The MMT Uptake Problem
Proponents of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach to macroeconomics have had many successes since the approach was first synthesized in coherent form by Warren Mosler. There have been successful predictions of economic conditions: much work showing that the historical record accords with the MMT point of view, rather than the views of other approaches and paradigms, and also many instances where representatives of other approaches to economics have suddenly begun to use economic views first put forward by MMT economists.
So, it’s surely true that MMT has been making progress in its quest to become the dominant economic paradigm guiding macroeconomic and fiscal policy in nations. But for some of us writing about issues relating to MMT progress seems painfully slow. A big part of the reason for slow progress is the difficulty of getting MMT views into the mass media consistently, which is seen as a necessary step in getting them popular currency.
This has been difficult, in large part, because the media, including newspapers, major television and radio networks, and major cable networks provide access only to journalists and economists who occupy a relatively narrow spectrum of economic thought encompassing various shades of neoliberalism. When MMT is taken up in media environments, it is written about by journalists or economists who don’t agree with MMT views, and some who approach the subject with the pre-conceived notion that MMT is faintly ridiculous. Naturally, that kind of coverage always contains less than accurate commentary about what MMT writers believe, regardless of whether the articles involved are explicitly critical or purport to be doing a “news” piece on MMT.
MMT economists don’t often break through these filters and get a chance to educate large audiences about MMT, and until this happens I think MMT doesn’t have much chance to become part of the mainstream. MMT will have more successes in the future, and many of its ideas will filter into the mainstream, but I suspect that before MMT ideas are adopted as a basis for policy making in the US, at least, many years will pass.
Certainly, this won’t happen during the Obama Administration, and given her apparent orientation toward “fiscal responsibility,” I think it’s doubtful that MMT will gain a foothold in what is likely to be a coming Hillary Clinton Administration. If that comes to pass, and if the second Clinton period last 8 years, the earliest possible time when MMT might be able to contribute its insights to ending economic stagnation will be no earlier than 10 years from now, a painfully long time, when we consider the 25 million people still lacking full time employment who would like to gain it.
For the sake of those people, for the sake of ending economic stagnation, for the sake of people who need enhanced Medicare for All who won’t be able to have it because “we can’t afford it”, and for the sake of the rapid transition to renewable energy sources, the re-invented infrastructure, and the first class educational system the US badly needs, MMT proponents need to find a way to diffuse our views more rapidly to larger and larger groups of people.
The Re-inventing Democracy Project and the IVCS
Recently, I’ve been writing about development of the IVCS by the Re-invent Democracy Project. The objective of the project is to develop a platform that will provide a bottom-up solution to the growing global democracy crisis. This crisis is a process of gradual takeover of the world’s leading democracies by wealthy corporations and elites driving a globalization process, including the formation of supra-national constraints (such as NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, TTIP and other trade agreements) on nations, and the people who are supposed to control national policies through political democracy.
The re-inventing democracy project proposes to change this by creating a web platform based on two technology patents specifying an Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS). As Nancy Bordier puts it:
It enables voters to build voting blocs and electoral coalitions that comprise broad cross-sections of the electorate and can acquire more political influence than political parties.
These blocs and coalitions, which can comprise and align with political parties, can build electoral bases that surpass the voting strength of political parties and their ability to elect candidates of their choice.
Voters can use the technology to set their legislative agendas, connect with voters with similar agendas and form online voting blocs and electoral coalitions with like-minded voters.
Bloc and coalition members can vote on common agendas and common slates of candidates.
They can reach out to voters across the political and ideological spectrum to negotiate common legislative agendas that cross partisan and ideological lines.
Blocs and coalitions with transpartisan agendas can build transpartisan electoral bases with greater numbers of voting members than the electoral bases of any single political party.
Blocs and coalitions can use these electoral bases to elect their own slates of candidates, and hold their elected representatives accountable at the ballot box for enacting bloc and coalition agendas.
This straightforward summary of what people can do with the IVCS platform is a view from 30,000 feet. It addresses how people can participate in it to grow dominant voting blocs and electoral coalitions. In other words, it is about enhancing one of the two essential functions George Soros identified in The Age of Fallibility that he thinks are necessary for healthy open societies and democracies: the participative function.
In addition, however, the platform also addresses the other key function: the cognitive function of voters. Right now the cognitive function of voters in democracies is compromised by the role of money in politics, because the ability of voters to see and understand reality is severely compromised by the influence over messaging and communications that the money of the financial and business elites buys. More and more, elite-dominated communications create ‘reality’ for Americans and people of other democracies as well. The actual reality of elite performance, the causes and cures of poor outcomes, and the policy possibilities that might improve reality are viewed through a glass darkly, only.
This problem of money in politics threatens democracy and open society because the ability of the people to change leaders is now illusory. Any new political elites elected by the people are just as much influenced by financial and business elites, as the political elites previously “in control” were.
