A podcast about non-violent, MMT direct activism, introducing Modern Monetary Theory to the world, both online and in person.
Hosted by third-year MMT activist, Jeff Epstein.
This channel was formerly called People Conversations, by Citizens' Media TV (CMTV). All People Conversations interviews remain intact in this channel. Any MMT articles I write remain hosted on the CMTV website.
Ep75 [2/2] Chris McArdle: MMT isn’t the truth, its *convincing* (plus online activism)
Welcome to episode 75 of Activist #MMT. Today is part two of my two-part conversation with Chris McArdle. Today we discuss online activism, and also the concept of truth versus an academic theory. MMT is not "the truth about economics" as I have, admittedly, often said, it is simply the most convincing economic theory to me (and Chris). Truth is an inherently-subjective term and is therefore not conducive to encouraging others to look into MMT, let alone be convinced by it. We end today’s episode by giving a rundown of our lists of important sources that we find valuable to pass on to others interested in learning more about MMT, both from an introductory point of view, and for those wanting more detail. Many links to these sources and more can be found in the show notes for . But for now, let’s get right back to my conversation with Chris McArdle.
Ep74 [1/2] Chris McArdle: The politics of implementing the job guarantee.
Welcome to episode 74 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with Chris McArdle (Twitter/@) on the politics and pitfalls of implementing the MMT-designed job guarantee. Chris was politically active in the 2000s, and an early and strong supporter of then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate . Chris later joined the Malloy administration during its two terms, conducting policy research and providing public and governmental relations around economic development, housing, and workforce. [Here’s a link to __PART_TWO__ of this episode.] While traveling around Connecticut in 2010 with candidate Malloy, Chris encountered other candidates at all levels of government. One of them was running for the then-open seat for US Senate, first attempting to earn the Democratic nomination, and ultimately running as a third-party candidate in the general election. What set this candidate apart was his unique policy proposals, highlighted by the promise of a job for anyone who wanted one. That candidate was Warren Mosler. After the campaign ended, Chris joined Warren and his son for lunch, noting the out front that Warren himself had built. Warren bought lunch and Chris bought two of Warren’s books ( and ). The two stayed in touch, and Chris was introduced to the then still-small community of economists and students of MMT. He soon spent many hours reading MMT papers and posts, and learning key concepts like Wynne Godley’s sectoral balance identity, Abba Lerner’s functional finance, and Georg Fredric Knapp’s state theory of money. In 2018, MMT economists released their paper . Chris used the paper as an opportunity to introduce the possibility of a job guarantee to the Commissioner and staff of the Connecticut Department of Labor. Chris praises the authors of the paper for its acknowledgment of political realities. An example is how it considers existing Prevailing Rate structures in a number of states, including Connecticut. This is important because it avoids unnecessarily alienating the building trades unions, therefore increasing the chances that they will support the proposal. He’s also proud to have made a small contribution to this particular aspect of the proposal. The other concept Chris and I discuss regarding the job guarantee is one I struggle to grasp during this episode, but became more clear of in follow-up conversations. The job guarantee as designed by MMT economists would be a federal law that is federally funded and locally designed and administered. This means that state, county, and municipal governments would design the implementation they deem appropriate for their communities. Chris remembers well the pitfalls and potential abuse of a government-run jobs program by the (CETA) of 1973. One of those pitfalls is the stigma associated to having a "government job." What Chris recommends is that the actual hiring and management of those jobs be placed into the hands of, for example, non-profits and public-private partnerships. As is already the case in areas such as for the provisioning of social services and construction of housing, governmental and quasi-governmental entities would provide professional selection and oversight, while avoiding creation of a large new government workforce and bureaucracy. Finally, it should also be noted that in Chris’ state (Connecticut), there is no county government – implying that the job guarantee would most likely be delivered at the state level. Where I live in New Jersey, county governments are more prominent. This episode is part one of a two-part conversation. In part two, Chris and I discuss online activism, and also the concept of "Truth" versus theory. MMT is not "the truth about economics" as I have, admittedly, often said, it is simply the most convincing economic theory (to both me and Chris). Truth is an inherently-subjective term and using it is therefore not conducive t
Ep 73 [2/2]: John Harvey: The nitty gritty of exchange Rate Determination
Welcome to episode 73 of Activist #MMT. Today is part two of my two-part conversation with Texas Christian University PhD. economics professor and , John Harvey. The topic of our conversation is exchange rate determination, and we continue to work through my question list, which can be found in the show notes for . Much more information and resources can also be found in the show notes for part one, but for now, let’s get right back to my conversation with John Harvey.
