Mar 9, 2021
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 an episode of a podcast called Season of the Bitch. Jane then branched out to MMT Podcast and Money on the Left, 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 and anthropological 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 to 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 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. These 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. Many of the books and authors 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 sabotaged and coerced 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.