Join In! We’re Talking with Mark Thoma on Twitter

We engaged Mark Thoma of Economist’s View on Twitter this morning. The debate is raging. Follow both of us on Twitter to watch things unfold.  It’s not pretty.

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Follow him @MarkThoma

24 responses to “Join In! We’re Talking with Mark Thoma on Twitter

  1. Where "engaged" means we made a false accusation saying Thoma had purged questions from his blog when in fact what he purged was the a a whole series of people — clearly organized by email or some other means — who showed up to try to hijack the post and bait him into helping us to popularize MMT. The questions he was accused of purging remained — they were not, in fact, purged. When he refused to take the bait, we decided to try to embarrass him on Twitter. And then we decided to try to make sure everyone was aware of our attempt to use a false accusation to get him to engage by posting this on our blog.False accusations, attempts to embarrass people. What an honorable way to try to make people aware of MMT!

  2. You are lying. You admitted to deleting comments from several People. I posted a comment. I saw it there. My comment was in response to Cullen Roche's comment. Before long, Cullen's comment was gone. So was mine. YOU DELETED THEM. You ADMITTED This ON TWITTER. You cannot now deny that you purged comments. I could Do as you did and delete your comment, since I Disagree with it. But I am not intellectually dishonest. SKelton

  3. Dear Professor Thoma,In response, I offer the following:1. Most of us do have Google alerts. You might call that being "organized," but so be it. I like to see what others are saying about me and MMT. And we've noticed many non-MMT economists do the same, showing up seemingly out of the blue when their names are mentioned.2. You did delete at least 2 comments, 1 from Kelton and 1 from Roche. It's certainly your prerogative to do that and I don't hold to any extreme views regarding banning censorship on the web, but these were civil comments nonetheless.3. In stark contrast to attempting to simply "popularize" MMT (as if that really needed to be done anymore, at least as far as Econ blogs are concerned), I've generally only seen questions asking you to clarify and specify your positions vis a vis MMT, at least when posted by MMT economists. (This is what Kelton and Roche were doing, for instance.) I've yet to see you answer even one of these queries, and for sure have yet to see you attempt doing so civilly (yes, the pot sometimes calls the kettle "black"). Far from trying to get you to "take the bait," we'd just like to see if you can do more than offer sweeping rejections of MMT almost exclusively via (again, often less than civil) appeals to authority (MMT isn't in the textbooks; MMT isn't in the "top" journals, etc.) Again, your prerogative, but there it is.4. Yes, there are quite a few MMT supporters that are less than civil. That's regrettable for sure, not to mention the fact that probably well over half of them get MMT wrong or miss important nuances while speaking on our behalf. But it's not much different from what I see from numerous Austrian proponents, Sumner proponents, and so forth.5. MMT has predicted quite a few things the past decade or so in real time that the mainstream of the field missed. To name some of these: the unsustainable nature of the financial arrangements underlying the so-called "new economy"; the inherent problems with the Euro arrangement; the likelihood of large divergences in Euro sovereign rates; the buildup of household debt, financialization or money manager capitalism (as opposed to the benefits of financial innovations commonly heralded in the 2000s); the oil/commodities bubble of 2004-2008; QE in Japan would largely fail, interest rates in Japan wouldn't rise with large deficits; large reserves and then QE in the US wouldn't be inflationary (aside from some speculation in commodities from people who "think" it will); interest rates in the US would not rise with large deficits; interest rates in the US would not rise after QE ended; and so forth. One would think that getting things right, particularly when most in the field got more than a few of these wrong, would count for something in a field that purports to value a theory's predictive ability above most everything else. That MMT has some less than civil proponents–again, who doesn't?–seems to be the only thing most in the mainstream noticed about MMT, though, or at least all they want to discuss (there are a few exceptions, granted).6. Unlike at your page, your comment here will not be deleted.Best,Scott Fullwiler

  4. "Honorable? Is this what it means to be honorable?":Mark Thoma (@MarkThoma)9/11/11 12:26 [email protected] This was not a post about MMT, it didn't mention MMT, or even hint at it — I allowed Rob three or four comments to make hisBefore I started DELETING comments Mark Thoma (@MarkThoma)9/11/11 12:20 [email protected] Six comments in succession, right after his three. And there would have been more…Yes, there would have been more if you had not DELETED [email protected] Rob Parenteau left very intelligent and respectful comments. Cullen Roche and I followed up. Equally pleasant. Why did u delete?4 hours ago @MarkThomaMark [email protected] Becasue I've decided these discussions are unproductive, and it wan an attempt to hijack a post into yet another unproductive

  5. What doe "unproductive mean?" Also, you claim a lot of predictive success during the last decade. can you list and document 1) The predictions, 2) the propositions underlying them, 3) The antecedent conditions whose occurrence led you to make them, and 44) the events that would have falsified them, if they had not been corroborated?And if you think this comment in uncivil, please explain why

  6. I support what Letsgetitdone said. What sort of predictive ability does everyone's theories have?

  7. Well, at least everyone thinks RBC is crazy.Common ground! Common ground!

  8. "The questions he was accused of purging remained — they were not, in fact, purged."Mark Thoma @ 3:15 PM: would you please give a link? i can't find any of the comments you say were not purged and would very much like to read the exchange. thank you.

