Monthly Archives: July 2017

A Memo From MMT’s Legal Department

By Rohan Grey and Raúl Carrillo

Orthodox economists are often inclined to think of law as an external force that ‘intervenes’ to regulate otherwise naturally occurring economic phenomena. In contrast, Modern Monetary Theory and its antecedent intellectual traditions have long recognized that law in fact constitutes and shapes modern economies and the monetary regimes that underpin them. For example, Knapp argued explicitly that money was a “creature of law.” Similarly, Keynes, in A Treatise on Money, stated:

“The State…comes in first of all as the authority of law which enforces the payment of the thing which corresponds to the name or description in the contracts. But it comes in doubly when, in addition, it claims the right to determine and declare what thing corresponds to the name, and to vary its declaration from time to time-when, that is to say, it claims the right to re-edit the dictionary. This right is claimed by all modern states and has been so claimed for some four thousand years at least.”

Today, many of the core propositions of MMT can be understood as essentially legal arguments. Here are a few examples:

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Monetary Sovereigns, Monetary Subjects: Modern Money & The Criminal Legal System

By Raúl Carrillo

I delivered the talk published below as part of a panel at Yale’s annual Rebellious Lawyering Conference, on February 17th, 2017. The panel, entitled “Financing Criminal Justice”, co-hosted by The Modern Money Network, focused on the connections between fiscal austerity and the horrors of the U.S. criminal legal system. I was joined on the panel by Thomas Harvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ArchCityDefenders, Judge Jaribu Hill, Director of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights, and Mitali Nagrecha, Director of Harvard Law School’s National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative.

Together, we discussed how financially-strapped local government entities, charged with public safety, perpetuate social violence, especially upon low-income communities of color. My presentation focused on macroeconomic context. More specifically, I attempted to build a bridge between the insights of MMT and arguments asserted by opponents of mass incarceration, police brutality, and criminal justice debt.

Good afternoon, everyone. Buenas tardes. In my short legal career, I have had some hands-on experience with these issues. After law school, I joined the Enforcement Division at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We did (some) work at the intersections of private consumer debt and criminal justice debt. I’m currently at New Economy Project, an anti-poverty organization, in New York City. Some of our clients do wind up behind bars because of failures to appear and failures to pay. Some do leave incarceration only to return home to frozen accounts and judgment liens in addition to the fees they were charged for their time in the system. I’m not here to speak about all that, though. I’ll leave it to the experts.

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The CFPB Arbitration Rule is Pro (Honest) Businesses

By William K. Black
July 11, 2017     Bloomington, MN

Politico has just published a column with a title and analytics that drive white-collar criminologists nuts:  “In a major setback for businesses, CFPB opens door to consumer class actions.”  Logically, the title should have read: “In an important step forward for consumers, investors, and honest bankers and lenders, CFPB begins to restore the rule of law to banking.”

The CFPB is the acronym for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The problem that led to CFPB to issue its new rule has six parts.  First, it is often profitable for lenders to abuse and defraud borrowers.  Second, lenders are able to do this because financial understanding is highly asymmetric.  Third, even if the borrower eventually spots the fraud or abuse it is rare that the typical borrower could profitably prove the fraud and recover enough funds in a lawsuit to (net of legal expenses) recover effectively and could never recover enough to deter future misconduct.  Fourth, the only potential legal remedy for the typical victim to recover and deter is the class action suit.

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London Grenfell Inferno: Who’s to Blame?

The Grenfell Tower Block fire in London is a predictable consequence of policies that can be traced to Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as those of David Cameron and Theresa May, says NEP’s Bill Black on The Real News Network. You can view here with transcript.