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The Great Transformation of economic theory

October 29, 2019 28 comments

from Asad Zaman

In the Origins of Central Banking, we discussed how the Bank of England was created in 1694 to provide funding for a war with France. The success of this institution was noted, and it was replicated across Europe, so that Central Banks came into existence to finance the nearly continuous wars between European powers that characterized the 18th Century. The 19th Century was unusual in that European powers set aside differences to create a Hundred Years of Peace (1814 to 1914), in order to go on a spree of global colonization and conquest. The transition from war to peace also created a transformation in economic theories from Mercantilism to Free Trade. Some aspects of this transition are discussed below.

The Root of All Evil

An essential aspect of the Great Transformation from traditional, paternalistic societies to market societies involves re-engineering human motivations. The lust for money does not normally rank high as a driver of human behavior.   read more

Central Bank History (3/5) 1914-1980

October 9, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

This series of posts is based on a single lecture (Lecture 13 of Advanced Macro II) exploring the evolving functions of Central Banks through time. It goes through a vast amount of material in a very short time, and hence is a very sketchy treatment. This is the 3rd post,  which deals with the period from WW! to the 1980s.  read more

Central bank history (2/5) 1814-1914 hundred years peace

September 25, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

In previous post on the founding of the Bank of England, we have explained that Central Banks were created to provide financing for wars. In fulfilling this role, they had several advantages over the state, enabling them to get credit, and get it at low interest rates. For a number of reasons, this was not possible for sovereign states.  read more . . .

Game theory for humans with hearts

September 7, 2019 14 comments

from Asad Zaman

The following is a slightly revised excerpt of Section 1.2 from my paper on “Empirical Evidence Against Utility Theory“ – Game theorists rule out Humans with hearts by assumption. The excerpt provides some empirical evidence (not needed by anyone except economists) that human actually do have hearts, and this actually affects their behavior! surprise, surprise!

The “Goeree-Holt Humans with Hearts” (GHHwH) Game: Conventional game theory operates under the assumption that both players (A-player labelled Aleena, and B-player labelled Babar) are heartless human beings. They have no emotions; rather, they are disembodied brains floating in vats. For more explanation and discussion, see “Homo Economics: Cold, Calculating, and Callous“. Below we discuss a game described in Goeree, Jacob K. and Charles A. Holt (2001). “Ten Little Treasures of Game Theory and Ten Intuitive Contradictions,” American Economic Review, vol. 91(5): 1402-1422. They do not provide a name for this game, so we will call it the GH Humans with Hearts game; it is a convenient way to prove the human beings do not behave like homo economicus. Furthermore, this assertion is not a surprise to anyone except economists, who are trained to think like economists. This means deep training in learning to model human behaviour as heartless, which blinds them to the complex realities of human behaviour.  read more

MMT macro final (3/3) entanglement

August 5, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

Previous posts (  MMT Macro Final 1/3 , and  MMT Macro Final 2/3 ) have covered questions 1-4 and 5-8. This post covers the last 4 question of the MMT based  Advanced Macro course I taught last semester at PIDE. The central methodological difference at the heart of my course was the principle of EntanglementTheories cannot be understood outside their historical context, and history cannot be understood without understanding theories used by human agents to understand and respond to that history. This is one of the three methodological principles that I have extracted from a study of  Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation . This issue is discussed in the answer to question 11 below. Because of its central importance, I have also tried to explain it in greater detail in a separate 18 min video lecture.   read more

Number Facts & Number Fictions

July 31, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

Excerpt from:  Real Statistics (3/4) Statistics as Rhetoric 

{Preliminary material explains that conventional approach statistics separates theory and application — the job of ths statistician is to analyze numbers – without knowing where the come from. The job of the Field Expert is to use objective statistical analysis of numbers to get better understanding of the realities which generate the numbers. In “Real Statistics”, we assert that these two tasks cannot be separated. Theory must always be studied within the context of real world application. Also, real world phenomena cannot be understood without application of theory} read more

MMT Macro Final (2/3)

July 19, 2019 10 comments

from Asad Zaman

Last semester I taught an MMT-based Macro course which attempted to re-integrate history into economics. The course was based on the premise that economic theories cannot be understood outside the historical context in which they were born. Standard graduate macro courses attempt to teach a body of theory which has been empirically falsified. My course had the goal of giving the student the ability to understand major economic events of the past century.  A previous post on  MMT Macro Final (1/3)  provided the first 4 questions and answers for the Final Exam, as a sample of what was taught. This post provides questions 5 to 8, together with the answers.  read more

MMT Macro Final Exam (1/3)

July 8, 2019 6 comments

from Asad Zaman

During the last two semesters, I taught Macroeconomics based on a new approach which re-incorporate the history that Economists forgot (See  Method or Madness?). The central idea of the course is that economic theories cannot be understood outside of their historical context. Conversely, economic history cannot be understood except by studying the economic theories (right or wrong) which were used by contemporaries to shape policy responses to historical events. The website for the entire course is “Macroeconomics“. In particular, Lecture 18B explains the principle of “Entanglement“. Below I provide Final Exam questions and answers, to give the flavor of the course. This post is about the first 4 out of 12 questions.

