Message for Lisa

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 7:00pm in

“The lesson from the last election… is that people are smarter than we think.” according to Lisa Nandy. I cannot unfortunately embed the actual snippet from the Newsnight programme – but Lisa Nandy says that Labour made promises in their latest manifesto, that they simply couldn’t keep – which is, I’m afraid.. completely untrue… Still,... Read more

Authoritarian Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 7:00pm in

CoronaVirus could possibly, spell the end for some Eurozone banks as by pushing the Eurozone ito recession it could make their lives very difficult. It is certainly true that the German economy particularly, export orientated as it is, has suffered since the Chinese downturn and CoronaVirus cannot be helpful. I would not be surprised if... Read more

Where Does Profit Come from in the Payments Industry?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 2:25am in

“Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.”

Arthur Miller

The recent development in the payments industry, namely the rise of Fintech companies, has created an opportunity to revisit the economics of payment system and the puzzling nature of profit in this industry. Major banks, credit card companies, and financial institutions have long controlled payments, but their dominance looks increasingly shaky. The latest merger amongst Tech companies, for instance, came in the first week of February 2020, when Worldline agreed to buy Ingenico for $7.8bn, forming the largest European payments company in a sector dominated by US-based giants. While these events are shaping the future of money and the payment system, we still do not have a full understanding of a puzzle at the center of the payment system. The issue is that the source of profit is very limited in the payment system as the spread that the providers charge is literally equal to zero. This fixed price, called par, is the price of converting bank deposits to currency. The continuity of the payment system, nevertheless, fully depends on the ability of these firms to keep this parity condition. Demystifying this paradox is key to understanding the future of the payments system that is ruled by non-banks. The issue is that unlike banks, who earn profit by supplying liquidity and the payment system together, non-banks’ profitability from facilitating payments mostly depends on their size and market power. In other words, non-bank institutions can relish higher profits only if they can process lots of payments. The idea is that consolidations increase profitability by reducing high fixed costs- the required technology investments- and freeing-up financial resources. These funds can then be reinvested in better technology to extend their advantage over smaller rivals. This strategy might be unsustainable when the economy is slowing down and there are fewer transactions. In these circumstances, keeping the par fixed becomes an art rather than a technicality. Banks have been successful in providing payment systems during the financial crisis since they offer other profitable financial services that keep them in business. In addition, they explicitly receive central banks’ liquidity backstop.

Traditionally, the banking system provides payment services by being
prepared to trade currency for deposits and vice versa, at a fixed price par.
However, when we try to understand the economics of banks’ function as
providers of payment systems, we quickly face a puzzle. The question is how
banks manage to make markets in currency and deposits at a fixed price and a
zero spread. In other words, what incentivizes banks to provide this crucial
service. Typically, what enables the banks to offer payment systems, despite
its negligible earnings, is their complementary and profitable role of being
dealers in liquidity. Banks are in additional business, the business of bearing
liquidity risk by issuing demand liabilities and investing the funds at term,
and this business is highly profitable. They cannot change the price of
deposits in terms of currency. Still, they can expand and contract the number
of deposits because deposits are their own liability, and they can expand and
contract the quantity of currency because of their access to the discount
window at the Fed. 

This two-tier monetary system, with the central bank serving as the banker to commercial banks, is the essence of the account-based payment system and creates flexibility for the banks. This flexibility enables banks to provide payment systems despite the fact the price is fixed, and their profit from this function is negligible. It also differentiates banks, who are dealers in the money market, from other kinds of dealers such as security dealers. Security dealers’ ability to establish very long positions in securities and cash is limited due to their restricted access to funding liquidity. The profit that these dealers earn comes from setting an asking price that is higher than the bid price. This profit is called inside spread. Banks, on the other hand, make an inside spread that is equal to zero when providing payment since currency and deposits trade at par. However, they are not constrained by the number of deposits or currency they can create. In other words, although they have less flexibility in price, they have more flexibility in quantity. This flexibility comes from banks’ direct access to the central banks’ liquidity facilities. Their exclusive access to the central banks’ liquidity facilities also ensures the finality of payments, where payment is deemed to be final and irrevocable so that individuals and businesses can make payments in full confidence.

