The looney left has found yet another economic theory to ruin us with

From The Times reprinted in The Australian. Insane enough just as an economic principle, but to have it endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and then presented as a sensible idea by the Economics Editor of The Times [!!!!!] shows how low we have fallen. This is the entire column and if you cannot work out how insane this is, you do not have even the most preliminary grasp of how an economy works. But let me give you a hint. The aim is to open the spigot to public spending almost to an infinite extent since a government printing money in one’s own economy and then spending it apparently has no downside. And then when the price level starts to rise, you increase taxes to put things right again. I love the idea of trying to raise taxes as prices are rocketing while interest rates are held level. That this is not seen as obvious idiocy and an invitation to disaster really makes me wonder how far gone economic theory has gone. That it is even being published in respectable newspapers is more depressing than almost anything else.

Modern Monetary Theory: Who’ll be brave enough to try it?

US Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a champion of Modern Monetary Theory.
US Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a champion of Modern Monetary Theory.

In the past decade, the world has suffered two global crises: the financial disaster of 2008 and the eurozone sovereign debt crisis two years later. Policymakers responded with bailouts, cheap funding schemes, zero interest rates and quantitative easing. In one sense, the past ten years was a period of intense economic experimentation. In another, nothing has changed.

Following previous crises, macroeconomic ideas were replaced. After the Second World War, Keynesian, under which governments spend to create demand and protect jobs, was ascendant. After the inflation-induced recessions in the 1970s, the big idea was monetarism, using interest rates and the money supply to keep prices under control.

And now, after two existential crises? Nothing. The fundamental macroeconomic ideas have not changed. Labour and the Tories do battle on the scale of the deficit, like two old fools arguing who should pay for the last round long after the bar has closed. Beyond that, John McDonnell’s socialist revolution is pilfered from crumbling communist textbooks. It’s all a bit disappointing.

A new idea is slowly gaining momentum, though, particularly in the United States, where the charismatic Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been championing it. The idea is modern monetary theory and, as with many new ideas, it is not actually that new. Its origins date back to 1993 and it even featured in the 2016 US election. Bernie Sanders’ economic adviser was Stephanie Kelton, a prominent advocate of MMT.

At first glance, the theory seems barmy. As long as a government borrows in its own currency, it need never default because it can always print the money it needs. Described that way, MMT sounds like that other MMT, the magic money tree, or Jeremy Corbyn’s “People’s QE” – the kind of thing Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe tried with devastating inflationary consequences. But that’s because we’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Warren Mosler, a former banker and hedge fund manager, went back to basics when he was developing the idea. The challenges governments face are growth, unemployment and inflation. To achieve those goals today, central banks use rates to regulate the economy while governments manage the public finances.

Mr Mosler and Ms Kelton look at the world differently. Running a budget deficit is not a sign of overspending, they say. Inflation is. Viewed though that lens, deficits look fine so long as inflation is under control. If inflation is low, unemployment high and the private sector is not picking up the slack, the government’s role is to create productive work through tax cuts or spending. The new jobs will create enough demand to drive up prices.

But who finances the deficits? That’s where money-printing comes in. It is here that convention is flipped on its head. Under MMT, tax and spending decisions are taken to regulate the economy, ignoring the impact on the public finances. If inflation picks up, rates don’t budge (Mr Mosler would have them set at zero). Instead, taxes rise to suck demand out of the system. In doing so, the budget may move into surplus. The central bank’s role is simply to finance the deficit.

Surely markets will hate this and punish governments with higher borrowing costs? Proponents reply that the government does not need to borrow from the market. When the state cuts income taxes, it creates more domestic savings. Those savings are exactly equal to the state’s additional borrowing. As a nation, one hand owes the other. The central bank only need mark the debt on the government’s ledger.

The key here is to think of the state as a monopolist, not a household. A government that borrows in its own currency has a monopoly on the money supply so cannot run out and go bust. Foreign investors might lose money on their dollar assets, but the debt can always be paid. The model does not work for countries without their own currency, such as eurozone members. As they do not control their currency, they must live within their means and ultimately balance their books. They are not monetary monopolists, just households for the purposes of budget management.

Although MMT has been jumped on by deficit-spending left-wingers, the theory is not intrinsically fiscally irresponsible. Mr Mosler claims to have developed the idea after a steam room session with arch-hawk Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary. JW Mason, an economist at the City University of New York, reckons it would lead to smaller budget deficits over the long term, provided politicians are bold enough to combat inflation with higher taxes.

