Publications on Money
Working Paper No. 982 | January 2021The success of alternative payment systems has led to discussion of various proposals to replace money with a new technology-based system, though many lack a clear idea of what exactly is the “money” they seek to replace. We begin by presenting the explanation of money’s role in the economy embraced by most mainstream economists and policy analysts, based on the idea that money evolved out of the process of market exchange. An alternative explanation that looks on money as a part of the organization of production and distribution based on network clearing systems across balance sheets expressed in a common unit of account is then presented, distinguishing between a purely notional unit of account and means of settlement or discharge of debt. The final section addresses the possibility of a fundamentally different modern extension of this alternative approach that is not inspired by digital technology, distributed ledger accounting, or application operating on a mobile/cell phone system, but rather the actually existing system available from an internet telephone service provider that currently offers subsidiary domestic and international payment services whose operating procedures come close to replicating the alternative explanation of money mentioned above, with the potential to provide all the services of the existing payments system at lower costs and greater stability.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 977 | November 2020This paper relates Keynes’s discussions of money, the state theory of money, financial markets, investors’ expectations, uncertainty, and liquidity preference to the dynamics of government bond yields for countries with monetary sovereignty. Keynes argued that the central bank can influence the long-term interest rate on government bonds and the shape of the yield curve mainly through the short-term interest rate. Investors’ psychology, herding behavior in financial markets, and uncertainty about the future reinforce the effects of the short-term interest rate and the central bank’s monetary policy actions on the long-term interest rate. Several recent empirical studies that examine the dynamics of government bond yields substantiate the Keynesian perspective that the long-term interest rate responds markedly to the short-term interest rate. These empirical studies not only vindicate the Keynesian perspective but also have relevance for macroeconomic theory and policy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Tanweer Akram
Working Paper No. 928 | May 2019In the Western interpretation of democracy, governments exist in order to manage relations of property, with absence of property ownership leading to exclusion from participation in governance and, in many cases, absence of equal treatment before the law. Democratizing money will therefore ensure equal opportunity to the ownership of property, and thus full participation in the democratic governance of society, as well as equal access to the banking system, which finances the creation of capital via the creation of money. If the divergence between capital and labor—between rich and poor—is explained by the monopoly access of capitalists to finance, then reducing this divergence is crucially dependent on the democratization of money. Though the role of money and finance in determining inequality between capital and labor transcends any particular understanding of the process by which the creation of money leads to inequity, specific proposals for the democratization of money will depend on the explanation of how money comes into existence and how it supports capital accumulation.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Book Series, September 2015 | September 2015
By L. Randall Wray
In a completely revised second edition, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray presents the key principles of Modern Money Theory, exploring macro accounting, monetary and fiscal policy, currency regimes, and exchange rates in developed and developing nations. Wray examines how misunderstandings about the nature of money caused the recent global financial meltdown, and provides fresh ideas about how leaders should approach economic policy. This updated edition also includes new chapters on tax policies and inflation.
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan
Working Paper No. 839 | June 2015
The Unit of Account, Inflation, Leverage, and Financial Fragility
We hope to model financial fragility and money in a way that captures much of what is crucial in Hyman Minsky’s financial fragility hypothesis. This approach to modeling Minsky may be unique in the formal Minskyan literature. Namely, we adopt a model in which a psychological variable we call financial prudence (P) declines over time following a financial crash, driving a cyclical buildup of leverage in household balance sheets. High leverage or a low safe-asset ratio in turn induces high financial fragility (FF). In turn, the pathways of FF and capacity utilization (u) determine the probabilistic risk of a crash in any time interval. When they occur, these crashes entail discrete downward jumps in stock prices and financial sector assets and liabilities. To the endogenous government liabilities in Hannsgen (2014), we add common stock and bank loans and deposits. In two alternative versions of the wage-price module in the model (wage–Phillips curve and chartalist, respectively), the rate of wage inflation depends on either unemployment or the wage-setting policies of the government sector. At any given time t, goods prices also depend on endogenous markup and labor productivity variables. Goods inflation affects aggregate demand through its impact on the value of assets and debts. Bank rates depend on an endogenous markup of their own. Furthermore, in light of the limited carbon budget of humankind over a 50-year horizon, goods production in this model consumes fossil fuels and generates greenhouse gases.
