MMT: The Theory Of How To Get Something For Nothing

Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT for short, is gaining popularity in the US. It is based on the idea that under the current monetary system the government doesn’t have to borrow. Instead, it simply can print all the money it needs to fill the gap between its spending and its income. The only limitation is “inflation”. As long as “inflation” is not a problem the government can spend — using newly-created money to finance any deficit — as much as required to ensure that almost everyone is gainfully employed and to provide all desired services and infrastructure. It sounds great! Why hasn’t anyone come up with such an effective and easy-to-implement prosperity scheme in the past?

Of course, it has been tried in the past. It has been tried countless times over literally thousands of years. The fact is that there is nothing modern about Modern Monetary Theory. It is just another version of the same old attempt to get something for nothing.

Most recently, MMT was put into effect in Venezuela. For all intents and purposes, the government of Venezuela printed whatever money it needed to pay for the extensive ‘free’ social services it promised to the country’s citizens. The MMT apologists undoubtedly would argue that the money-printing experiment didn’t work in Venezuela because the government didn’t pay attention to the “inflation” rate. It kept on printing money at a rapid pace after “inflation” became a problem. Our retort would be: “Great point! Who would have thought that a government with the power to print money couldn’t be trusted to stop printing as soon as an index of prices moved above an arbitrary level.”

In essence, MMT is based on the fiction that the government can facilitate an increase in overall economic well-being by exchanging nothing (money created ‘out of thin air’) for something, or by enabling the recipients of the government’s largesse to exchange nothing for something. It is total nonsense, although there is an obvious reason that it appeals to certain politicians. Its appeal to the political class is that it superficially provides an easy answer to the question that arises when politicians promise widespread access to valuable services free of charge. The question is: “Who will pay?” According to MMT, nobody pays until/unless “inflation” gets too high.

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