Friday, June 5, 2020

Who Knew? There is a Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America Who Tried to Stop a Modern Monetary Theorist From Speaking in Japan

Stephanie Kelton in Japan

There are more contradictions that swirl around  Modern Monetary Theory then it is possible for one man to keep track of. So I won't attempt to explain them in this post.

But the MMT theatre of the absurd took an even more Dali-like twist when top MMT proponent Stephanie Kelton visited Japan last Fall.

It turns out, and I have no idea how, but there is a libertarian caucus within the Democratic Socialists of America. See what I mean by the theatre of the absurd?

From the LC homepage:
The Libertarian Socialist Caucus is an organization of members of the Democratic Socialists of America who believe that libertarian socialist values are the fullest embodiment of this democratic socialist vision. We cherish the DSA’s status as a multi-tendency mass socialist organization and wish to create a space within the DSA to discuss and organize for the development of socialism beyond the state.
We take libertarian socialism to encompass those parts of the socialist movement (including syndicalists, council communists, anarchists, cooperativists, and municipalists, among many others) which have historically seen the surest path to socialism as residing in the creation of independent institutions in civil society that give the working class and ordinary people direct power over their lives.
We believe in the socialist principles of common ownership and that worker control over workplaces can only be advanced through the creation and support of worker-owned firms, radical trade unions, workers’ and neighborhood councils, popular assemblies, credit unions and alternative banking systems, community land trusts, and other directly democratic non-state institutions. The power of socialist parties and socialist governments should be subordinate to these more decentralized grassroots formations.
Well, of all the things in the world, the Kelton visit to Japan caught the eye of the LC, not because of the terrible MMT advice she would no doubt give in Japan to anyone who would listen (wisely Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not appear to be a fan) but because of some right-wing group that was on her Japanese tour.

From the LC statement:
 Statement Against Stephanie Kelton's Meeting With the Far Right in Japan

The Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) aspires to create a socialist society freed from all forms of hierarchy and domination. We see fascism as the ultimate manifestation of hierarchy, domination, and authoritarianism, and our commitment to antifascist organizing is an outgrowth of our left-wing politics. That is why we made establishing an Antifascism Working Group in DSA a central plank of our platform, one which passed at the last Convention and is now being implemented on the national level.

Though the LSC does not have a unified line on either electoral politics (e.g. whether or not DSA should have endorsed Bernie) or preferred economic theory (e.g. Marxist, post-Keynesian, institutionalist, etc), we are resolutely against any ostensibly left wing electoral and political education efforts that court and collaborate with fascists. This type of political crossover is better known as red-brownism, and it has been documented extensively on websites like Libcom. It has recently been in the spotlight due to instances where nominally left-wing pundits like Angela Nagle went on Tucker Carlson’s far-right Fox News show and wrote for the far-right journal American Affairs in order to advocate for right-wing positions on subjects like immigration.

It is under these political conditions that the LSC condemns progressive economist and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) advocate Stephanie Kelton’s latest visit to Japan, during which she personally gave economic advice to various Japanese ultra nationalists and fascists, spoke at and attended an MMT symposium organized by a far-right Japanese political movement, and participated in a multi-part, MMT-related interview with a far-right LDP official. All of these actions empowered and granted intellectual legitimacy to far-right Japanese movements and thus abetted Japanese fascism. We view Kelton’s meetings and association with far-right Japanese activists as being no different than if she met and associated with far-right American activists like David Duke or Richard Spencer, and we equally condemn all fascist movements wherever they might exist in the world.

We specifically demand that Kelton issue a public explanation and apology for her meetings and association with Japanese ultra-nationalists and fascists, and if Kelton does not do so, we demand that the Modern Money Network (MMN) disinvite her from the upcoming MMT conference that she will be speaking at.
The LC does not appear to be anti-MMT but rather against the right using it:
 MMT is primarily a description of how the monetary system works. Among many other things, it builds upon the economic theory of chartalism to show that in countries with fiat currencies and floating exchange rates, taxes are not used to fund spending, but rather to enforce the usage of currencies. Thus, according to the theory, states can spend unlimited amounts of money and are only hindered by things like real resources constraints and foreign denominated debts. Considering that pundits constantly ask progressive and socialist politicians how they are going to pay for their social programs, MMT has huge implications for leftists interested in building a social-democratic state or a planned economy.

However, because MMT is primarily a descriptive tool, it is not attached to any defined set of politics. For a variety of reasons, most MMT proponents end up supporting some form of a job guarantee (JG), but there is not much uniformity of opinion beyond that. After all, supporting the need for a job guarantee says nothing about one’s views on racism, sexism, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, or capitalism, and this means that MMT supporters can be on the far left and the far right of the political spectrum alike. While progressive politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have supported MMT as a means to help operationalize the Green New Deal, Trump supporters like Breitbart economics columnist John Carney have supported MMT as a means to enact a “Make America Great Again” political vision.

It is in light of MMT’s cross-political appeal that progressive MMT scholars have to be especially vigilant about rejecting association with figures on the far right. An MMT analysis of the monetary system might technically be descriptive and neutral, but the act of teaching such an analysis to figures on the far right effectively means aiding fascism. Though MMT scholars can not control who independently reads their scholarship, they can refuse to provide political advice to people on the far right and instead only advise and support progressives and leftists committed to social justice.
The LC sees MMT as a justification for handouts but fear the right might use it in the same way. Thus their aggressive stance against MMT presentations to right-wing groups.

Of course, MMT, if used by the right or the left, is a money printing scheme that benefits mostly those in power and close to power. This makes it more obvious as to why the LC does not want the promotion of MMT to right-wing groups.

MMT is to be used only by lefty power-seekers, you see.


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