Ep 72 [1/2]: John Harvey: The Battle of the Bulge (and the nitty gritty of Exchange Rate Determination)
Welcome to episode 72 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with Texas Christian University PhD. economics professor and , John Harvey. The topic of our conversation is exchange rate determination. However, be forewarned that this episode is not an introduction but a deep dive into the weeds of John’s 2009 textbook, . For a proper introduction, you’ll find links in the show notes to several good recommendations, including two MMT Podcast episodes (, and ), John’s with Modern Money Australia, a on the economics blog Naked Capitalism, and a layperson-friendly . This interview took three months of preparation. When I first read John‘s book, I only made it halfway through and, in all honesty, aside from the introduction, I got very little out of it. John’s writing has nothing to do with it, it’s simply an intense and completely (if you’ll forgive the pun) foreign topic. Chapter two, especially, was impenetrable. It’s a summary of the major exchange rate models in neoclassical economics and frankly made zero sense. I took a nap after every few paragraphs and watched videos on each type of model, but none of it felt relevant. (John briefly goes over this chapter in his August 2020 lecture.) I started the book over again and grew fascinated by a five page section in chapter one called Post Keynesian Economics. You’ll find it on pages five to nine. The section is an introduction to post Keynesianism and specifically how it contrasts with neoclassicism (the latter of which is currently mainstream economics). Without exaggeration, I read the section around twenty times and wrote pages of notes and questions, several of which I posted on the Facebook group, Intro to MMT (which, I wasn’t then, but am now, a moderator of… and I recommend you join it). I spent the next two months diving into the basics of mainstream economics, starting with a 2019 paper expressing the common concern for the long-term fiscal sustainability of government spending, and its corresponding debt and interest. I then read and interviewed the authors of the 2020 paper responding to it, by German MMT economist Dirk Ehnts and Danish PhD. candidate Asker Voldsgaard. I also read a paper on historical time as recommended by Asker, and a 2006 paper by Scott Fullwiler. The interview inspired a post where I break down the topic in detail: I then read Steve Keen’s 2011 book, . I didn’t understand much more than I did understand, but it was fascinating and enlightening nonetheless. It also provided excellent background for my next interview with UMKC PhD economics candidate Sam Levey, with whom I discussed the core assumptions of mainstream economics. Links to all of these papers, posts, and interviews can be found in the show notes. [The interviews with Ehnts, Voldsgaard, and Levey will be released to the public in February. Patrons of Activist #MMT can hear them right now.] Before returning to John’s book, I read several papers by John and Ilene Grabel, plus the 2004 book by Oberlechner, called . I especially recommend Oberlechner’s book as a layperson introduction to exchange rate determination. It’s particularly easy-to-read and also comes highly recommended by John. As is made clear in Oberlechner’s book, one of, if not the, most important determinant in the reality of exchange rates is group psychology. Finally, I read John‘s book straight through, beginning to end. This time, I was better prepared to distinguish between what to discard and what to focus on. Re-reading chapter two, I now realize that it’s less that I didn’t understand it and more that it’s just not understandable. You would not lose much from skipping the chapter entirely. Its primary benefit is not to learn about foreign exchange but to provide a benchmark for just how far off mainstream is from reality. The other major lesson I take from John‘s book is that peo
Ep 71 [2/2]: Jane Ball: Government-designed racist zoning to prevent popular uprising
Welcome to episode 71 of Activist #MMT. Today is part two of my two-part conversation with second-year MMT activist and graduate student Jane Ball. In , Jane described their journey to MMT and the flaws of mainstream Marxism. Today, Jane and I discuss two of their academic style posts. documents studies that demonstrate the benefits of existing UBI-like programs, including the $5000 a year paid every Alaskan citizen by a fossil fuel company. The regular payment is clearly beneficial to its recipients, with the cruel irony being that the payments are being made by companies which are viciously predatory to those very same recipients in the long run. is a fascinating post documenting how racist zoning has been official United States government policy, starting soon after the Russian revolution. The policies were a deliberate effort by the government to prevent a similar kind of popular uprising. This was done primarily and essentially by dangling a nice home in the faces of white people, and by keeping black and brown people out via redlining and discriminatory ordinances. So not only was this country built long ago on the backs and with the blood of black and brown people, that virulent racism continues today in active policy, all around the country. And now back to my conversation with Jane Ball. This is part two of a two-part conversation. Enjoy.
