have led to leaving the European Union too. They say: "There was a marked lack of seriousness, if not dishonesty, behind the tendency to treat the referendum as proving, not just the massive public support for resisting further Troika-imposed draconian austerity (which was the question actually posed) but that the same support would have existed for leaving the eurozone, and most likely the EU, in light of the capital and import controls that this inevitably would have led to." In a sense, the notion is that there was support (from the middle class?) for pushing against the Troika, but not really for leaving the Euro. On Syriza's betrayal of the No Referendum see the old post by Stavros Mavroudeas here.
The lessons in the Corbyn case are less clear to me. They praise the Labour Party's 2019 Manifesto as being "more coherent and progressive [than the 2017 one], especially in making the environmental crisis rather than the need for export competitiveness, the overarching framework for the radical industrial strategy" (pp. 67-68). But they seem concerned fundamentally with how markets would punish a more radical government, and with the absence of "plans to deal with capital flight or a run on the pound" and the silence on "how and when to introduce controls over the movement of capital" (p. 65; although that seems more about the 2017 Manifesto). That notion of the dangers of capital blackmailing left of center governments seems to be part of their general view. They also tell us (p. 82), regarding the Meidner Plan in Sweden to socialize the ownership of the means of production, that it was "resisted by Palme's Social Democratic government... [because] it had a fatal flaw: why would owners, knowing there is a timetable for their expropriation, continue to invest?"
Of course, a left of center governments could use monetary policy tools to avoid capital flight (including higher rates, and not just controls), and investment depends considerably more on whether the economy is growing or not. But my main problem with the discussion on Corbyn's defeat is their unwillingness to deal with the issue of Brexit and the role it played in his defeat more explicitly. My views on Brexit have not changed much since this post, so I'll avoid getting into it. But it seems clear that, like in the United States, in order to discuss the economic grievances of the working class, the left of center parties must be willing to discuss more directly the problems of economic integration.
Sanders has been doing that, and yet, he lost a second time. The book cannot discuss that, since it was written, it seems, before April and the victory of Biden in the primary. Here the issues of the inability to win, to a great extent because the party machine makes it impossible, opens the discussion of whether fighting inside the Democratic Party is the correct strategy. Like Michael Harrington, I believe that there is little alternative. I'm not sure that's their view in the book. At any rate, they do praise Bernie for having "a class-focused campaign" (p. 71) and spend a good amount of ink (pp. 74-86) criticizing Elizabeth Warren's firm based rather than class-based struggle for democracy (p. 87). It seems that a reform both of the primary system within the Democratic Party and an elimination of the electoral college are needed for a democratic (lower case) society in the US.
If there is a lesson, although it's not expelled out explicitly in the book, is that the forces of neoliberalism are incredibly strong, and resilient. Perhaps, that's a lesson that could have been seen in the several defeats of the left in Latin America with the end of the pink tide a few years ago. In the case of Latin America, lawfare, the use of the media, and the international institutions, and more recently even military force (in the case of Bolivia)+ were central to defeat left of center governments. In the case of Chile, it's worth remembering the role of the Constitution in tying the hands of left of center administrations, and how a referendum was needed to overturn Pinochet's charter. And the book suggests correctly in my view that "democratization can't occur without changing the context within which economic units, and thus workers, relate to each other" (p. 85). At any rate, Panitch always forced us to reflect, and this last book continues to do so.
* Podemos in Spain is part of the government coalition, of course.
+ Although international organizations like the Organization of American States were crucial too, and the coup was eventually defeated by the democratic forces on the left.
* In this piece it is suggested that the history of thought textbooks by Screpanti and Zamagni and by Roncaglia are mainstream texts, and put in the same category with Blaug's book. That is of course a misconception. The former differentiate between classical and marginalist traditions, and do not argue for the continuity, as Blaug does, and can be seen as clearly heterodox in nature.
** Spengler (1964) is the classic study on Khaldun by western historians of economic thought. Although his essay is careful about Khaldun's contribution it might give to much credence to the notion that the "economic literature of Islam can be traced to the Economics of Bryson", for the ancient Greek philosopher.
** It is worth noticing that the piece cited at the beginning suggests that Khaldun is a precursor of Smith, presumably because of the division of labor, but without a distinction of productive and unproductive activities, but also of Alfred Marshall. We are told that Khaldun "analyzed markets which arise based on the division of labor and examined market forces in a simple didactic way which is very similar to the attitude of Alfred Marshall. The invention of supply and demand analysis wasn’t invented in the 19th century: the islamic scholar also described the relationship of demand and supply." Supply and demand forces were well-known before Khaldun. Marginalism suggested that long-term prices, what Smith called natural prices, were determined by those forces.
The English translation of Sergio Cesaratto's book has been published. A Free chapter is available at the Springer website here.
From the promotion pamphlet:
This book discloses the economic foundations of European fiscal and monetary policies by introducing readers to an array of alternative approaches in economics. It presents various heterodox theories put forward by classical economists, Marx, Sraffa and Keynes, as a coherent challenge to neo-classical theory. The book underscores and critically assesses the analytical inconsistencies of European economic policy and the conservative nature of the current European governance. In this light, it examines the political obstacles to proposals to reform the European monetary union, as well as those originating in the neo-mercantilist German model. Given its scope and format, the book offers a valuable asset for researchers and members of the general public alike.
