The politics of MMT

The politics of MMT

I was prompted to remember some of my recent Macroeconomic reading as someone was asking about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). I read Reclaiming the State last year, and I picked it up again to re-read the section on International Trade. I have not yet finished it, but I remember thinking that while public finance may not be a constraint on the economy, the long term balance of trade may well be, even for a monetary sovereign. Meanwhile this article “Brexit the slippery slope of left sovereigntism from modern monetary  theory to spiked” at https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com explores the political inertia that MMT’s exponents may be riding; much of it is based on an interview with James Meadway, once John McDonnell’s economics adviser which is available, at the link below/overleaf. For Coatsey’s regular readers they will be unsurprised at his pugnacious attacks on Faizi’s endorsement of the Full Brexit and Spiked. Schneider’s musing are interesting in that he emphasises that MMT, like Keynesianism  says nothing about inequality and ownership of the means of production. (The interview also addresses the moderation in Labour’s 2017 Manifesto.) …  …

Ships, Steel & Gas

Ships, Steel & Gas

I have worked as a London (or Thames Valley) white collar worker for all my working life but the GMB is strong in manufacturing and energy. We had several debates of special interest to Shipbuilding, Steel, and Energy, especially the Gas industry and there was also a motion on fracking. For more see below/overleaf.

Ships

The shipbuilding motions refer to public procurement policy and reference concepts echoed in the “Just Transition” movements, about not leaving communities nor workers behind. While looking for a picture to decorate this article, I came across an article, entitled, “Another RN supplier goes under – the closure of Appledore shipyard”, which documents the impact on the community but critiques Babcock’s commercial strategy. In reading the article, it makes clear that Appledore was part of the Aircraft Carrier supply-chain and so their commissioning prolonged the life of the shipyard. GMB Congress also highlighted the failure of the Government to “Buy British” for the latest generation of Fleet auxiliary ships. I have written several articles mirroring arguments about  what I consider to be the mistakes of renewing Trident and the building of the new Fleet Carriers. I think the Union needs to engage in these arguments i.e. what do we need and can they be built in multiple sites. It’s not just about how many hospitals could have been funded; what defence assets are we missing to fund the subs & carriers. The country needs to also address retraining and skills reuse. Labour’s promise of a National Education Service, with free, life-long learning available to all is an important part of keeping the UK’s skills relevant and renewing them. The debate can be found on youtube.

Steel

The fate of what remains of British Steel was also debated, and I reflected on this earlier this month on this blog. A motion had been submitted to Congress over the winter, again calling for a “Buy British First” policy and this was supplemented by an Emergency Motion calling for the Scunthorpe Steel Works to remain open. [Video of the moving, in several ways, speech]

 

Nothing was mentioned about the Government’s handling of tariffs. (A mistake I would have thought).

Gas

The future of the Gas industry was debated via Composite 15.

While in entering the debate, I assumed that I’d have a problem with the GMB position as too often Unions take a no change position, the composite is well argued and highlights certain critical facts, although not others. (Electricity cannot be stored at scale, Gas can, electricity leaks over the grid. Hydrogen is not a fossil fuel.)  The science of innovation with respect to the use of Hydrogen has not been documented either by the GMB branches nor by Friends of the Earth. (I am trying to chase it down; I have written to SGN who had a stand in the exhibition space.) There’s no question that if Momentum and Friends of the Earth get their motion to Labour Conference, the Just Transition Unions will vote it down, unless they compromise on Gas & Nuclear. The GMB motions states that there is scientific consensus that gas heating in the home is part of a transition to a carbon neutral economy.

I think we need a better understanding of the science.

I read a lot about this in order to write this report, and my notes are on my wiki.

Fracking

A motion on Fracking, basically opposing it, in the light of recently discovered facts and regulatory changes was withdrawn at the request of the CEC.

ooOOOoo

The words of the Gas and Fracking motions are posted on my notes are on my wiki. …

British Steel

Our minds have been distracted or mine has anyway, but British Steel became insolvent last week. Of course a huge blame game is started. Have the Chinese been ‘dumping’ steel on the rest of the world? Could the Govt. or the EU have protected it? Did the single market aid rules stop the Govt doing so?

Is China dumping? This article at the Conversation says “Yes”, big time!

This article at fullfact.org, “Is the UK calling for EU duties for Chinese steel?” deals with next three questions. The EU have raised duties but for many years the UK Government has been resisting more; they wished to avoid retaliation and for ideological reasons. There’s probably some “don’t give a shit” there too. It would seem that this is another policy area where New Labour failed to support its natural people.

