Rising Tides Sink All Boats

By David M. Fields

So, what is the Fed’s deal? Has Jerome Powell fallen prey to inflationary paranoia and hysteria for all the wrong reasons? Or is a “strong’ dollar a manifestation of a particular response to a policy choice that is more calculated and direct? By facilitating aggressive monetary austerity, the Federal Reserve is ensuring the US dollar is a safety asset to insulate the global rentier from cost-push-markup inflationary unpredictability.

The US dollar is surging to new heights. For instance, the US Dollar Index, which values the greenback against a basket of currencies, has advanced considerably. One of the burning questions is whether this will last? For now, I think, yes, it will, simply because there is no alternative for global trade invoicing and financial accounting. Aggressive monetary austerity policy from the Federal Reserve, a project aimed at using unemployment to tame cost-push-markup inflation, is pushing rival currencies lower, particularly in emerging market economies that suffer from balance of payments constraints, as investors from around the globe rush to purchase US Treasuries for security in the face of world-systemic economic uncertainty.

This scenario is vastly different than the monetary policy from only a year ago or so. Then, to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, central banks around the world cut interest rates sharply — to near 0 — and governments deployed aggressive fiscal support of their economies. As a result, Federal Reserve actions were important in stabilizing world financial markets, specifically with respect to Fed swap lines and the establishment of the Foreign and International Monetary Authorities (FIMA) Repo Facility, which ensured a “buyer of last resort” for foreign central banks desiring to sell U.S. dollar reserves. Capital flowed throughout the world and the dollar fell sharply. In a sense, this was to be expected, and was seen as temporary. Eventually, the dollar was bound to bounce back up. And now it is. And the post-pandemic world paved the way.

Indeed, as the world economy reopened from pandemic lockdowns, supply chain bottlenecks arosecoupled with pandemic profiteering, generating worldwide upsurges in inflation. The response from the Fed, as mentioned, has been to raise the federal funds rate, which has translated into a sharp dollar appreciation as a result of global capital inflows, as the US dollar is a reserve asset to cope with worldwide economic uncertainty.

Yet, is this influential role of the dollar in the world economy an indication of the United States’ core commitment to internal price stability and external cooperation for the deliverance of efficient world capital markets and global trade links? Or acute deposition of the monetary power of the United States? In my view, the answer is the latter.

Here’s why.

The Fed is the world economy’s central bank, which acts as the safety valve for mass amounts of international liquidity. The role of the US dollar in international markets, and the advantages that come with it, are the spoils of its monetary hegemony. The provision of this asset allows the United States to become the source of global demand, and to insulate itself from fluctuations and contradictions of perilous cumulative disequilibria that may arise in the world economy, like the adverse price effects of supply chain bottlenecks and financial contagion that stem from foreign currency devaluations. The US dollar is the numeraire currency in international markets, which is not emblematic of credible macroeconomic performance that fosters confidence, but an arbiter of authority that regulates and dictates the flows of international financial commitments for global economic activity.

Given the current state of world economic dynamics, along with the foreseeable future, there does not seem to be a direct challenge to the dollar’s preeminence, in the same vein as the Euro was not a likely contender given its fallout from the Great Recession. There is not any indication of the greenback’s fall from grace as the dominant international currency. This does not preclude, nevertheless, eventual dollar dethroning, just confirms that the process is (very) long-term.

Despite hysterical contestations of inflationary fragility, the US dollar insulates the United States from global fluctuations and contradictions that may arise. This provides the country the effective means by which the world economy can be stabilized with global demand expansion, without spurring assumed demand-pull inflationary spirals. So, what is the Fed’s deal? Has Jerome Powell fallen prey to inflationary paranoia and hysteria for all the wrong reasons? Or is a “strong’ dollar a manifestation of a particular response to a policy choice that is more calculated and direct? By facilitating aggressive monetary austerity, the Federal Reserve is ensuring the US dollar is a safety asset to insulate the global rentier from cost-push-markup inflationary unpredictability. As such, expectations of future dollar depreciation arising from a return to loose monetary policy is, unfortunately, unlikely.

I hope I am wrong.

***Republished from the Monetary Policy Institute Blog***

Debt Cancel Culture: Media Strategies for Democratic Coalitions (ft. Erica Robles-Anderson, @fstflofscholars)

Will Beaman (@agoingaccount) is joined by Erica Robles-Anderson  (@fstflofscholars) for an examination of the Biden Administration’s public communications around student debt relief. If Trump-era communication was characterized by direct broadcasts from the Tweeter-in-Chief, this new style uses public policy to strategically hail online discussion. Erica and Will read “This You?” debtor discourse as an example of how political media forms can be suited to coalitional, democratic politics.

Visit our Patreon page here: https://patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure…

Music: “Lilac” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
http://flirtingfullstop.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @actualflirting

Performing Hard Money with Frederic Heine

Frederic Heine joins Money on the Left to discuss his recent essay, “Performing Hard Money: Monetary Policy, Metaphor and Masculinity in the Making of the EMU,” published this summer in the Journal of Cultural Economy. Heine is a university assistant at the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies at Johannes Kepler University, Linz (Austria). In his essay, Heine analyzes the cluster of masculine metaphors that ground and mobilize the European Monetary Union’s (EMU) hard-line opposition to “soft” money politics. At the time of this episode’s publishing in early September 2022, what Heine classifies as the masculine performative agency of EMU leaders can be seen all over Europe, with French President Macron decrying the end of abundance and the European Central Bank signaling a coming period of sacrifice across the Eurozone. We speak with Heine about this essay as well as his broader inquiry into the intersections of gender, global finance, and political economy.

See Frederic Heine’s essay here.

Visit our Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music by Nahneen Kula: www.nahneenkula.com

Transcript

The following was transcribed by Mercedes Ohlen and has been lightly edited for clarity.

Scott Ferguson: Frederic Heine, welcome to Money on the Left

Frederic Heine: Thank you very much for having me. 

Scott Ferguson: To kick things off, can you tell our listeners a bit about your background, be it personal or professional or both, and what brought you to the study of gender, culture and political economy? 

Frederic Heine: I am currently working as a lecturer, or university assistant, at Johannes Kepler University (Linz) at the Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies. I did a PhD at the University of Warwick, and before that I did a master’s in global political economy at the University of Sussex. That’s my academic background. Before that, I studied at the Free University of Berlin, the place where I got interested in gender in political economy. 

Basically, at the Institute for… Political economy, Marxism, feminism. And led me to ask all these questions. And at the same time, shortly after I started, there was also the beginning of the first signs of the global financial crisis kicking in. So that was a big part of me being interested in trying to understand what was happening there. And at the same time, maybe gender and masculinity has been something that had been a more… permanent [interest] in my background. I needed the inspiration by the feminist flare at the university. But then I started questioning masculinity and relating it back to my own experiences of gender masculinity, some gender-related bullying in my youth.

When I came across Roman Connell’s work on hegemonic masculinity and subordinate masculinity, hierarchies of masculinity, that was very much a game changer in understanding my own identity, and also my place within the larger agenda structures in some ways. But at the same time, as male at birth and with a masculine self-presentation, I also experience it very much as a privilege, especially in combination with whiteness. For example, the attribution and assumption of competence, and even some level of authority now that I get older, which seems a little absurd at times.

In any case, that’s my background: On the one hand, there were these big macro events, like the global financial crisis that I was trying to understand. And on the other hand, this understanding of my own identity within that context. I think the tension between those macro events and identity/subjectivity, on the other hand, was what maybe always kept me in this interest about how gender and political economy relate, especially, of course, when I discovered feminist political economy as a sub-discipline, when I came to the UK and discovered IPE [International Political Economy] and the complexity and diversity of approaches. And feminist IPE in particular. That shaped a lot of the ways in which I was approaching these questions.

William Saas: Thank you for that really great answer. We’ve come to your work by way of an article you’ve published very recently in the Journal of Cultural Economy, titled “Performing Hard Money: Monetary Policy, Metaphor and Masculinity in the Making of EMU.” I wonder if by way of starting our conversation and making sure that we all have a common ground or grammar to work with, could you share with listeners who may not know what the EMU is, where it came from, and maybe its role in shaping the neoliberal project in Europe and beyond?

Frederic Heine: The European Monetary Union, the EMU, is the monetary aspect of European integration. It’s the institutional context for the single currency that probably all listeners know, which is the Euro, a currency that was first meant as a currency for the entire European Union, but a number of countries decided not to participate or haven’t adopted the Euro yet. The European Monetary Union is governed by the European System of Central Banks, comprised of National Central Banks, and, at the top, the European Central Bank. 

The idea of some kind of monetary union to proceed with economic integration and political integration has been a long time in the making. Since the first proposals in the 1970s, there has been ever closer European economic integration. As a background to these proposals, that meant that a single currency seemed desirable for economic and political reasons. 

And even before the European Monetary Union, there had been several attempts to reduce currency fluctuations between European Union and European European Community member states, trying to keep exchange rates and inflation rates somewhat aligned, mostly to foster trade and mutual investment. And that had been the case ever since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. This is the background why the project was taken in the first instance. And ultimately, this process cumulated in suggestions for a European Monetary Union, a single currency, and so on.