Ultimately, the theory reframes and simplifies our conception of the economy, drawing the focus on to the core priorities of employment and inflation. The deficit would no longer be an obstacle. There would be no tension between fiscal and monetary policy, just a single lever. Responsibility for economic management would fall to politicians, ending the outsourcing to technocrats that has provided legislators cover for so long. And there would no place for an independent central bank.

In a way, MMT is nothing new. Japan’s national debt is 2.4 times the size of its economy, three times UK levels, but most is owed to Japanese pension funds and its money-printing central bank. In Britain, the 527 billion pounds of debt raised by the state between 2009 and 2012 was largely matched by the Bank of England’s 375 billion pounds of QE. Today, Donald Trump is blowing up the US deficit and driving up inflation in what looks like a practical demonstration of MMT.

There, in a nutshell, is the problem. The theory states that President Trump should be raising taxes, not cutting them. But would politicians ever have the courage to raise taxes if domestic inflation is climbing, despite high unemployment? The whole reason central banks were given independence was because politicians cannot be trusted to make unpopular decisions.

What MMT does prove, however , is that we will not run out of new ideas as long as we can describe the world in different ways. That, at least, is encouraging.

Philip Aldrick is Economics Editor of The Times

He thinks it’s great that we have new ideas to consider. We will certainly never run out of stupid ideas. One more post-modernist crank. This was the most acute comment at The Oz which exactly states what needs to be said, written by “Tony”.

This is seriously dangerous stuff. Fundamentally, money is not wealth, i.e. income producing assets, goods and services etc, but rather just a system for exchanging such. One can argue about Keynesian and Monetarist policy till the cows come home but ignoring the fundamentals of wealth creation through favorable investment (not speculative) conditions and rising productivity always produces rising living standards for workers and good margins for capital. The State can then appropriate (Tax) a portion of that generated wealth. Fundamentally, increasing the money supply by Gov does not produce more wealth- that is impossible- but at the margins it is useful for ironing out the natural cycles of investment but that is it.

It is bananas to think that printing money actually creates real wealth and is safe to do so as long as we borrow from ourselves or foreigners in our own dollars. If this fallacy were true, why would anyone invest or work at all? Lets just print money and borrow in AU$ and sit at home relaxing on a “universal income” paid by Gov. Wow, that sounds great. Where do I sign up? OK, vote Greens or ALP, no probs.

How much worse can it get?

A reminder to you Keynesians out there, macroeconomic theory is false from end to end, providing no insight into how an economy works. Other than that, please carry on. From Instapundit.

HORRORS OF THE TRUMP ECONOMY: Skills Gap Gives Workers Unprecedented Power, Perks. “A survey from CareerBuilder reports 25 percent of employers in manufacturing have lost revenue due to unfilled vacancies, and many are offering extended overtime pay to existing workers as they struggle to keep production lines running. Difficult-to-fill production jobs now command a wage premium, partially in an attempt to lure job seekers who might prefer other fields. Industrial engineers and other tech-savvy factory jobs offer four or five times the salary of a floor assembly role. Another key benefit workers have been able to negotiate as their value rises is on-site and in-role training. Employers who could previously depend on trained and certified workers to arrive at interviews are increasingly willing to offer training and certification to less-qualified but more readily available entry-level workers. Training is often paid and may reduce onboarding time by training participants for specific roles and proprietary systems.”

It’s easy to see why they want to impeach him since he is demonstrating that virtually everything our political elites believe is wrong.

President Trump is applying Say’s Law in managing the American economy

For almost everyone, Say’s Law is something they know nothing about, and especially among economists who are taught that Say’s Law is unambiguously wrong, who themselves not only do not know what Say’s Law is, but would not even know where to look to find out. But as the success of the American economy most clearly shows, Say’s Law is the most important single element in understanding how an economy can be made to grow. And as we find out, the American economy is being managed based on the application of Say’s Law.

The passage below begins at 13:13 of the video, and it is Donald Trump’s economic advisor, Larry Ludlow, specifically stating that the economic policies of the United States at the present time are based on the application of Say’s Law to the American economy. The greatest disaster in the history of economic theory was the Keynesian Revolution and the forced disappearance of Say’s Law. If you would like to see some of this, there is my article on Keynesian economics and Say’s Law that I published in February 2009 just as the stimulus was beginning across the world: The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics. It is not just about how damaging modern macroeconomics is, but how disastrous economic theory has become with the disappearance of Say’s Law. This is exactly what Donald Trump believes as is made clear in this discussion from Larry Kudlow.

