Inviting Ideas for Disseminating MMT

In the comments section to a recent post, some commentators discussed the issue of finding or producing useful resources for disseminating basic MMT concepts, and also possible tactics or techniques that could be used as teaching aids. I think this is an important topic that deserves its own post. I don’t have the answers, so I thought I would just make some brief observations and then commentators can feel free to add their own suggestions. Maybe, over time, people can take stabs at putting together material and posting it here to get feedback or thrash out various aspects of whatever topic is being addressed.

The comments pertaining to teaching methods were initiated by William Wilson, who wrote:

If one wishes to influence popular opinion today and has lots of wealth to expend in such an effort, one can always try to use the MSM, however, that does not strike me as a prudent path for obvious reasons. On the other hand, if you were to pitch your arguments in a way/using a technique that has the possibility of facilitating conveyance of information to a broader audience, such an effort might prove a winner. In this context, I have left comments at several (5-6) blog sites to indicate that visual techniques (especially, animation, cartoons or comic strips) will be noticed and, if done well, will convince; example comments at Warren Mosler’s site:

There have been only a few indications of agreement; however, these types of effort would require background information, time and talent which neither I nor you may possess. On the other hand, should this be read by someone who knows of a suitable candidate, this could be a useful challenge.

I think William makes a very good point that visual presentations would be beneficial. I don’t personally have skills in that area, but as he indicated in his initial comment, maybe there are others reading this who do, or someone who will come across the comment in the future.

I also want to thank the other commentators who responded to William’s suggestion or discussed problems relating to MMT education, including rvm, LED, Anders and Peter D.

As mentioned at the outset, I will give my own brief thoughts on currently available resources, but then hand it over to anyone else who wants to add links to resources or discuss creative possibilities for conveying information.

From my perspective, the material provided by Bill Mitchell, Warren Mosler, UMKC economists and other academics in their blogs (as opposed to their formal academic output) serves numerous important purposes. There is the task of communicating aspects of their formal research in a way that is comprehendible to other non-professional bloggers and commentators (such as myself), so we can respond to often demanding (for us) questions and criticisms on message forums. The importance of these blogs cannot be overestimated in this respect. They provide a window into the formal literature. The posts they provide can never be too long, from my perspective. I need every bit of them.

Then there is the task of providing accessible material for newcomers who may in some cases have no formal background in economics. Maybe these newcomers became interested in the subject because of the crisis. And there is also the task of providing summarized information for any journalists who may not have previously been exposed to MMT.

I would have thought the requirements of the newcomers would be very different from the requirements of economic journalists, who presumably will have some background in economics, even though not in MMT. While an ultra brief one-pager might be feasible for the journalists, personally I think it would be extremely difficult to explain the basics of MMT to a newcomer in one page, but who knows, I may be underestimating the teaching prowess of MMT advocates.

For the newcomer, I usually recommend longer material, especially Warren Mosler’s Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds and billy blog’s teaching models.

For journalists, I think Bill Mitchell’s short summary (about 1200 words) should be useful:

The fundamental principles of modern monetary economics

There is also this introduction at Pragmatic Capitalism:

Understanding the Modern Monetary System

If a newcomer has read and understood Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds and the billy blog teaching models, I think good follow-up material is provided by the mandatory readings at Warren’s blog and the following series of posts at billy blog:

Deficit Spending 101 – Part 1

Deficit Spending 101 – Part 2

Deficit Spending 101 – Part 3

Will we pay higher taxes?

Will we pay higher interest rates?

Fiscal Sustainability 101 – Part 1

Fiscal Sustainability 101 – Part 2

Fiscal Sustainability 101 – Part 3

Functional finance and modern monetary theory

Stock-flow consistent macro models

I’m sure there are many terrific resources I have left out in this very brief list, for which I apologize. Others will hopefully chime in to fill the gaps.

I’ll hand it over to everybody now. If anyone wants to post links to existing resources or to lists of existing resources on other blogs, that would be great. Through discussion, we may be able to categorize the different readings in a format where it is easy, when looking for a helpful link, to pick it out of an appropriate list. If anyone wants to discuss different methods for disseminating information that would also be great.

