(((My Fellow Americans))) #116: Professor Alexander Salter

(((My Fellow Americans)))

About This Episode

My guest tonight is Texas Tech Economics Professor Alexander Salter.

I showed a preview of our interview to Jen Psaki, who told me that it was unfair and absurd, and that the American people wouldn’t stand for it.

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Episode Transcript

This episode transcript is auto-generated and a provided as a service to the hearing impaired. We apologize for any errors or inaccuracies.

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as always folks my guest tonight is a
really cool guy and i’m going to
air his interview right now so you’ll
get to see just how cool he is but first
i need to let you know because i forgot
to mention it earlier on in the episode
he mentions it towards the end but i
need to let you know earlier on so you
already know in addition to being all
the things i’m about to say that he is
he is also the co-author
of the book money and the rule of law
generality and predictability and
monetary institutions this is a tome
policy monetary policy and what should
be done moving forward
hint and the fed but uh you definitely
want to check this book out if you are
um into monetary policy you want to find
out more this is definitely a great
place to start and right now
i will put the link
comments so that you can see
you can see
you can buy it so that’s on all the
things right now
it’s not on facebook yet
i’m just gonna go ahead and put it
directly on facebook i don’t know what’s
going on with buddy waters right now
all right i’m gonna put it directly on
facebook as spike cohen this is fun
oh no it’s on there okay never mind uh
it’s just saying on the chat that it’s
not on there anyway so that’s where you
can get this book uh modern monetary or
uh monetary
money and the rule of law
money in the rule of law that’s the book
and now without any further ado actually
a slight amount of further ado i am
going to be in the comments
watching you
reading what you write
and responding if i see fit
whatever you comment
i’m there looking closely
so comment wisely
so without any further ado uh this is my
amazing interview that i aired before it
was such a recent interview that i’m
still wearing the same shirt it was just
it was like three hours ago so uh hang
out uh and watch this incredible
interview i am going to be commenting
so hard
don’t think that don’t think this is you
don’t think this is the time to get one
over on me because i’m going to be in
the comments so
i’m already lurking it’s too late so
here is my incredible interview with
professor alex salter folks my guest
tonight is an associate professor of
economics in the rawls college of
business at texas tech i remember texas
tech when i was in lubbock last year
and the comparative economics research
fellow at texas tech’s free market
institute and uh i’m really looking
forward to having him on if for no other
reason that i can keep saying texas tech
over and over again ladies and gentlemen
my fellow americans please welcome to
the show professor alexander salter alex
thanks so much for coming on the show
first spike let me say thank you for
having me second let me say guns up go
red raiders
guns up that was the thing that was okay
remember i was talking about the column
response that was supposed to be guns
up they would do that and i’m like
i thought it was an l like a libertarian
l and they’re like no you’re supposed to
say guns up and i’m like
guns up and they’re like hands up yeah
thanks i appreciate you coming on the
show and folks this is being
pre-recorded but i am lurking in the
comments with you so be sure to ask us
any questions you have and i will
personally right now as you’re watching
this let you know if you are right or
wrong you’re probably right but i’ll let
you know um alex before we get started
whenever i have a libertarian on my show
i always start by asking this what is it
that when was it that moment when you
realized you were a libertarian or that
got you into libertarianism was it like
this aha moment or was it sort of a
gradual evolution over time you know
every libertarian has their genesis
story tell us the the alex salter story
yeah mine’s uh mine’s a pretty typical
gradual story i think
i started studying economics in high
school and then i continued in college
and i actually was fascinated by
economics because i thought i wanted to
basically be a macroeconomic planner i
wanted to use math and statistics to try
and uh smooth out the business cycle and
plan the economy and do all these things
in a top-down policy way and then the
more economics that i studied and read
the less convinced i became that that
was a viable approach to policy and
political economy
so i got into economics for that reason
to try and be
that kind of a policy top-down
implementer i stayed in economics once i
read hayek’s works mises works the great
classically liberal political economist
and they sort of uh guided me to my
eventual libertarianism so it was a fun
journey and it was a very valuable
intellectual journey for me i love it so
you went in
so this is i talk about this constantly
to the point where it annoys people but
the dunning-kruger scale so you came in
and you’re like i’m gonna come in and i
am going to figure out what every
economist got wrong before me i’m going
to centrally a plan this economy no more
recessions no more boom bus site we’re
just going to go straight through and
have just pure economic growth and then
you get in and you realize actually it
doesn’t work like that at all and anyone
who’s attempting to centrally plan ends
up making things worse is that does that
sound about right that’s the long and
short of it right i think uh paul
krugman had this famous essay where he
got into economics because he wanted to
be harry selden from the from the
foundation series by isaac asimov who’s
this sort of brainiac social planner and
i had that too uh the difference is i
got over it
he’s still trying he’s still trying he
was so close about
what’s that he’s giving it the old
college try he is definitely giving it
the college try uh i he was so close
with the internet thing you know he said
that it was going to be done like the
fax machine
and he said for free i don’t want to
derail the conversation but he said that
in like 03
or one or something like who was saying
in the early 2000s that the internet was
a fad
anyway i’m sorry that’s a good question
i can only assume uh charitably that he
was looking at the threat of ticket
productivity statistics and they might
not have spiked and boomed in there yet
but uh you would think that if you’re a
little more forward-looking you would
realize this this is a thing this is
more than just a bad it’s more than the
fax machine anyway anyway uh
hey thanks so much for coming on the