The Fintech revolution that is changing the payment ecosystem is making it evident that the next generation payment methods are to bypass banks and credit cards. The most recent trend in the payment system that is generating a change in the market structure is the mergers and acquisitions of the non-bank companies with strengths in different parts of the payments value chain. Despite these developments, we still do not have a clear picture of how these non-banks tech companies who are shaping the future of money can deal with a mystery at the heart of the monetary system; The issue that the source of profit is very limited in the payment system as the spread that the providers charge is literally equal to zero. The continuity of the payment system, on the other hand, fully depends on the ability of these firms to keep this parity condition. This paradox reflects the hybrid nature of the payment system that is masked by a fixed price called par. This hybridity is between account-based money (bank deposits) and currency (central bank reserve). 

Elham Saeidinezhad is lecturer in Economics at UCLA. Before joining the Economics Department at UCLA, she was a research economist in International Finance and Macroeconomics research group at Milken Institute, Santa Monica, where she investigated the post-crisis structural changes in the capital market as a result of macroprudential regulations. Before that, she was a postdoctoral fellow at INET, working closely with Prof. Perry Mehrling and studying his “Money View”.  Elham obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield, UK, in empirical Macroeconomics in 2013. You may contact Elham via the Young Scholars Directory

The post Where Does Profit Come from in the Payments Industry? appeared first on Economic Questions .

Stash, February 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/02/2020 - 7:30pm in



Last year we booked tradies to begin the final stages of renovating our old wooden house. Nothing too major, a few repairs and a lick of paint. So, naïve...

The scaffolders arrived on Monday as planned and wrapped our little house in iron bars. Our builders found major repairs in addition to our minor ones. Then the six months of bone dry weather ended with some serious rain. Australians do not work when it rains.

In addition to these final (and possibly lengthy) abortive house renovations (scaffolders; builders; roofers; painters and tree loppers) plus our new jobs we have begun the process of buying a house in Broken Hill. Everything happens at once doesn't it?

In my Stash! post last month I was inspired (amongst others) by Pat the Shuffler and Aussie Firebug to start posting my own financial situation. My financial plans up until recently have been vague at best. After all life is for living not for tabulating into spreadsheets. However, there comes a stage in everyones life when it pays to pay attention.

It is time for my monthly summary of my underwhelming finances. I am still working out my preferred way to present this information. The aim is to motivate myself to pay off my debts, save my wages and put something away for when I'm old and buggered. Pretty basic really.

Net Earnings

  • $3,830 (January)
  • $27,396 YTD


  • $117,283

Cash in the bank

  • $86,000

Owed on Mortgage (Rate: 3.38%)

  • $246,768


Last month I was being a negative nancy. Our little house would probably fetch more than the $500k I suggested.

  • $600,000


I keep meaning to change my allocation but for now I have made no changes since last month. This is what they are currently worth.

  • $53,263


We have not saved much this month. We had to buy expensive tickets to fly out to Broken Hill to find a house. I will also be going to Sydney with MJD. We have redrawn our mortgage in preparation for paying a house deposit and paying for our renovations.

Last months final snapshot was probably a bit wrong so here is my current interpretation of the situation. In Australia we are not allowed to touch our Superannuation until retirement so I am not including it. I am also not including the value of our home as I will always need a home therefore it is not an asset. I am including the debt though because that needs to go. I have also stopped dividing all the numbers by two, my partner and I are in this together.

February Networth is negative $107,505

Next month we will hopefully succeed in getting finance for a second mortgage for the Broken Hill house. My Mum and JB will be visiting from the UK and I will be taking time off work and have some fun planned with them. In terms of FI/RE I am definitely going backwards but this is LI/FE.