Q1: Stiglitz: “Ricardian equivalence is taught in every graduate school in the country. It is also sheer nonsense.” Explain the theory, and arguments for it. Then explain why it is sheer nonsense.  read more

The central message of MMT

July 5, 2019 33 comments

from Asad Zaman

The central message of MMT is that once the illusion of gold is removed from the picture, money is valued because everybody has confidence in it. This confidence can be safely created by sovereign authority. The King, or the state, can create any amount of money, without limits. There is no issue of sustainability of deficit. Creation of money has powerful effects on the economy, and printing too much money would definitely cause inflation, so it would never be advisable to freely print money. But the state does have the power to do so, and the state will never have to “pay back” for money it created today. The focus should shift from the wrong question of how the government can generate revenue to finance its spending, to the right question of what are the effects of money creation by the sovereign state? By analyzing the impact of money creation on employment, inflation, debt, we can figure out the right amount to create. The conventional idea of “neutrality of money” embodied in Real Business Cycles and DSGE models is a major obstacle in the path asking the right questions, because these theories say that the quantity of money does not matter.

https://weapedagogy.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/monetization-maturity-tranformation-and-mmt/

Employment for all

May 17, 2019 5 comments

from Asad Zaman

Global experience shows that market economies create massive inequalities, enriching the top one per cent, while leaving the bottom of the population far behind. One key to prosperity is to provide productive jobs for all who would like to participate in the production process. Unfortu­nately, contemporary macroeconomics, which was blind to the possibility of the global financial crisis, is not equipped with the ideas and tools required to create full employment.

Conventional macro blames the poor for their poverty, and suggests education and training to fit them into existing jobs. However, the private sector does not naturally create enough jobs to employ everyone. Experience with Keynesian remedies shows that expansionary monetary policy starts to create inflation a long time before full employment is achieved. Modern Monetary Theory provides a genuine alternative, a job guarantee (JG) programme.

Instead of preparing people to fit them into existing or potential private sector jobs by providing them with education and training, we must create jobs tailored to the people. Jobs should be provided to take people as and where they are. Skills should be provided via on-the-job training. There are a huge number of jobs which require low levels of skill and education, and provide enormous benefits to society, but are not profit-making for the private sector.

Planting trees, building roads, cleaning dams, infrastructure projects, a range of social services, all provide benefits to society, and make a measurable impact on appropriate measures of GNP, but may not be privately profitable.   read more . . . 

Employment for all

April 30, 2019 4 comments

from Asad Zaman

Global experience shows that market economies create massive inequalities, enriching the top one per cent, while leaving the bottom of the population far behind. One key to prosperity is to provide productive jobs for all who would like to participate in the production process. Unfortu­nately, contemporary macroeconomics, which was blind to the possibility of the global financial crisis, is not equipped with the ideas and tools required to create full employment.

Conventional macro blames the poor for their poverty, and suggests education and training to fit them into existing jobs. However, the private sector does not naturally create enough jobs to employ everyone. Experience with Keynesian remedies shows that expansionary monetary policy starts to create inflation a long time before full employment is achieved. Modern Monetary Theory provides a genuine alternative, a job guarantee (JG) programme.

Instead of preparing people to fit them into existing or potential private sector jobs by providing them with education and training, we must create jobs tailored to the people. Jobs should be provided to take people as and where they are.  read more . . . . 

Fear of Floating

April 15, 2019 3 comments

from Asad Zaman

Published in Dawn, Mar 27, 2019, a leading Pakistani newspaper, in context of public debate about moving to a floating exchange rate regime —

In 1971, when Nixon shocked the world by abandoning the convertibility of dollars to gold, he dragged all of us, unwillingly, into the modern era of floating exchange rates. Since then, economic theories have changed. But old habits die hard; economists and policymakers today continue to think and operate as if they live in the old world. This article examines the question of fixed versus floating exchange rate regimes from the new perspective of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).  read more

Origins of central banking

April 5, 2019 21 comments

from Asad Zaman

In this post, we provide some details regarding the origins of the Bank of England, the mother of all Central Banks and discuss some implications of this early history for our modern world. A link to a video-lecture on the topic is given at the bottom of the post.

