Jan 7, 2021
Welcome to episode 62 of Activist #MMT. Today is the final part of my five-part conversation with one of MMT’s original developers, Mathew Forstater. Mat concludes his many varied stories from the history of MMT, heterodox economics, and his long career. He starts by talking about how truly full employment can only be attained and maintained, both in good times and bad, by a federally-funded job guarantee. In the same vein, only a federally-funded job guarantee can be flexible enough to respond effectively to both structural and technological changes – again, in both good times and bad.
Mat also describes how the term "flexibility" has been distorted to give the appearance of an increase in options, when in reality it is a ratcheting down of worker rights. It also relates to how mainstream economics assumes for-profit businesses to be perfectly flexible and always trending towards full employment. In my interpretation, this is the excuse used to assert that any government intervention is not just pointless and redundant, but decidedly detrimental. It also hides the fact that what gives private industry this flexibility is their ability to push all real and financial costs onto workers and, secondarily, onto customers and society in general. This is as evidenced by the very existence of involuntary unemployment and underemployment.
Mat ends by describing an experience of how an unsubstantiated criticism he saw in the comment section of a New Economics Perspectives blog-post worked its way into a journal article. Instead of the journal editors addressing the error directly, they offered Mat an opportunity to publish a response. Although he wrote it, he never sent it, feeling that it would be embarrassing to the original author, despite their bringing it on themselves. He says the experience is representative of how the academic community selectively applies its standards, depending on who in the moment it happens to benefit.
Finally, a programming note. Due to an unfortunate technical glitch, today’s episode ends very abruptly.
And now, back my conversation with Mat Forstater.