Edited for clarity 11/02/2019

The mentally disordered are actually our government – not their servants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/02/2020 - 7:00pm in

Having just finished ‘The Secret Barrister’, Stories of the Law and How it is Broken’ there is similarly interesting, and frightening, paper on the Mental Health of the Police entitled, on matching lines to the Secret Barrister, ‘Where’s the humanity?’ I quote some considerable and cogent prose below: So why is mental health within police... Read more

Is Transiting to SOFR Affecting Firms’ Survival and Liquidity Constraints?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/01/2020 - 3:09am in



“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Margaret J. Wheatley

In 2017, after a manipulation scandal, the former FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey called for replacing LIBOR and had made clear that the publication of LIBOR is not guaranteed beyond 2021. A new rate created by the Fed—known as the secured overnight financing rate, or SOFR- seems to pull ahead in the race to replace LIBOR. However, finding a substitute has been a very challenging task for banks, regulators, and investors. The primary worries about the transition away from the LIBOR have been whether the replacement is going to reflect the risks from short-term lending and will be supported by a liquid market that behaves predictably. Most of these concerns are rooted in the future. However, a less examined yet more immediate result of this structural change might be the current instabilities in the market for short-term borrowing. In other words, this transition to SOFR creates daily fluctuations in market prices for derivatives such as futures that are mark-to-market and in the process affects firms’ funding and liquidity requirements. This side effect might be one of the underlying causes of a challenge that the Fed is currently facing, which is understanding the turbulences in the repo market. 

shift to the post-Libor financial market has important implications for the
prices of the futures contracts and firms’ liquidity constraints. Futures are
derivatives that take or hedge a position on the general level of interest
rates. They are also “Mark-to-Market,” which
means that, whenever the futures prices change, daily payments must
be made
.  The collateral underlying
the futures contract, as well as the futures contract itself, are both marked
to market every day and requires daily cash payments. LIBOR, or London
Interbank Offer Rate, is used as a reference for setting the interest rate on
approximately $200 trillion of financial contracts ranging from home mortgages
to corporate loans. However, about $190 trillion of the $200 trillion in
financial deals linked to LIBOR are in the futures market.  As
a result, during this transition period, the price of these contracts
swings daily,
as the market perceives what the future value of alternative
rate to be.  In process, these fluctuations in prices generate cash flows
that affect liquidity and funding positions of a variety of firms that use
futures contracts, including hedge funds that use them to speculate on Federal
Reserve policy changes and banks that use them to protect themselves against
interest-rate hikes when they lend money.

To sum up, the shift from LIBOR to SOFR not only is changing market structure but also generating cash flow consequences that are putting extra pressure on money market rates.  While banks and exchanges are expanding a market for secondary financial products tied to the SOFR, they are using futures to hedge investors from losing money or protecting borrowers from an unexpectedly rise on their payments. In doing so, they make futures prices swing. These fluctuations in prices generate cash flows that affect liquidity positions of firms that invest in futures contracts. Money markets, such as the repo, secure the short-term funding that is required by these firms to meet their cash flow commitments. In the process of easing worries, banks are consistently changing the market price of the futures, generating new payment requirements, and putting pressure on short-term funding market. To evaluate the effects of this transition better, we might have to switch our framework from the traditional “Finance View” to “Money View.” The reason is that the former view emphasizes the role of future cash flows on current asset prices while the latter framework studies the impact of today’s cash flow requirements on the firm’s survival constraints.

Elham Saeidinezhad is lecturer in Economics at UCLA. Before joining the Economics Department at UCLA, she was a research economist in International Finance and Macroeconomics research group at Milken Institute, Santa Monica, where she investigated the post-crisis structural changes in the capital market as a result of macroprudential regulations. Before that, she was a postdoctoral fellow at INET, working closely with Prof. Perry Mehrling and studying his “Money View”.  Elham obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield, UK, in empirical Macroeconomics in 2013. You may contact Elham via the Young Scholars Directory

The post Is Transiting to SOFR Affecting Firms’ Survival and Liquidity Constraints? appeared first on Economic Questions .

Going for Broke

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/01/2020 - 12:44pm in


money, work

We have both secured jobs in Broken Hill and have made the decision to make the move. We are jumping in with both feet, albeit with a lifeline back here in Coffs. We are renting our house out and buying one in Broken Hill. I hope to keep our mortgage below $500k which we should be able to manage with the rental income and our two wages. Down the track I would prefer to only own one house. I don't trust the Australian housing market. I am pretty sure the rest of the family would disagree.

