Friday, 8 May 2015
Censorship in academia.
Prof Bill Mitchell recently published a pair of articles here and here on the subject of full reserve banking as advocated by Positive Money and a recent report to the Icelandic prime minister. But this phrase in the professor’s article is a joke: “I will delete comments that provide links to Positive Money sites.”
Whaaat? You engage in a debate with an organisation, and just to make it clear the debate is – er - “open and impartial” you refuse to entertain references or links to articles published by that organisation? LOL. I have advice for opponents of free speech: if you want to engage in censorship, make it a bit more subtle than THAT!!!!
Universities and the academics who work there are supposed to be in favor of free speech, impartial enquiry and so on. As anyone with half a brain knows, they are anything but. If it’s free speech you want, get a job on a construction site, not at a university.
Having said that, Bill Mitchell does know a lot about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and has done a great job demolishing the arguments for austerity over the last five years or so. Plus in the comments after the above two articles he DID PUBLISH a very large number of comments, not all of them supporting his views. Many of the comments were from me.
But he does mean what he says about censoring comments with links to Positive Money: the last comment I left there DID INCLUDE a link to a PM article. Lo and behold it was censored. Plus another comment from me with several criticisms of his articles was censored.
Also it is right to be very suspicious of even the smallest constraint on free speech. The reason was nicely set out by Noam Chomsky when he said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”.
I’m happy with banning comments by people who are SERIOUSLY stupid, ignorant, rude and engage in that behavior in a REPETITIVE manner. But I’m suspicious of anything else.
The Positive Money article.
Anyway, if you’re interested in the comment of mine that contained a link (shock horror) to a Positive Money article, here it is. You’ll be able to judge for yourself whether my comment was “seriously stupid, ignorant or rude”. But first the background.
My comment was in response to a commentator called “Iconoclast” who made two points. The first was a very common and flawed criticism of PM ideas namely that they involve important economic decisions being taken by a committee of economists who are not democratically elected.
The second was an expression of sympathy with Prof Mitchell’s claim to have been sent lots of impolite emails by Positive Money supporters suggesting that Mitchell abandon MMT and adopt PM’s ideas. (Incidentally I’m very suspicious of that claim by Mitchell about having been sent loads of impolite emails. Reason is that anyone can contact ME via my site and people occasionally do. But I haven’t had a single impolite email in years. Granted my site probably doesn’t have anywhere near the same number of views or hits as Bill Mitchell’s. But that “zero impolite emails in years” figure does make me suspicious.)
Anyway… Iconoclast’s actual words were (I’ve put them in green italics):
“Bill Mitchell says “I do not support frameworks where key economic decisions are handed to an essentially unaccountable body which then constrain the Parliament we elect to be our agents.” I agree with you Bill.
BTW, I can’t believe the rudeness of people who bombard Bill’s email, business or personal. If one does not know Bill personally or professionally, anything one has to say in MMT or economic debate can be posted in this blog. I myself have posted items which Bill has disagreed with (as well as items he has agreed with or simply not commented on). But to bombard him with unsolicited emails (especially insulting ones) is simply a very poor reflection on the sender.”
My censored comment that responded to Iconoclast’s remarks was thus (also in green italics):
Anyone who objects to PM proposals because they allegedly involve handing economic decisions “to an essentially unaccountable body which then constrain the Parliament we elect to be our agents” has no grip on reality. And it’s not just Bill Mitchell who has no grip on reality in that connection: Neil Wilson, Anne Pettifor and others suffer from the same delusion.
The REALITY is that almost identical “unaccountable and undemocratic” committees ALREADY HAVE a dominant say on stimulus, namely those central bank committees that decide on interest rate adjustments, QE, and so on.
Re the emails that Bill claims to have been bombarded with, that’s a straw man argument: there are nutters in ANY MOVEMENT. More to the point would have been if Bill had looked at the OFFICIAL Positive Money attitude to MMT. A flavor of that attitude can be found in this recent article published by PM.
That article cannot possibly be described as “rude”. Moreover, it actually points to ideas that PM and MMT have in common! Indeed I myself have been pointing out for a long time that PM and MMTers have in common the idea that in a recession, the state should simply create and spend extra base money (and/or cut taxes).”
The state is “financially constrained”?
A further reason Prof Mitchell may not have published the above comment of mine is that it actually reveals another clanger dropped by him, as follows.
Under his heading “The Sovereign Money Proposal – flawed paradigm underpinnings.” he claims that the PM / Iceland brigade are unaware of the fact that a state which issues its own currency is not “financially constrained”, as Mitchell puts it. I.e. a country that issues its own currency can if it chooses, simply print money and spend it (and/or cut taxes) with a view to implementing stimulus).
Of course the idea that PM is unaware of that “freedom to print” is pure nonsense given that (as I point out in my comment) one of the central ideas pushed by PM is that the state CAN AND SHOULD in a recession simply print extra base money and spend it, and/or cut taxes.
To end on a positive note, and to repeat, Bill Mitchell has done a great job demolishing the arguments for “consolidation” and austerity. However, on banking he is not so clued up, and should allow total freedom of speech to those who disagree with him.