Stephanie Kelton and MMT – The Deficit Myth
Stephanie Kelton and MMT is a hot topic in global macro-finance and political economy. This is the first in a new series of content where I explore Stephanie Kelton’s theories of MMT. Is MMT just Keynesianism on steroids? Is there any veracity to the claims of Stephanie Kelton and other advocates of Modern Monetary Theory? I explore the introductory claims in her books and some initial responses to the six myths that she believes must be overcome for MMT to be properly understood.
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Stephanie Kelton MMT
Well, Hey everybody, Jonathan Doyle with you here. Thanks so much for taking a moment to check out this short video. I really hope it’s going to be useful for you. I hope it’s going to be useful for me. Uh, I guess in that context, I should give you some backstory. I came into this whole area very, very late in life.
I like to joke that I had the world’s worst economics teacher back in the 11th grade. I won’t name names, but, uh, in high school, I had a real love for the subject of economics, but I think my teacher was kind of really looking forward to retirement. And so most of what I learned was straight over the top.
So, uh, since COVID, and since what I firmly believe is some very significant government overreach. Uh, the life that I had, the business that I had, uh, was severely impacted of course, by many of the things that have played out in recent time. So during the lockdown, I was doing a lot of training and I was on my train of bike, watching some YouTube stuff.
And I ended up somehow down the precious metals rabbit hole, which led to me thinking about economics in general. And then I’ve been on a journey since that time. So if you’re watching this, there’s a very good chance that, you know, Far more about economics than I do. So I hope I can have your patience as I work through this.
I think my background was originally in teaching years ago and I enjoy teaching and I think one of the best ways that I learn. Is to teach. So MMT, modern monetary theory, or as Jim Rogers likes to call it more money. Today is a really big thing at the moment. Obviously you’ve heard about it if you’ve come to this video.
So I wanted to understand it. I think it’s very easy. To be highly critical of it, especially if you’re more of a classical economics perspective, a libertarian perspective, it’s so easy to, you know, to chant in the fed and to critique them in tea. But I really felt that I should understand it. And to do that.
What I wanted to explore was the work of Stephanie Kelton. Who’s written this book called the deficit myth. I’m sure many of you be familiar with it. The first thing I wanted to say is, well, look, let me give you the background, what we’re going to do. Uh, we’re going to work through. The key aspects of this book.
So I’m going to be reading through it forensically, and I’ll put out a series of short videos about what I’m learning as I go. So in terms of housekeeping, I would love you to be commenting on this, helping me, helping others, I guess, sharing your thoughts and insights. As I worked through the book. So the best way to do that would be to come across to the actual posts on the supply side websites.
So if you just go to supply side partners.com, supply side partners.com, you’re going to find the posts and there’ll be spaces to comment there. And I know a lot of us in economics really like to do that. So please comment. And, uh, you may be hearing this in the podcast format, or if you’re seeing this on YouTube on the supply side podcast channel, Please post some comments there.
Uh, it’s just very helpful for me and helpful for others. So I guess what I’m trying to do is start a discussion, a serious discussion around Stephanie Kelton’s work. So before I jump into a few slides, this video will just be an introduction. She, she sort of works through six key myths. So I want to work through those quickly and give you those in the first video.
So you got a framework for where we are going to go. And, uh, I did have a couple of introductory things I wanted to say to you about Stephanie Kelton and her work. I spent a lot of time yesterday reading through the introduction and what I felt was, and I watched a few videos of her as well. And I want to say this, Stephanie Kelton is a serious economist.
Now you may not agree with where she gets to with any of it. But I watched her in a video and I thought this is a serious person. It doesn’t mean she’s right, but it means that she is serious. She comports herself. I feel with a, with a lot of dignity. And, uh, and I, I admired that. I watched the debate with her and, uh, the other person was just the typical rant about we are going to be Venezuela.
We’re going to be grace, but didn’t really engage. Or I thought she held her composure really well. So on my notes here, I think we need to take her very seriously, uh, you know, for better or worse. She’s making us all think about the nature of political economy. And, uh, she’s somebody that’s done a huge amount of work.
