Publications on Thorstein Veblen
Working Paper No. 905 | May 2018
The Vested Interests, Limits to Reform, and the Meaning of Liberal DemocracyI subject some aspects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to critical analysis, with particular attention to what is termed “liberal democracy.” This analysis demonstrates the limits to reform, given the power of “vested interests” as articulated by Thorstein Veblen.
While progressive economists and others are generally favorably disposed toward the New Deal, a critical perspective casts doubt on the progressive nature of the various programs instituted during the Roosevelt administrations. The main constraint that limited the framing and operation of these programs was that of maintaining liberal democracy. The New Deal was shaped by the institutional forces then dominant in the United States, including the segregationist system of the South. In the end, vested interests dictated what transpired, but what did transpire required a modification of the understanding of liberal democracy.Download:Associated Programs: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. 661 | March 2011
The world’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s is now well into its third year. All sorts of explanations have been proffered for the causes of the crisis, from lax regulation and oversight to excessive global liquidity. Unfortunately, these narratives do not take into account the systemic nature of the global crisis. This is why so many observers are misled into pronouncing that recovery is on the way—or even under way already. I believe they are incorrect. We are, perhaps, in round three of a nine-round bout. It is still conceivable that Minsky’s “it”—a full-fledged debt deflation with failure of most of the largest financial institutions—could happen again.
Indeed, Minsky’s work has enjoyed unprecedented interest, with many calling this a “Minsky moment” or “Minsky crisis.” However, most of those who channel Minsky locate the beginnings of the crisis in the 2000s. I argue that we should not view this as a “moment” that can be traced to recent developments. Rather, as Minsky argued for nearly 50 years, we have seen a slow realignment of the global financial system toward “money manager capitalism.” Minsky’s analysis correctly links postwar developments with the prewar “finance capitalism” analyzed by Rudolf Hilferding, Thorstein Veblen, and John Maynard Keynes—and later by John Kenneth Galbraith. In an important sense, over the past quarter century we created conditions similar to those that existed in the run-up to the Great Depression, with a similar outcome. Getting out of this mess will require radical policy changes no less significant than those adopted in the New Deal.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):