I just want to note that we are in a boom. We had this blockbuster jobs number today. There is no inflation. There is no inflation. More growth, more people working does not cause inflation.

These old Federal Reserve models are outdated and have proven to be incorrect. Right now the inflation rate is probably less than one and a half percent even while unemployment is low and jobs are soaring and we are growing at three per cent. Why do I say that?

Because that is a point of view which the President holds and I think the President is exactly right.

This is supply side revolution. We’re creating more goods and services. We’re increasing the capital stock and business investment and that’s what creates incomes and jobs.

I’m sure you remember Jean-Baptiste Say. He wrote in the early part of the nineteenth century. He was a French economic philosopher. I met him awhile back, you perhaps did also.

Say’s Law: supply creates its own demand. This is not government spending from the demand side, this is lower tax rates from the supply side, and it is businesses that ultimately drive the economy.

I would like Jay Powell to hear that argument from President Trump who knows the argument very well. Now Jay I think does too – he’s a very smart guy. So I’m just saying that they can benefit from an exchange of views.

Let’s understand that more people working and solid percentage growth is not – IS NOT – causing higher inflation, and therefore Fed policies should take that into account.

Say’s Law. He may have to go and commune with him to fully understand it.

Everyone will need to commune with Say’s Law if they are going to understand how an economy works. If these sorts of things interest you, the third edition of my text, Free Market Economics, sets it all out in fine detail. And let me add this, the endorsement of the book found on the back cover from Art Laffer of Laffer curve fame, who drove the economic policies of the Reagan administration back in the 1980s.

‘This book presents the very embodiment of supply-side economics. At its very core is the entrepreneur trying to work out what to do in a world of deep uncertainty in which the future cannot be known. Crucially, the book is entirely un-Keynesian, restoring Say’s Law to the centre of economic theory, with its focus on value-adding production as the source of demand. If you would like to understand how an economy actually works, this is one of the few places I know of where you can find out.’

A restoration of Say’s Law is an essential if we are ever going to get our economies to thrive and grow.

An economic mystery

JOBS UP BIG!
+312,000
RECORD NUMBER WORKING
MANUFACTURING BEST IN 20 YEARS
HISPANIC UNEMPLOYMENT LOWEST EVER
DOW +747

 

There is not a modern textbook in macroeconomic theory that will explain what is happening in the American economy. The transformation from the Obama years, and of course from the previous Bush years, is astounding. Even the dreaded increases in rates have helped push things along although hardly anyone would appreciate their role.

SAY’S LAW ADDITION!!!!!! From Confused Old Misfit in the comments: “It’s no mystery to Larry Kudlow who, just in passing, mentions (at 14:14) Say’s Law with obvious relish!” This is the video and with endless thanks to COM.

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow discusses the December jobs report, U.S. economy, China trade, and the prospect of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Jonathan Ferro on “Bloomberg Markets.

How Keynesian economics came to dominate told by Keynesians

The papers from the History of Economics section at the US Conference of Economists during the session on “Keynesianism: Its Rise, Fall, and Transformation in Europe and North America”. So long as Y=C+I+G is central to how macro is taught at all levels of study, the notion that there has been any kind of a fall is ludicrous. No economists taught Keynesian macro ever finds their way to understanding how an economy actually works. These were the papers presented.

Keynesianism in France

Goulven Rubin

University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Abstract

According to Pierre Rosanvallon (1987), Keynesianism arrived very late in France but its triumph was complete. It offered a common language to a very large group of senior officers and engineers working in public administration and nationalized firms. It reconciled the French tradition of Colbertism with the necessity of a modern State. Richard Arena (2000) insists also on the fact that Keynesian ideas spread in a hostile context and initially outside universities and academia where typically French economic traditions dominated. The situation in universities started to change in the 1970s and 1980s when curricula in French universities began to incorporate macroeconomic courses based on IS-LM and with the development of disequilibrium economics. The paper retraces the unfolding of this historical process and insists on the variety of heterodox interpretations of Keynes that flourished in the French context like the works of Bernard Schmitt and the circuitists.

