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Supply Chains and Pandemics with Steve Keen
Episode 6418th April 2020 • Macro N Cheese • Steve Grumbine
00:00:00 00:50:51

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If you missed our recent episode with Professor Steve Keen, you’ll want to go back and listen to it soon. In January he spoke of the inevitability of disastrous climate crises. Now here we are, a few months later: different crisis, same chaos, inescapable tragedy.

Although there is much agreement between Steve Keen and our friends in the MMT community, there are a couple of areas where the views diverge. At Macro n Cheese, we’re not afraid of a little disagreement. In fact, we welcome it. We’re all on the same side.

Keen believes that during a crisis -- climate or pandemic -- we need a centralized authority to take over and maintain civilization. We've been following the advice of neoclassical economists for about half a century. During the stagflation of the 1970s, Milton Friedman vanquished the last remnants of the Keynesian approach. Thus began the unshakable belief in deregulation, privatization, and globalization. Reduce the size of government and let the market take control. This ideology ignores the crucial fact that the economy exists inside the ecology; without the ecology, there is no economy. Without the ecology, there are no humans.

Steve Grumbine brings up Warren Mosler’s assertion that imports are a real value, exports are a real cost. As Mosler asks: which would we rather have, the little green pieces of paper or the cars, phones, and cheap goods we can buy from other countries?

Steve Keen vehemently disagrees with this premise. It certainly doesn’t hold up during the kind of crisis we’re facing with the coronavirus. The supply chain is broken and the US is unable to get its hands on an adequate number of ventilators, masks, food and other necessities. He says that we need regional production capability for essential goods. Loopholes in US export tariff laws make it cheaper for companies to spread manufacturing across the globe, wherever they find the cheapest labor and resources. 43 countries are involved in producing the iPhone, for example. During the pandemic, 20 of these nations aren’t shipping to the US. While we can survive without iPhones, some products can be a matter of life and death.

Keen and Grumbine discuss the unavoidable comprehensive solutions required in the face of a widespread crisis like this one and debate the concept of a universal basic income. The episode gives us a lot to think about.

Professor Keen is a Distinguished Research Fellow at UCL and the author of “Debunking Economics” and “Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?” He is one of the few economists to anticipate the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, for which he received a Revere Award from the Real World Economics Review. His main research interests are developing the complex systems approach to macroeconomics, and the economics of climate change.

@ProfSteveKeen on Twitter

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