How to describe my next book

This was the outline of my next book that has been proposed to me by the publisher.

‘Classical Economic Theory and the Modern Economy’

Exposing the zenith of analytical power and depth of understanding that economic theory reached in the middle of the nineteenth century, this book discusses the importance of John Stuart Mill and his contemporaries. Steven Kates explains what took place in the ensuing Marginal and Keynesian Revolutions that hindered economists’ understanding of how economies truly operate.

Chapters explore the false mythology that has obscured the arguments of classical economists, providing a route into the theory they developed. Kates offers a theoretical understanding of the operation of an economy within classical economic theory by classical economists, providing a new perspective for viewing modern economic theory from the outside. This provocative book also not only explains the meaning of Say’s Law in an accessible way, but also the origins of the Keynesian revolution and Keynes’ pathway in writing The General Theory.

A crucial read for economic policy-makers seeking to better understand the key policies needed to generate economic recovery, this book will also be of keen interest to economics and economic history scholars. It offers an alternative theory to modern macroeconomics for those studying economic theory and policy.

OK, but not what I think is needed. This is what’s needed.

‘Classical Economic Theory and the Modern Economy’

The book starts with two premises: First, that economic theory reached its deepest level of understanding in the writings of John Stuart Mill and the classical economists of his time, and then, secondly, the author of this book has understood Mill and has accurately explained what the classical school of the late nineteenth century wrote. From these premises, this then follows.

If you are to have any hope of understanding how an economy works, and how modern economic theory became the dead end it has become, you will need to read this book.

The classical economists, and John Stuart Mill in particular, lived through the Industrial Revolution, saw its astonishing economic transformation before their eyes, and explained, so others could understand for themselves, how their prosperity had been created through the emergence of the market economy.

Mill, the greatest utilitarian philosopher of his age, refused to use utility as part of his theory of value. Mill explicitly and emphatically denied any role for aggregate demand in the creation of employment. In reaching these conclusions, there was no disagreement among the entire mainstream economics community of his time.

First through the Marginal Revolution of the 1870s, and then through the Keynesian Revolution of the 1930s, the entire edifice of classical theory has been obliterated. From a classical perspective, modern economic theory is Mercantilist trash. If you are interested in how economic theory became the wasteland it has become, and wish to understand the classical theory no one any longer has the slightest clue about, this is the book you must read.

If that’s your interest, then you should certainly read this book.

Geoff Mann in a Marxist critique of Keynesian economics

The video is found at the book launch of Geoff Mann’s In the Long Run We are All Dead.

Geoff Mann lives in Vancouver, where he teaches political economy and economic geography at Simon Fraser University, and he directs the Centre for Global Political Economy.

In the ruins of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, self-proclaimed progressives the world over clamoured to resurrect the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. The crisis seemed to expose the disaster of small-state, free-market liberalization and deregulation. Keynesian political economy, in contrast, could put the state back at the heart of the economy and arm it with the knowledge needed to rescue us. But what it was supposed to rescue us from was not so clear. Was it the end of capitalism or the end of the world? For Keynesianism, the answer is both. Keynesians are not and never have been out to save capitalism, but rather to save civilization from itself. It is political economy, they promise, for the world in which we actually live: a world in which prices are sticky, information is asymmetrical, and uncertainty inescapable. In this world, things will definitely not take care of themselves in the long run. Poverty is ineradicable, markets fail, and revolutions lead to tyranny. Keynesianism is thus modern liberalism’s most persuasive internal critique, meeting two centuries of crisis with a proposal for capital without capitalism and revolution without revolutionaries.

If our current crises have renewed Keynesianism for so many, it is less because the present is worth saving, than because the future seems out of control. In that situation, Keynesianism is a perfect fit: a faith for the faithless.

Far-left, all about Hegel and Marx, but not an ounce of economic understanding from what he has to say. But the book is coming and will see what we find then. His conclusion is that “poverty is produced by the system itself”. This is the kind of drongo idiocy only a self-satisfied utterly pampered member of the academic bourgeoise would believe.

Ever wonder why real wages are falling?

METRO TUNNEL COSTS COULD BLOWOUT TO $3B
A messy fight is looming over who will pay the huge extra costs of the Metro Tunnel, with the Andrew Government reportedly warned the total blowout of..

The Metro Tunnel is Victoria’s very own NBN, although there are quite a few others like it but not quite as draining although very bad as well. There was the desal plant, and the billion spent on the Miki Card, getting rid of level crossings in the city, others too, but this one is big big time. Infrastructure spending at its absolute stupidest. The above story is a snippet from the H-S this morning.