The crux, however, is not so much in the fact that we do now have a currency union, but the kind of currency union we have. Instead of an integration of financial policies and monetary policies, only monetary policy is Europeanized and institutionalized in the European Central Bank. And while there are some restrictive rules for member states, which are also arbitrary rules for how much debt and how high a deficit they can run, there isn’t a political mechanism by which, for example, an expansionary fiscal policy approach could be coordinated. And worse, that’s partly on the insistence of of the Bundesbank [the German central bank], which we will talk about. 

There’s the “no bailout clause” that forbids the European Central Bank to act as a lender of last resort for member states. So the monetary union ended up as a setup that works okay in normal times, but in times of crisis seriously limits the room for maneuver, for example, the demand-led recovery from crisis. And we know all this because of what actually happened in the Eurozone Crisis from 2010 onward. So that’s what we experienced as a result of that.

William Saas: And how have critics and critical scholars engaged with the EMU previously?

Frederic Heine: There has been a lot of attention, especially since the Eurozone Crisis, on the institutional side of of the European Monetary Union. And there’s a literature that looks at the evolution and institutional design of the European Monetary Union and regards it as more or less as institutionally flawed, a result of political compromises between the main players, especially France, Germany, etc. It also looks at the power politics between the main major nations, so this is the intergovernmentalist approach to how the European Monetary Union formed. 

There is also a literature that looks at the relevance of ideas, and especially the emerging neoliberal consensus as discussed by [Kathleen] McNamara, for example–how, in the process of creating the European Monetary Union, there was an increasing shift towards the understanding that a central bank should be independent, that the nation-states should have a limited room for maneuver to run deficits, that welfare states should be reduced.

These elements are also part of the institutional setup of the European Monetary Union by design. And that is the focus of an interpretation that looks at the European Monetary Union mostly as a result of class politics, an institutionalization of neoliberal principles by constitutionalizing them, by setting them up in the treaties of the European Union, and therefore making them uncontestable (by the labor movement especially). And in the way of central bank independence, and this focus on price stability, rather than other central banks also are concerned with making sure that there’s full employment or that levels of employment are as high as possible. This is not within the remit of the  European Central Bank. And so it’s also seen as a way of, through monetary policy, limiting the room for maneuver of trade unions and the labor movement.

Scott Ferguson: In your essay, you take up from a critical perspective what you call “gendered performative agency.” Can you define “gendered performative agency” for our listeners? And why, on your reasoning, does it matter for critically understanding the EMU?

Frederic Heine: One reason why I wanted to do this, and one thing that I haven’t seen in that literature that looks at the evolution of the European Monetary Union was to look at: Did gender plays a role in all of this? I tried to do this with that concept of gender performative agency. And it might get a bit abstract now, but basically, I was looking for a way to conceptualize how gender discourses and narratives might matter in economic governance. 

I tried to do this without reifying either what gender is or what exactly the economy is, and rather understand it as the result of these kinds of processes. Very briefly, it’s a lens that focuses on how agents mobilize performances and constructions of masculinities and femininities in their political discourse in their practices, to serve specific agendas within economic governance. And I use the term “performative” because in this way, this process both describes the performances involved in it: speeches, language, but also bodies, mannerism, dress, etc. I invoke the concept of performativity, the idea that language doesn’t only passively represent the kind of things that describes, but that it has at least some power in shaping it. A very basic example would be that if a child is told that it has a certain gender at birth, and then later is told and demonstrated what it means to be that gender, to perform the gender, then there’s a likelihood that it will behave according to these ideas as well. 

Although, of course, there’s always a chance of failure, and of a critical questioning of these. But basically, the idea is that that language doesn’t just represent something that is outside of it, but does create what it describes, in some ways, and through mechanisms and social practices. This idea has been developed in relation to gender famously by Judith Butler, as the listeners will probably know, and also in relation to the economy by scholars such as Michel Callon and others.

In a sense, I tried to capture how the economy is gendered through this performative language. And then, I looked at how these practices are very much leveraged by actors within economic governance. If we look at elite actors, such as the Bundesbankers in the paper, that have also a lot of moral authorit,y as I will explain hopefully, later. So even though single actors always have limited performative agencym as Butler argues, they still have comparatively more than you and me, for example. 

I argue that this agency and performing the economy is gendered because gender is not always but often a central component of our subjectivity and our worldviews, and even if we’re not necessarily aware of it, it shapes us. For example, V. Spike Peterson argues very deeply how we ascribe cultural value, effective value to things simply because the dominant worldviews are still very much gendered. And for this, studying how gendered meanings are mobilized, basically, look at language and metaphors. I hope this wasn’t too abstract.

Scott Ferguson: It was really clear, thank you. I really want us to spend some time as you do in the paper, unpacking these metaphors. Why metaphor? What are the metaphors? How are they being mobilized? How do they work through very often hierarchical binary oppositions that position certain terms as subordinate? As lesser? And then also how do these potentially change over time?

Maybe, to get things going, I just want to say one of the many things I appreciate so much about your work, is that very often when we’re thinking in terms of gendered performance or gender performative agency, we’re thinking about how broad social constructions, social meanings, discourses, imagery, etc. shape the way that individual persons and bodies become legible. And I think that work is very important.But what I see less done, but I see operative in your paper, is to say no, actually institutions that are irreducible to just–I mean, of course, it matters that these are men, who are the presidents of the Bundesbank, who have this authority in the European Monetary Union, and of course, their individual performativity matters. And legibility matters.

But it seems like you’re arguing that the very kind of constitution of this vast institution is a gendered performance. Is that fair to say?

Frederic Heine: I think that’s correct, thanks for your thoughts and for your developing the ideas of the paper. What I try to do is to see how the construction of certain institutions and certain cultural political economies as gendered is a process that is in principle contingent. It does use, of course, the larger discourses and cultural meanings ascribed to gender and mobilizes this data is only possible because there are shared understandings of what gender is and how it matters, etc. 

But the idea is that how this is articulated in a specific context is principally contingent. And that there can be variations, be specific institutions that do this more than others. I think you understood exactly what I’m trying to do. Thanks for these thoughts. But to go back to your first question, sorry. 

Scott Ferguson: Let’s get into some of these metaphors. I don’t know if you first want to talk about your archive a little bit more? What you’re studying?

Frederic Heine: I was going to start with the background of why I think metaphors matter in the discourse of these Bundesbankers. To talk about the archive: I looked at a lot of speeches and interviews these Bundesbankers did in the context of of the question: How should an EMU be structured? Should it exist in the first place? And all these issues. In that context, I looked at the public performances and speeches they did. 

And on the one hand, some of that discourse is pretty dry for the average audience member. It might seem surprising that metaphors play a key role here. But despite the technical role these central bankers often have, it is curious that in the German public, there used to be quite well-known, quite important public figures. Jacques Delors, for example, who was a very important figure in the EU negotiations and the President of the European Commission at the time, made the joke that not all Germans believe in God, but all Germans believe in the Bundesbank. So it had quite a big cultural role within the German polity. How is that possible for technocrats? Part of my argument is that this is the case because their discourse is not just technocratic, it’s not just about economics, but it carries a moral message that carries an effective stance.

And this is where the metaphors come in. They help to imbue the speech and discourse with meanings borrowed from other source domains. And metaphor theory has shown that metaphor is an important way in which cognition works. We understand something in terms of something else that we already know, that we are already familiar with. And metaphors can also mobilize affect and motivation, borrow authority and legitimacy from the source domain. In the paper, I argue that the Bundesbankers use a range of metaphors in their discourse on inflation and the necessity of price stability, that they were trying to make sure that the EMU was going along this direction. I examined these metaphors and I argue that the the range of metaphors used weaves together a tapestry that constructs a more or less coherent narrative. But the moral story of why price stability should be so important as to make it the cornerstone of the European Monetary Union.

And one element of this is how inflation is described through the metaphor of temptation. So this is something that seems irresistible. So this is literal, for example, when Karl-Otto Pöhl talks about the always lurking temptation, or related metaphors, such as a pinch of inflation, or the drag of inflation, and so on. The most pointed one is when Helmut Schlesinger, his successor, calls this “the siren calls of inflation,” a metaphor that is then repeated a few times. Or back in the 60s, one of the first Bundesbank presidents called inflation a nymph that doesn’t contend itself with the light flood. So what we have here is a discourse that compares inflation to something that equalizes giving in to desires and in the Greek mythical figures of nymphs and sirens, and this is a sexualized femininity that represents this temptation. 

And you can imagine this temptation to the assumed heterosexual men that are usually the assumed subjects in this language as well. So it plays on this feminization of temptation. And the assumed consequence of these temptations, following the songs of the sirens means shipwreck, flirting with a nymph, in this mythic mythological background means a threat of madness, distraction, taking drugs, addiction, etc. So, these are all consequences of losing self- control. The key to resisting that kind of temptation that inflation supposedly is, is the idea that of self-discipline. 