The government produces at a rate given by a reaction function that pulls government activity toward levels prescribed by a fiscal policy rule. Subcategories of government spending affect the pace of technical progress and prudence in lending practices. The intended ultimate purpose of the model is to examine the effects of fiscal policy reaction functions, including one with dual unemployment rate and public production targets, testing their effects on numerically computed solution pathways. Analytical results in the penultimate section show that (1) the model has no equilibrium (steady state) for reasons related to Minsky’s argument that modern capitalist economies possess a property that he called “the instability of stability,” and (2) solution pathways exist and are unique, given vectors of initial conditions and parameter values and realizations of the Poisson model of financial crises.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 799 | May 2014
A Financial View
This paper develops the framework of analysis of monetary systems put together by authors such as Macleod, Keynes, Innes, and Knapp. This framework does not focus on the functions performed by an object but rather on its financial characteristics. Anything issued by anybody can be a monetary instrument and any type of material can be used to make a monetary instrument, as these are unimportant determinants of what a monetary instrument is. What matters is the existence of specific financial characteristics. These characteristics lead to a stable nominal value (parity) in the proper financial environment. This framework of analysis leads the researcher to study how the fair value of a monetary instrument changes and how that change differs from changes in the value of the unit of account. It also provides a road map to understanding monetary history and why monetary instruments are held.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 778 | November 2013
A Reply to Critics
One of the main contributions of Modern Money Theory (MMT) has been to explain why monetarily sovereign governments have a very flexible policy space that is unencumbered by hard financial constraints. Through a detailed analysis of the institutions and practices surrounding the fiscal and monetary operations of the treasury and central bank of many nations, MMT has provided institutional and theoretical insights about the inner workings of economies with monetarily sovereign and nonsovereign governments. MMT has also provided policy insights with respect to financial stability, price stability, and full employment. As one may expect, several authors have been quite critical of MMT. Critiques of MMT can be grouped into five categories: views about the origins of money and the role of taxes in the acceptance of government currency, views about fiscal policy, views about monetary policy, the relevance of MMT conclusions for developing economies, and the validity of the policy recommendations of MMT. This paper addresses the critiques raised using the circuit approach and national accounting identities, and by progressively adding additional economic sectors.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 741 | December 2012
The analytical starting point determines the course of a theoretical investigation and, ultimately, the productiveness of an approach. The classics took production and accumulation as their point of departure; the neoclassics, exchange. Exchange implies behavioral assumptions and notions like rationality, optimization, and equilibrium. It is widely recognized that this approach has led into a cul-de-sac. To change a theory means to change its premises; or, in Keynes’s words, to “throw over” the axioms. The present paper swaps the standard behavioral axioms for structural axioms and applies the latter to the analysis of the emergence of secondary markets from the flow part of the economy. Real and nominal residuals at first give rise to the accumulation of the stock of money and the stock of commodities. These stocks constitute the demand-and-supply side of secondary markets. The pricing in these markets is different from the pricing in the primary markets. Realized appreciation in the secondary markets is different from income or profit. To treat primary and secondary markets alike is therefore a category mistake. Vice versa, to take a set of objective propositions as the analytical starting point yields a comprehensive and consistent theory of market exchange and valuation.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Egmont Kakarot-Handtke
Working Paper No. 736 | November 2012
This paper argues that the usual framing of discussions of money, monetary policy, and fiscal policy plays into the hands of conservatives.That framing is also largely consistent with the conventional view of the economy and of society more generally. To put it the way that economists usually do, money “lubricates” the market mechanism—a good thing, because the conventional view of the market itself is overwhelmingly positive. Acknowledging the work of George Lakoff, this paper takes the position that we need an alternative meme, one that provides a frame that is consistent with a progressive social view if we are to be more successful in policy debates. In most cases, the progressives adopt the conservative framing and so have no chance. The paper advances an alternative framing for money and shows how it can be used to reshape discussion. The paper shows that the Modern Money Theory approach is particularly useful as a starting point for framing that emphasizes use of the monetary system as a tool to accomplish the public purpose.