I mean, she’s, she’s studied at the highest level. She’s been immersed in this for many years. And as I said, she may be wrong, but let’s not fall into the habit of blah, blah, blah. She’s this she’s that because we, none of us know her personally, we don’t necessarily know her motivations. But we just need to engage with the ideas and, you know, here ends the homily here, ends the sermon, but I think you’d probably agree with me that so much of what we’re seeing in social media and in general public discourse in the public square, it’s extremely vitriolic.
And I think the best way to beat about idea is with a good one. So let’s explore the ideas, uh, a couple of opening thoughts about him in T. One thing I’ve noticed when you listen to people talking about him and T uh, who are advocates, proponents of it is they, they seem to say that, uh, NMT is, is descriptive.
They’re sort of saying it’s descriptive of what’s actually happening. I felt there’s a bit of sophistry there. Yes. MMT is quite descriptive of what’s happening in our sort of global shadow banking reserve system. But. It’s not simply descriptive. I think there’s a bit of sophistry in that. It’s kind of like saying that, um, you know, lethal injection.
Is, you know, just describing something that’s happening. I was thinking about that driving this morning, you know, lethal injection is the end result of a whole bunch of other beliefs and processes around, you know, society, jurisprudence, justice, natural law, all these sorts of things. So. You know, lethal injection is the end point of a whole bunch of things that came before it that bring about that reality, whether you afford or against.
It’s not my point. I felt a little bit that what are some of the M and T people are doing is just saying, oh, you didn’t teach. Just descriptive. It just describes what’s happening. For me, that is so frustrating. It’s more than that. I mean, it’s a set of beliefs about how economies and, uh, finance, both monetary and fiscal stimulus should be handled.
So I think a little bit more honesty, there would be a good thing. MMT is not just descriptive. It’s, it’s a genuine belief about how things should happen. And in these videos, we want to sort of see where that’s likely to take us. Last few opening reflections from me was as I read through her opening chapters, what really seemed to strike me.
And I hope you can add something about this in the comments is that it all seems extremely statist. You know, it’s her fundamental, I guess, idea at the start and the opening chapters, at least as I read it. Was you either position government at the center of reality, or you position the individual at the center of reality.
And I know where you libertarians out there would be nodding, but I don’t, you know, here in Australia we don’t have a huge libertarian tradition. So I kind of came to this, just gravitated, this sort of by osmosis, as I read it, I was like, you know, Why do we think that the government automatically knows best how to do all this?
Uh, and the more that I read, it just felt very status. And as we hit the slides in just a moment, I want to show you a quote that Stephanie Kelton uses in the book from Robert Kennedy, which when I read it, I was like, It’s a little creepy, just a little creepy. So we’re gonna look at that. Um, you know, she makes the point early on that, that the government doesn’t need our money.
So one of the central tenants of M and T at least as she’s communicating, it is the difference between currency users and currency issuers. So we are all currency users, but of course, none of us are currency issuers, and she makes the point that basically the government. As money creates currency, let’s get the definitions of currency and money.
Correct. Obviously creates currency so that we have something to pay our taxes in. And the reason we need that is the government doesn’t need money from us. And what, this is what she says. She says what the government needs is to provision itself. What the government needs is to provision itself, to provide for all of its, uh, agendas and processes and systems.
And it needs us to work. There’s sort of the language he’s using that it needs us to work. It needs us to become teachers and doctors and solicitors and all these things. And it gets us to do that by forcing us to pay taxes. And of course we have to pay taxes in their currency. So it’s almost as if for the government, you know, Currency really is a little bit irrelevant.
What matters is whether they can use currency to make us do things. And as I read that it did sound of course, very stainless, but it also sounded a lot like a hive. Like we serve the hive, you know, that we exist to serve the hive. My second master’s program. It was in philosophical anthropology. And so I’ve got a very big interest in something called ontology, which is kind of the study of essence, the study of being what things are.
And as I read this work, I was struck with this idea that. What about the human desire to work for its own sake, the desire to produce beautiful, interesting, valuable things. You know, if we were simply working just to pay taxes, to provision the state, then why create something beautiful? And I guess you could make an argument that, well, we create beautiful things because they have some kind of subjective, extra value in there.
They get more money and, but I was really interested in it. It’s a very reductionist view of reality to say that we only want to work. To get tax money, the money to pay taxes, and then we can provision the state. So I want us to think about that. Uh, last couple of things, uh, Yeah. As I read through that kind of that as that status thing emerged inside me, as I read it, I couldn’t help thinking that command economies don’t have the best track record.
