This post contains a transcript of Matt Breunig’s summary of Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT. It comes from The Bruenigs Podcast episode from September 17, 2021 (starting at around the 32 minute and 30 second mark). Note that it’s very lightly edited in order to smooth out natural stammers and self interruptions. Please listen to the original (on soundcloud or iTunes) for exactness, tone, and full context.
But basically, whenever you see Matt Bruenig criticize, for example, MMT’s job guarantee, remember his summary of the theory upon which it’s based. He admits to not understanding it in even a basic sense. Whether MMT is not understandable, or Bruenig is not understanding it – or some combination of the two, will be left up to the reader to decide. The other posts in this resource collection, and especially the hundreds of pieces of MMT academic scholarship is a good place to start.
In my personal opinion, Bruenig is much too smart to be this dumb.
(The rest of the episode is filled with several additional… rather interesting assertions, both about MMT and not.)
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Disclaimer: I have studied MMT since February of 2018. I’m not an economist or academic and I don’t speak for the MMT project. The information in this post is my best understanding but I don’t assert it to be perfectly accurate. In order to ensure accuracy, you should rely on the expert sources linked throughout. If you have feedback to improve this post, please get in touch.
I would say 95% of the people who are being exposed to this stuff [MMT] seem to be like, “I got fu*king no idea what this is or what anyone’s talking about”. I can appreciate that. Because frankly, even as someone who knows a lot about this general subject area, figuring out what the hell people are even talking about took me a while, when I first heard about it back in 2013. […]
For starters, what are we doing with Modern Monetary Theory? What is it defined by? If you were to say “what is it? what’s the theory?”, can you point it to me? You could point to me that, such as Keynesianism is – and you could point to me a number of papers, a number of concepts. Or, monetarism is, here’s this Milton Friedman paper, etc. There are concrete, animating ideas, there are research agendas. If you think about the October school – there are all of these theoretical developments that occur in different areas of study. Ideally these theoretical developments, they have a life of their own. The nature of academics and intellectualism and so on, is we’re reasoning people. I can put down an idea and anyone else can pick it up and run with it or modify it.
MMT, I would say as a general matter is very different from this. If you were to say “what is it?” And you were actually try to descriptively answer what it is and where is it, how do I know what it is?, the answer to that question would be would be something like, well, there are like 10 people in the US and I guess a couple in the UK and Australia. MMT just is the sh*t that they say. That just is what it is.
And they don’t always say the same things. So, the guy in Australia, Bill Mitchell, he says sh*t that people in the US seem to not like. And then Warren Mosler, who is supposed to have been the founder of MMT, he says sh*t that gets critiqued by other prominent MMTers in the US.
So, you’re like, what is this then? You guys all believe the same thing, yet you all say different things. So I don’t know what – sometimes people call it a brand. It’s sort of a brand. I guess you could say it’s a school of thought in the literal sense. In the same sense that [???] and [???] were in the Frankfurt school. What are these people – I don’t know – they’re just sort of a group of people who associate and they say sh*t that gets lumped together.
That is what I think is the most accurate description of what it is. Some people will take that understanding of it and say, well, this is sort of like a cult, isn’t it? You know what MMT is by pleading to dear leader to tell what you want it is. You can’t work it out on your own.
I would say that is probably the best way to describe what it [MMT] is.