It is not so much the accuracy of the conventional view of money that we need to question, but rather the framing. We need a new meme for money, one that would emphasize the social, not the individual. It would focus on the positive role played by the state, not only in the creation and evolution of money, but also in ensuring social control over money. It would explain how money helps to promote a positive relation between citizens and the state, simultaneously promoting shared values such as liberty, democracy, and responsibility. It would explain why social control over money can promote nurturing activities over the destructive impulses of our “undertakers” (Smith’s evocative term for capitalists).Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 662 | March 2011
This paper examines the causes and consequences of the current global financial crisis. It largely relies on the work of Hyman Minsky, although analyses by John Kenneth Galbraith and Thorstein Veblen of the causes of the 1930s collapse are used to show similarities between the two crises. K.W. Kapp’s “social costs” theory is contrasted with the recently dominant “efficient markets” hypothesis to provide the context for analyzing the functioning of financial institutions. The paper argues that, rather than operating “efficiently,” the financial sector has been imposing huge costs on the economy—costs that no one can deny in the aftermath of the economy’s collapse. While orthodox approaches lead to the conclusion that money and finance should not matter much, the alternative tradition—from Veblen and Keynes to Galbraith and Minsky—provides the basis for developing an approach that puts money and finance front and center. Including the theory of social costs also generates policy recommendations more appropriate to an economy in which finance matters.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 658 | March 2011
Rethinking Money as a Public Monopoly
In this paper I first provide an overview of alternative approaches to money, contrasting the orthodox approach, in which money is neutral, at least in the long run; and the Marx-Veblen-Keynes approach, or the monetary theory of production. I then focus in more detail on two main categories: the orthodox approach that views money as an efficiency-enhancing innovation of markets, and the Chartalist approach that defines money as a creature of the state. As the state’s “creature,” money should be seen as a public monopoly. I then move on to the implications of viewing money as a public monopoly and link that view back to Keynes, arguing that extending Keynes along these lines would bring his theory up to date.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 656 | March 2011
This paper begins by defining, and distinguishing between, money and finance, and addresses alternative ways of financing spending. We next examine the role played by financial institutions (e.g., banks) in the provision of finance. The role of government as both regulator of private institutions and provider of finance is also discussed, and related topics such as liquidity and saving are explored. We conclude with a look at some of the new innovations in finance, and at the global financial crisis, which could be blamed on excessive financialization of the economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 647 | December 2010
This paper advances three fundamental propositions regarding money:
(1) As R. W. Clower (1965) famously put it, money buys goods and goods buy money, but goods do not buy goods.
(2) Money is always debt; it cannot be a commodity from the first proposition because, if it were, that would mean that a particular good is buying goods.
(3) Default on debt is possible.
These three propositions are used to build a theory of money that is linked to common themes in the heterodox literature on money. The approach taken here is integrated with Hyman Minsky’s (1986) work (which relies heavily on the work of his dissertation adviser, Joseph Schumpeter ); the endogenous money approach of Basil Moore; the French-Italian circuit approach; Paul Davidson’s (1978) interpretation of John Maynard Keynes, which relies on uncertainty; Wynne Godley’s approach, which relies on accounting identities; the “K” distribution theory of Keynes, Michal Kalecki, Nicholas Kaldor, and Kenneth Boulding; the sociological approach of Ingham; and the chartalist, or state money, approach (A. M. Innes, G. F. Knapp, and Charles Goodhart). Hence, this paper takes a somewhat different route to develop the more typical heterodox conclusions about money.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):