There are economic idiots everywhere, but the biggest ones are the ones who think government infrastructure projects like this are good for the economy. Even the Premier is beginning to see what a black hole this is. Construction everywhere you turn in the City, whole city blocks turned into construction sites, billions of dollars being spent, and not a dollar’s worth of actual value-adding output anywhere to be seen. We are looking here at immense costs, for which there will NEVER be a single cent of profit ever earned.

Keynesian economics was once only about getting an economy out of a recession. Now it’s about massive and permanent deficits coupled with massive and permanent forms of public waste. Now they have overrun their original costs to $3 billion, but there is more than just the tunnel that comes with all of this. Victoria is bankrupt in the same way that economic theory is bankrupt. I was just up in Sydney and they are about to finally start running their idiotic streetcars down George Street. That, too, will never turn a dollar of profit, which means it will never ever repay its costs in the benefits it provides. Pure waste but presented as a public benefit. My biggest query is always why isn’t this obvious?

Modern economic theory is a disaster for anyone whose government believes any and all of it. Public spending has its role, but is a drain on an economy’s productivity. Oddly because of the Keynesian nature of the National Accounts, all of this will show up as growth in GDP even though it is nothing of the kind. And there will be many people employed, except not employed on projects that will add to the economy’s net level of real production. They are not value adding. They may create a dollar’s worth of value, but for each dollar of value created it will cost much much more than a dollar. Why does this make sense to anyone?

Idlers and good-for-nothings

I’m in the midst of a book on the coming of Keynesian economics into the world and the disappearance of classical theory. I have just now finished a section discussing the first Keynesian textbook ever written, Lorie Tarshis’s The Elements of Economics, which I thought I might share a bit of which with you.

Tarshis’s text made Samuelson and other economic writers more cautious in how they discussed Keynesian theory. A passage such as the following would never again enter a Keynesian text, as accurate a reflection of the theory though it may actually have been.

“To put it bluntly, employment and income, in money terms, can be expended to respond equally whether the government sponsors useful public works like highway construction, or completely useless ones like digging ditches and filling them up again. In either case, because the income of the newly employed would be higher than before, they would increase their spending, so that the output of consumers’ good would be expanded and the upward swing begun. Naturally we should prefer projects which directly add to our real wealth. Flood-control projects, highways, parks, school buildings, research projects, housing, and so on are better than leaf-raking and useless excavations. But the latter are better than nothing, for even though the projects are useless, carrying them out leads to an increased output of consumers’ goods. And even though the men responsible for the increased demand were idlers and good-for-nothings, their dollars, in our economy, are as powerful as any others in increasing consumption, income, and employment.” (Tarshis 1947: 518)

Possibly the most revealing passage in the entirety of Keynesian literature.

It was overrun the following year by the first edition of Samuelson’s Economics, in part because Samuelson’s was a much better book, but also because he was a bit more candid about what Keynesian theory meant in practice.

Told ya so

Here’s the front page story in The Oz today: Aussies no better off since GFC: household incomes stagnant for past decade. From which:

“Over the eight-year period from 2009 to 2017, average household income grew by only $3156, or 3.5 per cent, while the median in 2017 was $542 lower than 2009,” the report, which has tracked the circumstances of more than 17,500 Australians since 2001, finds.

The share of households in relative poverty — living on less than half the median income — rose to 10.4 per cent, according to analysis released today by the Melbourne Institute that will add to the controversy about the adequacy­ of Newstart, the govern­ment’s jobless payment.

All as obvious as the morning sun, if you can do away with modern macroeconomic trash and return to pre-Keynesian theory. From my tenth anniversary warning on the stimulus published in Quadrant:

Just as the causes of this downturn cannot be charted through a Keynesian demand deficiency model, neither can the solution. The world’s economies are not suffering from a lack of demand and the right policy response is not a demand stimulus. Increased public sector spending will only add to the market confusions that already exist.

What is potentially catastrophic would be to try to spend our way to recovery. The recession that will follow will be deep, prolonged and potentially take years to overcome.

— Steven Kates, Quadrant, March 2009

Why have the IMF, the OECD, the ILO, the treasuries of every advanced economy, the Treasury in Australia, the business economists around the world, why have they got it so wrong and yet you in your ivory tower at RMIT have got it so right?

— Question to Steven Kates from Senator Doug Cameron,
Senate Economic References Committee, September 21, 2009

I caught on to classical economic theory in 1980 and have spent the years since watching in every circumstance how accurate the economics of John Stuart Mill actually is, from the failure of every single “stimulus” put in place to stimulate through to watching the recovery that followed the massive cuts to public spending brought on by Peter Costello’s budget in 1996 and the return, not just to balanced budgets but zero debt. Modern Keynesian economics is junk science and has never worked on a single occasion during the entire period since The General Theory was published in 1936.