show we’re gonna be talking uh because
because you are an economist we could
spend several hours talking about stuff
so instead we’re gonna focus on one
thing it’s something that’s been coming
up a lot recently as the government has
decided that they’re gonna just spend
forever and that that’s perfectly fine
there are no more fiscal hawks or
deficit hawks it seems in in dc anymore
at least certainly none that are any
real consequence um
and this all seems to be coming from
modern monetary uh theory and uh
economist uh stephanie kelton who is the
leading expert on mmt uh we’re not going
to just keep saying modern monetary
theory mmt
argues that since the u.s prints its own
currency uh private wealth
can balance out public debt debt and so
the government doesn’t ever have to
worry about running out of money please
why everything that’s wrong with that
there’s a lot to unpack there uh so i
think it was voltaire who when talking
about the holy roman empire said the
holy roman empire is not holy nor roman
nor an empire well as it turns out
modern monetary theory is not modern
it’s not really about money and it’s not
an economic theory so we’re over three
on on that front as well oh wow okay a
lot of things that modern monetary
theory say were actually realized by
generations of economists beforehand you
can even find some of the modern
monetary theory claims in adam smith
right the godfather of economic
right so the difference is modern
monetary theory starts with a set of
propositions about
what countries can do when they tax and
spend in their own money
right so uncle sam taxes and dollars it
spends in dollars dollars or a currency
that it controls and so in theory right
we can run the printing presses to meet
any of our fiscal needs we don’t
actually need to levy taxes we don’t
actually need to go through that
politically onerous process all you need
to do is print baby print
if you’re familiar with what happens
when you print massive quantities of
money you put them into circulation you
might be worried about spikes in
inflation modern monetary theorists say
no as long as there’s any excess
capacity in the economy as long as there
are unused resources as long as people
are unemployed we’re really not going to
see those inflationary effects and so
when you get into it modern monetary
theory is really more of a policy grab
bag it’s sort of a paradigm for public
finance that doesn’t really have a whole
lot to do with the economics of money or
money in banking or macroeconomics
certainly has some implications in that
but it doesn’t purport to be a
theoretical description of the way that
the economy works it’s more just the
newfangled uh expression that we use to
give advice to whoever happens to be in
the policy maker seat right now
well so that’s that was my question here
and again i’m not an economist i
definitely subscribe to the austrian
school but i’m doing so from a very
layman’s standpoint i mean i have a
basic understanding of austrian versus
chicago and so forth but i i don’t i’m
certainly not a professor of economics
much less one at texas tech uh guns up
um but i uh
but uh it seems like
this isn’t like you said it’s not a
monetary theory it seems like it’s sort
of this presuppositional thing where
it’s like well we can just use money for
whatever we want uh we can just print
out however much we want and it’ll work
as long as everything’s going well
macroeconomically as long as we have as
many people employed as possible and
people are making as much money as
what is their justification for seeing
that that isn’t inevitably that
endlessly inflating the monetary supply
isn’t going to lead to
inflation of prices where is that
right so the basic logic starts from
we’re a government
we control the supply of our own money
so technically we can never default
defaults always a choice since we could
always run the printing presses to meet
our debt obligations they then leap from
that to saying therefore we should
actually finance the government using
the printing press and only use taxation
to control inflation if it ever arises
for example it’s sort of a functional
finance theory of what uncle sam should
tax and spend now as far as i can
understand the reason they don’t think
that they’re going to be massive
inflationary consequences to all this is
because they see a lot more what they
call excess capacity in the economy than
mainstream economists see
modern monetary theorists think that
persistent resource under utilization
pervades modern capitalist economies
there’s a lot more that we can get out
of our resources especially labor
than it’s supposedly profitable for
markets to actually put to use now i
don’t personally buy that story
if you have idle resources by definition
you have a profit opportunity and
markets are pretty good at finding those
and exploiting those but if i’m an mmt
advocate i think that it’s better to err
on the side of pushing unemployment as
low as it can possibly go to put up with
some inflation than to risk the problems
that might attend to too much
unemployment like human capital erosion
people permanently being out of the
workforce to them those costs are worse
i think one of the big differences
between an mmt advocate and a mainstream
economist as they see inflation they
being a mainstream economist sees
disastrously high inflation coming into
play much sooner and really big
inflation has its own costs that it
creates for economic activity that
actually might make utilizing resources
even harder well that’s what i was going
to say if it when you have massive
inflation that’s going to lead to even
more waste and more uh as they would
call excess right like if things
exponentially cost more in a relatively
short period of time that’s going to
make every metric worse in the economy i
i guess i guess i’m asking an austrian
economist to explain why mmt isn’t wrong
and and you can’t but
it’s is it this simple to disprove this
are we this smart or is it just this is
that bad of a theory
no i think that it’s advocates on the
one hand they think that there’s way
more resource under utilization in
economies than there actually is if
someone is in between jobs or left a job
because they’re searching for a new job
and it makes sense to uh to not be
employed while you specialize in
searching for the new one
that’s going to be something that a
mainstream economist would say well
that’s potentially productive the person
is currently specializing in trying to
find a new job and that’s going to help
them find the best wage price offer
that’s good for them right whereas if
you’re looking at those same
unemployment numbers as a modern
monetary theorist you’re much more
likely to say this is a this is a
problem right we have persistent
underemployment we need to put these
guys to work and as long as there are
still idle workers who can be put to