You know, I, I’m a reasonable student of history and you look at command methodologies and modalities of political economy and they are as best I can tell. And please add something in the comments, if I’m wrong. I absolute train wreck, but reading George Gilda’s knowledge and power. I mean, I, to him about the inflammation theory of capitalism, right?
Where the, the genius of capitalism is its ability to coordinate these vast numbers of signals. These vast plethora of informatory signals, whereas command economies don’t have that sophisticated sophistication or can they, it’s also the idea that you know, that there’s a certain group of bureaucrats that are just so much better at knowing how to allocate resources than we might be.
So I not a big fan command economy. So I want to see, as I read the book, how that question gets resolved for Stephanie, she also sees Texas as a tool for wealth redistribution. And if you’re anything like me, that makes you feel rather nervous when you hear that word wealth distribution. So I think part of this conversation that we want to be having about M and T.
Is really this conversation around, should there be wealth distribute redistribution, uh, at what level, who would make the decisions about it? You know, soak the rich doesn’t tend to work in practice particularly well. The rich have a very, very long history of, uh, finding other ways to survive being soaked.
If you will, last thing, she talks about taxes as a government form of, uh, discouraging undesirable behavior. Undesirable behavior. When I read that, I was like, who gets to decide what’s undesirable right on what basis? See, when I get out of the studio here today, I’m going to be drinking some bourbon. It’s Friday afternoon, it’s freezing card.
I’m having a bunch of friends around me, a lot of big fire. I’m going to be drinking some really good American whiskey. And I’m pretty sure that there’s plenty of people that would say that’s an undesirable behavior and it needs to be taxed. So I stop it. I ain’t going to stop it. I’m going to be smoking a pipe as well.
I don’t smoke a pipe a lot, but when it’s called and I’ve got American whiskey, I mean, it’s like a pipe. So taxation has implications for some things that I really enjoy. And look, I’m having a joke here. I mean, well sort of, because I am actually going to be doing nice things, but what right. Does it the state have at what level to tax on desirable behavior.
So we need to have that discussion too. All right. That’s it for my opening bits and pieces. What I wanted to do now was just flip you into a few slides that I put together that will give you the, uh, the process that Stephanie Kelton is undertaking here. The myths. And then over these next series of videos, I’m going to try and go through each chapter carefully.
So with the magic of zoom, let us see if I can effectively share this screen, which I can. So let me do this. Unfortunately, I can’t see what screen is coming up, but I’m pretty sure the first one is where we’re talking about statism. And I want to give you this rather creepy quote that she uses from Robert Kennedy.
Not sure. I want to be taken too much moral gardens anyway, enough said he’s the quiet if I’ve got it right. Fingers crossed. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary. And there are people in distress. Government belongs wherever Naval needs an adversary. And there are people in distress. Yeah.
Okay. One level. I get it. Uh, if you know, If you’re a in world war two and the Nazis are burning down your village. And then, you know, the, the, uh, the us army comes through the hedgerow. That’s a good thing because you’ve now got an advocate on your side against the axis of evil and you’re in distress. So yeah, I get that.
The context in which government does belong, where evil needs an adversary and people are in distress. But I think if you look at that quite. Well, you know, what kind of track record does government have at knowing when to stop and who made government the arbitrary of what exactly is evil and what exactly constitutes distress?
So again, we look, it’s amazing as I talk about it, I keep finding myself in this libertarian kind of perspective here. Don’t I, uh, in the sense that. Who is the best to decide, uh, what is necessarily evil and, uh, and what is necessarily distress and how much help do we need from the government to deal with, excuse me, justice, to deal with these complex issues.
So let’s get into this now. I think what we’ve got here is the first myths. I’ll start to spin you through these myth. One, the federal government should budget like a household. So what I’m taking you through here, Is what, uh, what’s Stephanie Kelton’s doing is going here are these six major myths and these myths, uh, I’d completely untrue and M and T is going to help us resolve them.
So, so that’s the myth, this idea, of course, that governments should stop spending money. They should be like a household. So her basic premise in chapter one is the government’s absolutely nothing like a household, of course, because they’re an issuer of their own currency. So the reality, according to Dr.