Self-discipline is regarded as the key not only to not giving in to this temptation, to resist the temptations, to [not] walk the path of least resistance, and all these kinds of metaphors are also implied to represent the remedy against the temptation of inflation. And so, this discipline in relation to EMU–the metaphor is used to stress the importance of discipline on the side of member states, for example. 

Pöhl evokes self-discipline, on the one hand, on the part of member states. Also market discipline is thought necessary to avoid these temptations. Market discipline as a result of investor behavior. And then also external discipline, through institutional mechanisms. And the latter, especially the the mechanism to create discipline, on an institutional side was the focus very much of the Bundesbank, who argued that this external discipline was required because member states couldn’t be trusted with this kind of self discipline, nor could market actors in themselves. 

The idea here is that there needs to be an authority that instills this discipline and that itself needs to be highly disciplined. So, these kinds of binaries between temptation and discipline that are connected to femininity on the temptation side and masculinity on the discipline side, were used by Pöhl to argue for the kind of an EMU focused on instilling discipline. And it did so from the position of the Bundesbank that prided itself in having that function within the German economy and arguing that the German economy has been much better placed to resist that kind of temptation. Because of its “stability culture” that is called in the language of the Bundesbank, and that stability culture itself then, is the result of the past tough choices and tough policies of the Bundesbank. 

So, again, we have here, or I’ll come to that set of metaphors in a second. And basically, I argue that these metaphors of temptation and discipline reference enlightenment, as well as reformist ideas of masculinity, of the composed, rational subject, that never strays from its mission, so to speak, that is always in control. And I also argue that these ideas of masculinity were particularly strong. 

For reasons we might later go into, in Germany, where the idea of the rational will conquering the bodily temptations was a key component of constructions of masculinity vis-à-vis femininity hich was seen as much less able to control the self, the impulses etc., in 19th century discourse, and therefore, needed a male guardian and patriarchal ideology. And at the same time, it was also constructed in an emerging national discourse as something that distinguished Germans. 

And the assumption here is, again, particularly German masculinity, which was often the focus of the national stereotypes as they developed in the 19th century. And also from other nations within Europe, particularly France, and Southern Europe as reference points. And here, this was not only a nationalist discourse, but also related to the idea of race because the idea of rational self controlled masculinity was also very prevalent in European colonial discourse, seen as a key feature that was supposed to distinguish white Europeans from people of color, ultimately, this discourse was one of governance. 

So it justifies and legitimizes governing over others, because one is able to demonstrate the ability to govern over the self. And that is the context in which this self discipline became central in these self representations subjectivities in that context. And so, another set of stereotypically masculine traits that is also used through metaphor in this context is strength, toughness, hardness, they often use to talk about currencies and to talk about basically, relationships to others. So, when choosing, for example, frequently emphasizes that the European currency, the euro, needs to be at least as hard as the D-Mark. 

This is on the one hand, common pylons and currency trading. So hard currency is one that has has a relatively low level of inflation. But it carries the potential metaphorical charge. So the Bundesbank was founded, basically on the mantra of its first president, who repeatedly said with soft measures, you can’t have a hard currency, meaning basically, that you need to be tough and resilient for your currency to be hard as the result of the toughness of the decisions that are being made. 

And the Bundesbankers themselves needed to perform this toughness as well. Schlesinger for example, was asked whether he had turned into a softy when he was perceived as not defending the D-Mark enough, which Schlesinger then sought to strongly deny. And Tietmeyer, who was the third president I look at, described himself as a tough oak, this fabian oak, to instill this idea that he will be unwavering in the face of crisis. And there’s this level of trust and resilience and resistance towards any attempts from outside to influence the decisions that might be present. And so you have, on the one hand, this reference to self discipline, and on the other hand, these references to toughness and hardness as a badge of honor of the economyt hat is masculinized in this discourse. 

For example, maybe I should add this is Schumpeter, for example, described also the idea that basically, the monetary policy of a people demonstrates, shows, as he formulated it, what kind of wood it is made of, which is the literal translation of the German which also expresses this idea that there’s a sort of… it reflects the morale, the toughness of the people that it represents. And this is very much present as the badge of honor in some ways of the national pride of the hard currency. It relies on the fact that it demonstrates this toughness. 

And both references to self discipline and toughness, together, make sense as a discourse of the strict father. This is also what George Lakoff has identified as the metaphorical, a kind of core argument also in US Republican discourse. The idea that the moral authority of a strict father is the desirable cultural trait. The strict father that is, on the one hand, morally strong and constantly and in self control, fighting off the possible internal temptations that he might have. And on the other hand, disciplining the dependents. So children, especially, and also the wife, to some extent, to do the same. And by being also strong and tough enough, to confront external dangerous or external kinds of threats.

The metaphorical tapestry of the Bundesbank invokes this strict father performance both for themselves and as the authority figures and as a cultural moral ideal of the ideal economic behavior. And in that way, there is this charge of the discourse around the D-Mark and the German values of being very hard-working people and tough etc, is reflected in these metaphors. I hope I made myself somewhat clear.

Scott Ferguson: Extremely clear, just for our listeners, something that I think is implicit in what you’re saying, but just to air it out: When you’re discussing the political rhetoric and legal construction of the EMU, you threw in metaphors of temptation versus self- discipline and hardness.

We’re talking about fiscal capacity, and how it should be constituted. And we’re also talking about interest rate policy. And we’re talking about employing and not employing certain kinds of people. So that while we have this intensely gendered institution, that’s a real legal construct. It’s a real social-ideological construct at this macro-political, economic, and even geopolitical level, but that construct is doing real damage through enforced austerity, whether it’s through the… baked into the Maastricht Treaty which founds the EMU. Or its individual decisions in relationship to crises, such that this metaphorical language and talking about being self-disciplined and not being tempted is about not being tempted to provision jobs that might be needed for an immigrant community.

This is dangerous, not just because the discourse itself, the metaphoric city itself, is so colonial and patriarchal and exclusionary as a cultural imaginary, but it itself is justifying all of this institution-building and policy work that is systemically violent in its ways. I just wanted to spell all that.

Frederic Heine: Thank you. That’s very important. As you say, completely implicit, or… and what I said, but an important consequence, … it’s also related directly to the discourse that makes it seem as if inflation was a result of indulgence and of overly luxurious consumption practices–basically, of living beyond one’s means and all these other kinds of narratives that belong there as well. 

And not about abilities to have a welfare state that that is able to take care of people in need and to create jobs and to have an economy that works for everyone and all these possibilities that could be created by an environment in which monetary policy could be used in a way to support policy goals, rather than as a result of this approach of the Bundesbank being in the hands of unelected set of people, mostly men, that make the decisions about the bounds around which the economy and economic policy basically has to orient itself.

Maxximilian Seijo: In your essay and in this discussion, you focused a lot on the German specificity of the EMU’s hard money, metaphorical and damaging discourse and policy as well. And I wanted to maybe hover a little bit on some of these threads that I think I’m sensing in your answers here. 

At the end of one of your answers, you implied Max Weber’s idea of the Protestant work ethic or perhaps that there’s something specifically German, even embedded in German history, in the language about this hard money, patriarchal discursive and cultural approach to monetary and fiscal policy. Can you talk about this history? I mean, I think of Protestantism, a word you just use a second ago was “indulgence,” which I think also links up to that history in its own way. There’s something there. I think that I want to hear you dive into a bit more.

Frederic Heine: Thank you. I definitely think there is a of specificity in German history on that. However, I haven’t looked at it comparatively. But as you say there’s specifics to German culture that one can trace this discourse back to and I have done that a little bit in the context of my PhD thesis, which maybe I can also later talk about a little bit. But for me, there might also be a larger picture that I’m missing. The two key processes that I have identified as maybe one of the reasons why this is prevalent in German monetary policy discourse, in particular, is on the one hand, the polarization of discipline in Prussian culture. 

And that’s partly because of Prussian state formation. Gorsky has this argument that in the Prussian state formation, under the first kings that was central to the Prussian state formation and the reform reforms that created the bureaucratic and military structures of that state, very much informed by Calvinism. The Protestant Ethic that you just mentioned, was very important in the top-down formation of the state, and particularly through military discipline. The Prussian state was very much an innovator in that respect. And stereotypically the German, the Prussian military, was known for its extreme level of core discipline.

That was reflected in the Prussian culture as well, where the military had a particular hegemonic quality, representing masculinity in that period. So I think that’s one reason for the historical trajectory for that kind of discourse. And then why, what does that have to do with central banking, monetary policy? This is where I believe the Weimar Republic comes in. The experience of hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, after the First World War in the period between 1918 and 1923, there was a period of hyperinflation in Germany. At the end of it, people had to carry bucket loads of cash to buy basic necessities because it devalued so rapidly after the First World War. So on the one hand, there’s a scare about inflation there. 

That is often referenced as well, as one of the reasons for a general culture of stability, the hardest core. But then again, you could have similar experience of national trauma in relation to hyper deflation in some ways, if we look at the consequences of the world economic crisis of the 1930s and of mass unemployment that happened in Germany at that time, that was certainly had arguably a lot more economic social consequences than hyperinflation period. But in any case, so, I also looked at that period and the cultural discourses around that period, around hyperinflation and partly building on Ben Videx’ work in relation to that. 

