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Apparently Brown could but Boris cannot – British progressive journalism at its worst

Summary:
It is Wednesday and my blog post-lite day. A few topics – thugs in Britain. Mindless ‘progressive’ journalism trying to tell readers that while Gordon Brown could use fiscal policy tools (spending and taxation) to advantage to stimulate the British economy, Boris Johnson cannot. Piffle and the lies from the UK Guardian are getting more desperate by the week. And some notes on guns. Then a nice bit of guitar playing. Tomorrow, I will be extending my ideas on the Green New Deal. Thugs try to derail MMT presentation We learned overnight that an event in Brighton tonight, where British Labour MP Chris Williamson will talk about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has been compromised by mindless thugs who have threatened violence to staff at the proposed venue should the event go ahead. The full

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It is Wednesday and my blog post-lite day. A few topics – thugs in Britain. Mindless ‘progressive’ journalism trying to tell readers that while Gordon Brown could use fiscal policy tools (spending and taxation) to advantage to stimulate the British economy, Boris Johnson cannot. Piffle and the lies from the UK Guardian are getting more desperate by the week. And some notes on guns. Then a nice bit of guitar playing. Tomorrow, I will be extending my ideas on the Green New Deal.

Thugs try to derail MMT presentation

We learned overnight that an event in Brighton tonight, where British Labour MP Chris Williamson will talk about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has been compromised by mindless thugs who have threatened violence to staff at the proposed venue should the event go ahead.

The full story is here in the Morning Star (August 6, 2019) – Williamson refuses to bow to thuggery after venue threatened by two men.

One of the tactics fascists deploy is to bully people with threats of violence in order to curb ideas they cannot counter.

The last week on Twitter has seen a continuation of the barrage of anti-Semitic accusations being made.

They seem to keep coming. I wrote about them recently in this blog post – When the Left disgraces itself (July 30, 2019).

But the dirt continues to be aired.

One creep went so far as to Tweet this week:

So apparently MMT is “For the many, not the Jew”.

I have been roped into the fuss because I am appearing at an upcoming – GIMMS Fringe Event – at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton on September 23, 2019.

I will be sharing the stage with Chris Williamson to discuss MMT and the Green New Deal.

Chris is a friend and a dedicated Labour MP who has been courageous in embracing MMT and seeking to advance those ideas within the policy space.

Apparently, for all these diehard defenders of freedom, my association to Chris proves I hold anti-Semitic views, and, in turn, proves that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) comes out of the same dark origins.

It is an absurd proposition and reflects the desperation that people within the Labour Party or sympathetic to it are willing to go to undermine the leadership and purge progressive economic thinking.

The Tweet was grossly disrespectful of my academic work and the work of my MMT academic colleagues.

It was plain wrong because in the body of literature that defines our work you will never find anything that one could remotely infer as being consistent with that statement.

After all, MMT is not a regime (“for the many” or otherwise).

But to try to slur our work with the anti-Semitic tag is disgusting and the person should be ashamed of himself.

As is clear – the hate talk of US Republicans against minorities has spawned gun massacres – the ‘manifesto’ of the El Paso murderer contains sentences that you can trace to various Tweets from Trump and his gang.

Relentless misuse of anti-Semitic accusations to make political points not only degrades the Jewish people but also spawns more extreme behaviour.

We cannot rule out the proposition that these thugs in the UK have been emboldened by this Twitter and social media onslaught against Chris and MMT (dragging me into the fray).

Let me state this clearly – the event that I am involved in on September 23 will go ahead, even if we have to stand on Brighton beach or in a park with a loud hailer.

British debate being derailed by nonsense

It is getting very hard to separate truth from fake in the sort of stuff that the UK Guardian publishes these days. Take the recent offering from its economics writer Phillip Inman (August 3, 2019) – This isn’t 2009: Britain can no longer spend its way out of trouble. I was expecting to read a detailed account of what has changed since 2009 which would render a currency-issuing government unable to stimulate growth through increased net public spending or a private sector from consuming or investing more to boost sales, employment and output.

Inman’s reasoning becomes obvious:

1. Labour is good, Tories bad.

2. Labour was “economically literate”, the Tories are not.

3. The British government is powerless to reduce the negative outcomes from a no-deal Brexit.

But beyond those simplistic assertions there is nothing.

He claims that 2009 there were only:

… a smattering of hardcore Keynesian economists believed that it was right for a country as financially troubled as the UK to spend its way out of trouble.

The Chancellor was not one of them.

He delivered an austerity ‘budget’ (“slashed public investment”) which his “successor, George Osborne … went further, with cuts to public services and lower welfare spending”.

Result: Britain tanked.

The “hardcore Keynesian economists” were right and Gordon Brown knew that:

Infrastructure could be bought cheaply and the money to fund it borrowed at rock-bottom rates of interest. More than that, businesses had entered the financial crisis geared up for neverending strong growth. They had the expertise and people to carry out the work. What better than to keep the wheels of the economy turning and tax receipts pouring in? Austerity be damned.

Conjecture: Does this conclusion still apply?

Inman: No.

Why not?

No answer other than:

The only element that remains the same is the rock-bottom borrowing rates. Otherwise, times have moved on and not for the better – at least not for those who ask why Britain cannot borrow more, even increasing its debt-to-GDP ratio above the current level of 83%.