Looking through the real estate websites for houses has been... interesting. Most search results seem to have about 5+ car parking spaces and a variety of powerful air conditioning systems. The yards' around the properties are either dusty barren wastes or sealed with tile, concrete or astro-turf. This all says a lot about Broken Hill. No water, hot as Hades and a long drive to the next town. I am really going to miss the beach.

We have a short-list and are flying out there next week to harass the real-estate agents. This time next week, if we are lucky, we'll have found a house and be desparately trying to hurry approval for finance through.

Super Stupid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 11:13am in



I just read a New York Times aricle about Leon Black and his company, Apollo. A nasty outfit by the sounds of it. The article states that some of Apollos best customers are pension funds. In 2016 Apollo used the pension funds to slash health and retirement benefits for the very same workers who had paid into the fund. Imagine finding out that you had spent your working life saving up to fund the demise of your working life. The workers went on strike for over three months through a New York winter but lost to Apollo. That is just one of the many horrible things this maleficient company profits from. It is apalling how our investment decisions can betray us.

First State Super (FSS) who manage my pension fund are no different. I was invested in private equity as well as 'other alternatives', whatever that is. Luckily for me FSS allows me to switch investments with no charge. I switched it to plain old Australian and International equities 50/50. According to a letter sent to Pat the Shuffler FSS outsources the management of these to Vanguard. This gives me a little peace of mind that I won't be directly funding a dodgy firm ripping the heart out of healthcare (my industry). If there was a way I could also not encourage private heathcare I'd be even happier.

I feel better that I have wrested some control over my Superannuation but I am still frustrated by the ridiculous fees I get charged. This is an Australia-wide problem with the Superannuation industry. Of course I expect some fees but the amount seems disproportionate. If my broker can survive charging me $10-20 a trade why does FSS charge me ten times as much for what is essentially the same thing.

In his book and his forum The Barefoot Investor recommends the HostPlus Indexed Fund for it's low fees and more recently highlighted REST for having no fees. Pat the Shuffler wrote three posts about his own search for a decent Australian Super fund from a similar perspective to me. It is of course about more than the fees and Pat ended up choosing the same fund as me despite them.

I suppose we are making the best of a bad lot and we must remember, to paraphrase Dory, 'Just keep saving'...

There is talk of Vanguard starting a low cost and hopefully more transparent superannuation fund. If so, I expect I'll return to this topic soon (I can almost hear my Mum muttering, 'Oh, how ghastly').

The Monetary Monopoly Model

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 1:00am in


MMT, money

What I refer to as the Monetary Monopoly Model is the simplest possible mathematical model that captures basic concepts from Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Despite its simplicity, it gives a good feeling of how a sovereign could pin down the value of a brand new currency (relative to existing currencies, or the value of real goods or services). However, the model makes almost no assumptions about private sector behaviour, and such assumptions would be needed to simulate an existing industrial capitalist society. The reason to start with this model is that the discussion of those behavioural assumptions will drown out the MMT-specific parts of the model.

The model is based on the model presented by Pavlina R. Tcherneva, in "Monopoly Money: The State as a Price Setter."* Tcherneva's discussion follows earlier texts on the imposition of money in European colonies, by other authors; I chose this article solely because it had a convenient mathematical exposition within the article. Readers that are interested in the academic precedents for these concepts are invited to consult the citations in Tcherneva's article. The model presented here uses my preferred notation, but cannot be considered to be an original model.
Model Structure MathJax.Hub.Config({tex2jax: {inlineMath: [['$','$'], ['\\(','\\)']]}});
For readers who are allergic to equations, feel free to jump ahead to the sub-section "Interpretation in a Fictional Country." An intuitive example of how this model works is given therein.

The model determines relationships between discrete-time time series, that is, time series that are defined for time points 0, 1, 2, N. (We can allow an infinite time horizon, but that makes the discussion of what set the series lies in more awkward. For a time horizon $N$, a time series is a vector in ${\mathbb R}^N$.) We denote a time series as $x$, while its value at a particular time $t$ is $x(t)$. (This follows the convention of systems theory, which is preferable to using subscripts to denote the time indexing, as we use subscripts to distinguish variables.)