And what we have seen just now in relation to the references to metaphors, about temptation, discipline, etc., are … how to say this? Basically, I kind of tame in relation to the metaphors that were used at that time because one of the sort of key metaphors there was of inflation as a vicious Sabbath, the figure of the witch was basically mobilized in relation to the experience of hyperinflation. And so that’s another sort of deviant femininity that is kind of seen as being involved in this process and this experience of inflation. And that’s very interesting, right? Because that goes back to misogynistic representations of femininity, as they were abound in the period of the witch hunts in Europe, which were particularly savage also by the way in German speaking regions. 

In that context, witches stood for those aspects of deviant femininity that are seen as threatening to the patriarchal order as Silvia Federici, for example, has argued, famously argued, and witches were seen as kind of those aspects of femininity. Mentally weak, being insatiable, insatiably lusty, insubordinate, incapable of self-control, etc. So the witch embodied all these things that threaten patriarchal social order. And this mobilization of this metaphor, I argue, has to do with the time period in which this happened, because after the First World War, Germany has lost the kind of military ideal of masculinity, has lost a lot of legitimacy in that context. 

And on the other hand, there was renewed a progress for women in the Weimar Republic, who had during the war taken on a lot of jobs in the economy that had been reserved for men previous to the war, and were still employed in that area. So there was a lot more female employment. There were also a lot more political rights in the Weimar Republic, they were granted the, I mean, the world suffrage, universal suffrage was introduced in the 1980s, as well. 

So I think it also reflects in some ways that there’s anxiety not only about the loss of monetary stability and monetary order, but also the anxiety about patriarchal order, expresses itself in some ways in those metaphors of witches that can contribute to inflation. And on the other hand, just to finish on that, then, when inflation was ended by the introduction of a new currency, and the appointment of a new central banker, named Hjalmar Schacht, the kind of patriarchal military masculinity that he represented in that context was again celebrated as he was called a magician who was able to rein in these demonic forces of the inflation, and in that context, also had a specific ways of retooling certain decisions, fiscal budget decisions, and started that discourse of “we have to limit the fiscal resources of the state” etc. 

So I think, in that context, the attention to monetary policy and what it means culturally and this association with ideas of masculinity on the one hand in order to bring under control some aspects that were ascribed to femininity is something that also dates back to that historical base.

Scott Ferguson: I’m fascinated by all the tensions and the contradictions that I think are teeming beneath all of these metaphors. So certainly from the point of view of Modern Monetary Theory, hard money policy, let alone hard money metaphors, tend to be destabilizing because they induce crisis, and they have a crisis response to crisis. 

So it’s ironic, it’s contradictory. It’s hypocritical in addition to being violent and unjust, that it’s the very construction of hard money as an institution and as a metaphoric that is actually a massively destabilizing element in its own right. And then there’s so many other things I want to ask you about, for example, have you thought much about the figure the “schwarze Null,” “the black zero” that is so prized in in German banking? I think it’s fallen out of favor in more recent years. But, you see these these helicopter view shots of all these bankers celebrating a balanced budget. With this aestheticized giant zero, like a plastic sculpture that they treat as a kind of fetish object. I don’t know if how much you’ve thought about that.

Frederic Heine: Totally. I also talk about the years on the crisis period itself in my thesis, and there’s a lot of… the shots celebrated when Schäuble was stepping back from the Finance Ministry positions. You have actually the Prussian references that I was kind of making, you have the Bild Newspaper, which is the biggest German tabloid. And at a certain point before Mario Draghi was doing the “Whatever it Takes” speech that was a turning point in the European Crisis Governance. When he was appointed, they depicted him with a Prussian spiked helmet, which is this military thing, kind of declaring him an honorable German, that was adhering to the monetary ideals of of Germany and later also, during an interview, presented him with the precious spiked helmet–an original one–from some time in order to remind him of the Prussian virtues that he was supposed to inhabit. So there’s a lot of fetishism is I think the right word to kind of describe this. 

Obviously, the Bild newspaper is not the Bundesbank itself, but actually you even have at one point and this is shortly after the announcement of the of the “Whatever it Takes” speech. You have the then-president of the Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann kind of deliver a speech in which a press release which is about the treatment of monetary policy in Goethe’s work, Faust. And where basically he cites Mephistopheles, or the devil, in relation to un-backed paper money, and kind of I don’t have the exact quotation but something else you know, if the devil says you know, if you have un-backed paper money, you don’t have to worry about gold or silver or anything like that you can just indulge in lovemaking and wine drinking and everything and that of your problems will be solved essentially.

Maxximilian Seijo: Well, just to add on that point–Goethe, in his life, and feel free to add to this, is responding to this feeling of expropriation and in his era in the context of the French Revolution, and later on, and these particular monetary allegory and Faust as, as you say, is dealing with in that same model of trauma and then looking and searching for that hard ground and allegorizing all of the externalization that that that go on whether it’s in the figure of the witch or later on, or the vampire or…

Of course, during World War Two and precursors with the Nazis, the figure of the Jews. But I find your exploration of this really, really exciting and fascinating, I think precisely because that history that you’re bringing up all the different strands is so rich with all of this detail and all of these metaphorical tensions and problems that you’re playing out.

Frederic Heine: Thank you very much. And you probably know more about Goethe and Faust than I do. And I realized recently that probably I should do some more studying of that, because it also combines the sort of thinking about inflation on the one hand and a very present kind of work that prominently places the witch as a cultural figure in German discourse, might also be related to why that was so present in the Weimar Republic as a metaphor. Just to say that, maybe I should go into that a little bit more.

William Saas: A little bit more out of left field, but I was intrigued–Was it Schäuble who got the spiked Prussian hat? The pickelhaube? 

Frederic Heine: It was Mario Draghi.

William Saas: Mario Draghi. Okay, I was just very curious, because one of the things that I think another thing that’s been implicit in our conversation and maybe it’s worth talking about or not is the sort of phallic character of a lot of these metaphors. And that that helmet, of course, is quite… I got I got interested in the relative height of the spikes on top of those helmets, and a very reliable source here, maybe you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like: “an AKO of May 1899, would set the height at 9.5 centimeters for officer spikes and 8.5 centimeters for all other ranks.” 

Lots to talk about here, I suppose. I wanted to also circle back to talking about hard money, hard leaders. And kind of the theory of history at play here. It’s very tragic and romantic and zero sum where you have these hard leaders managing hard money systems in order to kind of defend but also fend off vulnerability and femininity. And I wonder if, as we’re having these conversations and talking about the EMU and your published work, if it’s hard not to in the States, look at our situation, and try to trace out and track the perhaps, German lineage of much of the same kind of rhetoric and discourse over here around inflation, especially today. 

And so for example, we talk one of one of our most recent episodes with Brett Scott, and we got into all sorts of money metaphors, and we sort of brought up the metaphor of Paul Volcker, at the end of the 70s, breaking the back of inflation, which is an interesting also that kind of displacement of or characterization of inflation in this case, thinking of them as kind of like a mortal enemy that you want slain, maybe not so feminine. 

But in any case, Volker, probably not who you would think of as this sort of heroic figure of history being cast in this heroic role. All of that, by way is saying, have you done much thinking about the way that these metaphors and systems of metaphors have ramified and played out in international finance discourse?

Frederic Heine: I think… Well, that’s very interesting observations. The short answer to this question is not very much. But Melinda Cooper, for example, has looked at the inflation period, like the 70s, sort of high levels of inflation in the US and kind of traced is somewhat similar discourses kind of in social conservative thinkers that kind of also have seen this as a sign of moral weakness and moral kind of lack of morals in the American population. 

I can’t recall any particular metaphors at this moment, but certainly I think there’s a lot of circulation of this kind of thinking I mean, Schumpeter as well was widely regarded economists that kind of also contributed to the circulation certainly have these ideas. I would have to speculate maybe to answer.

William Saas: This is following my Germanist colleagues. Maybe y’all can help me figure out… are there… can we track any? Are you seeing direct connections, as you’re asking these questions between these sort of inherent or essential Germanness of many of these metaphors, and the way that these are also found, I think commonly in other and especially US contexts.

Scott Ferguson: I guess Max’s questions about Protestantism, reformed Christianity’s role in and beyond pressure is maybe one avenue. One thing I’ll say is that the metaphor of whipping comes up everywhere. The Ford Administration had a campaign called “Whip Inflation Now”, and that’s in Frederic’s article, there’s whipping all the time in EMU discourse.

Maxximilian Seijo: One thing I’d add, when I was studying economics, it was very common for people to ask you, “are you a hawk or are you a dove?”  And there’s something complicated there, too, with regards to I think metaphors. Hawk is the predator. And the dove is in a sense, well, as an image in religion and theology is important. But but also is not a predator, we just say, so that’s maybe another avenue in the US context to… where this kind of exploration would be fruitful.