We start with an excerpt from Ellen Brown in the Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Below, selected passages from Chapter 6: Pulling The Strings Of The King: The Moneylenders Take England: [passages in italics are my comments on the text, rest are quotes]

The first passage discusses how Queen Elizabeth asserted her sovereign right to issue money, and how the financiers worked to undermine thisread more

The fallacy of Ricardian equivalence

March 29, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

StiglitzRicardian equivalence is taught in every graduate school in the country. It is also sheer nonsense  [see “Quotes Critical of Economics” for more.] This post explains why.

In this post, we will create a simple model that demonstrates some fundamental truth of Modern Monetary Theory.  This is a variant of “.Simple Model Explains Complex Keynesian Conceptss“, We will show the following phenomena

  1. A Market Economy naturally creates an equilibrium with high unemployment and under-employment, showing existence of under-employment equilibria
  2. Government Deficit Spending increases aggregate demand, and moves the economy to full employment.
  3. Deficit Spending, also massively improves social welfare, by providing food even to the unemployed, using the additional output created by the increased aggregate demand
  4. Deficit Spending is not  “FINANCED” from any source. Government spending money which it does not have, creates welfare by injecting money into the economy. This money leads to increased output and is not inflationary. The government can continue this deficit spending forever, without worrying about sustainability or “paying back” the debt.
  5. Government Deficit injects money into the system which is exactly equal to the PROFITS of the firms, plus the SAVINGS of the laborers. Since firms work for profits while households wish to save, neither can succeed UNLESS the government runs deficits. Thus deficit spending is crucial to a capitalist economy — without it there would be no profits for business, and without profits and savings the economy would collapse.   Read more

Mainstream versus Minsky

March 26, 2019 4 comments

from Asad Zaman

Krugman fails to understand Minsky

On the one hand, Minsky has been transformed from an eclectic outcast to a darling of the mainstream after the crisis. On the other hand, Krugman and others have failed to appreciate the central insights of Minsky, just as they did with Keynes. While Keynes had completely rejected mainstream theories on solid grounds, Hicks and Samuelson constructed a neoclassical synthesis which conceded the short-run to Keynes on the basis of short run wage rigidities, but kept the fundamentals of mainstream theories intact. Similarly, today mainstream economists like Krugman admit to being at fault in not predicting the GFC, but blame it on external factors, rather than central weaknesses in mainstream theories. Three external factors which account for the failure of economists to “see it coming” are:

  1. The GFC was Black Swan Event. A period of stability led to under-estimation of risks and a discounting of the probabilities of crisis.
  2. The Fed kept interest rates low for too long. This allowed massive credit creation, which led to bubbles
  3. Rise of Shadow Banking Industry went un-noticed. The unregulated financial sector created a crisis by making high leverage gambles, using derivatives as insurance.  read more

 

Why Minsky matters

March 22, 2019 3 comments

from Asad Zaman

  1. Why did No One See It Coming?

We start by posing the question “Why did no one see it coming?” which the Queen of England asked at the London School of Economics. To answer, we must consider the evolution of macroeconomic thought. This involves the rejection of Keynes, the rise of monetarism of Friedman, the extremism of Lucas, New Monetary Consensus of Bernanke, Efficient Markets of Fama, Laissez-Faire approach to financial regulation. The book starts with a beautiful description of the problem, eminently worth adding to my collection of “Quotes Critical of Economics”:

What passed for macroeconomics on the verge of the global financial collapse had little to do with reality. The world modeled by mainstream economics bore no relation to our economy. It was based on rational expectations in which everyone bets right, at least within a random error, and maximizes anything and everything while living in a world without financial institutions. There are no bubbles, no speculation, no crashes, and no crises in these models. And everyone always pays all debts due on time.

In short, expecting the queen’s economists to foresee the crisis would be like putting flat-earthers in charge of navigation for NASA and expecting them to accurately predict points of reentry and landing of the space shuttle. The same can be said of the U.S. president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)—who actually had served as little more than cheerleaders for the theory that so ill-served policy makers.