Kelton, Is unlike a household, the federal government issues, the currency, it spins. So I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole with these yet. This’ll be the purpose of the following videos. So we’ll do a video just on myth one as I work through it. So, uh, she does make an interesting point though, in, in Jessie talks about this.
She does make the point that politicians tend to use the myth to their own advantage considerably. So we’re all very familiar with politicians in opposition and saying the government’s living beyond its means the government’s doing this. The government’s doing that. These deficits are unsustainable.
We’ve all heard that. So. In M and T she’s making the point that, uh, governments aren’t anything like a household because, uh, where you and I are constrained by finance and the inability to produce Fiat currency. The government is not. So she wants us to understand an MMT that, uh, there’s no relationship between our own experiences, our own personal experiences of finance and what the government can do.
And she, you know, she makes the point that the question isn’t what can be done. It’s what should be done. So she sort of, I think she’s making the point that basically printing is unlimited. And I know many of us are very much aware of that, how fast it’s growing. So she’s basically going, yes. Printing of the sovereign currency is essentially unlimited, but, uh, it’s like, she’s basically saying it doesn’t matter because they can just go forever.
So that’s the first myth it’s getting the second one. Myth two deficits are evidence of overt spending. So this is the idea of course, that, uh, when we see different deficits, it’s simply because the government is living beyond its means. And, uh, the reality, according to Stephanie Kelton is. If you want to see where the evidence of overspending, you simply look at inflation.
So an MMT deficits are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a trillion dollar deficit or a $10 trillion deficit. All that matters is whether or not you’re seeing inflation. Now I know many of you are gonna have thoughts on that. So please let me know what you think in the comments. And this will come out.
Of course, when I do a video just on this second chapter, so really it’s about inflation. And as best I can tell, uh, central banks are having a fair bit of trouble getting inflation over the last, uh, decade or so to move north. Of course, recently we’ve seen, uh, at least CPI evidence that that’s really beginning to shift.
All right. Myth number three. Deficits will burden the next generation. If you’ve heard me talk on the podcast, I’ve said to many guests, I’m pretty sure it’s George Washington said this, that, that no generation should incur debts, that it cannot pay, cannot pay off in its own lifetime. I’m pretty sure that was George Washington.
Somebody might correct me on that. So there’s this deep idea that many of us hold that it is wrong to incur a debt that will be then transferred to future generations for our own profit as a result of our own. Profligacy you know, uh, I said to Karen, my wife, just before I came to the studio, I said, uh, You know, it’d be like Karen and I, you know, remortgaging our properties to the hilt, spinning everything we could on credit cards and then dying and saying, Hey kids, good luck with that.
Uh, so there is this strong idea, isn’t it? We all feel that it is not appropriate just to keep spending and spending, especially on so many unusual wealth transfer and entitlement programs. If it means that future generations are going to be impacted yet, according to Dr. Kelton, the reality is in fact that.
The national debt poses, no financial burden whatsoever. For me, that was one of those moments when the, uh, you know, the record scratches on the rate, you know, the needle scratches on the record. I’m like the national debt poses. No financial burden whatsoever. Okay. Okay. Uh, had a conversation with someone earlier today and I’ve had this same conversation a few times.
Much of NNT seems to subvert the laws of the cosmos. I said to this friend on the phone today, point to something in nature that just is super net natural, supernatural above the natural order. Show me a true perpetual motion machine. Show me, you know, the ability to make unicorns appear out of thin air.
Uh, you know, it seems that the universe is constrained by laws of reason and rationality and mathematical order. Everything in the cosmos except MMT. I’m not being flippant there. I know it does sound it, but I’m interested in, in how we can incur debt and it had no ramifications for the future. So again, in humility, I I’m going to read the chapters.
I’m going to see what her perspective is. And I know some of you are picking your jaw up off the floor after reading that last reality, let’s do number four. Now we have a firstly, we’ve got quite, let me do that for you. I’m going to give you a direct quote on no national burden, no financial burden for the future.
Here’s a quote from Dr. Kelton. She says government deficits don’t force financial burdens forward onto future populations. Increasing the deficit. Doesn’t make future generations poorer and reducing deficits. Won’t make them any better. I don’t know what to say about that. Speechless. And again, you know, I’m going to read and find out and hopefully get educated and you’re welcome to post in the comments and say, Jonathan, when you put that slide up, and if you want to get these quotes on the websites, buy-side partners.com.