Frederic Heine: That kind of hawk was the stuff kind of metaphors have also been also used in the European discourse around central banking and during the Eurozone Crisis, there was also this kind of talk about Mars and Venus relating to an IR-type approach, which kind of position the US as Mars, so the masculine kind of foreign policy, and Europe as the Venus which was kind of trying to have influence through soft powers, as it’s also called. And that was kind of referenced in the German press in relation to monetary policy being like, “Yeah, but in monetary policy, we are Mars and the USA is Venus.”

Scott Ferguson: Maybe we can situate this article in your dissertation. So it’s our understanding that this article is one of the fruits of your dissertation that I would presume you’re turning into a book, although I don’t want to speak for you. What’s the broader project of the dissertation and perhaps a future book?

Frederic Heine: Basically, this is correct. Yes. It’s based on one chapter of my thesis. And in that thesis, I kind of look, I mean, the focus of the thesis is the governance of the Eurozone Crisis. And I asked similarly to what I do in the article we just were just talking about, I asked what role cultural gender politics play in the governance, discourses of the crisis. And the rationale to do this was because there was a lot of research about how the crisis and austerity had gendered impacts on social reproduction on public sector employment, on gender equality policy, in that regard, but not so much research to understand maybe gender, if gender can also be seen as integral to the governance of the crisis. 

And so I ended up looking at these metaphors and this cultural kind of politics. And I also ended up taking a historical approach, right discussing these things we’ve just been talking about both in relation to Weimar Republic and then the period of the making of the European Monetary Union. And so the broader argument and the thesis maybe is that masculinist performative agency, as discussed, for example, today has been constitutive for the crisis by asserting a valorization of disciplinary masculinity in the governance of the European Monetary Union.

But secondly, that also that cultural gender politics have shaped and contested crisis governance in a contingent way as well. And that there were sort of variations in the kinds of performative agency that was the general performance of agency that was employed. We’ve already talked about some aspects in which they have been reinforced right in certain levels in relation to how central banking views of the ECB have been represented–the Prussian spiked helmet for Mario Draghi, etc. But also, there have been variations, for example, when Angela Merkel, advanced as a figurehead of austerity with the image of the stabian housewife. 

So kind of mobilizing more an image of domestic femininity as as a sort of virtuous kind of role to apply to austerity. And that sense, in a similar move to some of the discourses around, post financial crisis, would the crisis have happened, if it would have been Lehman Sisters, rather than Lehman Brothers? And this kind of valuing valorization of certain kinds of femininity in this context, as a result maybe of a portrayal of certain masculinities as well. 

And I also look at how anti-austerity discourse, for example, that masculinity is also mobilized with some exclusionary effects, partly in anti-austerity mobilizing. I look at the context of Spain, where at first there was this kind of sense that feminism doesn’t really have a place in this kind of anti-austerity movement. But then, at the same time, that was very strongly contested by feminist activists and kind of formulating centrality of social reproduction as well as the topic of contrasting austerity. I look at those politics as well in my thesis.

And so overall, the argument basically, is that gender representation still matter very much in legitimation of that economic governance, but how they do so is principally subject to specific circumstances, but also to agency in some level. And to answer the the other question that you have, I am working on a book of manuscripts on the basis of this, but I haven’t sort of formalized the book contract yet. So it might be a while until it sees the light of the day.

Scott Ferguson: We wish you luck. I want to follow up with one comment, before we move on to our last big question, which is yet another dimension of what you’re up to a bit we really appreciate that really jives with our project is that while on the one hand, it is important to have a critique and a refusal of austerity is as natural or given or necessary. And zero some trade offs and other kinds of exclusionary punishing systems. 

But it’s not enough to have a positive political or economic language of anti-austerity, because because the world is more than just narrow, political and economic language, all kinds of other language, all of language and culture is involved. So what I think what we’re often trying to do and you’re doing spectacularly on your own journey here is teasing out and shining a critical light on languages that remain austere, that remain exclusionary, that may remain deeply problematic, even as you suggested in the midst of overtly anti-economic austerity campaigns.

Frederic Heine: I like very much what you’re saying here, and it’s important to remain also self critical, and not to kind of assume a sort of coherent understanding of the economy and sort of a coherent system of contrasting power structures within the economy with reference to one’s own class position, for example, without also reflecting intersectionality on the one hand, on sort of the different impacts that crises have on different subject positions. 

An important paper, also on the subject of the Eurozone Crisis, by Bassel and Emejulu made the argument: whose crisis? If we talk about economic crisis, it might be experienced as big crisis in particular by maybe privileged subjects who are immediately losing out, but then for very sort of marginalized people it might not even sort of register as much because they’re concerned a lot more with for example, refugee status within a country. And obviously, crisis still affects them in the long run, but it also… so it’s important to reflect on the way… on the intersectional ways in which economic social policies matter. 

And also often in anti-austerity movements and discourses there’s a tendency of men participating in these movements of assuming this grand analysis and grand strategy approaches that have it all figured out and have this sense of authoritative knowledge that doesn’t need to concern itself with the details maybe or the internal processes. What’s happening within one’s own movement. And that’s also one place where then hierarchies reestablish themselves within contrasting austerity and those those hierarchical relationships. It’s important to be reflective of these things.

William Saas: Absolutely. Frederic Heine, it’s been wonderful having you, but before we let you go, we’d like to take some time and chat with you about another essay you’ve recently co authored and published with James Brassett titled “Men behaving badly”? Representations of Masculinity in Post-Global Financial Crisis Cinema, published in the International Feminist Journal of Politics in 2021. 

Essentially, the essay analyzes complex and shifting gendered depictions of finance and films released after the Great Financial Crisis, such as Inside Job, Margin Call, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Big Short. Can you, as we’re on our way out the door, give us a window or glimpse into how you and your co author read the role of gender in these post-GFC films?

Frederic Heine: Thanks for asking this question. Basically in those films about finance, we look at how they represent masculinities and how this changes in some ways over time, so more often than not films about finance do center quite strongly on the male protagonists. Even in more recent films on finance, despite maybe the rhetoric of Lehman Sisters that kind of emphasize a bit more the increasing role of women in finance as well. Anyway, so, we try to understand how these representations of masculinity is what functions they serve in those firms. And often in these films, there is a kind of analogy basically between a critique of finance and a critique of masculinity or a critique of excessive masculinity. 

So, the predatory excessive masculinity if, for example, take the film Wall Street and the iconic figure of Gordon Gekko it portrays financial excess in terms of a toxic financial system and in some ways, that is seen as toxic to the real economy or to the heteronormative family, or the fabric of society. Kind of understood in the context of embedded liberalism. And this toxicity of finance in this respect is represented through hyper masculinity. So, masculinity is of, for example, Gordon Gekko, that are seen as extremely dominant, as greedy, as extremely sexually active, promiscuous, predatory. 

And in that kind of sense of embody in some ways, this disembeddedness of finance being represented as toxic through toxic masculinity basically. And that happens also in the post financial crisis films to some extent, the most extremely this is the case in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is a film about excess anti-gravity from the beginning to end basically. But it also focuses quite clearly on the realm of the legal because it’s actual financial fraud that is described in the film. 

And so, in some ways focuses more on the behavior of the bad apples rather than systemic issues. And it’s also partly coupled with class distinction. So, in the film, it’s about working class guys basically turning to investment banking, and sort of adopting some elements of working class culture within that process, and then you have a representation of brazen risk taking, overt sexualization, etcetera, in in these processes. As a shift cipher for something going wrong in finance, but in The Wolf of Wall Street, through the distancing through humor, and through the distancing through class and through sort of focusing on a particular case of clearly illegal sort of practices. It’s not necessarily as sort of indicting as the Wall Street film. 

But then, in the films, Margin Call and The Big Short, you also have elements of this brazen risk taking, overt sexualization, partying, as metaphors for the excesses of finance. But you have a redemption of certain masculinities in those films. And with them off finance, too, as we argue, so that’s on the one hand, the geeky masculinity that doesn’t understand social clues and therefore doesn’t get caught up in the irrational exuberance that is portrayed by the sort of culture of excessive partying, etc. 

And so this idea of this hyper rational, geeky masculinity that’s not subject to these temptations, if you want to connect this also to some of the stuff that we’ve been talking about before. And these masculinities don’t get distracted and they look at the real data and therefore aren’t taking part in the herd behavior, as Keynes would have said, for example. And then turn out to be the real men and the heroes of the films like Michael Burry in The Big Short, or Peter Sullivan in Margin Call. And on the other hand, there’s a level of emotional learning as portrayed in the films particularly in The Big Short that sort of good apples and that behave that sort of have a moral compass still intact that learn from past mistakes from past or working like Baum in The Big Short

And so, we kind of see this sort of redemption of some aspects of masculinity as a way in which the potential of both finance and masculinity is kind of seen as to kind of remain with maybe unfortunate toxic masculinity referenced earlier. But sort of the kind of redeeming that and sort of kind of portraying a masculinity that has come under some level of criticism within the sort of kind of discourse of excessive predatory masculinity in the context of financial crisis, the excessive risk taking, etc.