  9. Thanks, Questions of corroboration and falsification are among the most complex in philosophy of science. Th worst problem is the problem of selection bias in evaluating theory performance. It's easy to find confirming instances of one's models if one is looking for them, but rigorous testing to corroborate one's models is another thing entirely.This discussion: gets pretty deeply into questions of testability.

  10. Many people have asked for the original exchange between MMT-friendly types (Rob Parenteau, Cullen Roche, yours truly). Mark Thoma's post is here: was the first to reply. This is straight from Thoma's blog:Rob Parenteau said…I want to invite you and your readers to a potentially Copernican moment, one that comes up when we start thinking about balanced budget multipliers and such.Households cannot create money (which we can agree, must be a means of final settlement). Nonfinancial firms cannot create money. Both of these are illegal acts of counterfeiting underr current law. Banks can create money, but that money cannot ever be a net financial asset of the private sector. The deposit, which is an asset to its owner, is a liability of the bank, which is owned by other private sector agents as creditors and shareholders of the bank.Where, then, does the money come from that the private sector pays to the government for taxes and for government bonds?This is not a Zen koan, but it may feel like one because of the habits of thought we have all been trained upon. It is actually quite simple.The money the government collects from the private sector as tax payments and government bond sales proceeds has to first come from the government. The central bank has to credit private bank accounts with reserves for Treasury expenditures before the Treasury can collect them back. There is no other way.If you stop for a moment and think about this, you will realize there is a lot of misunderstanding about government finance and monetary operations. And it is killing us.You cannot start the balanced budget multiplier story with the assumption that households earn money income that they either save or spend without stepping back and thinking about how money gets created in the first place – something neither households nor the firms they work for can do – and what it takes for the private sector to be a net saver of money and a net accumulator of financial assets.Otherwise, you really are stuck in the old economist joke about the deserted island and the can of beans, assuming the can opener magically appears out of nowhere.It is an opportune time to move beyond that way of thinking about economics and to work with models and narratives that more closely resemble the world we actually inhabit. Please consider this, and try to understand how the private sector becomes a net holder of money with which to pay taxes and buy government bonds. It may provide you with a different vantage point on Shiller's balanced budget multiplier proposal.—————————————–Reply Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:06 AMMark Thoma said in reply to Rob Parenteau…I'll just note that I don't agree with the MMT perspective behind this comment, and leave it at that.———————————-Reply Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:23 AMRob Parenteau said in reply to Mark Thoma…You don't agree because…?Please do send me the link to your point of view, if you have already stated it, so I can understand your point of view.Or if it is a matter of personal faith, I completely understand, and we can leave it at that.————————–Cullen and I (Kelton) both left comments, pointing out that Rob raised a very legitimate question, and asked Thoma to engage it. Our comments were purged. Not because they were abusive. Not because they were "off topic". But because Professor Thoma is not prepared to put his best argument forward in a public forum. Readers can judge for themselves.

  11. i read most of the twitter exchange and my take was that mark thoma's story kept changing (he claimed incivility, then hijacking, then "the discussions are unproductive," then "less than respectful," then "you preach," then "i see no reason to help popularize something i think is wrong," then "wanted to avoid endless debate," then back to "unproductive,"…  and that's not even all of the first half of the twitter exchange). he's all over the place.imo, if mark thoma had a case he would not have needed to delete, without warning, the comments on his blog.  a blogger is not limited to choosing between letting a thread be hijacked (as he claimed) or deleting all trace of the comments (as he apparently has done). the professional, intellectually honest and fair way to handle that kind of thing is to preserve the public evidence of what happened so that readers can judge for themselves.a good way to handle it would have been to post a warning comment with something to the effect of "stop it" and an explanation of what he objected to and didn't want continued. after that, if he deleted any additional unwelcome comments, there would be a public record of what was done (and why). readers could then form their own opinions from the actual evidence.imo, any blogger who deletes (or massages) the evidence has not acted in a way that inspires trust.

