Wednesday, 14 November 2018
I’m tired of fake progressives.
So is Bill Mitchell. See for example his article entitled “When neoliberals masquerade as progressives.” But if you Google the name of his blog (“Billyblog”) and “progressive”, you find plenty more articles by him criticizing self-styled progressives.
Of course there are some genuinely progressive progressives. Unfortunately there are about as many people who haven’t the faintest idea how to bring about “progress” who describe themselves as progressive because that’s the cool thing to do nowadays.
Moreover, the very word “progressive” is a bit silly. Reason is that anyone who advocates X presumably thinks that X represents progress. Indeed, and to take an extreme example, no doubt Adolf Hitler thought that invading most of Europe and half of Russian represented “progress”. For that reason, I never describe myself as a progressive: the word is superfluous.
An example of a fake or defective progressive is Peter May and his “Progressive Pulse” blog. In this article entitled “Positive Money and MMT (continued)” he makes the classic mistake that dozens if not hundreds of critics of PM have made (including Ann Pettifor). The mistake is the assumption that because some independent committee of economists (e.g. a Bank of England committee) decides how much new money is to be created and spent each year, that therefor that committee has usurped powers which should be those of democratically elected politicians.
The flaw in that criticism of PM, as I’ve explained umpteen times, is as follows.
Under the existing system central banks (assuming they have a fair degree of independence) have the final word on how much stimulus is imparted over the next few months. Reason is that governments / politicians can impart as much or as little fiscal stimulus as they like (i.e. “borrow and spend”), but the central bank can negate that decision by governments via interest rate adjustments. E.g. if a central bank thinks there’s been too much fiscal stimulus, it can negate that by raising interest rates.
To summarise so far, in the case of the UK, the Bank of England ALREADY DETERMINES the amount of stimulus. But it DOES NOT take strictly political decisions, like what proportion of GDP goes to public spending or how that is split between education, health, etc. And quite right. To illustrate, if government wants to expand public spending by £Xbn a year and raise taxes by £Xbn to pay for that, it is free to do so.
Under the PM system, stimulus is implemented simply by government and central bank creating new money and spending it (and/or cutting taxes). The decision as to how much new money to create, i.e. the decision as to how much stimulus there needs to be is in the hands of a Bank of England committee or some other committee of economists. In contrast, politicians are totally free, as under the existing system to raise public spending and raise taxes to pay for that extra spending.
Incidentally, and in relation to Ann Pettifor, the above referred to article of hers was published in 2014, so it is conceivable that she has changed her mind since then. However, as it happens I have been followed her blog for years and I have not seen any sign of her changing her mind on the above topic.
To summarise, under both systems (the existing system and the PM system), a central bank committee or some other committee of economists decides on the amount of stimulus, while the decision as to what proportion of GDP goes to public spending and how that is split between education, health, etc remains with politicians.
Ergo a PM system would not usurp any democratic rights of politicians.
And finally, if you’re wondering why I haven’t made the above point in the comments after the fantastically “progressive” articles at the “Progressive Pulse” site, I have actually tried to. But it seems the fantastically progressive “Progressive Pulse” site does not like publishing comments which criticise its articles in too direct a manner. At least mine don’t get published there.
Strikes me that part of being “progressive” ought to consists of an open debate which allows all views to be aired, with the possible exception of views and comments which a downright offensive or plain stupid. But as you ought to have gathered by now, it tends to be the political left (which devotes half its time to telling all and sundry how “progressive” it is) which opposes free speech.