I’ll put the slides up as well. So I’ll have a series of PDF or PNG files there. You can go through these direct quotes is from page 10, by the way. So how she says that, I don’t know. So let’s press on myth. Number four. Government deficits, proud out prov private investment, making us poor up. So the huge amount of spending and printing has no impact on private investment.
And according that’s the messy. He thinks that many of us believe, but the reality, according to MMT is drum roll. Please. Fiscal deficits increase our wealth and collective savings. I think I’m feel like I’ve stepped through a wormhole fiscal deficits, increase our wealth and collective savings. I don’t know what to say about that.
I really have nothing to offer. Uh, I’m going to read the chapter. I’ll get back to you. Uh, we often myth number five deficits, make the United States dependent upon foreigners. So all that money flying out of the country, that massive global Exodus of us dollars. I’m looking over the other side of the studio towards, I think it’s Richard Duncan’s, uh, So the dollar collapsed.
Now I’m looking at, uh, another dollar crisis by Richard Dunkin, where he forensically goes through the movement of us dollars into China and overseas. And basically how that money. I mean, Dr. Kelton makes the point to that money comes back and people simply buy us treasuries. You know, they get interest bearing treasuries, but it also drove huge amounts of malinvestment in property, in stocks, in equity markets.
So. The idea, at least from my understanding at this point, is that, that huge, those huge deficits, those trade deficits, uh, you know, have had enormous negative effects, particularly upon the U S general population. But according to MMT drum roll, please. Reality is not that we become dependent upon foreigners, but wait for it.
America’s trade deficit is it’s stuff. Surplus. America’s trade deficit is it’s surplus of extra stuff. So this is some kind of double, double entry bookkeeping, master Yoda, Jedi mind trick thing that I don’t fully understand, but I will read the book and I’ll get back to you on that too. So I hope you will subscribe wherever you’re watching this.
Please subscribe YouTube on the website. Uh, you can just email me direct email@example.com. I’ll get you on the list. So, cause I’ve. I’m recording this, but I’m actually pretty curious about what I’m going to land. Let’s see some Jedi magic happening here in MMT. All right. I’ve got a quote here we do.
If we wanted to, we could pay off the debt immediately with a simple keystroke page 11. If we wanted to, we could pay off the debt immediately with a simple key stroke. You know, this is another one of those things where if you’re I did that. We go to jail. Uh, and I’m kind of thinking that if I was holding huge amounts of U S debt and the U S government deleted it, I’d be cross.
I’d be just a tad on the miffed side. Miffed, not furious, just cross. Wow. All right. Myth number six. Myth number six, entitlement programs are financially unsustainable. We can’t afford them anymore. So my understanding is that a future commitments to social security, Medicare, or like something like 130, 170 trillion give or take over the long haul, uh, unfunded, but according to MMT and Stephanie Kelton.
You can do this entitlements don’t need to be touched. Here is the reality. According to MMT reality, as long as the federal government commits to making the payments, it can always afford to support these programs. What matters is our economy’s long run capacity to produce the real goods and services people will need.
I like the line here, as long as the federal government commits to making the payments. B because we can trust them when they say they’re going to commit to it. Trust us, vote for us. We will keep the Punchbowl exactly where it is. Uh, I want to be cynical. But if the government promises to maintain something.
Hmm. So you’re in the second part of this. Obviously Stephanie Kelton is talking about this idea that what we need to do, it doesn’t matter what the debt is. All we need to do is grow GDP. Right? You grow the economy, uh, then you can deal with your huge deficits in your debt. Uh, now, how do you do that? When you’ve got a demographic time bomb everywhere.
I mean, everyone talks about China, but the Chinese demographic issue is just off the scale, you know, one child policy. Um, yeah. Okay. Not a thing. So China’s, uh, Demography issues. The U S as most of the developed worlds, demographic issues, you know, as one great historian famously said, friends, demography is destiny.
Demography is destiny. So I don’t see how you grow your economy indefinitely with a shrinking population and an I or an aging population. To which people of course reply. Well, you do it through technology. You, uh, you get massive productive gains because of the application of technology. You know, you go back to the 1860s, you get the industrial revolution, you get the steam engine, you get this huge productivity growth because of technology.