work as long as there are still these
shovel ready projects in the economy we
don’t have to worry about inflation but
that’s just not the case you don’t
necessarily need to have every single
factory running as fast as it possibly
can or every single worker working
overtime before you start getting
inflation if you run the printing
presses and put that money into
circulation and people spend the money
prices are gonna go up
once inflation hits about the five to
seven and a half percent per year
territory something that we’re actually
approaching right now although we’re on
the lower end of it that’s when many
economic models start to suggest that
inflation can actually make the economy
operate less efficiently we’re actually
going to get less bang for our buck out
of our resources because inflation is
throwing a wrench in the pricing process
right it’s hard to figure out what price
changes are due to supply and demand
and what are just due to the funny money
effect of larger larger money printing
and larger inflation so i think that
this is a big problem i think that
modern monetary theorists would be more
likely to say look we don’t have to
worry about inflation right now even at
current levels it’s low cost compared to
what we’re leaving on the table in terms
of persistently underemploying our
so interestingly enough they’re actually
seeing like so if they’re looking at the
average number of days between jobs that
someone has they’re seeing that as far
worse than double-digit cost increases
or even falling labor force
participation rates
so this is something that like hardline
supply side mainstream economists and
modern monetary theorists share in terms
of their concerns right ever since the
end of the great recession of 2008 labor
force participation among primates
working people has been tending down and
that’s a little bit concerning
and so they
uh modern monetary theorists and more
conventional economists share a concern
over that so that’s good it’s good that
we share that concern because it is it
is an
area that we should be taking a look at
because we don’t want a large fraction
of our working age population not in the
labor force
but i think that modern monetary
theorists are just too optimistic about
our ability to quite literally paper
over those structural problems in the
right they’re they’re basically thinking
enough money’s not being literally
created in they’re not even you know we
talk about printing the money money
machine goes bur but at this point
they’re literally just adding numbers to
an electronic ledger they’ve reached a
point where it’s not even efficient to
print out this kind of money anymore
they’re just creating money on an
electronic ledger and then and then you
know transferring it to you know major
banks to the to the treasury in exchange
for uh um treasury notes and things like
that basically running up debts in our
name and the name of future generations
and they don’t see a problem that that
here is a question i’ve had and i’ve
asked two other people this and they
answered it but also lost me at some
point and i’m not sure whose fault it
was i’d like to think it was theirs
how is mmt different from keynesianism
or is it because i hear the same
infatuation with velocity of of money
everything that they say
and their justifications for things seem
what is there a difference between mmt
and keynesianism or or
is it yeah it seems like there is so in
terms of the genealogy of ideas there is
some overlap
right old school
uh great depression style keynesianism
became sort of the economic consensus
going into the post-war years in the
1950s eventually that
some keynesians from that school drifted
and started what they called the post
keynesian school that also incorporated
some uh some insights from a scholar
named uhinsky and some other some other
heterodox economists and then the
generation after that is where modern
monetary theory really got to be born
and so there definitely is an
intellectual genealogy there at the same
time there is some differences between
modern monetary theory and old-school
keynesianism old-school keynesianism for
example didn’t think that printing money
and spending it on stuff was all that
effective old school keynesianism was
much more about fiscal policy than
modern mon uh than monetary policy
whereas modern monetary theory is all
about using monetary policy it’s just
using the printing press for fiscal ends
it’s absolutely effective we’re just
changing slightly the emphasis
most people who call themselves
keynesians and and the academy or
economic debate today are what you would
call new keynesians and that name is
sort of misleading since new
keynesianism takes as much of its
insights and founding principles from
old school monetarism as it does old
school keynesianism right so there’s
just as much milton friedman as there is
john maynard keynes and modern
macroeconomics if you’re a mainstream
guy and so once you get into that school
of economic thought it’s sort of hard to
see a bit of a difference between modern
monetary theory aside from the fact that
from a policy standpoint modern monetary
theory is proposing a complete overhaul
of how we conduct public finance in this
country no longer is uncle sam going to
bother to levy taxes to raise revenue
instead the revenue is going to come
from printing money and the only thing
that we’ll have left over is taxation
which we might need to ratchet up if
inflation gets out of hand and we want
to raise taxes to get a control of
again that’s not something i personally
agree with i don’t think that the stance
of fiscal policy affects inflation all
that much but if you’re an mmt person we
disagree with that and what’s insane
about that is that
okay so if you believe that taxation is
only something you ratchet up for
reduction of inflation purposes let’s
say you reach a point where you are
10 or even 100 times as much as you
could conceivably raise in revenue from
the existing economy
and now so and now as a result of that
you’ve got you know 20 30 inflation or
10 whatever you’ve got massive
hyperinflation and a budget that is ex
literally exponentially higher than
anything you could raise from the
economy at that point even using their
theory what could raising the taxes by
you know even a marginal rate much less
or even by you know 50 or 60 much less a
marginal increase what would that do in
their own theory to dent inflation or do
they really believe that inflation
really is not tied in any way to the
inflation of the monetary policy they
believe it’s the the inefficiencies
within the economy that are causing
yeah mmt advocates are much more likely
to believe in what might be called uh
demand poll inflation or cost push
inflation those are just technical
jargons for kinds of inflation that are
due to things for reasons other than