The models refers to a central government, and another sector that encapsulates all other economic entities. For ease of presentation, the central government will be referred to as the government, and the non-central government sector as the private sector. If we extend this to the real world, this is somewhat awkward, as sub-sovereigns or foreign governments are lumped in with the "private sector." If one is building a model with such entities, one would presumable need to use the rather clumsy name of "non-central government sector."

We assume that the government issues a brand new currency at time point 0. All prices are to be expressed in terms of this currency unit. We denote the private sector holdings at the beginning of time $t$ as $M(t)$. Since the currency is created at time 0, we know that $M(0) = 0.$. Furthermore, the government will not lend to the private sector, and so $M(t) \geq 0$ for all $t$.

The government imposes taxes that are fixed nominal amounts, with a total tax bill $T$ on the private sector. Since there are no transfer payments, $T(t) \geq 0.$

Finally, the government wishes to procure a commodity or service (e.g., labour hours). We will refer to this as a good, denoted $g$. It fixes the price it will pay for this good $P_g(t)$ (we assume that $P_g(t) > 0$), and it will have a quantity $Q_g(t)$ offered to it by the private sector, where $Q_g(t) \geq 0$.

The accounting identity for the money supply is:
M(t+1) = M(t) + P_g(t)Q_g(t) - T(t).
Model SolutionThe solution of the model is straightforward.

At $t=0$, the accounting identity is:
M(1) = P_g(0)Q_g(0) - T(0).
Since $M(1) \geq 0$,
Q_g(0) \geq \frac{T(0)}{P_g(0)}.
We see that the government can guarantee a minimum quantity supplied at $t=0$ by the appropriate choice of price paid and the fixed tax. More can be supplied, as other entities may wish to hold a strictly positive money balance at the beginning of time period 1. (And as noted by Tcherneva, the quantity supplied is likely quantised -- an integer value -- and so other entities may need to supply extra goods to the government in order for the end-of-period money balance to be non-negative.)

In later periods, the outcome is slightly more complicated.

If we assume that the quantity supplied is strictly positive,
P_g(t) Q_g(t) = T(t) + M(t+1) - M(t),
Q_g(t) = \frac{T(t) + M(t+1) - M(t)}{P_g(t)}.
Without any behavioural assumptions, there are no obvious implications we can draw about the properties of $Q_g$. We would need a model of the business cycle to advance further.

There is one special case of note. If the quantity supplied is to be zero, we see that:
M(t+1) = M(t) - T(t).
In order for $M(t+1)$ to be non-negative, supplying goods is only possible if the existing money stock is greater than the single period tax bill. So long as the tax bill has a lower bound, the private sector can only supply zero goods for a finite time period (until the money stock is fully run down).

The reason why this case is of interest is that if the private sector is not supplying any of the good to the government, the requisition price of that good has no effect on anything. Under typical behavioural assumptions, the requisition price could be set to any value that is below some threshold that triggers non-zero supply, and the solution of a broader model is unchanged. As will be discussed elsewhere, the idea is that the requisition price is used as a control variable to drive the price level, but if the quantity supplied is zero, it loses its effect on the private sector economy.
Interpretation in a Fictional CountryImagine a government is set up in a country where there is a pre-existing society, possibly with its own currency (from a failed government, or a foreign currency, or a commodity currency).  It wants to create its own sovereign (new) currency. Colonial regimes fit this description (more or less), and they used brutal methods to impose new currency regimes.

Let us assume that the governing elites are concentrated in one area, but have the capacity to enforce taxes. (The infrastructure needed to impose taxes is not explicitly modeled; if necessary, one could imagine troops and police are being provided by the colonial master country.) In addition to creating a currency, it wishes to requisition labour hours from the populace to prepare fancy feasts for the elite.

 It can kick-start the currency by doing the following.

  • Impose a household head tax of $20/week.
  • Pay $\$$10/hour for labour (preparing meals).