Addendum November 2011

Since posting, Randall Wray started his ongoing Modern Money Primer. It has already been linked to in a comment below and also in the list of resources in the side bar of the blog, but I thought it should be mentioned in this post for any newcomers to MMT.

Also, here is a link to Scott Fullwiler’s accessible introduction to monetary operations.

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18 thoughts on “Inviting Ideas for Disseminating MMT

  1. Another good introductory summary of MMT can be found at:
    http://agonist.org/bolo/20100426/modern_monetary_theory_an_overview

    Also, Mike Norman’s website has this animated video explaining quantitative easing (and correcting a previous cartoon that had gotten it all wrong):
    http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com/2010/11/quantitative-easing-revisted.html

    I don’t know who made the video, but perhaps he or she can be enlisted in your mission to disseminate MMT ideas.

  2. Here’s a dialog I did with Grandma (not really) sometime back:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/letsgetitdone/2010/04/21/talking-to-grandma-about-fiscal-sustainability/

    Perhaps this will make a cartoon script, though some thought my dialog was too patronizing to Grandma and wondered if it would have been less so if Gran had been a different gender.

    I agree with William Wilson that cartoons can work to illuminate major MMT issues. I thought the fiscal sustainability Teach-In Counter-Conference produced a lot of good material. The transcripts are here:

    http://www.correntewire.com/mmtfiscal_sustainability_conference

    Videos, audios, presentations, and transcripts are here:

    http://www.netrootsmass.net/fiscal-sustainability-teach-in-and-counter-conference/

    The transcripts record Q & A that could be used for many cartoons on MMT. MMT speakers at the Conference included:

    Bill Mitchell

    Stephanie Kelton

    Warren Mosler

    Marshall Auerback

    Pavlina Tcherneva

    and Randy Wray

  3. Hey Peter

    Great site. Dont know how I didnt find you sooner. Ive been all over this MMT stuff for a couple years now. Not sure how you escaped me…. oh well, glad I found you now.

    Regarding your movie idea, one plot line, that might be informative and get people to consider some MMT ideas, could involve a post secession USA. The new country is now needing to figure out how to run its monetary system. The new country can “use” the dollars they have but they cant have their bank loans denominated in dollars or the govt cant spend in dollars (its now a foreign currency). Illustrating what it means to be sovereign in your currency and not needing to use someone elses might get some lights to go on.

    I did a little parody along these lines at my site a few months ago that explored some of the decisions that would need to be made about a new countries monetary system.

    I also think someone could make an MMT answer to all those creepy you tube Austrian bent cartoons that have been making the rounds in response to QE.

  4. Greg, thanks for the suggestions, and welcome! It is a pretty new blog, and perfectly understandable you weren’t aware of it. Feel free to link to your parody if you want (no worries if you prefer not). Heteconomist likes parody. :-)

    Joe, I am not sure if you are the same Joe as Joe Firestone, but welcome.

    Thanks to everyone who has posted links and suggestions so far. Hopefully, they will accumulate over time and can be organized into a useful resource.

    I thought I would include a couple of links that were posted in the thread where William Wilson made his original suggestion that have not been posted yet in this thread.

    Mike Norman interview on Fox (posted by Senexx):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmdcChYnbLg

    Levy Institute Brief (posted by Peter D):

    http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_111.pdf

  5. Greg: I couldn’t see any errors. As you mention, there is plenty of scope to explore related ideas. Maybe that could be done in separate parodies, to make a series. That way, the length of each one remains a manageable read. I say this because in my first attempt at a “parable” of a monetary economy, it winded up being 8,000 words, which in retrospect is a bit of a turn off for a newcomer.

  6. Thanks for the links. You’ve done a good job with the video. If you do any others, feel free to post the links here. I have read part of the text document as well. It is very accessible and nicely done.

  7. Thanks Peter, it was my first attempt at using flash. Next video should be less powerpointy- actually next video will be done with a video camera. I’ve embarked on a very long term project to disseminate MMT. The plot goes something like this:

    The BIS is decides something must be done about the “rogue” path economics took when Friedman and the monetarists took over in the 1970’s. They see the suffering of the involuntarily unemployed (humanitarian) and the opportunity costs (pragmatic) of long term unemployment. Two very charismatic people (who live comfortable, happy lives in “socialist europe” fly out to the US.

