Autumn always brings a busy events calendar, and this year has been no exception. Last week, Positive Money attended two conventions dedicated to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a perspective on macroeconomics and the monetary system that is rapidly gaining popularity.
There are sturdy links between our work and MMT. So it’s fantastic to see a growing number of campaigners and supporters thinking about the monetary system.
The new paradigm has captured hearts and minds on both sides of the Atlantic. From the 27th to 29th of September, the Second International conference of MMT took place in New York City; on the 5th of October, the Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies launched at a session held here in London. Both were well attended and mixed macroeconomic expertise with the dynamism and energy of a grassroots movement.
The conference in New York featured panels on the development of the MMT platform – its past, present, and future – alongside more urgent discussions on how its ideas can be brought to the political stage in America. The weekend also included several workshops, open to all and themed around issues as varied as sustainability, regulatory and legal structures, and diversity and governance within the MMT community. Delegates came from a wide range of countries, including Italy, Australia, Brazil, Germany, the US, and the UK.
An inescapable conclusion from the conference is that MMT is quickly growing beyond the confines of a few economics departments in the US and Australia. The scholars who worked tirelessly at shifting the dial on the monetary operations of the state (including Warren Mosler, L. Randall Wray, Bill Mitchell, Stephanie Kelton, Mathew Forstater, and Scott Fullwiler) have succeeded in capturing the imagination of a constituency far broader and more powerful than anyone might have predicted two decades ago.
That will prove to be both an asset and a test for the MMT movement. Having a range of committed organisations builds strength and reach, but some issues – like how exactly to present the Job Guarantee, MMT’s flagship policy – may generate disagreements that need resolving.
The Gower Initiative (GIMMS) is based in the UK, and seeks to be ‘a portal for new writings and academic studies which will build on the foundations of the international movement for a better understanding of how our state money system works’. In that sense, it stands to become the sort of network that can help resolve differences within the MMT community.
Speakers at the event included Bill Mitchell, Randeep Ramesh from The Guardian, and Deborah Harrington, one of the five founding members of GIMMS. Each addressed the need to break down the orthodox consensus in economic policy and to broadcast a compelling alternative. That task will see roles played by campaigners, ‘heterodox’ experts, the public, and the media alike.
Both events brought people together who share a passion for improving our economy and society. Understanding how money works is a crucial first step towards a future where systems are sustainable, profits are shared, and policy promotes well-being before ‘economic output’. MMT’s success so far in providing that education is a significant moment in economic thinking.
Positive Money has long advocated for using public money for public purpose. In that respect, our campaign and the MMT platform are of a piece. Differences might remain over which rules and structures for the banking system are most desirable. There is also a divide in messaging. MMT writers tend to concentrate on rescuing public spending from a restrictive narrative about austerity and government debt; Positive Money first highlights the failures of credit flows provided by the private banking sector. But we are united by a belief that more public finance is the antidote to the current ills of our economic system.
It is promising that MMT is gaining traction in every corner. We greatly enjoyed attending both events and have only warm expectations about working together to design a better, healthier, fairer economy.