What a pleasure hearing Phil Armstrong tell us how MMT makes him feel supremely confident. He’s not afraid of going toe-to-toe with “experts” despite their credentials, because he has the right model. He has MMT.
Phil was teaching high school economics in Iowa before going back to the UK to get his Masters and, much later, his PhD. An interest in post-Keynesianism eventually led him to Mosler and the world of MMT. He has recently published his first book, Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference? Conversations with Key Thinkers. He tells Steve that when he started working on the interviews, in 2018, most of the mainstream hadn't heard of MMT. By 2020, when it was published, the profile of MMT had increased. Now everyone knows of it.
The episode revisits the many criticisms of MMT – we've heard them all – and demolishes them. As for Weimar, Germany:
“If you think about it, plausibly, if you imagine intelligent German bankers in the Weimar Republic -- and these are bankers, they don't like inflation. You tell me a banker who likes inflation. Never met one. So the idea that they came in one day into the Reichsbank when Havenstein gets the other guys, the chairman says, ‘Right, lads, crank up the presses. I just fancy causing a bit of hyperinflation.’ The idea is ludicrous.”
Phil talks about the failings of mainstream economics. After the 2008 financial crisis, with all its models having failed, one might ask why those models are still around. Phil has some ideas about that. Mainstream economics consists of mathematical modeling which has almost no relevance in the real world. Phil compares it to being an expert on the unicorn. You understand its biology. “When its horns are the wrong color, you know what to do; when its hooves hurt, you know what to do. Fantastic. The only problem is the unicorn doesn't exist.”
He and Steve talk about theory - The T in MMT (which is the subject of our very first episode). They talk about the traps built into neoliberalism, and philosophy. Phil calls himself a realist social ontologist, or a critical realist. If you want to know what that means, listen to the episode!
From Phil Armstrong’s bio at Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies (GIMMS)
As an Association for Heterodox Economics (AHE) member, Phil is a strong advocate of the need for pluralism in economics. He has spent the last 38 years teaching – in the main economics and business and lately, engineering. Phil is Post-Keynesian and a strong advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and believes MMT provides both powerful insights into the way the economy works and how progressive economic policy can be put into practice.
@PhilArmstrong58 on Twitter