Ep 70 [1/2]: Jane Ball: The problems with mainstream Marxism.
Welcome to episode 70 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with second-year MMT activist and graduate student Jane Ball. Jane earned an undergraduate minor in international economics at a conservative business school during the heart of the Iraq war and the first George W. Bush administration. Jane enjoyed the philosophy, theory, and history of economics, but strongly disliked the math and calculus. Because of the latter, they decided against pursuing an economics PhD. In early 2019, Jane discovered MMT in . Jane then branched out to a and , and into academic papers by Randy Wray and Stephanie Kelton. Only then did Jane realize that it was not their understanding of mainstream economics and its math that was faulty or lacking, but the economics itself that made no sense. After describing their journey to MMT, Jane then talks about the flaws of Marxism. Not as it actually is, but as it is popularly understood. Jane says this is primarily due to supporters inappropriately accepting and attempting to work around mainstream assumptions instead of rejecting them outright. An example is the flawed belief that at its heart, money is a scarce commodity. This is despite Marx’s own monetary theory of production, or M-C-M’, which, as I understand it, in turn implies chartalism and the state theory of money. The monetary theory of production and chartalism, which is supported by the overwhelming body of historical evidence, is in direct contradiction to the a-historical idea of barter, in which money is a commodity, or a tangible and scarce thing. If money were indeed a commodity, then as Jane describes, it means that money is a purely economic phenomenon and is inherently separate from the political world, and therefore outside of direct human control. All that said, I have studied little to no Marxism, so take this with as big a grain of salt as you see fit. We are all learning together. In part two, Jane and I discuss two of their academic style posts. The first documents studies that demonstrate the benefits of existing UBI-like programs, including the $5000 a year paid every Alaskan citizen by a fossil fuel company. The regular payment is clearly beneficial to its recipients, with the cruel irony being that the payments are being made by companies which are viciously predatory to those very same recipients in the long run. The second is a fascinating post documenting how racist zoning has been official United States government policy, starting soon after the Russian revolution. The policies were a deliberate effort by the government to prevent a similar kind of popular uprising. This was done primarily and essentially by dangling a nice home in the faces of white people, and by keeping black and brown people out via redlining and discriminatory ordinances. So not only was this country built long ago on the backs and with the blood of black and brown people, that virulent racism continues today in active policy, all around the country. A couple notes before we get started: First, Jane is a voracious reader. Several books they mentioned are listed in the show notes. Second, I mention how even the poorest countries can distribute their resources equally. I have since learned that there are many complications related to this, centering around the sovereignty of developing nations and how they are deliberately sabotage by more powerful nations. I am still learning. Now onto my conversation with Jane Ball. This is part one of a two-part conversation. Enjoy. Resources My interview with Marxist academic Jim Kavanagh (recorded after this episode Jane): Episodes and : Jim Kavanagh: A Marxist academic and MMTer. Stephanie Kelton’s on Mark Blyth’s podcast. My interview with Ryan Mathis: : Episode 21a: Millennial, first-year law student, and 5th year MMTer: The left-wing project to recreate our corrupt political, media, and educational i