    Since this position is a political appointment, only those who agree with the politicians and the economics mainstream have a chance of being elected. They meet their future fed chief at Burning Man. A unique art and self reliance and expression festival held in the Nevada desert every year. She’s there because she’s researching the gift economy that exists there. Free hugs, free messages, free drinks.. All done on the basis it will be reciprocated.

    They meet and sit down for a game of poker. They don’t immediately tell her who they are. They want her to teach them economics. She teaches the basics neo-classical synthesis, while they play poker while cameras film the game. She’s likable, good humored, really believes in what she is saying. Then they replay the film. What’s unique about poker, is it is a good analogy for the way the economy works. The casino is the central bank. People can gain and loose chips. Use values are a byproduct of the zero sum game between players. Players can win or lose chips to each other, but in the end the number of chips don’t change. A UMKC PhD student gave me the idea http://sparc5.blogspot.com/2010/08/mmt-movie-narriatave.html You can simulate what happens to the number of games if everyone decided to save chips, or how the games can keep on being played if chip losers borrowed from chip winners. Total chip losses among players = total chip gains Since everyone knows poker, it should be an easy concept for everyone to grasp. They fly with her back to the University of Chicago where she holds a teaching position and they continue the education..

    She is useful because she can offer all the typical objections to MMT: Inflation, govt only has what it taxes away from people (inter-temporal budget constraint)/the federal govt is going to be Ireland, central banks control the quantity of money, it’s socialist, interest rates or taxes will eventually have to rise, the bond market is in charge, banks loan reserves. (If someone reading this could make a list of common objections, and great responses it would be great). Everything they correct her on is supported with lots of data, and pleanty of reassurances that the truth is not scary at all, like anything it has the potential for abuse- but to hang on to old gold standard myths is dangerous also.

    Now that she’s convinced, she’s not able to go public with this knowledge or she’ll never be selected. She publishes papers with neoclassical models with Keansian assumptions thrown in so she stays under the radar. She smiles (with clenched teeth) when her colleagues make off the cuff insane remarks about economic policy. She gets nominated by the president, and at the senate confirmation she is asked by one senator how much should the govt reduce it’s spending. She’s a woman with integrity and won’t lie to congress. She explains sectoral balances briefly and ends with the deficit is too small at the moment. They politely thank her, and no one but an old Kucinich votes for her.

    However her speech inspires many economists and regular americans. The seed for change is planted.

  8. hbl: I’m sorry. I must have deleted your comment accidentally while removing spam. Sorry for the inconvenience. I hope you resubmit your comment.

  9. Peter: Okay, nice to know it was accidental :) (Though I find it odd that I see your response to my second comment, but not my comment.) Anyway, here’s the original comment I posted:

    Hi Peter,

    I’m just scanning some of your recent posts for the first time, and your site looks very valuable, thanks… I’ll be back!

    Regarding your question about material… A year ago I set up a tool to help people visualize some of the macroeconomic concepts that MMT brings clarity to, using economy-wide balance sheets:

    http://www.econviz.com/balance-sheet-visualizer.html

    I know it is probably too scary and technical looking for a wide audience, but I’ve hoped it could help the crowd who is already delving into detailed blog posts, and it fits your topic of “visual presentations”. I’m always happy to get additional feedback about current negatives as well as positives, so I can work to improve it.

    Since that’s just a “stock” visualizer it is inherently limited in what it can portray, so at the same time I also started a parallel “flow” visualizer that is intended to be accessible to a wider audience. It’s a bit trickier to implement and my progress has been intermittent, but I’ll post a link if and when I get it to a draft state I’m comfortable sharing.

  10. Excellent, hbl! Thanks for resubmitting the comment. I appreciate it.

    (Though I find it odd that I see your response to my second comment, but not my comment.)

    If you had met me in person, you would know what an idiot I can be. :-)

    Sorry about that. Now that one of your comments has made it through, future ones will be accepted automatically.

  11. Wow Joe Firestone, I just thought the correntewire piece was a repeat of what was at netrootsmass but I shall definitely go on to read the transcripts now (even though I’ve all ready downloaded the audio)!

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