(Note that "$" refers to the brand-new currency.)
Under the assumption that the government can make the head tax stick (which is standard in these models), and the populace starts out with $0 in money holdings, there has to be at least 2 hours of service provided per household in the first week. More could be supplied, but that means that the households would have extra dollars lying around for the next week. Labour supplied could be lower if those excess dollars are used to pay the tax. However, this is only temporary, as the taxes will be eliminating the dollar holdings.
The model is only discussing the transactions undertaken by the government. It does not attempt to say what is happening among the households -- we need more information to see what happens. 
For example, the populace could take the demand as being similar to feudal arrangements, and everyone shows up for two hours per week to discharge their obligations.
However, if there was an existing monetary economy, the new currency (dollars) could be traded versus the existing goods and services and money. We could easily see specialisation, where one household shows up to do 20 hours work, gaining $\$$200. That household will pay $\$$20 in taxes, and will trade the remaining $\$$180 to other households in exchange for goods and services produced by the private sector. The households that provided those goods and services uses the dollars to discharge their tax obligation (without providing labour themselves to the government).
If we assumed that households acted like their counterparts in classical models, the $20 should have a market value equal to the market value of working for two hours for the government. If we assumed that wages for all jobs are equal (an obviously incorrect simplifying assumption), the government wage would have an exchange value to the existing private sector currency that is pinned down by wage arbitrage. (Since that assumption is too strong, we need some kind of trade-off function between the requisitioned labour position and other types of labour.)
In summary, the real value of labour helps generate a relationship between the requisition price (which is an arbitrary price administered by the government) and the price level of the whole economy.
Initial ImplicationsThe model given is a toy model, but it has many implications for the discussion of MMT. One extremely common complaint about MMT coming from economists from other backgrounds is that "MMT has no mathematical models." In my view, that is a misunderstanding; proponents of MMT are part of the post-Keynesian tradition, which is very cynical about the usefulness of mathematical models. Complaining that MMT does not approach economics in the same way as neoclassical economics (e.g., referring to so-called canonical models) is eyebrow raising, when one considers that post-Keynesians have been arguing for decades that the neo-classicals have been doing practically everything incorrectly. If a group is operating incorrectly, one should expect other groups to act differently.

Neo-classicals quite reasonably argue that those complaints are somewhat tedious and/or behind the times, but at the same time, if one is bored with post-Keynesian complaints about neo-classical economics, one presumably should be aware that the post-Keynesians question the mathematical frameworks used, so one should expect a different mode of exposition. (Somehow, some people seem to be bored by arguments that they have not even looked at.)

However, if I want to translate the situation into terms that are more familiar, this monetary monopoly model is a toy model that captures key aspects of what proponents of MMT are discussing. More complex models are needed to discuss the business cycle in an industrial capitalist society, but those models should have some theoretical similarities to this toy model.

I will need to jump to discussing more complex models to flesh out the previous statements. But we can start off with a few observations.

  • A key point to this model is that the central government is acting like a monopolist. I believe it is a standard story in undergraduate textbooks (none of which I own, so no citations for this assertion) that a monopolist can either set the price, or the quantity. (It can set quantity by auctioning off goods.) What is distinctive about this model is that the government is setting a price, not the quantity.
  • As noted in the interpretation, the government is setting the price of one good that it is requisitioning. If we want a model that offers a plausible story about the determination of the price level in an industrial economy, we need other goods, and then have a means of pinning down a relationship between that good and other traded commodities (including labour costs). The requisition price cannot be completely decoupled from other prices, other than in the case where the quantity supplied is zero.
  • The fact that taxes are fixed ("lump sum") is a key factor for price level determination in the first period. However, fixed taxes are generally rare in the developed countries. (For example, property taxes are relatively fixed, but are collected by sub-sovereigns in Canada and the United States.) For a central government, taxes are better described as being as a percentage of nominal activity variables (incomes, or sales). Given the observed stickiness of prices in the real world, we can sort-of pretend that fixed taxes can be used to simulate them. However, taxes as a percentage of nominal incomes helps eliminate risks of large jumps in the price level, since the tax burden would explode.
  • The clear-cut determination of the (lower bound of the) value of the currency within this model is in stark contrast to the difficulty of determining the value of an unbacked private sector currency, such as the Bitcoin crypto-currency. The high price volatility of Bitcoin (when expressed in either units of hard fiat currencies, or commodity units) reflects the lack of a real-world price anchor. (Some crypto-currencies -- the "stable coins" -- are essentially unregulated securities with a peg arrangement, and can be priced as such.)
  • Real-world governmental requisition appears to be closer to price-taking than price-setting. In other words, one can model this by having the government set the quantity of goods to requisition, and let the price float. The difference between price taking and price setting is a big topic of discussion, that will be deferred. For now, I will firstly note that there is still considerable stickiness in the prices paid by government. Secondly, the decision to be a price taker was an ideological decision. That is, believing that the government ought to be a price taker is a normative statement, and the side effects of that decision need to be analysed. However, a Job Guarantee provides a case where the government is undoubtedly a price setter. As such, a proper analysis of the Job Guarantee means that there has to be some similarities to this model. A a result, the easiest complex models to implement that are true to the monetary monopoly model template are those that include a Job Guarantee.

