Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which claims that a country issuing debt denominated in its own currency can finance a large amount of government spending by issuing debt or printing money without worrying much about a debt crisis or high inflation rates, has grown in popularity on the political left in recent years. But it has failed to gain much support in the economics profession. That is largely due, in my view, to problems with the theory. But the poor defense routinely offered by its more prominent advocates also contributes. James K. Galbraith’s recent article serves to illustrate.
Article by Nicolás Cachanosky originally published at AIER.
“As anyone who has ever been responsible for legislative oversight of central bankers knows,” Galbraith begins, “they do not like to have their authority challenged. Most of all, they will defend their mystique – that magical aura that hovers over their words, shrouding a slushy mix of banality and baloney in a mist of power and jargon.” Their negative reactions to MMT can be dismissed, he implies, as self-serving efforts to maintain control. After all, MMT represents what central bankers fear: a “popular, accessible, and democratic” theory.
No doubt central bankers are put off by challenges from outsiders. But it does not follow that their arguments should be dismissed out of hand. Central bankers do not have superpowers. They are not super-intelligent. Their policies should be open to critical assessment. But the fact that central bankers err does not mean MMT is correct.
Galbraith pays too much attention to central bankers’ behavior and too little to their arguments. A criticism of central banking, as currently practiced, is not a defense of MMT.
Nor need their opposition reflect a disdain for a “popular, accessible, and democratic” theory. It seems at least as likely that they are concerned with the potential downsides of MMT-inspired policies, as suggested by standard economic theory and history.
Much the same could be said about his suggestion that MMT is dismissed because “two leading advocates of MMT are women.” Is it so difficult to offer a substantive defense of MMT that one must first attempt to dismiss the opposition out of hand without ever considering their arguments? Apparently so.
The closest Galbraith comes to offering an actual argument for MMT is a brief remark about the “spring of the year 2020, when in the face of the COVID-19 collapse, the United States disbursed $2.2 trillion in fresh money to the public to enable people to spend more, thereby raising output and employment. The US economy did not have a great year in 2020,” he writes, “but it did not experience runaway inflation.”
He’s right, so far as it goes. The government spent a lot of money in a short period of time and inflation expectations remained below two percent. But that doesn’t tell us much about how such a policy would work in normal times. And the supposed evidence offered in support of MMT is also consistent with the standard view. To the extent that the fear of pandemic and government lockdown orders slowed spending, good old-fashioned monetary theory explains the observed low inflation rate in 2020.
A proper defense of MMT would not cast about for reasons to dismiss standard arguments out of hand; it would not rely on historical outliers; and it would not suggest MMT is the only possible explanation when standard monetary theory can also account for the event.
The rise of MMT on the political left will no doubt continue. It is politically expedient. It provides a justification for spending. Political expediency does not imply theoretical soundness, however. And defenses along the lines offered by Galbraith do little to assuage very real concerns.
COVID-19 lockdowns are taking down an independent news outlet
Nobody said running a media site would be easy. We could use some help keeping this site afloat.
Colleagues have called me the worst fundraiser ever. My skills are squarely rooted on the journalistic side of running a news outlet. Paying the bills has never been my forte, but we’ve survived. We have ads on the site that help, but since the site’s inception this has been a labor of love that otherwise doesn’t bring in the level of revenue necessary to justify it.
When I left a nice, corporate career in 2017, I did so knowing I wouldn’t make nearly as much money. But what we do at NOQ Report to deliver the truth and fight the progressive mainstream media narrative that has plagued this nation is too important for me to sacrifice it for the sake of wealth. We know we’ll never make a ton of money this way, and we’re okay with that.
Things have become harder with the coronavirus lockdowns. Both ad money and donations that have kept us afloat for a while have dropped dramatically. We thought we could weather the storm, but the resurgence of lockdowns that mainstream media and Democrats are pushing has put our prospects in jeopardy. In short, we are now in desperate need of financial assistance.
The best way NOQ Report readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We need approximately $17,300 to stay afloat through March when we hope the economy will be more open, but more would be wonderful and any amount that brings us closer to our goal is greatly appreciated.
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We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
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One Sick Day Proves We Need More Voices in Truthful Media
On October 19, I was sick. It crossed my mind that I had finally gotten the ‘rona, but my wife’s cream of chicken soup and a few extra hours of sleep into mid-afternoon had be back up and running after a sleepless night before.
When I finally stumbled over to my computer in the evening, I was met with a deluge of concern from readers. They asked what had happened as only one article had been posted that day. Generally, we post between 10-20 daily between all of the sites, not included curated and aggregated content. Seeing that we’d only posted my super-early morning article before taking the rest of the day off had readers assuming the worst.
We have a wonderful and talented group of writers who volunteer their time for the sites and their readers. Sharing their amazing perspectives has always been a blessing to us because we cannot afford to hire anyone at this time. But having great writers is meaningless if we don’t have great editors, or at least one additional. My wife helps me read and edit stories from time to time, but I’m a one-man show when it comes to getting the stories posted.
Whenever I highlight our desperate need for donations, I note that we do not receive money from Google ads even though most in conservative media are beholden. I often ambiguously note that the money donated will help us grow. Today, I’m highlighting a specific need. We must get an editor to help take some of the load and to expand on our mission of spreading the truth to the world. One sick day proved that.
The great news is that there is no shortage of people who CAN help. I am emailed variations of resumes every week by people who are much smarter than I am. As much as I’d love to hire some of them, we simply cannot. That takes money and as blessed as we’ve been to receive donations and collect ad money (though not from Google or Facebook), we have still fallen short.
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