Economic theory is prone to hysteresis. Once an idea is adopted, it is difficult to change. In the 1970s, the economics profession abandoned the Keynesian Phillips curve and adopted Milton Friedman's natural rate of unemployment (NRU) hypothesis. The shift was facilitated by a series of lucky breaks. Despite much evidence against the NRU, and much evidence and theoretical argument supportive of the Keynesian Phillips curve, the NRU hypothesis remains ascendant. The hypothesis has had an enormous impact on macroeconomic theory and policy. 2018 is the 50th anniversary of Friedman's introduction of the NRU hypothesis. The anniversary offers an opportunity to challenge rather than celebrate it.
The essential claim of Modern Money Theory (MMT) is sovereign currency issuing governments, with flexible exchange rates and without foreign currency debt, are financially unconstrained. This paper analyses the macroeconomic arguments behind that claim and shows they are suspect. MMT underestimates the economic costs and exaggerates the capabilities of deficit-financed fiscal policy. Those analytic shortcomings render it poor economics. However, MMT's claim that sovereign governments are financially unconstrained is proving a popular political polemic. That is because current distressed economic conditions have generated political resistance to fiscal austerity, and MMT fits the moment by countering the neoliberal polemic that government lacks fiscal space because it is akin to a household.
Thomas I. Palley
This chapter presents the post-Keynesian theory of endogenous money supply and shows how it is fundamentally different from conventional money-supply theory. The conventional approach relies on the money multiplier and bank lending is invisible. Post-Keynesian theory discards the money multiplier and focuses on bank lending, which drives money creation. The chapter emphasizes the structuralist version of post-Keynesian theory, which retains Keynes’s liquidity-preference theory of long-term interest rates and also recognizes that banks are subject to financial constraints which limit their lending activities. The chapter then shows how to derive the LM schedule in an endogenous-money economy, which is a necessary prelude to reconstructing the IS–LM model.