And kind of redeeming a figure of reinstating rationality of the market and of finance, through references to on the one hand geekiness and rationality and that aspect. And on the other hand, of sort of emotional learning of appropriating, if you will, some aspects of femininity of kind of off yet constitute femininity of being emotionally more aware of oneself into sort of a discourse of resilient finances. Basically, what we come out with at the end of these movies.

Maxximilian Seijo: Well, Frederic Heine, it’s been a real pleasure having you on Money on the Left, we hope at some point, maybe to have you back soon.

Frederic Heine: Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure. And thank you so much for these great questions and spin offs. It was a very good and pleasurable experience. Thank you very much.

Austin Credits with Jonathan Wilson (White Paper and Podcast Interview)

For this special episode of Superstructure,  cohosts Will Beaman (@agoingaccount) and Andrés Bernal (@andresintheory) are joined by Jonathan Wilson (@DeficitOwl24601) to discuss his new white paper, “Proposal for a Local Currency Issued by the City of Austin,” which proposes a complementary currency for the city of Austin called Austin Credits.

Jonathan’s proposal contributes to a developing conversation in the Austin City Council, which was tasked by recent legislation with exploring possibilities for new public banking and payments structures by a resolution. The conversation delves into the proposal’s legal design and implementation strategy, while also contextualizing its political meaning and stakes for progressive politics. 

Proposal for a Local Currency Issued by the City of Austin: A White Paper by Jonathan Wilson

In 2022, the need and desire for alternative visions of economic organization is higher than it has ever been. Undemocratic national governments and international crises have taken agency and power away from local communities and diminished their ability to protect and nurture their citizens as they see fit. In the United States, the prevailing economic ideology at the national level has committed to trading quality of life for nominal price stability, pursuing policies which deliberately exacerbate unemployment and refusing to make robust use of programs to provide liquidity to local governments. The time to develop local alternatives to this system is now, and this white paper will explain one such vision. In addition to providing a basic means of funding and payments for local governments and their citizens, this proposal aims to provide a new lens for how people view cooperation and interdependence. By illustrating how valuable assets can originate from negotiated credit relationships, this white paper shows how communities can express their values among themselves and between each other, opening up new possibilities for local and global solidarity.

Resolution 20220324-057, passed by the Austin City Council on March 24, 2022, directs the City Manager to explore how financial innovations can improve government processes and better serve Austinites, through (among other things) public payments platforms, public banks, and local complementary currencies. This proposal outlines how  the City can (i) increase income and employment for Austinites, (ii) increase financial inclusion by providing a privacy respecting method of electronic payment for the unbanked and maintaining an affordable means of financing and emergency liquidity for low income Austinites, and (iii) allow the City to fund public works. One way to accomplish these goals is to issue a valuable electronic financial instrument called the Austin Credit or “AC”. In order for Austin Credits to be valuable enough to supplement incomes, allow the City to create employment, and serve as a vehicle for financial inclusion, the City must ensure that they are in demand and marketable. To ensure that Austin Credits increase financial privacy, the City will provide an option to load Austin Credits onto an anonymous stored value card. Finally, in order for Austin Credits to serve as a source of financing and emergency liquidity, the City itself will serve as a lender of first resort for Austin Credits.

Of all these requirements, the most important is that Austin Credits are demanded by members of the public. The primary demand for Austin Credits will stem from the fact that the city will accept Austin Credits for all payments to the city, including utilities, public transport, local taxes, fines, and fees for any city-sponsored events on a one-to-one basis with the dollar (moving forward, I will use the term “City Bills” to refer to these payments and “City Services” to refer to actions by the City that people are paying for). To further encourage use and widespread acceptability of the Austin Credit, the city will offer a small discount of 5% for paying City Bills in Austin Credits rather than in dollars. Historically, there is precedent for a credit towards taxes or government services at a local level retaining its value so as to become a fungible, money-like object. In the 1930s, American cities which were  short on dollars circulated tax anticipation scrip which could be used to make any payment to the city. Additionally, during the Civil War, until the government stopped them, individuals used United States Postal Service stamps as a replacement currency, knowing the stamps would always have some real value so long as the post office accepted them.

To give Austin Credits value beyond paying for City Bills, the City needs to encourage acceptability of Austin Credits by businesses. The easiest way to do that is by offering businesses which agree to accept Austin Credits a small discount on their City Bills. For example, a grocery store that agreed to accept Austin Credits as payment would register with the city and receive a 5% discount on their City Bills. Additionally, businesses that agree to pass any part of this savings onto their customers would receive an additional discount on their City Bills. For example, a store that offered its customers a 2.5% discount when they pay in Austin Credits would receive an additional 2.5% discount, for a total discount on City Bills of 7.5%. Additionally, Austin Credits would be free to transfer within the Austin Credit system, meaning stores would save money whenever someone paid in Austin Credits instead of credit or debit cards. This not only gives the grocery store an incentive to accept Austin Credits but it gives their customers an incentive to acquire Austin Credits and save them.

To respond to this incentive for Austin Credits, residents would be able to buy Austin Credits directly from the City, but Austin Credits would also exist on a web and app based platform that would allow users to request and transfer from one another, similar to pre-existing payment apps, like Venmo, Paypal, and Square. Users would have the option of connecting their bank accounts or credit cards, and there would also be a market function in the app and website called the Austin Credit Online Marketplace where users could buy and sell Austin Credits with dollars, similar to a foreign exchange market. Just like with Venmo and Paypal, users would pay no fees for transfers within the AC system, and if users wanted to take money out of the AC system by transferring it back to their bank accounts, they could do so for free if they the standard option which goes uses the Automated Clearing House and settles in three days, or they could make instant transfers for a small fee. The purpose of this market is to give the recipients of Austin Credit a way to convert to dollars if they need to, which enhances the liquidity and desirability of the Austin Credit. Additionally, several public buildings in the City would have indoor and outdoor machines that dispensed stored value cards carrying Austin Credits in various denominations.

Once Austin Credits become widely accepted in the City and their demand and value is established, the City can begin offering personal loans in Austin Credit, providing an affordable source of financing for Austinites. Because the purpose of these loans would be to enhance the purchasing power of Austinites, the terms of these loans do not need to be structured with the goal of maximizing revenue. Rather, the terms should be geared towards encouraging Austinites to demand and save Austin Credits. To those ends, Austin Credit loans should have three essential features. First, the rate of interest should be zero. Keeping this rate at zero ensures that consumers will prefer to borrow Austin Credit. Because legal tender laws would require the City to accept dollars in payment for public debt, to incentivize people to pay loans in AC, the zero-interest rule would be contingent on people paying the loans back in AC. Second, instead of charging interest, to encourage frugal use of this credit facility, the City can simply charge small late fees for missed payments. Third, all loans in Austin Credit issued by the City must be collateralized by surrendering Austin Credit in an amount equal to 10% of the loan value prior to the loan being issued.

For example, if someone wanted to borrow 200 AC, he would have to surrender collateral of 20 AC and would receive the loan at 0% interest. Because the loan would carry no interest, he would prefer this loan over a payday loan, and because he needs to keep at least 20 AC on hand to qualify for the loan, he is encouraged to save at least some of the Austin Credits he receives. This feature of Austin Credit loans capitalizes on people’s natural tendency towards precautionary saving. To prevent the potential for abusing this loan facility, each resident would only be allowed to have one of these loans outstanding at any given time. In this way, residents who take out these loans will be encouraged to pay them off, not only to receive their collateral back, but also so they can qualify for another loan. Additionally, although anyone would be able to set up an AC account, only permanent residents of Austin would be able to access these loan facilities.

The value of personal loans would be capped at 5,000 AC, but eventually, the goal should be for the City to offer secured loans to allow residents to finance the purchase of large items, such as cars and homes. For these consumer loans, there would be a much higher maximum loan value, but there would be a minimum down payment amount of 35%, and the loan would be secured by the asset being purchased. Because saving for large purchases is empirically the second most important reason people save money, incentivizing Austinites to save Austins Credit by offering them a 0% loan in exchange for a large down payment will be a very powerful way to bolster demand for Austin Credits.

Once this system of acceptability, transferability, and loans has been established, leading a private sector demand to hold and save Austin Credits, the City can start using Austin Credits to supplement income and create employment. The City should establish a system that allows residents to vote on new public works projects which will pay workers in Austin Credits. As the Austin Credit system gains adoption, the City can gradually increase the amount of projects offered until it can guarantee a job paying in Austin Credits for all Austinites who want such a job. The revolutionary potential of allowing local residents to vote on spending projects that are not tied to direct and immediate taxation or borrowing cannot be understated. As long as there is idle labor and the demand for AC is not exceeded, such a program would create a means for residents to democratically participate in non-zero-sum development, motivated by the needs of communities and not merely the profit motive, strengthening the City’s economic environment and its sense of community. Moreover, the Austin Credit can be used to recognize work that is already being done but is currently undervalued or uncompensated by issuing AC to community service organizations. Additionally, the City can issue Austin Credits to the elderly, the disabled, and parents of minor children to supplement their income.

