Inequality, global imbalances and crisis

Tracing a connection between rising inequality and the Great Recession of 2008 is appealing to leftist economists. It suggests that what they see as two of the potential downsides of capitalism and in particular the neoliberal economic order can perhaps be mitigated via appropriate policies. Thus, a more egalitarian capitalism can become less prone to crisis or recession.

Of course, what is appealing as social and economic outcomes is not a good enough reason to investigate linkages between them, though I suspect that I am far from the only one who is drawn to particular ideas as a matter of bias.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that as a starting point, followed by economic analysis of the chosen object of study.

An article in the latest issue of the heterodox Cambridge Journal of Economics explores the potential linkages between the distribution of income and current account imbalances in a simplified model of the global economy consisting of the US, Germany and China, prior to the 2008 recession.

These three countries had the largest current account imbalances in absolute terms in the run-up to the recession. The US ran a deficit, and Germany and China were running surpluses. Since these imbalances have been pinpointed by some economists as a cause of the recession itself, analysing them is important. Continue reading


Heterodox critiques of quantitative easing

Following last week’s quote from Michael Hudson on quantitative easing (QE), here are some other insightful perspectives which for me offer explanatory power, given the course of economic and financial events over the decade since the crisis began.

The aim of QE is to reduce long-term interest rates, boost private sector lending, and raise asset prices to generate a positive wealth effect on private spending. Altogether, these are meant to raise private sector consumption and investment, and thus economic growth.

Richard Koo, economist at Nomura and originator of the theory of balance sheet recessions, has outlined the potential problem of the ‘QE Trap’ (2015). While QE might have the effect of mitigating such a recession, once the recovery is underway, its withdrawal could lead to slower growth than otherwise. In other words, over the longer term, its overall effect might be negligible or even negative: Continue reading

Michael Hudson on Quantitative Easing

Plenty of economists, investors and others have been wondering what will happen to financial markets and the real economy as monetary stimulus in the form of Quantitative Easing is wound down by central banks from the US to the Eurozone in the face of stronger growth.

I will be writing more about it next week, considering the perspectives of critic Richard Koo among others, but here is Michael Hudson from, as ever, his iconoclastic and insightful ‘dictionary’ J is for Junk Economics (p.189-91): Continue reading

Finance, inequality, ecology – an interview with Steve Keen

A nice interview with post-Keynesian Professor Steve Keen, in which he discusses what are (or should be) some of the most important issues in modern economics.

He covers the role of finance and private debt in generating inequality and what can be done to reduce it; the idea and feasibility of a universal basic income; economics and planetary ecology; and the incorporation of energy into economic models.

Michael Hudson on Modern Monetary Theory

There is an enormous amount of information across the internet on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). A search in google gives around 2.6 million results, while that for post-Keynesian produces a mere 974 thousand! Marxist economics gives even fewer, at 913 thousand.

Having said that, a search for Marxism produces 13.3 million results. Of course, Marxist thought has had an influence far beyond economics, and even philosophy, politics and sociology, into such fields as anthropology and psychology.

Here is maverick economics Professor Michael Hudson on MMT, taken from his book J is for Junk Economics (p.155-7). Hudson is supportive of the theory and the economic policies which it implies.

Later in the week I will outline some ideas on money and inflation drawn from Anwar Shaikh‘s 2016 work Capitalism. Shaikh is critical of some aspects of MMT and provides extensive theoretical discussion and empirical evidence to make his case for a ‘Classical’ theory of modern money and inflation. Continue reading

Yanis Varoufakis explains debt deflation

A short video featuring the ever-engaging Yanis Varoufakis, self-styled ‘erratic Marxist’ and former finance minister of Greece. Here he explains the process of debt deflation which, during the eurozone crisis, has hit Greece hard. In particular he outlines the difference between devaluing the national currency and reducing wages, and the effect these have on the debt burden and the prospects for economic recovery.