Apparently:

1. Businesses “haven’t invested much in new plant and machinery.”

2. “there is no evidence that the financial services industry is in as bad a state as it was in 2009. It has the reserves in place to lend to small and medium-sized businesses: sadly, there are no takers.”

Question: if the government spent an additional £1 into the economy, would not that add £1 to incomes (somewhere)?

Answer: clearly.

Question: if the government spent an additional £100, would not that add £100 to incomes (somewhere) and then some more as the multiplier did its work?

Answer: and so on.

Question: if the government introduced a Job Guarantee and offered a socially-inclusive minimum wage job to anyone who wanted a secure, on-going job advancing community development and environmental care, do you think there would be zero takers?

Answer: highly unlikely. It would be flooded with workers currently forced into precarious, casualised, zero-hour contract positions.

The net effect would be that incomes would grow, consumption spending would rise (as well as household debt would fall because saving would rise).

Question: if the government put out tenders for some large infrastructure projects – roads, buildings, public transport, education, hospitals, water, etc, what is the probability that they would receive no suitable tenders from the non-government sector construction firms?

Answer: close to zero probability.

There is simply no doubt that the government can still use its fiscal capacity to stimulate the non-government sector.

Inman provides no concrete argument to the contrary.

Conclusion: ideological beat up in an attempt to claim that the British government is now powerless unless it maintains trade “access to our biggest trading partner, the EU” and confronts deindustrialisation.

Guns

Once again some unfathomable madness from the US.

My simple rule: No guns = no gun-related massacres.

Pretty straightforward.

Some other facts:

1. American civilians own around 46 per cent (393 million) of all the civilian-owned guns in the world (Small Arms Survey, 2018).

2. The next largest ownership is India (71.1 million).

3. Per capita ownership in the US is 120 per 100 persons (2017). Next largest is Yemen (52.8).

4. There are more public gun massacres in the US than anywhere else.

5. US gun regulations are less strict than they were two years ago (Source).

6. “Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries”.

7. “Americans are 51 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than people in the United Kingdom”.

8. In Australia, where guns are tightly controlled and very hard to acquire, 2 persons per million people died from gun-related homicide in 2010. In the US the figure is 36.

9. People with mental illness may pull the trigger (as in Trump-type explanations) but they need a trigger to pull. In Australia, there are mentally ill people but very few gun massacres.

This article in The New Yorker (December 19, 2012) – The Simple Truth About Gun Control – makes some apposite points:

1. “Gun control works on gun violence as surely as antibiotics do on bacterial infections.”

2. “making crime even a little bit harder made it much, much rarer.”

3. “more guns = more homicide …”.

4. “Even within this gun-crazy country, states with strong gun laws have fewer gun murders (and suicides and accidental killings) than states without them.”

5. “Gun control is not a panacea, any more than penicillin was. Some violence will always go on. What gun control is good at is controlling guns. Gun control will eliminate gun massacres in America as surely as antibiotics eliminate bacterial infections.”

6. “those who oppose it have made a moral choice: that they would rather have gun massacres of children continue rather than surrender whatever idea of freedom or pleasure they find wrapped up in owning guns or seeing guns owned—just as the faith healers would rather watch the children die than accept the reality of scientific medicine.”

7. “Those who fight against gun control, actively or passively, with a shrug of helplessness, are dooming more kids to horrible deaths and more parents to unspeakable grief just as surely as are those who fight against pediatric medicine or childhood vaccination.”

Call for financial assistance to make the MMT University project a reality

The – Foundation for Monetary Studies Inc. – aka The MMT Foundation serves as a legal vehicle to raise funds and provide financial resources for educational projects as resources permit and the need arises.

The Foundation is a non-profit corporation registered in the State of Delaware as a Section 501(c)(3) company. I am the President of the company.

Its legal structure allows people can make donations without their identity being revealed publicly.

The first project it will support is – MMTed (aka MMT University) – which will provide formal courses to students in all nations to advance their understanding of Modern Monetary Theory.

At present this is the priority and we need some solid financial commitments to make this project possible and sustainable.

Some sponsors have already offered their generous assistance.

We need significantly more funds to get the operations off the ground.

We cannot make the MMTed project viable without funding support.

If you get something out of my work which I provide for free as a public service, think about, within your means, helping us extend the educational reach.

Please help if you can.

Music I was listening to this morning

This is the song – Shine On You Crazy Diamond – is about – Syd Barrett – one of the co-founders of British group Pink Floyd and central figure in the early success of that band.

He left the band in 1968 due to a mental breakdown. He became reclusive but his genius was there in the first few Pink Floyd albums.

He died in 2006 – relatively young.

This song was written by his band mates to honour him and was released on their 1975 album – Wish You Were Here.

This version was from the live recording – Remember That Night – of concerts held between May 29-31, 2006 at Royal Albert Hall.

David Gilmour, one of my favourite Fender guitar players, had some guests that night including David Bowie, Robert Wyatt and David Crosby and Graham Nash.

The latter appear on this song.

The playing is beautiful and the singing superb.

And, at the end, the switch from barrie to tenor is nifty.

I was playing this album today because I was thinking of Roger Waters, who is one of the public figures giving embattled Labour MP Chris Williamson support against the vexatious allegations being made by anti-Corbyn factions.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Mitchell
Bill Mitchell is a Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

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