Also, the communications media select the subject matter of “the news” in a way that never threatens the financial and business elites, and that even strengthens their control over the political elites. There are constant distractions by the media from issues of overwhelming importance, and a focus instead on the crisis of the day, or of the week; or the latest horrific shooting, or the reprehensible behavior of some football celebrity, and endless of discussions of what the NFL ought to do about that, while issues of global warming, the double standard applied by law enforcement toward the bankers and the rest of us, and the plight of the unemployed are ignored by comparison.
In addition to enabling voters to increase the extent and effectiveness of their participation in politics, the IVCS platform also enables them to get around the cognitive manipulation that contributes so much to elite control in the present system by providing an environment:
— within which people can organize themselves and others around public policy agendas without needing sizable financial resources from sources external to the IVCS, and without being subject to external mass media communications influenced by financial and business elites and other special interests; and
– that is transparent and inclusive in providing participants with previously developed and newly created data, information, and knowledge, and in allowing them freedom to participate in communicating, organizing, collaborating, critically evaluating, problem solving, and decision making within voting blocs and electoral coalitions.
The IVCS platform provides an alternative global network of social and political relations to the contemporary world of political parties, established interest groups, and astro-turfing organizations. This alternative world also provides an informal communications and knowledge network that is independent of the mass media and its influence.
Mass media-based propaganda campaigns will conflict with, and be critically evaluated by IVCS-based interactions and messaging within informal social networks and voting blocs. The alternative IVCS information world will then work as a meta-layer constraining the prior political and mass media worlds, preventing them from concentrating power in a small group of elites, by subjecting them and their representatives to continuous self-organization, critical evaluation, new emergent candidates for office independent of the prior elites, and a cultural background of new knowledge arising from distributed knowledge processing, including new knowledge creation, in the voting blocs and coalitions.
Since it will cost little more than time to organize and get one’s messages out by using it, the platform will eliminate the need for voting blocs, political parties, and candidates to rely on corporate contributions and special interest campaigns to get support. They’ll be able to spread their message using the facilities of the IVCS alone. The system will de-fang the Citizens United decision, and the influence of special interests more generally, because mass media-based propaganda campaigns will conflict with, and be critically evaluated by IVCS-based interactions and messaging within informal social networks and voting blocs.
How IVCS and the Re-inventing Democracy Project Will Accelerate the Diffusion of MMT
The IVCS platform can provide an environment in which MMT proponents can create and join voting blocs and electoral coalitions and find a level playing field on which to communicate the MMT paradigm, with no advantage given to neoliberal, or neoclassical, or any other economic approaches. Here’s why.
— In the IVCS environment, voting blocs will self-organize from the bottom-up. As they grow larger their agendas will begin to include fiscal policies. Ideas about what fiscal possibilities to adopt will compete on all fours within the voting blocs. There will be no blocking of access for MMT ideas or ideas from any other economic approach.
There will be no barriers set up by mass media elites and no buying of channels of communication within voting blocs, or outreach efforts within the IVCS environment. There will be no institutional structure with a systematic bias against MMT or any other approach.
— External organizations that buy advertising on the IVCS web site, will have to show that their ads are truthful. Rigorous fact-checking procedures, excluding blatant distortions of reality, will be employed, and advertising that isn’t truthful will be rejected by Re-invent Democracy’s fact-checking panels.
I wonder how organizations that project out Government liabilities for entitlements will be able to take ads, when RDI’s fact-checkers insist that their organizations reformulate those ads to include future Government assets as well as future liabilities? I wonder how they’ll be able to cope with a request asking them to value the asset of the Government’s capability under the Constitution to create whatever money is needed to meet its obligations? It will be interesting to see how these organizations will cope with such problems when they want to advertise on the IVCS platform. But, maybe they just won’t want to advertise on the IVCS platform since they can lie in mass media outlets all they like.
The IVCS provides a comprehensive knowledge and information processing platform. The more people do their political participation and organizing within the IVCS platform, the more they will get their knowledge and information from within the IVCS platform itself. But, it’s important to understand that IVCS doesn’t provide a monolithic environment for knowledge processing. Instead, each voting bloc and electoral coalition will have its own knowledge base that it has generated through its own internal processes and activities. So, many alternative understandings of reality will co-exist within the IVCS platform, and none will be dominant, just because it has the power of money.
In the kind of environment the IVCS provides, new ideas and paradigms will be able to spread a lot faster than in the structured world of the mass media, dominated as it is by advertising money from the financial and business elites. MMT will finally have a fair chance to compete with other economic paradigms. That’s why I’m asking MMT proponents to support development of the IVCS by the Re-invent Democracy project and join with the international Re-invent Democracy community.
If you want to learn more about the project to bring this web platform for re-inventing democracy to fruition, and how it can restore the ability of democracies to change their leaders, then please go to reinventdemocracy.net, and reinventdemocracyfoundation.net for more information.