increases in the money supply so those
explanations for inflation sort of fell
out of fashion when milton friedman came
on the scene and convinced everybody
that inflation is always and everywhere
a monetary phenomenon
so if you’re a modern monetary theorist
you actually have a lot of faith in the
ability of the taxing power to siphon
off the quote unquote excess nominal
income right the excess aggregate demand
out of the economy to get a control of
price increases
now a more orthodox economist a more
mainstream economist would look at that
and say increasing taxes doesn’t really
decrease the money supply and it’s not
really going to do a whole lot to slow
the rate at which a dollar turns over
right those two things together drive
total income in the economy and by
extension inflation so i don’t really
buy the argument
that you can effectively use taxing
power to siphon off inflation i think
that once that cat’s out of the bag it’s
going to be really really hard to get
control of but here’s another thing even
if modern monetary theorists are right
and taxation is a good tool to get
control over inflation you’ve got to
consider the political economy of all
would we actually trust congress to
implement the taxes that would
hypothetically be necessary
to reign in inflation and stop the
runaway growth and purchasing power
taxes aren’t very popular with our
members of congress right even people
who wear you know tax the rich clothing
right when it comes down to it they
don’t actually like levying taxes
because that makes constituents angry so
that’s why we have a perpetual deficits
problem in the first place everybody
likes spending nobody likes taxi i don’t
think even in the presence of double
digit inflation and runaway growth in
the money supply that politicians can be
counted on to enact the kind of taxation
necessary that in the best of all
possible worlds
could maybe get control of this
inflationary process so when it you know
in terms of the rubber hitting the road
i think modern monetary theory is a
recipe for a political economic disaster
it is incredible to me that there are
adult human beings
who believe this and and it’s and not
just hear it once and go oh okay that
makes sense but people who have actually
far more study on this than i have
and still come to this conclusion i’m
not surprised that politicians say this
politicians say whatever’s put in front
of them they’re that’s what they do
they’re basically actors um but that
there are people who fancy themselves
economists that are pushing this forward
i mean again okay so you’re taxing to
reduce inflation but then that money’s
that’s you’re taking money out of the
private uh sector and putting it into
the public sector where they inherently
spend more uh because their entire
budgetary their their entire process is
built around making justifying inflating
their budget so now you’re
actually from the demand side pushing
for more inflation
anyway so
obviously we can spend the next hour
agreeing on how terrible this is but
let’s let’s get into how this actually
ends up playing out so
something that we’ve heard a lot
something that i would imagine based on
our conversation what i knew before
about mmt is that they’re not fans of
the debt limit or the debt ceiling uh
and for those who don’t know what that
is the debt ceiling is basically there
is a limit to the amount of debt of
national debt that congress uh is
allowed to that that congress allows the
treasury department to run up at the at
the federal level and you’re probably
thinking that’s fantastic spike what
great news except no in the past 15
years uh they’ve uh 78 times they’ve
raised it uh 49 times under a republican
dem republican president 29 times under
a democrat president different
a large number of times under republican
congresses and democrat congresses it
doesn’t really matter who’s in charge
they’ve even suspended it a few times
before we get into how what mmt would
like to see when it comes to the debt
ceiling which i assume is get rid of it
what would happen right now like we’re
having this debate again what would
actually happen
short term and long term if the debt
ceiling wasn’t raised
that’s a difficult question
so if the debt ceiling isn’t raised
uncle sam’s in trouble
because we have obligations that are due
come mid-october
that if in the short run if we can’t
borrow some more money to pay off those
old obligations and notice how crazy
that is from an accounting standpoint by
the way but if we can’t actually meet
those obligations then some u.s debt
securities may actually be in default
and the global financial system treats
government debt as the ultimate
risk-free asset the ultimate safe asset
if it suddenly becomes revealed that the
world’s safe quote-unquote asset isn’t
so safe anymore you can imagine that
might wreak some havoc on global
financial portfolios
at the same time markets don’t seem to
be too worried right now we’re not
seeing yields spike on government debt
right there’s not much change in
interest rates
uh politicians and bureaucrats are
losing a lot of sleep over this but at
least right now markets aren’t so we can
debate why that is maybe they just think
that at the 11th hour again the debt
ceiling will be raised or maybe they
think that if it isn’t raised the
consequences won’t be that it won’t be
that severe maybe they’re counting on
the federal reserve executing its
contingency plan to uh buy some of the
securities that are in default and pay
with them with newly created money so
the people who are technically in
default actually get made whole so
there’s no actual problem
so for whatever reason markets aren’t
spooked and so you might view that as
partially reassuring or maybe you might
view that as a uh as a sign and some
more policy creep that we don’t like
that’s yet to come
yeah i i’d like to think that it’s that
they aren’t worried about if it doesn’t
get increased honestly i think the
reason they’re not spooked is because
they know that they’re going to increase
it that you know this is something this
is a game that they’ve played 78 times
in the last 50 years i think at this
point they’re just like yeah you’re
gonna raise it you’re gonna play your
little uh you know your kabuki theater
about it but at the end of the day
you’re gonna raise it and yeah like you
said they could that you could have uh
the um that the fed play some pull some
trick tricks out of their sleeve as well
but i so okay
i assume that you
like me well i i don’t want to assume
that art would you be in favor of just
saying no this is the debt ceiling we’re
not raising it anymore we’ve been
playing the okay one more time uh you
know game for for you know decades now
it’s time to just this is the debt
ceiling and yeah we’re going to have a
bit of a hard bump hitting into it but
we got it we got to pull that band-aid