The calls for renationalisation are now, rightly growing …

Trade & Brexit

Trade & Brexit

A friend posted a link to Larry Elliot’s article, “Ignore the free-trade evangelists. Brexit can create a fairer economy“, suggesting its critique of international trade implied some sunny upland in a post Brexit world. The article is sub titled “Free market economics created a world fit for multinationals. But we need less frictionless trade and more local control”., using a global context argument and yet diminishing the regulatory power which we share with the rest of the EU. The EU have sanctioned Microsoft, Intel, Apple & Google. The EU killed the ACTA & TTIP trade agreements. (Although not CETA, the Canadian version of TTIP). That is local control.

In no post-Brexit world, where we will take years to join the WTO and make new agreements with the 92 countries whose agreements we will have voided, will there be a vibrant British or Sterling economy, Elliot, and his fans are with Prof Minford in permitting if not encouraging the so-called legacy manufacturing industry to off-shore.

We should note that our Balance of Payments has been in deficit for, well forever really but is current running at £100bn p.a. about the same size as the crisis debt/deficit level that the Tories, supported by both the LibDems and rump New Labour used to justify austerity.

The UK will be poorer, and this misery will not be shared evenly and people will get angry. Anyone, with their hand dirty will be blamed. …

Fiscal credibility, ptui!

Yesterday, I went to a meeting on Brexit, Free-movement and immigration; conversation in the bar afterwards segued from, “why did a Corbyn led PLP argue to abstain on the Tories Immigration Act?” via a  post match analysis of Lewisham Deptford’s Brexit/Anti-Brexit meeting to consider the radicalism of Labour’s 2017 Manifesto and the development of macro economic policy since then; it doesn’t do so well when compared with the Corbynomics of 2015. One of the key developments since then has been the development of Labour’s Fiscal Credibility Rule, which promises to only borrow to invest.

To those who think this is smart, I ask why so-called current account spending on education is not seen as “investing” in Human Capital, but this is not it’s main problem.

However, I awoke this morning to see one of Richard Murphy’s tweets where he is contending with Jonathan Portes & Simon Wren Lewis, the rule’s author’s it would seem. It got a little testy. Anyway, here’s Richard, detoxifying, or not the twitter spat, and making the point that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is not based on Modern Monetary Theory. because it acknowledges the monetary constraint, and not the real world one. Murphy refers to his earlier piece, A challenge to Simon Wren-Lewis on modern monetary theory and Labour’s fiscal credibility rule in which he critiques the Fiscal Credibility Rule. My precis of his position is that the rule is based on a neo-classical approach, fundamentally legitimises austerity and fetishises debt reduction. I had a look for the Portes/Wren Lewis original position and assume that “Issues in the design of fiscal policy rules” is it.

My research took me to this, which Bill Mitchell claims to be his last words on the Fiscal Credibility Rule, the article contains the following powerful line,

The problem is that this reinforces the narrative that deficits and public debt are in some way ‘bad’ and as I note below this will not turn out well.

One of the problem’s exposed by Bill Mitchell’s article is that it suggests that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is a bit like Lord Buckethead’s nuclear deterrent policy, it only works if the secret is kept, in this case that Labour does not believe that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is a necessary macro-economic constraint even if the economists that wrote it do so.

ooOOOoo

To some extent, this article is just a reading list, there’s not so much of me in it., but I have promised myself a precis of Chapter 7/8 of Fazi and Mitchell’s Reclaiming the State, which is a relatively simple and short exposition of MMT. …

Positive balance

The BBC are very proud of their contribution to the balance of payments through the licensing of their content. I decided today to see if they do, in fact, contribute once the rights payments to 3rd party companies is taken into account. I have asked the DDCMS but the BBC is subject to FOI questions. I need to think about how I phrase the question, but Heather Brook’s book, should help, if I can find it. …

Another look at free software

I read this, “‘Software is meant to be free …” at Hackernoon and found it disappointingly lightweight. It talks of Stallman, thus the four freedoms and the GNU project and mentions Eric Raymond in passing as the man who coined the phrase Open Source rather than the author of the Cathedral & the Bazaar and Homesteading the Noosphere. He doesn’t mention Stallman’s attack on the concept/phrase of Open Source since he considered it a diminishing of the four freedoms. It’s weak on the evolution of copyleft; it doesn’t mention for instance, Laurence Lessig and the Creative Commons. Clary also fails to mention Torvalds, the man most associated with Linux, the prime example of Open Source Software, although the EU Commission discovered that the largest contributor to the open source code base was Sun Microsystems.