Keynesianism in Germany

Harald Hagemann
University of Hohenheim

Abstract

Keynes had been a central point of reference in debates on economic theory and policy in Germany ever since his Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), as, e.g., in the controversial debates on the wage-employment relationship at the end of the Weimar Republic. No wonder that the first foreign-language translation of the General Theory was published in German. With the great resonance Keynes had in Germany in the interwar period it is no surprise that from the early 1950s onwards neoclassical synthesis Keynesianism became the dominant approach at West German universities. More astonishing is the fact that with Erich Schneider at Kiel, a former student of Schumpeter played a key role in this process. In economic policy, however, Keynesianism gained a rather late entry in the recession of 1967 and only lasted until 1974-75.

Keynesianism in Canada

Robert W. Dimand
Brock University

Abstract

Canada was one of the first countries to commit to a Keynesian goal of maintaining high and steady levels of employment after World War II with the 1945 White Paper. Keynes’s former students A. F. Wynne Plumptre and Robert Bryce were prominent in the Federal Government, notably the Department of Finance, in the quarter century after the war, but others, notably Mabel Timlin, author of Keynesian Economics (1942), also helped spread Keynesian ideas among Canadian economists. William A. Mackintosh, both as an academic and a wartime temporary civil servant, was a central figure, drafting the 1945 White Paper and seconding Keynes’s motion to accept the final act of the Bretton Woods conference. Bank of Canada Governor Gerald Bouey’s 1975 embrace of monetary aggregate targeting signaled the decline of Keynesian influence on Canadian public policy.

Keynesianism in the United States

Mathew Forstater
University of Missouri-Kansas City

Abstract

Two issues are at the heart of Keynesian economics in the United States, one theoretical and the other practical. The theoretical issue regards whether Keynes’s demonstration in the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money that there can be involuntary unemployment in macroeconomic equilibrium requires an assumption that wages, prices and/or interest rates are “sticky” (inflexible) downward, or some other market imperfection. The practical issue is related to the theoretical one. Keynesians have tended to be pragmatic when it comes to economic policy, preferring to use fiscal and monetary policies to pursue macro goals of full employment, price stability, and stable economic growth rather than focusing on efforts to remove the imperfections, which would permit market forces to work out the short-term Keynesian troubles. The most recent mainstream incarnation, so-called “New Keynesian” economics, has all but abandoned the important remaining economic and political legacies of the tradition.

A Christmas coral

Peter Ridd writing in The Oz today: Coral can take the heat, unlike experts crying wolf. But before we go on, we should note how he is described in the paper:

Peter Ridd was, until fired this year, a physicist at James Cook University’s marine geophysical laboratory.

With this caution noted, and bearing in mind that in regard to climate change, the science is settled and the last word has been written, we find this:

The science institutions deny there is a problem and fail to correct erroneous work. When Piers Larcombe and I submitted an article to a scientific journal suggesting we needed a little additional checking of Great Barrier Reef science, the response from many very eminent scientists was that there was no need. Everything was fine. I am not sure if this is blind optimism or wilful negligence, but why would anybody object to a little more checking? It would cost only a few million dollars — just a tiny fraction of what governments will be spending on the reef.

I know what he means. Keynesians have around 90-plus percent of the macroeconomic positions in the world and have been systematically dragging our economies down with their wilfully wasteful public spending. But that’s the way it has always been. I have just been reading about William Harvey who discovered the circulation of blood which contradicted the view that has been held for around 1500 years whose opinion on these matters was set in the second century AD. Before Harvey, there had actually been people burned at the stake for holding a different opinion, so Peter is coming off relatively lightly in our more enlightened times.

The political economy of interest rate adjustments

Interest rate adjustments are a dangerous economic tool, both when they go down too far and when they are raised too high. Central bank interest rate policies, drenched as they are in the incompetent conclusions from Keynesian macro, are about as sensible as the rest of Keynesian theory, but in any case the underlying policy seems more political than economically driven. As, for example, the Fed is raising rates right now in the midst of a bear market.

Even so, I cannot say that the effect won’t ultimately be positive, in the same way that Volker’s vast increases in rates in the first years of the Reagan presidency set up the economic recovery that followed. That may well have not been his intent, but it was the consequence. But whatever else may be the case, you may be sure that is not the intent of those whose hands are on the levers of interest rate policy at the moment. With this in mind, let me draw to your attention the following sent to me by a mate whose daily bread is earned from paying very close attention to these kinds of things.