  1. Minsky: Stability is De-Stabilizing!   read more

Adam Smith’s bad history leads to bad economics

March 15, 2019 5 comments

from Asad Zaman

Guest Post by Donni Wang [author details at bottom of post]. Republished from The Economic Historian blog: “No Go from the Get Go: Adam Smith’s Bad History, Lessons from Ancient Greece, and the Need to Subsume Economics” – She is a historian, and argues here that a false history which portrays progression and progress actually seals off alternatives and choices which we could, and indeed need to, make today. Correcting Adam Smith’s views about history of mankind, using lessons from Ancient Greece, thus creates new possibilities for us today.

WORLDVIEWS THAT gain traction tend to be comprehensive in nature. They account for a wide range of phenomena that define the human condition, one of which being the changes that occur to society over time. This is true also for capitalism as an extensive body of thought. Although there is much emphasis placed on the modern epoch that features the rise of the industrial nation in the West, the weltanschauung of capitalism does supply a neat story of human development that extends back to earlier periods.

The obvious source for this narrative is to be found in the writing of Adam Smith.  Having been rightly credited as the father of capitalism, Smith has contributed much to the overall coherence of the market system by reinforcing it with a supportive philosophical foundation. In fact, his narrative of the past, which is still being circulated in contemporary textbooks and popular discourse, has not only rationalized the ascent of market forces in 18th century Europe, it also validated the major assumptions that undergird orthodox economic thinking today.

The historical account proffered by Smith, however, does not hold up even to the most basic test. read more

Islam’s gift: an economy of spiritual development

February 4, 2019 32 comments

from Asad Zaman

My article with the title above is due to be published in the next issue of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (2019). This was written at the invitation of the editor Clifford Cobb, as an introduction to Islamic Economics for a secular audience. The Paper explains how modern economics is deeply flawed because it ignores the heart and soul of man, and assumes that the best behavior for humans is aligned with short-sighted greed. Islam provides a radically different view, showing how generosity, cooperation, and overcoming the pursuit of desires leads to spiritual progress. Islam seeks to create a society where individuals can make spiritual progress and develop the unique and extraordinary capabilities and potentials which every human being is born with. Pre-print – to appear in American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2019 – is available for view/download at the bottom of this post.

As an excerpt, I am posting Section 2 of the paper, entitled

The Flawed Foundations of Modern Economics

The defeat of Christianity in a battle with science led to an extraordinary respect and reverence for scientific knowledge, sometimes called the “Deification of Science,” in Europe (Olson 1990; Zaman 2015a).   This had fatal consequences. Even though all scientific knowledge is inherently uncertain, a concerted effort was made to prove the opposite—that scientific knowledge is not only certain, but it is the only source of certain knowledge.  Because of distortions necessary to prove something which was not true, the methodology of science was dramatically misunderstood by the logical positivists. read more

Perils of exchange rate miss-alignment

January 26, 2019 5 comments

from Asad Zaman

As I have only recently come to realize, stabilizing the exchange rate at the wrong level can have massively harmful effects. One can trace major economic tragedies to such attempts. The British attempt to go back to the gold standard after post WW1 failed because they set the level too high (as Keynes pointed out). This attempt set of a sequence of events which had far reaching consequences. A similar story is told about Pakistan in “The Rupee is falling; let it crash”. Linked article shows that overvaluation of Pak Rupee de-linked the Pakistan and Indian Economies, which may the economic root of current political hostilities. Current problems of the European Union are a more advanced version of the same problem, where the rate of exchange between European countries cannot be re-aligned according to the gaps between their imports and exports. This is a subject worth exploring further, and if readers have more pointers/articles, I would appreciate learning more about it. The article below deals with the Dutch Disease in Pakistan.  read more

Fisher’s debt deflation theory of financial crises

January 18, 2019 Leave a comment

from Asad Zaman

This post is the third part of lecture 8 of Advanced Macro L08C: Fisher’s Debt-Deflation Theory of the Great Depression. In previous segments of this lecture L08A: Micro-Foundations for Keynesian Economics, and L08B: Keynesian Explanation for Great Depression: Seriously Incomplete, we examined the Keynesian explanation for the Great Depression, and found serious deficiencies in it. L08A explains that many different kinds of outcomes, with and without unemployment, are possible depending on how we specify details of the micro-structure that Keynes failed to specify. L08B explains that a simple deficiency in aggregate demand created by savings does not suffice to create unemployment because savings of current period is income/wealth of the next. It is necessary to look at abnormal savings, together with fixed prices, to create surplus production which signals shortfall in aggregate demand to the producers. Thus, many elements – micro-structure, role of debt, and different sectors of the economy – must be added to the Keynesian model to achieve the outcome of unemployment due to shortfall in aggregate demand that is at the center of Keynesian analysis.  read more