I don’t know about you, but, you know, go and read Ross, do this book, the decadence society, uh, uh, two seconds. I got it right here. So this is a roster. That’s a roster. That’s awesome. He is. In fact, he is rarer than a unicorn with a pocket full of hen’s teeth. Ross do that is the only conservative writer at the New York times.
All the other ones were taken out and sent to the Gulag friends, but Ross is still there. He wrote this book, the decadence society, you need to read it. Uh, he makes the point that basically the developed world is out of ideas. And technology is actually atrophied. I mean, think about it, right? Yeah. We’ve got nanotech.
Yeah, we’ve got some things, but you go back to the fifties and sixties and you know, the U S space program was really quite seismic. We’ve had the same iPhone for about 15, 20 years. Give or take, I don’t remember when it came out, but guess what? Here’s a phone. It looks like the first one. What does it do now?
Well, nothing different, except record everything you say and send it to Jeff Bezos. That’s all it does now. Right? So technology is, you know, but also I think the gains of technology are captured in a very, in a relatively small section of the economy. And they’re not huge employers of having read, you know, huge biographies of people like Rockefeller.
You know, the gilded age did actually employ a lot of people. There was a lot of labor force participation, whereas, you know, your Googles, your Amazons, your apples, they employ, you know, Give or take a couple hundred thousand people, but that’s on a planet of what? 7 billion. So just all I’m saying here is I’m not sure that we’re going to see the ability to massively grow GDP simply through technology or whatever.
Got anything else for you. Um, so there’s a quote, I think. And the quote is this. There is absolutely no good reason for social security benefits. This is a quote from Dr. Kelton, for example, to ever face cuts. How government will always be able to meet future obligations because it can never run out of money.
Now I was thinking about this before, uh, yeah. More holes than a Swiss cheese factory. I think. That, uh, if there’s no reason for them to ever face cuts, is this logically inconsistent to save the world? Therefore shouldn’t we just grow them exponentially. And then we’re just in UBI territory, right?
Universal, basic income. Why work, which takes me back to the ontological argument about the need for work, the human need for work, you know? So, uh, I don’t have to think about that. So that’s a quite from there. Uh, what else? Okay. That’s it for me on that. Uh, look while I’ve got you here, I’m going to wrap up, but if you are saying this, hopefully grab your phone right now and just hit that QR code that will take you through to the, uh, supply side website.
Hit that button for, I want to join the podcast or whatever it is. It’ll take you down to the sign up box. I’d love you to do that. You’ve got your phone with you right now, because that will help me to send you out the next episodes and keep you in the loop. So please rewind this video. You need to hit that with your QR code and make sure you come across to the website.
All right. That’s it. From the sharing side, hopefully you just back to me on screen. Now, your lucky things summary. I hope that didn’t come across as too cynical. I don’t mean to be cynical. I think there are some huge problems here with MMT. There’s a great deal that I want to learn. And as I worked through the book over the next few days, I’m going to be putting these out and just trying to learn.
I think we, we, oh, uh, Dr. Kelton the, uh, the time and the effort to understand the ideas. So from here, please add a comment. If you’re seeing this on YouTube, or we seeing this on a website, supply side partners.com, let me know what you think. Uh, tell me, uh, where, where I’m wrong. Tell me if you’ve got extra information.
If you’ve got links that people would find useful, please do that. Uh, you’re going to find the podcast on every podcast player. So. On Spotify, Amazon, wherever, just type in the supply side podcast with me, Jonathan Doyle, you’ll find 📍 that last thing. Uh, if you would like to support me on Patrion, if you like what you’re hearing, and this is interesting, you’re getting some value from it.
Then there will be a link, uh, to the pie chart of Canada. Love you to come and make a contribution on Patrion. So I can keep doing this. I just want to go deeper into this and keep trying to bring you value. So I love your support on Patrion to, uh, to keep financing what I’m trying to do here. And otherwise just go to patron and just do a search for Jonathan Doyle.
You’re going to find me there. All right. God bless everybody. I hope that’s useful. I hope that’s useful. Let’s uh, let’s get into this. Let’s see where it takes us. My name’s Jonathan Doyle. This is the supply side podcast, YouTube website thing. I’m going to have another video for you on M and T very soon.
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