The videos posted below are to talks given last July at a Politics in the Pub session in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia by Victor Quirk and Bill Mitchell of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), University of Newcastle. Both speakers emphasize the capacity of a currency-issuing government to ensure that full employment is maintained at all times. All that is missing right now is the political will.
One way to conceive of money is as an IOU (“I owe you”) that is deemed acceptable by somebody other than its issuer. Anyone can attempt to issue an IOU. The difficulty, as the economist Hyman Minsky emphasized, is in getting it accepted.
In the chartalist view, taxes drive acceptance of state money. Through one channel, taxes induce labor services. The need to obtain state money to pay taxes ensures a willingness of some individuals to accept employment in the public sector in exchange for the state money. There is another channel that exists under a broader range of conditions. It is the power of government to induce supply of real output from private enterprise. Not only does government induce a private supply of real output to itself (a transfer of resources from the private to public sector), but it also induces a supply of real output to private consumers. Unlike the inducement of labor services, the inducement of private-sector output would apply equally to a pure labor economy or a purely mechanized economy, as well as to intermediate cases.
A monetary economy needs spending for production and employment to occur. This is a truism. Spending equals income, by definition. One person’s purchase of a good or service is another person’s income. But it is also clear that causation, ultimately, runs from spending to income. More specifically, the creation of income requires a prior decision to spend. In a monetary economy, to paraphrase Michal Kalecki, each of us in isolation can decide how much to spend but we cannot choose the size of our income. Our personal income will depend not on our own spending but on the spending decisions of others acting somewhat independently of ourselves. Total income, of course, will depend on spending in aggregate – our own spending and the spending of others.
Despite some appearances to the contrary, I remain hopeful that Syriza will hold firm in its resistance to austerity. It may be that the Greek government is positioning itself so that, in the event of exit, it is seen to have been forced off the euro rather than to have willingly opted out. In the event of exit, it could make a significant difference to the response of others (such as the US, the IMF, not to mention the Greek people themselves) that Syriza is seen to have been pushed into a corner, left with no choice, rather than to have been enthusiastic in any break away from the common currency.
Warren Mosler (for example, here) has explained very clearly and succinctly the key steps involved in effectively introducing a currency such as the drachma. (See, also, Bill Mitchell’s recent post, ‘A Greek exit is not rocket science‘.) Fears of exchange-rate catastrophe would be unfounded if these steps were followed.
A notable quote (h/t Tom Hickey at Mike Norman Economics):
Germany’s Mr Gabriel said any debt relief for Greece is out of the question at this stage since it would cause a collapse of discipline across the eurozone, triggering copycat demands from other countries in distress. “It would blow up the euro,” he said.
I am no game theorist, but to me Mr Gabriel’s statement underscores that if Syriza holds firm, Greece will ultimately win one way or the other …
In a previous post, it was explained that enforcement of taxes (or some other financial obligation to the state) is fundamental to the viability of a national currency. Without such an obligation, widespread acceptance of the currency would not be assured. The currency might cease to serve as an effective mechanism for public provision of adequate infrastructure, education, health care, social security and much more.
It seems to me that those, including New Keynesians, who support the maintenance of a “balanced budget over the cycle” are either not recognizing or rejecting a number of points made by heterodox Keynesian (or Kaleckian) critics of such a policy approach, including proponents of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as well as many other Post Keynesian and Sraffian economists.
A modern money system, as that term is applied in Modern Monetary Theory, typically has three key features. Two of these features are always present. The third is optional but normally should be in place for the full benefits of modern money to be enjoyed:
1. The currency is a public monopoly. Government issues the currency and is the only entity allowed to do so.
2. The currency is nonconvertible. It is a fiat currency. The government does not promise to convert its currency into a precious metal or some other commodity at a set price.
3. The exchange rate is allowed to float. The government does not promise to maintain a fixed exchange rate with any foreign currency. Instead, the exchange rate is ‘flexible’ or ‘floating’. As already mentioned, this feature is usually operative, but not always.
Taking these three features together, we can say that modern money normally involves a ‘flexible-exchange-rate nonconvertible currency’, or ‘flex-rate currency’ for short.