Dec 31, 2020
Welcome to episode 61 of Activist #MMT. Today is part four of my five-part conversation with one of MMT’s original developers, Mathew Forstater. Mat continues telling his many varied stories from the history of MMT, heterodox economics, and his long career.
Today’s conversation is highlighted by a detailed story of how his then-student, Pavlina Tcherneva, became part of the MMT project. Pavlina was an undergraduate at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, a straight-A student, and a triple-major in economics, mathematics, and Japanese. After her summer plans to return to her home country of Bulgaria fell through, she requested a paid summer internship. Despite being long after internships were decided, Mat wrote a brief letter on her behalf and sent it out to three prominent economic email listserves. He got three responses.
Around the same time, Warren Mosler was sharing his new ideas in a draft of a short book called Soft Currency Economics. At the suggestion of Art Laffer (the same Art Laffer whose curve serves as the foundation of trickle-down economics) Warren found his way to the Post-Keynesian Talk (or Thought), PKT email forum. It was there he saw Mat’s letter, and offered Pavlina a paid internship at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. After Mat confirmed it was safe, Pavlina spent the summer writing a critical review of Warren’s book and ideas, comparing it to the ideas in the history of economics. She also helped organize a 50th-anniversary meeting of the Brettonwood’s conference.
Since then, what MMTers such as Mat, Pavlina, and Randall Wray added to the MMT project, was confirmation and validation of Warren’s ideas by the historical record, both in and out of economics. The most prominent example Mat gives is how tax-driven money was confirmed by, among other sources, many of the various books from Mat’s undergraduate degree of African American Studies.
Mat also talks about the opportunities, tensions, and discrimination, resulting from the new source of research funding that Warren provided. The tension was exacerbated by an environment of artificial scarcity, as imposed by a society and government that frowns upon having its ideas being challenged.
And now back my conversation with Mat Forstater.