The structure of the Austin Credit system should allow people who receive income from the City in Austin Credits (either from public works jobs or from supplemental payments) to sell them for dollars if they wish. Because Austin Credits grant residents a discount on their City Bills of 5% and a discount at participating businesses of 2.5%, if enough people are using Austin Credits, they should trade in the Austin Credit Online Marketplace for around $1.00. The logic here is that if I have 100 Austin Credits, I should be able to use it to buy products valued at $105 from the City and at $102.50 from participating businesses. If I want to buy something from outside Austin, I may want to sell my Austin Credits for dollars, but unless there is an emergency, I will avoid selling my Austin Credits for significantly less than the value I transferred to pay (either in dollars or in labor) for them. Let us assume that I offer to sell 100 AC for $101. If Austin Credits have not been over-issued, other Austinites who want to buy something from the City or from a business who accepts AC should accept the offer to buy 100 AC for $101 for two reasons. First, 100 AC will allow them to buy products valued at $102.50, so they have essentially gained $1.50 in value simply by doing the transaction if they spend their Austin Credits in Austin. Second, the $101 price I offered is less than the $102 ($100 plus $2 transaction fee) they would have to pay the City if they purchased the 100 AC directly from the City. The only people who will insist on paying less than $1.00 to buy 1 AC in the secondary market will be people who do not have an immediate need to buy something from the City or from a business  that accepts AC. For this reason, encouraging private sector adoption is key because the more places people have to spend AC, the less need there will be to sell AC at a discount. 

The promise of redemption from the city will guarantee that Austin Credits have some value, but to protect this value, the City must avoid issuing too many Austin Credits. If the private sector has a net desire to save 1,000 AC, and the City net issues 1,200 (net issuance being the remaining outstanding Austin Credits after redemption), then residents will begin selling Austin Credits at a discount for dollars. If this happens, the first person to sell his Austin Credit–the person who receives the 1,001st AC–will receive a good price for it, but the last person to sell his Austin Credit–the person who received the 1,200st AC–will suffer a significant loss. That first seller might be able to sell his Austin Credit for 99 cents, but the last seller might only get 80 cents. Consequently, if the private sector has a net desire to redeem and save 1,000 AC, and the City Issues no more than 1,000 AC, each recipient of an Austin Credit will have a financial asset valued at approximately one dollar. However, if the City issues more than this net redemption and savings desire, then at least some recipients of Austin Credits will find themselves holding a financial asset valued at less than what they exchanged for it. Either they will have bought Austin Credits directly from the City that are now worth significantly less than one dollar, or they will have provided labor to the city that is now worth less than the value they placed on that labor. For example, if the City pays workers 20 AC per hour but issues too many AC, causing the value of the AC to drop by 25%, those workers might have valued their labor at around $20 per hour, but they now hold a financial asset worth only $16.

Similarly, in order for this value creation not be a net loss for the City or an indirect transfer from some citizens of the City to others, the private sector must save a number of Austin Credits that is greater than the discount given to those who pay City Bills in Austin Credits. For example, imagine the citizens in total have a City Bill of $100, and the city issues 95 AC in exchange for $95 of goods and services and offers a 5% discount on City Bill payments. If the citizens redeem all 95 of their Austin Credits to pay their $100 City Bill, then the City has essentially foregone $5 in value. In this scenario, if the city had simply never issued the Austin Credits, they could have simply accepted $100 to pay off the $100 City Bill, paid the same $95 for the goods and services, and had $5 left over. Avoiding the problem of foregone revenue is important for the City because it still has bills and liabilities denominated in USD (for example, it must pay payroll tax to the US Federal Government, and it must purchase garbage trucks from Waste Management, Inc., which is headquartered in Houston, Texas and will likely not accept AC in payment). On the other hand, if the City issues 100 AC, and the private sector redeems only 90 AC at the standard 5% discount, then the City has effectively gained about $5 in value. A City Bill of about $95 would require 90 AC to pay at a 5% discount. If the City pays for $100 of goods and services with Austin Credits, then provides $95 of City Services, which the private sector purchases using 90 AC, then the difference between the value received by the City (the $100 of goods and services) and the value given by the City (the $95 of City Services) results in a net gain by the City of $5. Because the City and its citizens benefit if not all of the Austin Credits are redeemed, some of the value from the Austin Credit System can be thought of as partially analogous to breakage revenue, the profits businesses recognize when their gift cards are purchased but not redeemed.

Therefore, to protect the financial health of the City and to maximize the value of the financial assets given to Austin residents, the City must structure the economy of the Austin Credit  to maximize the desire to save Austin Credits. As stated above, there will be a basic underlying precautionary motive to save Austin Credits because they will allow residents to benefit from a small discount on their City Bills. Additionally, residents who want to take out loans in Austin Credits will be incentivized to save Austin Credits to surrender as collateral to allow them to qualify for larger loans. In addition to these precautionary and financing motives, the City should encourage saving Austin Credits by only selling Austin Credits in predetermined amounts with a small, fixed transaction fee of $2. At any point, a member of the public should be able to buy Austin Credits at the price of one Austin Credit per dollar, but if they can always buy the exact number of Austin Credits they need for every transaction, they will never need to save any. To remedy this, the City should only sell Austin Credits through its online platform or at its stored-value card dispensing machines in moderate but equitably sized lots. To illustrate, let’s assume the lot size is 50 Austin Credits for the sake of simplicity. In that case, if a person has a monthly City Bill of $25, they will have to purchase 50 Austin Credits at once by spending $52 dollars. After paying 23.75 AC to extinguish their City Bill (leaving them with 26.25 AC), this person will have about 1.25 more Austin Credits than they need to pay their next City Bill. They could spend those AC on something else, but this would mean that the following month they would need to purchase additional Austin Credits and pay another $2 fee. 

Additionally, any one person or common enterprise will only be able to use USD to purchase a maximum of 1,000 AC directly from the City using its online platform in any given month. This minimizes arbitrage opportunities and limits people’s ability to buy AC immediately before redeeming them in payment of City Bills, which would otherwise diminish any need to save AC. Together, these elements form a structure that incentivizes residents to save at least some of their Austin Credits or to seek Austin Credits from sources other than the City, which means they will request Austin Credits in payment from other members of the public, further fueling the demand for Austin Credits.

The aforementioned fixed-lot issuance, loan policy, AC purchase limit and transaction fees are best described as non-interest monetary policy, meaning they influence the volume of Austin Credit financial transactions without primarily relying on charging interest to borrow money or paying interest to those who already have money. However, the City must also have rules for fiscal policy, meaning it must have a rigorous system to decide how many net Austin Credits it will issue in any given period. Because the measurement of value created by the City and held by its residents will be the residents’ desire to save Austin Credits and value them at or near the price paid for them, the City will know that it has issued too many Austin Credits if the number of Net Austin Credits Saved, or “NACS”, does not increase from one period to the next. NACS will be defined as the number of Austin Credits issued by the City minus the amount of Austin Credits accepted in payment by the City, and if this number is positive, it is multiplied by the fair market value of the Austin Credit as a percentage of a USD, as determined by sales on the Austin Credit Online Marketplace.

Now that I have defined what I mean by Net Austin Credits Saved, I will explain how the city will adjust its number of Net Austin Credits issued (Austin Credits issued excluding loans given) in response. The process is very simple: in any given period, the City may issue an additional number of Net Austin Credits equal to the change in Net Austin Credits Saved in the previous period. To illustrate, consider the following example. In Year Zero, before any Austin Credits exist, NACS is zero by definition. If in Year 1 (the first year of the Austin Credit program) the City issues 400 AC, people spend 300 AC and AC are traded on the Austin Credit Online Marketplace for $.95 each, then the NACS for Year 1 is 95 (400 minus 300, all multiplied by .95). The difference between NACS for Year 1 (95) and NACS for Year Zero (0) is 95; this means that the City can safely increase the number of Austin Credits it issued by 95 in Year 2. If in Year 2, the City follows this advice and issues 495 AC, and the NACS for Year 2 is 180, then the net change in NACS will be 75 (180 minus 95 equals 75), and the City can increase spending by 75 in Year 3. If the City issues an additional 75 AC in Year 3 (for a total of 575), but NACS for Year 3 remains at 175, then the net change in NACS is zero, and the City should not increase the rate of Austin Credit issuance in Year 4. 

The purpose of adjusting the total issuance of Austin Credits in this way is to ensure that issuance of AC increases when the citizens desire to save AC increases and that issuance of AC decreases when the desire to save AC decreases. It is impossible to perfectly predict the net desire to save Austin Credits going into each new year, but aligning the additional issuance with the actual saving desire of the previous period should be an acceptable proxy. Initially, the net issuance of AC needs to reflect the availability of real resources which can be purchased with AC and grow gradually. The City should start by limiting AC issuance to some small fraction—perhaps 5%—of the combined revenue of the City and the businesses that agree to accept AC. This would ensure that even if no one wanted to save AC at the outset, the supply of AC would not exceed the supply of things one can buy with AC, so people can become accustomed to viewing the AC as a stable unit of account. As the use of AC grows among the population, this formula will allow the supply of AC to naturally grow around the same pace as the people’s desire to hold it.