It is particularly weak in its view of how and why the proprietary software behemoths adopted Open Source. They did so primarily in areas where they were weak in market share and profitability and where their competitors were the inverse. IBM’s massive investment in Linux, much of it through its OEM agreement with Red Hat was designed to kill Sun MIcrosystem’s Solaris; it is arguable that they succeeded, although both I and Eric Raymond think it’s more complex than that, as provoked by him, I argue here.

Our understanding of the economics and sociology has moved on since then. Anne Barron in her 2013 paper, Free Software Production as Critical Social Practice which I should really re-read looks at both and earlier in the previous decade Simon Phipps articulated new sources of value and new contexts for open source software, both how free software created scarce markets, and that open source governance models equally created and constrained the value of its free product. I was lucky to be able to present his theories once or twice and I reported on one such presentation on this blog 10 years ago.

These papers and theories are somewhat aged certainly when one considers the speed of technology development but its possible that even older theories such as Marx’s Fragment on the Machine and more recent developments in conceiving of immaterial labour, and the enigma of software’s role in the means of production are all part of the questions that need to be answered to understand the economic role and governance of software.

It’s not that software wants to be free … it’s just looking like no matter what theories of price you adhere to, free is the right price.

ooOOOoo

See also Free, the right price for software and maybe Monopoly and prices, both by me on this blog, written in 2009 exploring the micro/meso-economic classical welfare theories as to why software should be free. …

Brexit and Labour’s 2017 Manifesto II

In my article “Brexit and Labour’s 2017 manifesto“, and on my wiki article, “Stability & Growth Pact”, I talk about the reasons supporters of Labour’s 2017 manifesto might believe that they need to leave the EU to run fiscal deficits, nationalise critical businesses and offer state aid. I had come to the conclusion that our current terms of membership allowed the UK to pursue whatever macro-economic policies it chose and to be able to pursue its nationalisations. There would seem to be some questions on state aid and some people have raised the issue of the Railway Directive and its possible impact on the single market and nationalisation. A campaigning comrade of mine, from Southampton Itchen CLP has researched these issues and produced the following report, overleaf,  which he also published on Facebook wall.

He concludes, the notion that all EU activity is driven solely by Neo-Liberal ideology is in my opinion a mistaken assumption. In many instances there are additional rationales underpinning the EU rules that go beyond mere market obsession. The EU has pressed for more open networks in telecoms and energy but open access across national energy networks is critical for renewable energy production being made viable on a grand scale. Whereas in the water sector, where it is not feasible to create overlaying pan-European services, the EU has never shown any interest in legislating for open networks.

I would not go so far as to suggest the EU does not have an over optimistic view of the market system or tend to assumptions about private sector performance vs public sector that are not sustained by the economic models relied upon and it is possible to have a good discussion about Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage.

On the other hand, free market supremacy is a pretty widespread assumption in the modern western world. The victory of the Neo-Liberal ideology has been to shift public perceptions to accept the ‘private good, pubic bad’ mantra as a gospel truth. That human beings in the EU broadly accept the same mantra is not really a surprise. The challenge to us as socialists is not just to reshape the UK economy to provide for greater equality and justice but to begin to reshape the underlying assumptions about human and market behaviour that underpin much of the capitalist economic system. …

Maths, Economics and Mark Blaug

I just read Modern Economics is Sick, on the Real World Economics Blog which uses a quote from Mark Blaug to substantiate its thesis,

“Mainstream economics has become increasingly irrelevant to the understanding of the real world. The main reason for this irrelevance is the failure of economists to match their deductive-axiomatic methods with their subject.”

Mark Blaug (1927-2011) did more than any other single person to establish the philosophy and methodology of economics a respected subfield within economics. His path-breaking The methodology of economics (1980) is still a landmark (and the first textbook on economic methodology yours truly ever read)

One day, I’ll have look at it. …

On protecting air quality

On protecting air quality

Do Lewisham Council have a view based on science about the impact of green space, or the change in the amount of green space on air quality. ( I am advised that the quality of the planting may/will also impact this calculation, as of course would distance from the green space.)

It would seem useful to knowand I can’t find anything useful that goes beyond sq. m. …