Context, mainstream economic theory – which the fed conducts policy by – directly predicts (and it is the outright stated purpose of the policy) that raising rates is intended to slow the economy down (say, for the purpose of “combating inflation”).

Since 1981 onwards (from Reagan), there have been 62 federal reserve decisions to raise rates (i.e a deliberate policy attempt to slow the economy down), in aggregate raising rates by 46.5%.

Of those, 47 of the decisions (75.8%) were under Republican presidents, only 15 (24.1%) under Democrat. That is a ratio of ~3x more likely to be rate rises (i.e 3x more likely a deliberate policy attempt to slow the economy down) under a Republican than a Democrat.

By value terms (noting larger moves are expected to have greater impact than small moves), 82.1% of all rate rises by aggregate value have occurred under Republican presidents. That is more to 5x relative headwind/ negative policy impact (in the direction of policy intent to slow the economy down) for Republicans than what Democrats have faced.

Potential reason 1: The economy is generally stronger under Republicans due to (relative to Democrats) more pro growth policy stances. Due to that stronger underlying economy, the fed has to raise rates to slow down the growth and “control inflation” (etc etc).

Potential Reason 2: Conspiracy theory-esque political bias from the Deep State (of which the Fed is central). At one level it is just about harming electoral prospects of Republicans. At a deeper level of a deep state theory, it would be about not letting the public see the full benefits of the (relatively) freer market.

Potential Reason 3: ??? It is hard to manufacture any reason (using mainstream theory as the assumed driver of the rate rise decision) from this pattern of rate rise decisions that makes the Republicans look bad/ Democrats look good in any way…..

Note – analysis is by the rate rises only, doesn’t consider the cuts side. There has been a general bias to cuts over all presidents (except Trump).

If you would like to see a classical discussion of interest rates, you can either go back to the nineteenth century literature or you could go through Chapters 17 and 18 of the third edition of my Free Market Economics.

No such thing as “the level of demand” at an aggregate level

Through the whole of the Costello years as Treasurer, I would say that everyone would live through these exceptionally good economic times, but no one would learn a thing. And it’s not just that we had balanced budgets, but had ZERO DEBT. Only country ever to do this and we floated on air. So then we elected Labor and then we had the GFC, and then we had the advice from Treasury to go early and go hard, and so here we are today, in a crumbling economy with living standards heading south. Which is a preamble to this: Peter Costello and later treasurers right to stress benefit of surpluses. Not so sure about those later treasurers, but Peter was the legitimate article, Australia’s greatest Treasurer.

In his book on Australian treasurers, Bowen describes Costello as the country’s first post-Keynesian treasurer, rejecting the idea that taxes and spending should be used to manage the level of demand in the economy, with that task left to the Reserve Bank. The pursuit of a budget surplus was seen as evidence of good economic management and became an end in itself. Costello was able to distil his political message into a simple message: “Surpluses are good and Liberals deliver surpluses,” Bowen writes.

Half way there. There is no such thing as “the level of demand” at an aggregate level. You cannot manage it. You cannot cause it to go up and down. Aggregate demand has no separate existence apart from aggregate supply. It is Keynesian junk theory whether it is spending or adjusting rates. It will not work and never has, ever. Modern macro is false from end to end. As John Stuart Mill put it, and found in my Free Market Economics where it is explained at great length: “demand for commodities is not demand for labour”. That was written 170 years ago. The idea that there is progress in economic theory is just plain wrong.

PLUS THIS: From Max in the comments:

“Austrian theorist Henry Hazlitt argued that aggregate demand is ‘a meaningless concept’ in economic analysis. Friedrich Hayek , another Austrian, wrote that Keynes’ study of the aggregate relations in an economy is ‘fallacious’, arguing that recessions are caused by micro-economic factors.”

“The Keynesian is a collectivist methodologically. He looks at aggregates. He recommends government programs that affect aggregates.”

“Keynes argued, and his disciples still argue, that the cause of unemployment is insufficient aggregate demand. This is another way of saying that the cause of unemployment is excessive aggregate supply. The fact that Keynesians never put it this way does not affect the analytical truth of the argument.”

Absolutely dead on. Is this the source: Illegal Aliens and Unemployment: Causes and Effects by Gary North?