MMT: The theory of how to get something for nothing

MMT: The theory of how to get something for nothing, by Steven Saville.

Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT for short, is gaining popularity in the US. It is based on the idea that under the current monetary system the government doesn’t have to borrow. Instead, it simply can print all the money it needs to fill the gap between its spending and its income. The only limitation is “inflation”. As long as “inflation” is not a problem the government can spend — using newly-created money to finance any deficit — as much as required to ensure that almost everyone is gainfully employed and to provide all desired services and infrastructure. It sounds great! Why hasn’t anyone come up with such an effective and easy-to-implement prosperity scheme in the past?

Of course it has been tried in the past. It has been tried countless times over literally thousands of years. The fact is that there is nothing modern about Modern Monetary Theory. It is just another version of the same old attempt to get something for nothing.

Most recently, MMT was put into effect in Venezuela. For all intents and purposes, the government of Venezuela printed whatever money it needed to pay for the extensive ‘free’ social services it promised to the country’s citizens. The MMT apologists undoubtedly would argue that the money-printing experiment didn’t work in Venezuela because the government didn’t pay attention to the “inflation” rate. It kept on printing money at a rapid pace after “inflation” became a problem. Our retort would be: “Great point! Who would have thought that a government with the power to print money couldn’t be trusted to stop printing as soon as an index of prices moved above an arbitrary level.” …

The question is: “Who will pay?” According to MMT, nobody pays until/unless “inflation” gets too high.

And what happens when inflation gets too high? Well, according to MMT the government simply ramps up direct taxation to reduce the spending power of the private sector, which supposedly quells the upward pressure on prices.

Therefore, MMT can be viewed as a case of heads the government wins, tails the private sector loses. As long as “inflation” is below an arbitrary level the government can extract whatever wealth it wants from the private sector indirectly by printing money, and if “inflation” gets too high the government can extract whatever wealth it wants from the private sector via direct taxation.

The crux of the issue is that new wealth can’t be created by printing money, but existing wealth will be redistributed. It’s like when a private counterfeiter prints new money for himself. When he spends that money he diverts real wealth to himself while contributing nothing to the economy. MMT is the same principle applied on a gigantic scale.

Here in Australia, One Nation was pushing it in about year 2000, and were rightly rubbished for it.