Read my text if you are interested: Free Market Economics, now in its third edition. And here is the endorsement from Art Laffer, the genius behind the Reagan recovery and now also complicit in the recovery in the United States:

‘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.’

The persistent failure of economic theory

I see the RBA today froze at the thought of raising rates in the midst of an economy as stone cold dead as this one. They are, of course, clueless about why this is, just as Treasury is equally clueless. So let me take you to my article just published at Quadrant on The Dangerous Persistence of Keynesian Economics. Here’s how it starts.

OUTSIDE the United States, no economy has fully recovered from the downturn that followed the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-09. The crisis came and went in half a year, but just about every economy continues to have problems generating growth, increasing employment and raising real incomes. As I was writing my article on “The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics” in 2009, I commenced working on an economic textbook, now in its third edition, to explain why modern macroeconomic theory is utterly useless, why no one using these economic models as a guide to policy would ever succeed. And here we are, ten years later, and everything discussed in that earlier article, explained in far more detail in my text, has come to pass.

________________

Just as the causes of this downturn cannot be charted through a Keynesian demand deficiency model, neither can the solution. The world’s economies are not suffering from a lack of demand and the right policy response is not a demand stimulus. Increased public sector spending will only add to the market confusions that already exist.
What is potentially catastrophic would be to try to spend our way to recovery. The recession that will follow will be deep, prolonged and potentially take years to overcome.
—Steven Kates, Quadrant, March 2009

.

Why have the IMF, the OECD, the ILO, the treasuries of every advanced economy, the Treasury in Australia, the business economists around the world, why have they got it so wrong and yet you in your ivory tower at RMIT have got it so right?
—Question to Steven Kates from Senator Doug Cameron, Senate Economic References Committee, September 21, 2009

________________

Why did I get it so right? Because nearly everyone else thinks economies are made to grow through increases in demand, while in reality, as was once universally understood, economies can only be made to grow through improvements in supply-side conditions. Demand has absolutely nothing to do with making an economy grow. Demand of course is crucial to how many units of any particular good or service will sell, but has nothing whatsoever to do with how fast an economy in total will grow, or how many workers will be employed.

Does being right count for anything? Not a bit. Still, you can go back to my original article from ten years ago, The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics, and see how well what I said then stacks up with how things now are.

Let me add that if you are not already a subscriber, you should be. Subscribe here.

How to steal so that those who are robbed actually believe they are being made better off!

Santa-Unicorn

Keynesian economics defined and explained: an economic theory whereby the rich steal from the poor who are made to feel grateful because they are led to believe they are benefitting from the money taken from them and parcelled out by governments to be spent by their friends.

It may create misery, but it is a stable sort of misery in its own way.

Carbon taxes may be a new means of achieving the same end but through a different form of deceit.

The political class is the new aristocracy.

Oxford University Press from out of nowhere quotes Mill’s fourth proposition on capital

This is a tweet sent out by Oxford University Press Economics.

“Demand for commodities is not demand for labour.” – John Stuart Mill

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From Oxford University Press with Mill’s fourth proposition on capital – demand for commodities is not demand for labour – just thrown out for comment. So I commented:

Replying to 

The statement is true, much to the shame of modern economics. I have written an article on just this: “Mill’s Fourth Proposition on Capital: a Paradox Explained”, published in the March 2015 JHET. Ever wonder why no stimulus has ever led to recovery? Mill explained it in 1848.

As I wrote to my friend and colleague who had spotted the OUPE tweet and forwarded it to me:

From out of nowhere, really, that OUP should suddenly bring forward that quote of all quotes from Mill. Wondrous that you even saw it and thank you for sending it along. I have now added my own tweet to the rest. The destructiveness of Keynesian economics ought to be perfectly evident everywhere except that it’s not. Sad and yet funny that virtually no one today can even work out what Mill had meant even though it had been the universal view of every economist right up to the publication date of the General Theory. And I don’t mean that people disagree with Mill. I mean that no one can even explain why Mill and all of his contemporaries thought this was true so just end up befuddled but leave it alone.

Need I add that Leslie Stephen thought that Mill’s Fourth Proposition was “the best test of a sound economist”? Well, of course I don’t need to, but I will, and also add that Stephen was right and it is.

LET ME ALSO ADD THIS: From The Oz today, via David Uren:

“Average household incomes have not improved significantly since the global financial crisis in 2008-09.”

We are talking about a decade in which real incomes have not risen and during which the unemployment rate has hardly budged. I wrote this in 2008 (and published Feb 2009).