  12. Bummer. I've always thought of Thoma as being one of the good guys – relative to his being a bourgeois liberal and me being a belligerent "c" commie … but I digress ….Since what this exchange brings to mind is this befuddlement:I can accept that people do not yet know how economies work. Take that proposition as broadly as you can. I don't mean that you or I don't have fairly established ideas or "theories" about how economies work (so you may have a "general theory" and I may have the position that there is no "general theory" but only the mechanics, if you will, of specific economies over some periods of time.) I just mean I can accept that: we don't agree what explains economic events, and so we don't agree what economic events will happen. (And word, I've tortured myself with philo of science, I know how maddening it is to get out of the "phenomena are theory dependent" conundrum.)What I have a real hard time accepting is this point about money: Setting aside we may not agree as to HOW we got to what we have, it would seem that what we have is beyond dispute. All the institutions, all the players, the operations, are legal constructions. The very distinction between households counterfeiting and Sovereigns issuing depends upon that construction. Money and all the institutional operations, players, their rules and routines for bringing it into existence – they are there for anyone to see (though knowing what you see may be a different matter.)It's rather like economists are as those smallest children still precious enough to honestly inquire: Where do babies come from? We've got answers ranging from storks and cabbage leaves to biology….In short, setting aside the nuances (I'm a big picture kind of guy), once I got my head around the central tenants of MMT, scales falling from eyes, Copernican revolution and all that, it just doesn't seem like it should be this much a controversy. For what MMT cleared up in my own head is how politics directs economies of the kind which have monetary policies that MMT describes and explains. MMT enforces our democratic responsibilities – governments can run deficits for good or evil, governments can re-arrange aggregate demand with tax policies to the better or ill effect of those with the least amongst us. MMT, if you will, demands that people quit pretending that economics is a branch of the natural sciences and people are merely some of the objects addressed in the economics regime…

  13. Im disappointed with Thomas' reactions as well. I did see a hint of this a couple years ago but I never saw evidence of this outright hostility and complete lack of willingness to engage with a reasonable question from a knowledgable source.Oh well, Thoma will be irrelevant soon if he doesnt start addressing the obvious truths of MMT and what they mean for our society.

  14. Self-defeating strategy on the behalf of Thoma. I'm not surprised though.Could you guys print up the Twitter exchange into a nice compact blog post. This exchange should be on record. If there's one thing the net and blogs allow for it's a greater access to public record. Maybe if we keep that exchange frozen in time others won't engage in dodgy evasive behavior that's more fitting of a politician than an academic…

  15. Thoma just wrote this piece. I think he and a lot of economists get it wrong because they don't believe or have never thought about the endogenous theories of money.That is why he makes statement like this "There is no grand, unifying theoretical structure in economics. We do not have one model that rules them all. Instead, what we have are models that are good at answering some questions – the ones they were built to answer – and not so good at answering others."He just won't go there. It is not the model that is wrong. It is the framework. MMT framework is its strongest point. It gets the relationships correct that other frameworks get wrong.

  16. A transcript of the entire exchange can be found here: to Selise for sharing this.

  17. Boo Mark Thoma. I used to read his blog, and I would generally agree with him politically, like Dave Raithel above. I never found much of interest there though, and haven't been back much since I learned about MMT…

  18. the link works for me. You have to zoom in once you go there (using mouse wheel in my Windows / Chrome environment). Pretty cool…

  19. Reading the full exchange, he certainly seems to be an abusive economist. He states "You don't want a debate", yet the evidence in the exchange shows absolutely no sign of him attempting to debate, just to ignore.On "figure out who your friends are" that reeks of politics rather than finding the truth.I had further comments but scrapped them because they did become a bit abusive.Thank you for this outlet.

  20. The sun revolves around the earth. End of debate.

  21. I am really sad that this would be discussion has evolved in to ranker. I respect and will continue to read Thoma as I continue to respect and read every thing I can on MMT. NOBODY has figured it (econ/pol/soc) all out. As an old Marxist I suspect something might be gained from an honest dialectial exchange between the likes of Thoma and Krugman, and Mosler and Keen. We all might learn something about how we got here and how we can explore ways to get out of the tragedy that is unfolding before us. I'm 2/3s thru my time on this planet and though I want the rest to be as comfortable as possible. The questions that really eat at me are what about our children and grandchildren, what kind of planet will they live on? What kind of legacy, intellectual and otherwise, are we leaving them? Regardless of your "theory," the facts indicate that we are leaving them a material trash heap. I believe we can do better and that this will require us to use all the tools available to do so. So, in that spirit, I humbly propose that we put egos aside, put forth our ideas, defend them vigorously, actively listen to our critics, incorporate their insights if they make sense, reject and explain why those that we don't, and by doing so push the advancement our understanding of possible solutions. I may be a dreamer. I also suspect us dreamers, who fight for the dreams of our children, might also have something useful to say. Thank you for listening,TakashiPosting or emailing this to Mr. Thoma as well. I don't do Twitter nor Facebook. I'm a social worker in the nonprofit sector who doesn't have time for them.

  22. Thoma has nothing to gain by engaging in this debate. He's not a tenured professor, so this could only hurt him.

  23. I wrote this e-mail to Mark Thoma while the debate was fresh: I hope you will reconsider your decision to "call it quits" with MMT. Right now the public appearance is that you are acting cowardly, perfectly happy to criticize MMT as being wrong without giving any specifics, or criticize the proponent's personalities, and entirely unwilling to engage over the substance. Defenses are up, I get it. Take a day or two to let things settle. There is an opportunity here to hash out disagreements, in a way that benefits this field we care very much about, and by extension help society. I hope you'll reconsider. Best,Tschäff