off at some point is that something you
personally think would be would be a
good idea at least long term even if
even if the the short term it would
cause problems
yeah i think that there’s been i didn’t
realize it was 78 times in the last 15
years but there’s a definite feel of
playing sorry sorry sorry 5-0 fifty
years oh five zero fifty years well even
so 78 is a pretty big number even over
half a century there’s definitely a bit
of playing musical chairs associated
with all this except we never actually
remove the chair when the music stops so
it’s all for show
i don’t
love the idea
of standing firm on the debt ceiling now
and incurring those short-term
consequences which could potentially be
huge but at the same time you have to
make a stand at some point
at some point you have to say enough is
enough once we realize what the
political incentives are each time we
raise the debt ceiling we make it harder
to get our fiscal house in order the
next time this comes around
i’m tired of continuing resolutions i’m
tired of fake budgets i think that this
is banana republic territory and i think
that it does not reflect well in the
government of the united states
what i would like to see which won’t
happen but as long as we’re wishing you
know i want a pony and what i would like
to see
is some agreement to raise the debt
ceiling in exchange for real fiscal
reforms going into the future so if you
could get congressional republicans to
say if and only if you agree to massive
cuts in the rate of growth of whatever
social programs you want democrats we’ll
agree to raise this debt ceiling one
more time but we’re also going to
institutionalize a better fiscal path
right now so we need we don’t keep on
running into this problem in the future
i think that that would be a reasonable
political exchange right so to talk
about the more reasonable part of what
you just said i am friends with vermin
supreme what would you if you want a
pony we can try to get that for you
that’s probably more likely to happen
than what you said or or the debt
ceiling not being raised honestly i
i do think the reason there’s no
blinking happening or any market jitters
is because everyone knows what’s going
to happen they’re going to sit there and
go oh the republican oh the democrat and
then they’re going to raise it because
they always do you’ve got chuck schumer
uh in charge of
uh the the 50 democrats and you’ve got
mitch mcconnell in charge of the 50
republicans and you’ve got nancy pelosi
in charge of the of congress i i don’t
and you’ve got joe biden in in the white
house it’s not it’s they’re not going to
not raise it um if if there had been any
that the so-called fiscal hawks would
have actually you know said we’re going
to change this it would have happened
when the republicans the so-called
fiscal hoc republicans controlled
congress completely in the presidency in
the early 2000s and then again for two
years under donald trump and it didn’t
happen then um
i want to talk about your reason article
uh that just came out uh back in i think
it was june it came out earlier this
summer um there’s there’s nothing modern
about mmt where you said that mmt is
neither modern monetary nor a theory um
but you uh
in your article you you laid out four
main reasons
mmt doesn’t work uh
today but then i guess before we get to
that you mentioned that modern monetary
theory is not actually
new and that there’s there’s actually
some precedent in in the founding of the
u.s can you talk a little bit about that
yeah so if you go back in early u.s
history we’re talking the colonial era
and then the early national era in
the articles of confederation but before
we ratified the constitution in 1789
currency finance by state governments
was actually not that uncommon
and what i mean by that is state
governments would actually print up just
fiat money obligations drawn on itself
purchase goods and services with it
basically meet its short short-term
expenditure needs with it and then
eventually they would retire those notes
by accepting them in payment for
right so there was two kinds of notes
there’s the tax anticipation notes right
the government puts fiat money out into
the economy and says the thing that’s
going to give this value is when it
comes time for you citizens to pay your
taxes we’ll accept this fiat paper money
as an obligation right so you can
discharge your tax obligation to the
local government with this
or they would loan out the money against
mortgages that would go to finance
improvements and land primarily farming
um the reason that this actually worked
pretty well most people to the extent
that they’re familiar with colonial
finance know about like hyperinflation
in new england and massachusetts and
also the carolinas so yeah this strategy
got out of hand there but in the other
colonies especially the middle colonies
it actually worked very well it was a
reasonable way of the government raising
revenue in an era where it was very very
difficult to levy direct taxes right
we’re not talking about a predominantly
urban population that has lots of liquid
wealth that it can pay taxes in we’re
talking about a lot of farmers artisans
most of their wealth is tied up in
capital goods and so that means it’s
going to be very hard for them to pay
taxes so in what way do you levy taxes
if that’s the case you print money you
put it into circulation and you
gradually increase its supply so you
have a slow and steady inflation tax and
that goes to finance a lot of short-term
expenditures by these local governments
and provided that you have four
background conditions right four things
happening in the background of that that
can actually work well
what you need is jurisdictional
competition right the population was
actually pretty mobile you need local
small scale democracy
you need a good outside option for the
monetary economy right so if
hyperinflation happens because this
process gets out of hand you can always
go and farm right so you haven’t you
have an exit option to the monetary
economy and you specifically target this
fine target this financing method for
specific local self-liquidating
expenditures in other words you have a
project in mind and you only dedicate
the newly printed money to do that if
you have all four of those things then
yes currency finance can actually be a
viable option for state governments
you may notice of course that none of
those four conditions exist today not
one right we’re not talking about local
direct democracy we’re talking about
financing a government budget that’s
supposed to finance a country of 330
million people weak jurisdictional
competition we’re talking about general
expenditures rather than uh targeted
specific projects you have none of those
four things going on right now
i mean if you had one or two at least
you might be able to make a respectable
