Jul 4, 2021
Welcome to episode 83 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with 10th-year MMT activist, Andy Berkeley. Andy has a PhD in marine sedimentology, and is a marine scientist and oceanographer by trade. He's also the co-author of the 2020 paper, An Accounting Model of the U.K. Exchequer, which is published by The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies (or GIMMS). This is part one of a two-part episode, but it's also part two of a larger seven-part series with all three co-authors, first individually and on a personal level, and then ending with a joint interview with all three, where we discuss the paper in depth. In today's episode, Andy and I discuss some decidedly non-economic topics. For the first half of part one, we talk about the now half-century long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since the 1970s, the UN General Assembly has regularly and overwhelmingly voted to affirm the fact that Israel is illegally occupying Palestine. This, in addition to the fact that Israel is clearly the stronger party by orders of magnitude, calls into question the popular notion and official narrative, that Israel is nothing more than a passive and long-suffering, dainty-little-flower of a victim. On the other side of this narrative is Palestine, serving the role of the melodramatic supervillain, seemingly doing nothing but perpetually alternating between launching missiles at Israel and twirling their overly-long mustache.
I’m a Jew but not religious. I grew up in a family, however, that subscribed strongly to exactly these ideas – that Israel is 100% the victim and Palestine 100% the bad guy. Questioning Israel and its leaders in any way is essentially treated by some as an act of betrayal. My speculation is that Israel is seen by many Jews as the only home on earth for the Jewish people. This is such a powerful thing that it justifies excusing the behavior of the Israeli leadership and ignoring the suffering caused in service of preserving that home. In any relationship, the idea that that one party is 100% in the right, and the other 100% in the wrong, is the stuff of cartoons, not reality. Further, the assertion that the by-far stronger party is the victim, when that so-called victim has been occupying the territory of its so-called aggressor for 50 years, is a highly suspect one in my view.
In the second half of part one, Andy and I greatly lighten the mood with another non-economic topic, this time, music. I'm a classically trained singer, and for the past six months, I've been learning guitar. Andy has played piano and bass guitar for most of his life, and we have a fun and kind-of-exciting conversation about lots of varied topics: how to sight read and learning about music theory, how we were trained, the styles in which we were trained versus those we choose to listen to, the many YouTube teachers who have influenced us, and more.
You'll find a few samples of our playing in today's episode, and we both thank you for your forgiving and understanding while listening. At the very beginning of today's episode, you heard a brief sample of Andy's piano and bass playing. You'll find the entire piece, along with another, after today's closing music. You'll also find links to the several musicians and songs we mention, below.
Although this episode has little-to-nothing to do with MMT, it provides important context for learning and better understanding MMT. The academic concepts cannot be separated from those who promote them. Today is about those who promote them, and what interests them.
Next week in part two, Andy describes his life before knowing about MMT and how he discovered it from an actual stranger on a train. Someone he now knows well, Chris Cook, overheard Andy's conversation and interrupted and interjected the fateful words: "Banks don't lend deposits and governments don't spend taxes.”
But that's next week. For now, here's part one of my conversation with Andy Berkeley. Enjoy.