Concluding RemarksMost people are interested in models of industrial capitalism, and not how to pin down the value of a brand-new currency unit. We need to bolt on equations describing the private sector to this model in order to accomplish this.

Given the difficulty of anyone to build legitimate forecasting mathematical models that capture all structural relationships within the economy, we should expect that attempts to model private sector behaviour will have flaws. The discussion of those flaws will derail any attempt to evaluate the usefulness of Modern Monetary Theory, which is why I do not recommend running straight to those models.

Link to the next article in this sequence: MMT and policy variables.AppendixAlthough my fictional example is a nod to historical colonial events described in the MMT literature, it is obviously my hypothetical fable that literally implements the mathematical model. I will add more references to the literature, as well as the textual MMT documents that discuss the concept of a monetary monopoly to give more bibliographic information for readers so inclined. I have a few references to work with (and could dig some out of the Tcherneva article), but I would be very happy if readers pointed out what they view as the most important articles in the literature in this area (either via comments here on Twitter).

My belief is that most of my readers will only want a paragraph or two on the historical developments, and I only need to point them to the literature if they are so inclined to pursue that angle. My objective is to keep the primer short (although it might have reprinted blog articles documenting my comments on the "online MMT wars" as a second part to the book, which can be skipped), and so I am focusing on what a more advanced reader would want to know about MMT, along with bibliographic information.


* Oeconomicus, Volume V, Winter 2002

(c) Brian Romanchuk 2020

10 Fundamental Fixes for Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 12:53pm in


GDP, MMT, money

Notes to myself for a discussion of the book Economy, Society, Nature at the Sustainable Prosperity Conference, Adelaide, 10-12 Jan 2020.


• Identify the system as a far-from-equilibrium self-organising system – wild horses versus the neoclassical rocking horse. Markets must be managed, through their incentives.

There are two main signalling mechanisms: social interactions and money. Both are excluded from mainstream theory, but they are central to the system’s behaviour.

People are highly social. Cooperation is as pervasive as competition, in society and in nature. The good life balances the two, balances me with us.

Money’s role is to facilitate exchange. Token money carries an implicit social contract; we need to be attend to the terms of that contract (e.g. no perpetual private tax, via interest).

• Understand central banking, via MMT: governments create base money, and can govern for full employment. Don’t balance the budget.

• Understand commercial banking. They profit by loading us with debt. This is the biggest driver of booms and busts. Separate the provision of money from investment. Require ‘investment’ to be productive, not asset speculation.

• Rein in financial markets. They trade about 50 times faster than the productive economy requires. This means 98% of their activity is parasitic, and destabilising. A transaction tax could tame them.

• Land has no cost of production to anchor its price. This makes it a vehicle for speculation. Lease it, don’t sell it.

• Land also has an emergent community value arising from the community around it. That wealth belongs to the community and should not be captured by individuals.

• GDP is not accounting, it is a crude tally of good, bad and ugly transactions. Use proper balance-sheet accounting like GPI or Triple Bottom Line.

• Use shared (local, involved) ownership to ensure reasonable sharing of wealth created (always) through joint effort and common inheritance.

• Replace crude ‘growth’ (of GDP) with the goals of reducing quantity (of stuff) while increasing quality (of life).

• An economy’s purpose is to serve the society it is part of. A society must abide by the imperatives of the biosphere if it is to survive.