political economy argument for modern
monetary theory but you don’t so i just
don’t think it can work today
so the four of them again are that
and and we can contrast it with what we
actually have what it would need is a
lot of jurisdictional competition this
is a literal monopoly there is no
jurisdictional competition you aren’t
going anywhere without paying a
expatriate tax and leaving the damn
country so that’s not it so that’s that
part’s out uh there needs to be uh i
forget how you worded it but basically
people need to be able to uh exit this
capital part of the economy and and and
trade another way am i saying that
correctly that they not yeah basically
that’s that option right you could
revert to a barter meaning non-monetary
economy pretty easy
right when you had a lot of people
farming out on the frontier right a lot
of the trade that they engaged in in
those small towns those small
communities had nothing to do with money
it was just bookkeeping you know i gave
you some food and so you give me some
hay later on or something like that so
if you want an option then yeah the
monetary breakdown isn’t that costly for
you so then for example and
here it would be maybe crypto but only
if it wasn’t taxed or or allowing
bartering but where it’s not considered
a like-kind payment that still has to be
taxed so basically they’d only tax what
the the
federal reserve notes were being used
for not anything else that has an actual
capital value
right plus the difference think about
being cut off from the financial system
just because using federal reserve
liabilities is too costly because of
hyperinflation right our next best
option is pretty bad in 2021 because the
standard of living that we take you know
we take for granted depends on having
access to the financial system in 1770
though your next best option isn’t that
much worse than using the monetary
economy right and so then another one
was if it was used for very specific and
localized purposes mmt is professing
using this for literally everything and
for taking even more of the economy over
from the government side so basically
having it finance all of our society and
then what’s the fourth thing that i’m
so we got jurisdictional competition
targeted expenditures
uh good outside option small-scale
democracy oh yeah small scale right so
one of the things that we’re not doing a
very good job wrestling with in
contemporary american politics and
haven’t for decades is that democracy
really doesn’t scale very well new
england town meetings work great
right democracy at a level of 330
million people well that doesn’t work
the same that’s not just a big new
england town meeting that’s a
qualitatively different thing right
right so it’s just not going to work
when you have that many people on that
weed a week feedback in the political
so ironically mmt could in theory work
but only if libertarians got their way
with successionism and we had much
smaller and more localized governments
each doing their thing with mmt and we
had a very strong secondary capital
economy like for example crypto and d5
uh and people were able to freely move
across these uh at that point national
or state borders without any kind of
limitations there then this might be
able to oh and if everything was very
localized in in its in its usage and not
just for general funding of things then
and only then could it work so pretty
much if libertarianism went out
everywhere in every other part of
government policy then maybe mmt could
work right if we actually had some
meaningful federalism and if most of the
governing that people actually cared
about happened at city hall or maybe the
state capitol so there’s a certain irony
in the fact that modern monetary theory
can only work in a libertarian society
that’s something that i find
particularly particularly amusing
and that doesn’t necessarily mean that
that’s even the best obviously that
that’s the best way to do it in a
libertarian society just that it’s only
even remotely feasible in a libertarian
society are there examples i assume
there are at least one or two counter
examples of mmt being used in the
near or or far near or distant future uh
or near or distant past where it just
was an utter failure or has this not
really been implemented
on a nationwide scale the way they’ve
wanted it to
oh no it’s been tried right at the end
of the day it’s literally running the
printing presses to meet your
government’s fiscal needs your
government’s fiscal expenditures
pretty much every time there’s a
hyperinflation it’s because that has
happened and when we’re talking
hyperinflation we’re not just talking
about like 10 inflation per per year or
anything like that right we’re talking
about hundreds of percent of inflation
per year inflation that’s going so fast
that you know if you get paid in the
evening the price of bread is doubled by
the next morning when you go out to
spend it right so we’re talking about
complete breakdown in the pricing
process whether you’re talking about
contemporary zimbabwe with their
infamous hundred a hundred trillion
dollar notes whether you’re talking
about germany 1920 to 1923 right when
germany ran its printing presses to to
try and pay off the republic right
and we all know the consequences of that
they weren’t great this just is not the
way that you want to go it’s not how a
responsible well-behaved government
finances itself and we have no reason to
suspect that it’s going to go much
better for us than it has for the people
who have tried it and failed to use it
responsibly yeah i can’t imagine i i
actually do have an example uh that i
tried i remember being a kid and playing
a game of monopoly with friends and we
were all getting frustrated at the limit
of money that we had and so we
eventually came up with this thing where
we could i didn’t realize we were doing
mmt i was seven years old but we would
we would say to the banker like you know
who i think was my mom and we’d say i’d
like you know you to give me a trillion
or i think we didn’t know what trillions
were then i was like i want uh you know
a million notes so she’d write on the
thing one million and then it’s i’m
gonna give you this for that you know
for boardwalk or whatever and
very quickly it devolved into you know i
want you know a million million i don’t
even know if we knew what a billion was
back then and and the game completely
fell apart inside of about 10-15 minutes
and i think of that every time that i
hear people unironically say stuff like
we just need platinum trillion dollar
coins and then we won’t have to print
out money and um or we won’t have to uh
we won’t have to tax people and i’m
like you really think that everyone’s
got this is worth a trillion dollars
because i said it is oh okay in no way
is this going to affect the economy i i
don’t i don’t get let me i guess uh