Go get one immediately!
I finished Branko Milanovic's thought provoking Capitalism Alone this summer. But I haven't had much time to write on the blog, as you might have noticed. This is certainly not a review, and I would definitely suggest that you go and buy the book as soon as you can and read it. It is a serious discussion of the future of capitalism, that word that, as Heilbroner often reminded us, was at the center of the discipline, but seldom discussed openly by economists. He cited, if memory doesn't fail me that it didn't appear in Mankiw's Principles textbook, at least back then in the 1990s, when it was published. I always note that Allan Meltzer wrote a little book titled Why Capitalism? were he makes no explicit effort in defining it, even though a definition can be gleaned from it.*
The definition most economists use leans more on Max Weber than Karl Marx, or the materialist tradition of the surplus approach upon which he built on. Branko is a pluralistic economist, well read and influenced by several authors, not all of them conventional. The discussion of the definition of capitalism is complex, and he separates, in its modern version two archetypes of capitalism, that are in a mortal battle for global hegemonic power, namely: Liberal Meritocratic Capitalism, represented by the West, and particularly by the United States (perhaps more credibly now after the election), and Political Capitalism, represented by the rise of the rest, with China at the head.
When assessing whether China is capitalistic Branko does use the conventional Weberian definition (p. 87), but that seems to be a pragmatic approach to provide the basis for his argument that China (and Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore too, p. 91) does conform to the Weberian notion of political capitalism, a term used by Weber to discuss ancient forms of capitalism. But there is a concern with how elites maintain control by non coercive forces in Liberal Capitalism, and about the need to create an indigenous capitalist class in Political Capitalism. Both point out to alternative issue of class conflict, of course, and how surplus is extracted from workers, and points to an alternative view of capitalism. There is, in somewhat Marxist tradition a preoccupation with the role of the bourgeoisie, and an nod to Wallerstein that suggested that there are no capitalists without state support, something I would like to have seen more in the book (p. 116).
In fact, the secondary role of the state, to some extent, the absence of a more thorough discussion of the developmental state in the case of the Chinese experience, is one of the problems with the book. Another would be an emphasis with issues of corruption, which seem to me to be of secondary importance, even if the problem might have increased with financial deregulation, and the rise of tax havens. The emphasis of the book is on the changes associated to the increasing mobility of labor and capital and the problems it poses for both systems. Branko thinks that the welfare state is vulnerable with free labor mobility (p.156), undermining the democratic process in liberal capitalism, and that capital mobility, which he sees more through the lens of Global Value Chains, rather than portfolio flows, and that would lead to higher growth in poorer countries, reducing the need for labor mobility. The book also debunks a few myths, like the notion that robots are coming for your job, or the idea that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) would be a panacea for the economic problems caused by globalization and technological change.
* Invariably it is based on notions of the profit motive (some form of rationalization) as required by markets, and private property, or Weber (plus North, if you prefer). For an alternative discussion see this old post on a view based on the surplus approach, including a critique of the Weberian naturalization of capitalism as something that existed in the past and that explains the golden ages of antiquity.
Tomorrow at 3pm (EST) a frank and informal talk about heterodox economics, my personal trajectory in the profession and discussions about political economy in Latin America with some young scholars from the YSI initiative. Join here.
One of my favorite economists, and John Maynard Keynes too. Don't miss this lecture, in Spanish of course, on one of the central economists of the 20th century and its relevance for the periphery, particularly during the current pandemic. I'll post links to the Zoom and Facebook stream soon.
David Fields (Guest blogger)Rising housing costs and stagnating real wages are the primary causes of worsening housing affordability in Utah. The dismal wage growth is the result of a larger nationwide upward redistribution of wealth and income, which can be attributed to the following: a failure to adhere to full employment objectives; fiscal austerity; and various labor market policies and business practices allowing the higher social strata of a professional class to capture ever larger shares of economic growth. This is the result of institutional transformations that have exposed workers to the vulnerability of higher turnover, resulting in higher averages of unemployment, particularly worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic induced recession. For instance, from 2009 to 2016 real income only grew at 0.31% per year while rent crept upward at a rate of 1.03% per year in 2017 constant dollars. Slow and unequal wage growth stems from a growing wedge between overall productivity and the pay (wages and benefits) received by a typical worker.
In the new issue of the Review of Keynesian Economics. From the abstract:
The essential claim of Modern Money Theory (MMT) is sovereign currency issuing governments, with flexible exchange rates and without foreign currency debt, are financially unconstrained. This paper analyses the macroeconomic arguments behind that claim and shows they are suspect. MMT underestimates the economic costs and exaggerates the capabilities of deficit-financed fiscal policy. Those analytic shortcomings render it poor economics. However, MMT's claim that sovereign governments are financially unconstrained is proving a popular political polemic. That is because current distressed economic conditions have generated political resistance to fiscal austerity, and MMT fits the moment by countering the neoliberal polemic that government lacks fiscal space because it is akin to a household.
Read rest here.
Video of the conference, without the long part before it starts that was on the Review of Keynesian Economics Facebook page.
The 4th Godley-Tobin Lecture given by Marc Lavoie, a co-author of Wynne Godley, and one of the leading Post Keynesian authors.