Jun 18, 2020
Welcome to episode 33 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with Mark Collins (Twitter/@amlighthouse). Mark is a fourth year MMT activist, Arkansas resident, and self-described "far-to-the-left socialist." In the late 1970s, Mark's wife's sister was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This was a shock since no one in the family had the disease in the previous two generations. It soon became clear that his twin boys, age 7 at the time, would likely suffer the same fate. It meant that they would probably not live past the age of forty five, which indeed became reality. Mark describes how he prepared his little boys and all his children, in addition to himself, for this inevitability.
I see Mark’s tragedy as analogous to our current situation with climate change. On our current path, I having a hard time seeing how societal collapse is not going to happen, and relatively soon. Unlike Mark’s boys however, we have a chance to change that path. But unless and until we come to terms with the inevitability of our current path, our chances of changing it are small and growing smaller.
The catalyst, however, for my asking Mark for an interview was related to a post I wrote on Facebook, describing how the United States, as the only issuer of the United States dollar, does not ever need to borrow the United States dollar from anyone or anything else – including China. Why would it need to borrow what it, and only it, can create?
After receiving feedback from Mark and others, In addition to my previous discussions with Joe Firestone, I now realize what the United States does is not "borrow" at all – despite the term being omnipresent in the language of our political, media, and educational institutions.
You and I put our money into a bank account because the bank guarantees that it will keep your money secure (and, in addition, pay a little interest). United States bonds are the same thing. Purchasing a bond is opening a savings account at the US Treasury. The Treasury, and more broadly, the government, guarantees that it will keep your money secure (and, in addition, pay a little interest). The United States doesn’t need our money before it can spend new money, anymore than the local bank branch needs our money to create new loans. Banks make money by earning interest on loans (in addition to fees, fines, and fraud) but the loans are created by using their computers to mark up the size of the account of the loan recipient. The bank securing our money is a service provided by the bank to its customers. Likewise, United States bonds are a service provided by the central government to its citizens (and other countries) – not the other way around. The government selling bonds is not borrowing, it’s securitization.
However, pretending the government must borrow its own money from its citizens is a very effective method of scaring those citizens into thinking that anything ambitious they want or need the government to do, must necessarily place a massive burden directly onto our individual shoulders. The truth is, whatever the federal government does, is a burden on the entirety of society. In other words, us as a whole. As a collective. Our capabilities as a collective are immense. Because the resources and labor available to us as a collective is just as immense.
(Here is the updated post thanks to Mark’s feedback, to which he responds in part two.)
Mark is a storyteller. As I think back on our conversation, the words that keep coming back to me are "philosophical" and "spiritual." This is part one of a two-part episode. Enjoy.
For an overview of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) with many reliable sources to learn more, here is a good place to start:
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