What is potentially catastrophic would be to try to spend our way to recovery. The recession that will follow will be deep, prolonged and potentially take years to overcome.

Mill’s fourth proposition is pure macro (or theory of the business cycle if you want to think in classical terms). You cannot generate a recovery from the demand side is how you might say it today. In the 82 years since The General Theory was published there has not been a single instance where this has been shown to be untrue.

The wages of waste

Personally, I care not at all about the headline issue: At $528,000 a year, Turnbull’s pay is highest of any leader in OECD. PDT is not taking any salary at all so the price mechanism doesn’t always reflect relative value in any absolute sense. But this is what interests me:

The figures come as the Reserve Bank warns Australians to expect historically low levels of wage growth for some time yet, setting up a policy showdown with Labor before the next election over efforts to tackle the rising cost of living.

Both are trying to ameliorate the impact of torpid wage growth through offering billions of dollars in income tax cuts.

Workers have been starved of pay rises in real terms, with wage growth stuck at the rising cost of living for the past year. Inflation hit 1.9 per cent in March and private sector wages have barely kept up at the same rate but public sector workers have done better, lifting the rate to 2.1 per cent Australia-wide.

The reality is that both parties are deeply into Keynesian idiocies with some kind of belief that public spending makes an economy grow. I am not all that fussed about the deficit as such, but am very much concerned with the level of public spending which is almost invariably wasted. For every dollar spent, you get less than a dollar’s worth of value, often much less. That is why real wages don’t rise, and until that changes, real wages won’t either.

PDT understands that. Does anyone else?

The difference between Keynesian and classical economics

Just posted on Quora in answer to the question: What is the difference between Keynesian and classical economics? There are 13 other replies which not much more than prove to me that no one without a truly specialist knowledge of classical theory would have the slightest idea what an economist between the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would have understood about anything in relation to the operation of an economy. Their ignorance of what classical economists believed is matched by their ignorance of how an economy actually works. Anyway, this is what I wrote.

The differences between classical and Keynesian economics are so vast that to accept one version of how an economy works means you must reject the other. Classical economic theory is the theory that was developed between let us say 1776 and the 1870s, almost entirely by philosophers and business people who were actually looking at the economy. Modern economic theory has almost entirely been developed within universities by people who have neither a philosophical training nor have ever run a business as their primary mode of earning a living.

Here’s the difference. Classical economic theory begins from the existence of a market economy in which, on one side of the equation, there is a mass of people who would like to buy goods and services, and on the other side there are people who would like to earn their living by producing and selling things to others. The producers continually try to work out what to produce that others will buy, and do it by trying to decide what buyers will pay enough for in total to cover their production costs. These producers hire employees and the combined incomes of producers and wage earners become the purchasing power of the community.

Classical economic theory is thus entirely supply-side driven. And what is particularly interesting about reading the classical literature is that government regulation was an important part of how the economic system worked. The very first Factory Act in Great Britain was introduced in 1802, and there were many others that came after. The notion that classical economics was simply leave everything to the market is 100% wrong. If you look at the greatest economics text of the era, John Stuart Mill’s 1848 Principles of Political Economy, the final 200 pages are devoted to discussing the role of government in ensuring that economic activity was carried out in a morally acceptable way to the benefit of the entire community.

But crucially, classical theory assumes the role of the independent entrepreneur as the linchpin in making an economy work. Try to find a modern economic text that starts from there. Other than my own – Free Market Economics, Third Edition – none of the major mainstream texts starts from the supply side and none – as in zero – feature the role of the entrepreneur.

Keynesian economics assumes economies are driven from the demand side. That is, it is buying goods and services that makes an economy grow and employ, not their production. It is based on the total confusion between the demand for a single product – the greater the demand for shoes the greater the production of shoes will be along with the greater the level of employment for shoemakers. Demand affects individual products; demand in aggregate does not affect the level of output in total. The more that is produced, the higher the level of demand, for the obvious reason that the more that is produced, the more there is that buyers are able to demand. But if you are a Keynesian, you will go on believing that the cause of higher output is higher demand, whereas the reason more can be demanded is that more output is being produced. Public spending may have many benefits, but increasing the level of income and speeding up the rate of economic growth is not one of them. If anything, higher levels of public spending slow things down and lower real incomes below levels that otherwise would have been reached.

Keynesian economics is based on the fallacious belief that buyers will not buy as much as an economy can produce, and therefore demand must be stimulated to ensure everything produced is bought and that everyone who wants to work is employed. A great theory if you are in government and need a justification for taking as much money as you can get away with from income-earning citizens and spending it yourself. But a pernicious theory if you are interested in raising living standards as rapidly as possible.