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British Labour seems to think that HM Treasury can dominate the elected politicians

Summary:
It is Wednesday in Australia and my usual blog-light day to give me more time to write other things. Although, today (in Europe as I type) I had a long flight from Athens to Paris where I am speaking to the French Senate Commission at a reception this evening. I also had to leave Athens early, so when I reached Paris and found my hotel, I took off to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a 10kms run (laps of the grounds). My trip to Athens was very successful and I will be in a position to talk about that in the weeks to come once some work has been finalised and the plan developed. But today, I want to briefly comment on a story from the Guardian’s Larry Elliot (February 14, 2020) – PM’s Treasury power grab doomed to fail, warn former insiders – which reported that some Labour Party ‘insiders’

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It is Wednesday in Australia and my usual blog-light day to give me more time to write other things. Although, today (in Europe as I type) I had a long flight from Athens to Paris where I am speaking to the French Senate Commission at a reception this evening. I also had to leave Athens early, so when I reached Paris and found my hotel, I took off to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a 10kms run (laps of the grounds). My trip to Athens was very successful and I will be in a position to talk about that in the weeks to come once some work has been finalised and the plan developed. But today, I want to briefly comment on a story from the Guardian’s Larry Elliot (February 14, 2020) – PM’s Treasury power grab doomed to fail, warn former insiders – which reported that some Labour Party ‘insiders’ (aka gutless morons who won’t publicly take responsibility for spreading rumours) had determined that the current government ministers would not be able to win a power struggle against the powerful H.M. Treasury, who would withhold crucial information from the government to maintain their hegemony. What? The inference was that “the Treasury’s independence” – that is, in other, more accurate words, the right of unelected and unaccountable technocrats to impose their right-wing, neoliberal austerity ideology on the democratically-elected government – was a Labour ideal that should be preserved and that those awful Tories were trying to assert democratic control of its public service institutions.

At the same time, ex-Labour Party advisors, who had shoehorned the Party into accepting and propagating the disastrous Fiscal Credibility Rule, were opining (if you can call it that) that “Labour may need to start worrying about the deficit”, as reference to the Tory plan to introduce a stimulus to attenuate the post-Brexit dislocation.

Other so-called progressives, who supported Remain and the FCR chimed in by way of support.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party are running a ‘star chamber’ to purge anyone who dares to criticise, for example, the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the subsequent human rights abuses that that occupation has involved.

You really cannot make this stuff up.

And then we get to the Womens’ Refuge battle within Labour that threatens to consume all reason and those it involves.

I have views on the Womens’ matter but they will have to wait until Thomas Fazi and I publish the sequel to our book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, September 2017) – sometime later in 2020.

I will make some comments on the planned sequel next week.

On the latest update on the ‘Star Chamber’, this article by academic Haim Bresheeth is worth considering – My life’s work as an anti-racist and anti-Zionist activist makes me an antisemite according to Labour.

A few weeks ago, I saw a Tweet from an avowed Marxist, cum Labour Party ‘advisor’ (from afar) that appeared to be preaching the virtues of Thatcher-style austerity.

Here it is:

British Labour seems to think that HM Treasury can dominate the elected politicians

“Fiscal discipline” is now a defining feature of the Labour narrative rather than full employment, equity, public infrastructure, public education, public health and climate action – all of which require fiscal policy to ignore deficits and balance spending with the real capacity of the economy.

Think about Treasury for a moment.

1. It told the British people that there would be an immediate recession if the June 2016 Referendum resulted in a Leave majority.

2. It has repeatedly updated those estimates as each prediction of disaster fails to materialise as part of a biased anti-Brexit – read, anti-Democratic – campaign to maintain the UK in the corporatist, neoliberal cabal that is the EU.

3. We are really back to the 1930s, in a different context where the British Treasury introduced deflationary policies (wage cuts etc) as a response to the collapsing British economy during the early stages of the Great Depression.

The contribution of Keynes (and the economists working with him) was to explain why things deteriorated even further after the H.M. Treasury was set loose on the economy and to show a different path.

Their contribution provided a categorical rejection of the mainstream theory that the Treasury technocrats held as an ideological position rather than any valid representation of reality.

We are back to that sort of issue.

The British Treasury officials in the 1930 had no idea of how the economy operated.

The current crop is no better.

In my view, the British government should sack all the senior Treasury staff and clear the decks of these neoliberal New Keynesian ideologues.

If anyone else in the Treasury decides to withhold data then they should go too.

If there is a shortage of qualified economists in the UK to provide sensible advice then that is just an indictment of the Economics Departments in that country who persist in teaching a fictional world and spend hours “counting angels on tops of pinheads”.

I wrote about the struggle between Keynes and the British Treasury in this blog post – These were not Keynesian stimulus packages (April 15, 2011).

Here is a write up of an interview I did for Radio New Zealand (July 30, 2017) – ‘There’s no such thing as fair austerity’ – where I noted that these economists have been “torturing the minds of our youth with lies and ideology made to look like eternal truths”

To think that Labour would prioritise the technocrats over the democratically-elected politicians shows how far down the neoliberal rabbit hole they have gone.

The depoliticisation of economic policy decisions is a hallmark of the neoliberal era as politicians sought to defray the blame for austerity they wished to inflict on their economies by claiming some external force was involved – whether it be a so-called ‘independent’ central bank, an external multilateral body like the IMF, or some technocrats in Treasury departments.

Solidarity with Athens

In the spirit of my visit to Athens this week (details of the outcomes will emerge in the coming months), I thought some Greek reggae was a good idea.

This is from the Moca Revolutionaries, which is a cooperative of musicians in Greece who describe themselves as the “Jah children in Greece” who play the “the raw street sound of reggae in Greece”.

The particular track is from Exo – Kάποια Mέρα

Amidst the devastation of their country, there is still salvation in these beautiful sounds.

Current calendar

Today I am in Paris for a presentation to the French Treasury.

Upcoming events:

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Presentation to the French Treasury, Closed event. 9:00 to 12:00. Afternoon – press interviews.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Paris, Presentation to French Senate Commission, Palace of Luxembourg – 8:30-10:30.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – London, GIMMS presentation, MMT education – afternoon – Details.
  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Manchester, GIMMS presentation, The Harwood Room in the Barnes Wallis Building, University of Manchester, Details.
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 – MMTed Masterclass Workshop, London, for Details and Tickets. Limited spaces available.
  • Sunday, February 23, 2020 – Amsterdam – private meetings.

I encourage you to support these public events in the UK:

1. February 20, 2020 – I will speaking in London about the recent political events in the UK and how an understanding of MMT is essential to rebuild a progressive political force in Britain. Criminologist Steve Hall will also talk and will focus on the current rise of populism in the West.

The event will be at the Unite the Union (Diskus Theatre) in central London and will run from 13:30 to 17:00.

For – Details.

2. February 21, 2020 – The same show moves to Manchester.

The event will be at the Barnes Wallis Building (The Harwood Room) at the University of Manchester and will run from 13:30 to 16:30.

For – Details.

3. February 22, 2020 – MMTed – with help from – GIMMS – will hold a three-hour MMT Masterclass in London between 14:00 and 17:00.

This is a teaching seminar exclusively and will suit those who want to build their understanding of macroeconomics from an MMT perspective.

For more details – MMT Masterclass, London.

There are still vacancies available.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 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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