before we we get go to your final
thoughts i i want to ask you how
you’re you’re in economics is this a
prevalent or growing school of thought
in the economic in the economy world of
of economics or is this a just a like a
a wishlist type of
political posturing that’s that’s in the
political world is this
becoming mainstream in economics
so here’s the silver lining there’s a
very clear answer to that question
it is actually not a thing for the most
part within academic scholarly economics
even economists on the left or at least
the center left think of mmt as just
kind of crazy frankly
that’s not to say there’s nobody right
there’s specific scholars in specific
programs at specific schools who who put
stock in mmt but as a general
proposition it’s not something that’s
persuaded even a significant minority of
of practicing academic economist there’s
no real academic work there’s not like
contemporary scholarly articles
defending it that are getting in
reputable journal journals what it’s
mostly done though is it’s done an end
run around academic economics and made
it straight into the policy process
right usually we count on academia and
scholarship as sort of vetting economic
ideas so that by the time they percolate
to the policy sphere we at least have
some idea what’s good and what’s bad now
that obviously doesn’t work right
because mainstream economics which is
which previously respectable
uh among politicians in my view isn’t
you know anything to write home about i
think it’s much too interventionist and
much too fond of top down control but
compared to what else is out there right
compared to the pop economics of you
know the social justice warrior in the
street it was positively sane
so we at least had that break on some of
the worst ideas
but uh somehow modern monetary theory
has bypassed the the academy
and injected itself straight into the
policy process so on the one hand it’s
good that it hasn’t really won any
scholarly adherence
on the other hand that doesn’t mean that
it’s not going to be implemented in
policy and affect hundreds of millions
of people
right because economics now is what
looks best
you know scrawled in red on an address
as opposed to like actual sound policy
it’s kind of depressing but i i hope
that just
one would think that
the common sense
as i’m saying that i wouldn’t think that
i would like to say that one would think
that the common sense would eventually
win out that you can’t just print out
endless reams it’s not even printing you
can’t just create endless money and
expect everyone to go oh this is
literally worth what it has always been
worth even though you just created a
million trillion more of them clearly
this is worth that i’m going to continue
going about my day and everyone else
does that as well it’s it’s it’s
mind-numbing especially in the in the uh
in the the entire history of what
happens though you mentioned the weimer
republic in in or weimar republic in uh
in germany or modern zimbabwe or even
what’s going on in venezuela you know
this is what happens when people decide
money is whatever they say it is and
it’s it’s incredible that we’re not
going in the other direction and talking
about why government is even involved in
money in the first place why we aren’t
looking at d phi and looking at
competing forms of currency but anyway
alex professor salter it has been
fantastic to have you on before i let
you go i want to give you a chance to
have your final thoughts your last word
anything that you feel like you haven’t
had a chance to say uh anything you want
leave uh finally imparting with the uh
our our viewers here anything you want
to promote that’s coming up anything you
want to talk about at all any no limit
to the time no limit to what you could
say professor alexander salter the floor
great i do have one thing i would like
to mention
so we’re obviously looking for some
alternatives to uh contemporary monetary
institutions and arrangements because we
think that the federal reserve with its
massive powers and massive discretion
hasn’t really you know clothed itself in
glory it’s not done a great job it’s
missed a lot of crises right from the
great depression to the great recession
and everything in between we might want
to take a fundamental look at what it’s
doing and how it’s governed
so i have a new book out it came out at
the end of may co-authored with pete
becky at george mason university and dan
smith at middle tennessee state the
title of that book is money and the rule
of law
and the subtitle is generality and
predictability in monetary institutions
if you just google money in the rule of
law it’ll be it’ll be one of the first
things you see
and what we argue in that book is
conditional on having a central bank
we’re still going to have a federal
reserve then the way to fix it is to
force it to follow a strict monetary
rule so in other words the federal
reserve should not get to determine
what its goals are
the federal reserve should have a rule
for what its goals are chosen for it and
then it’s appropriate for the central
bankers to sort of decide how they’re
best going to hit the goal but in terms
of the ultimate objective of monetary
policy like an inflation target or a
purchasing power of the dollar target or
even an aggregate demand target right
what economist or a nominal income
target any one of those is a viable
option the important thing is we lasso
this thing and we get it under control
because the federal reserve has been de
facto autonomous for too long
and that’s a large part of the reason
why we have these bad monetary outcomes
now i have absolutely no hesitation in
admitting that if i were picking
monetary institutions you know from
scratch i would not pick a central bank
i would basically have a free market
money and finance you know what works
for other goods also works for money and
finance we have the theory to make the
argument and we have the economic
history to demonstrate that that it’s uh
that’s actually how it works
knowing uh politics is what it is the
best that we can probably hope for in
the short run is meaningful reform to
the fed and so long as that’s our
operating you know envelope as long as
that’s our framework i think hoping for
a genuine monetary rule is the way to go
so i and my co-authors in that book
title money of the rule of law make the
argument for a monetary rule we argue
why rules beat discretion we argue how a
rules-based approach could have helped
us uh could have made the 2008 financial
crisis is much more mild than it
actually was
and we surveyed some great thinkers in
the classical liberal tradition like
milton friedman james buchanan and fa
hayek and talk about how they thought
about monetary rules
because all of them thought about
monetary economics in very different
ways but intriguingly all of them came
to the same conclusion which is that we
need to bound the federal reserve with a
rule we can’t just let it be a rule unto
so i hope you’ll check that out and i
hope that you will find that a useful
tool for you as you think about look
what ways can we inform and improve
monetary policy as it actually exists
very good so money and the rule of law
that’s right cambridge university press
very good i will i will get the link to
that include that in the notes and
everything so everyone knows to uh i’ll
spam the comments in fact i’m spamming
the comments right now while people are
watching this i’m spamming the comments
in real time with that link so you can
get it today uh listen professor salter
alex thank you again so much for coming
on man i really appreciate you coming on
spike it’s been a pleasure thank you
i forgot to turn my mic on wasn’t that
wasn’t that great i mean you probably
already went into this knowing that you
know just printing out endless money
or printing out endless money is a bad
thing but to have someone lay it out
like that he’s an incredible guy we’re
definitely going to have him on more in
the future to talk about you know
examining micro parts of macroeconomics
he’s definitely going to be someone that
we go to guns up texas tech
so when i was in lubbock texas
campaigning last year for the jorgensen
cohen campaign on the bus tour
i had never been to lubbock texas i got
there and very quickly everyone’s like
guns up and i’m like
sure i i did first of all i didn’t know
i thought this was the l for libertarian
and then they’re like guns up and i’m
like yeah i like guns and they’re like
texas tech and i’m like sure so finally
someone had to explain what that was and
by the time we were out of there within
24 hours it was like guns up everyone
was guns up
so that’s what i think about when i
think of texas tech
that and the fact that the guy gave me
that cowboy hat or let me wear his
cowboy hat
so if you’ve seen that picture
of me wearing the cowboy hat
that’s from lubbock
and we’re literally across the street
from texas tech guns up texas tech
folks thanks so much for tuning in to
this episode of my fellow americans uh
it’s been really great i really enjoyed
uh the uh i really enjoy well don’t get
the hard cover yeah the the book is
30 bucks paperback or 20 1850 on kindle
i wouldn’t get i mean the heart i mean
if you want the hardcover you can get it
but it is like 90 bucks yeah
so uh
thanks for hanging out um
what am i going to be in oklahoma oh no
uh hold on i can tell you that
i’m going to be in oklahoma
it’s gonna be next month i can tell you
that um
i’m gonna be in oklahoma the 22nd 23rd
and oh just 22nd and 23rd i’m going to
be in oklahoma on the 22nd and the 23rd
to help support the natalie bruno for
governor campaign and the oklahoma
libertarian party that’s what i’ll be in
and it’s going to be
in edmond
oklahoma and oklahoma city oklahoma
so that’s where i’m going to be
so thanks again for tuning in to this
amazing episode of my fellow americans
and it was amazing because you’re here
it was amazing also because of our
guests but it was amazing because you
were here um
cool well i hope to see you there
let’s see so oh don’t forget if you want
to become an exclusive member of the
mudskitter club i don’t we’re not going
to call it that
uh you can go to anchor dot fm slash
muddied waters slash subscribe uh that
allows you to get members only exclusive
content every other week and every month
you become you get to join the exclusive
muddy zoom you get to hang out on zoom
with me and matt wright and
n nutlek and noelle and jason and all
the other muddy waters all-stars
for only 10 bucks a month and
we live stream that so
all your friends and loved ones
can watch you hang out with us and
they’ll think oh wow if only i was also
a musketeer we have to come up with a
new name we’re not there’s no way we’re
going to use musketeer if only i was a
deed waters member uh i too could be up
there hanging out with them on zoom so
ten dollars a month uh and uh yeah
anchor dot fm slash muddy waters slash
subscribe to become a subscriber today
uh tomorrow muddied buddy i don’t
mud puppies these are we might stick
with mudskateer
we might stick with mudskitter so tune
in tomorrow uh hold on i’m looking at
october tune in tomorrow for the
writer’s block
matt wright’s guest will be nate honey
badger atkins who is running for mayor
of minneapolis now you’re thinking wow
mayor of minneapolis i wonder if he’s
got anything going on well he does on
friday the first i will be flying to
minneapolis to campaign with nate honey
badger adkins uh we will be starting
with a a dinner a
fundraiser dinner to help raise money
for his campaign and then saturday we’re
doing all sorts of stuff we’re doing a
breakfast we’re doing activism from one
to five we’re doing a mixer with the
volunteers we’re doing dinner and
bowling we’re doing all sorts of fun
stuff on friday and saturday and then
there’s a brunch on sunday
if you go to nate atkins social media or
website you can find out more if you go
to spitecoin.com you can find out more
as well i will be posting updates
throughout the the weekend uh with where
you can come and see us all through
minneapolis come hang out with us uh and
oh and also on friday at 9 30. uh if you
can’t be with us in minneapolis what you
can do is you can watch uh noelle and
nullic right here
on cajun and eskimo from bayou to igloo
uh right here and then next monday join
us right back here at 8 pm
on muddy waters media for jason lyon mr
america the bearded truth uh then on
tuesday join us uh at 8 pm for the muddy
waters of freedom where matt wright and
i parse through the week’s events like
like the sweet little
weeks events parsers we are uh and then
join me right back here
same spike place same spike time for
another fan diddlytastic episode
of the of my fellow americans thank you
again for tuning in folks i love all of
you i’m so happy to
uh to to be hanging out with i’m so
happy to have you here you guys are
great all of these names are
where we might
muddy member
i think we’re just going to be
i think
muddied militia the mud licia
a member anchor dot fm subscribe slash
no anchor dot fm slash muddy water slash
subscribe money militia that’s actually
not terrible
we’re gonna work on that folks thanks so
much for tuning in i will see you
next week i’m splake cohen and you
are the power god bless guys
another’s iris if you slide in my kicks
it might fit we might just unite and
come together become hybrid at the least
slightly like-minded indeed the life
i’ve lived brings light to kindness
all you need is a sign
put a cease to the crimes put an ease of
the minds like mine sometimes darkness
is all i find you know what they say
about an eye for a night in a time when
the blood is
tell me why
will make a change

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