Because the goal of this project is to increase income for Austinites, if the change in NACS is ever negative from one period to the next, the City should not immediately reduce the number of Austin Credits it issues in the next period. It should first adjust non-interest monetary policy for at least 1 year. For example, if in Year 4, NACS declines from 175 to 140, instead of reducing Austin Credit Issuance by 35 in Year 5, the City should increase the collateral requirement for Austin Credit Personal Loans and the down payment requirement for Austin Credit Consumer Loans to encourage more saving. These increases should be proportionate to the negative change in NACS. For example, if NACS declines from 175 to 140 from Year 3 to Year 4, this reflects a decrease of 20%. Consequently, in Year 5, the City should increase the collateral requirement and the down payment requirement by 20%. For example, the collateral requirement might rise from 10% to 12%, and the down payment requirement might rise from 35% to 42% (each a 20% increase from baseline). Only if this does not work in Year 5 should the City be allowed to reduce the number of Austin Credits it issues in Year 6. Once the change in NACS resumed being positive, the down payment and collateral requirements would revert to their original values.

In addition to protecting the value of the Austin Credit, the City must ensure that the AC system benefits low income people and increases financial inclusion by giving access to financial services to those who do not already have it. The primary reason people are unbanked is a lack of income; public jobs programs and supplemental income paid in AC will help address this concern. Another reason some people remain unbanked is the combined effect of having no permanent addresses and no identifying documents. To address this concern, the City should partner with shelters and other facilities that service the unhoused to verify resident-status for people who want to open AC accounts with permanent resident privileges. Another reason that people are unbanked is physical distance from a bank, and a distrust of traditional financial institutions. To address this concern, the City should maintain manned or automated kiosks where people can purchase AC stored value cards and troubleshoot problems with their AC account at every City building that is open to the public.

As well as increasing financial inclusion at the local level, the City can use the Austin Credit to create economic solidarity with other cities or organizations. As this form of local complementary currency becomes more popular, the City can make agreements with other currency issuers. These could come in the form of swap lines, some form of reciprocal receivability of their currencies, direct exchange of surplus resources, or other forms of cooperation. Such agreements between two local communities could strengthen both and emphasize the interdependence of their residents.

If the City takes these steps in the correct order (establishing the value of the AC, protecting the demand for it, then slowly expanding issuance to meet that demand), it can create a financial instrument that enriches the population of Austin and increases financial inclusion. The combined result of all these measures will be an economy where use, exchange, and value of the Austin Credit gradually increases over time, allowing the City to increase income, employment, and credit access for Austinites while reducing its own costs, fulfilling the vision set out by the City Council when they passed Resolution 20220324-057.

Appendix: Is any of this legal?

Federal Constitutional Issues

Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution forbids states from issuing “bills of credit.” This is sometimes referred to as the clause which prevents states and localities from issuing their own money. However, the term bill of credit does not simply refer to any note or debt-like instrument, or indeed any instrument which circulates between individuals. The Supreme Court, in Briscoe v. The Bank of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 257, 314 (1837), held that a bill of credit is “a paper issued by the sovereign power, containing a pledge of its faith, and designed to circulate as money.” This definition contains three parts, (a) issued by the state, (b) containing a pledge of the state’s faith, and (c) designed to circulate as money, and an instrument must meet all three to be considered a bill of credit. The simplest way for the Austin Credit to be constitutional will be if it avoids meeting the second and third part of the definition.

We will begin by examining part (b) of the definition; Briscoe goes into great detail on what is meant by a pledge of the state’s faith. Id. at 320. One issue before the court was whether the notes issued by the Bank of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, of which the state of Kentucky was the sole shareholder and provider of capital, were issued on the faith of the state. Id. The Court held that the capital of the bank, even though it was in part derived from the state, had its own income stream, and together with the contributions of the state “constituted a fund to which holders of the notes could look for payment, and which could be made legally responsible” for redemption of the notes. Id. The fund was in possession of the bank and under the control of its president and directors, not under the control of the state. Id. Most importantly for the purposes of the Austin Credit, the Court held that “whether the fund was adequate to the redemption of the notes issued, or not; is immaterial to the present inquiry. It is enough that the fund existed, independent of the state, and was sufficient to give some degree of credit to the paper of the bank” (emphasis added). Id. at 321. Additionally, every holder of the bank’s notes had the legal right to sue the bank to enforce payment. Id. For these reasons, even though the state of Kentucky accepted the notes of the bank in payment of taxes, and in discharge of all debt to the state, the notes were not bills of credit. Id.

From Briscoe, we can derive the general rule that an instrument is not a pledge of a state’s faith if there exists some fund which is legally distinct from the state, which has any source of income independent of the state, and which holders of the instrument can sue to redeem the notes. To conform to the requirements of Briscoe, the City, through statute, will establish a permanent, charitable trust called the Austin Credit Trust whose stated purpose is to aid in the economic development of the City of Austin by redeeming Austin Credits for U.S. Dollars forty years after the date of their issuance. In Texas, under Brazos County Appraisal Dist. v. Bryan-College Station Reg’l Ass’n of Realtors, 419 S.W.3d 462 465, “providing services to aid in economic development for a local community” is that a valid purpose for a charitable trust. The trustee will not be authorized to make payments to the City. The terms of the trust will also state that holders of Austin Credit are persons with a special interest in the enforcement of the charitable trust and will have the right to bring suit to enforce the trust by redeeming the notes. The City, in a separate statute, will be required to place money in the trust every year, but, the trustee will be directed to invest the money in the trust in U.S. Treasury Bonds, so that the trust will have its own stream of income, independent of the City. Because the trust will be a separate legal entity with its own stream of income from investments which cannot be sued and from which the City cannot withdraw funds, the Austin Credit will not be a pledge of the faith of the City of Austin. Instead, it will be a pledge of the faith of the Austin Credit Trust.

We now turn to part (c) of the definition, which requires that an alleged bill of credit be designed to circulate as money. The case preceding Briscoe, Craig v. Missouri, 29 U.S. 4 Pet. 410, 432 (1830), which Briscoe relied upon without overruling, explained that an instrument which circulates as money is one which is “intended to circulate between individuals, and between government and individuals, for the ordinary purposes of society” (emphasis added). Additionally, a later case, Houston & Texas Central Railroad. Company. v. Texas, 177 U.S. 66, 89 (1900), holding that a warrant issued by the state of Texas was not designed to circulate as money, relied partially on the fact that “when the warrants once came back to the treasurer of the state, they were not to be reissued.” From these two cases, we can derive the general rule that an instrument cannot be described as intending to circulate as money if there is no circulation between government and individuals because the instrument is redeemed without being reissued. Austin Credits will be extinguished once used for payment, therefore they cannot be reissued and will consequently not circulate between government and individuals. Thus, Austin Credits are not designed to circulate as money.

Because the Austin Credit will neither be a pledge of the city’s faith nor designed to circulate as money in the specific context of the constitutional prohibition on bills of credit, the Austin Credit will not violate the United States Constitution. Requiring the existence of a separate fund which will pay out in dollars will require the Austin Credit Trust to have some dollars on hand, but this will not eliminate spending flexibility for two reasons. First, Austin Credits are designed with various incentives to save them built-in. Second, the City could make the face value of AC significantly below the purchase price for AC. For example, the City could sell AC for $1 that had a cash redemption value of $0.05 while still accepting AC at $1.05 when tendered in payment of City Bills. Because they would be accepted by the City at the $1.05 price in payment of City Bills, AC would trade with a fair market value much higher than $0.05, but the chance of a cash-run on AC would be virtually eliminated.

State Constitutional Issues

The City of Austin is a “home rule” city, meaning it is authorized by the State of Texas to do anything which Texas law does not prevent it from doing. Because Austin Credits will carry some legal obligation by the state, they will be classified as “public securities,” which are defined by Texas Government Code § 1201.002 as “an instrument, including a bond, certificate, note, or other type of obligation authorized to be issued by an issuer under a statute, a municipal home-rule charter, or the constitution of this state.” Because they are public securities, Austin Credits must conform to the requirements of the Texas Government Code.

There are certain types of public security which the Texas Government Code authorizes all local governments–even ones that do not have home rule powers– to issue, under certain limitations. For example, Section 1431.002 of the Texas Government Code authorizes municipalities to issue anticipation notes. However, this statute places restrictions on anticipation notes that make it not the best means of issuing the Austin Credit. Fortunately, because Austin is a home-rule city, it does not have to rely on Section 1431.002’s anticipation note authorization. Instead, it can rely on Section 1201.002’s authorization to grant an instrument authorized under a municipal home-rule charter. Article I, Section 3 of the Austin City Charter is incredibly broad and grants it the ability to “pass ordinances and enact such regulations as may be expedient for the maintenance of the good government, order, and peace of the city and the welfare, health, morals, comfort, safety, and convenience of its inhabitants.” The Austin City Charter regulates the issuance of bonds, but nothing within it governs the issuance of notes, so there are no city-level prohibitions on the Austin Credit in the Austin City Charter. If there were, the charter would need to be amended by a majority vote before the Austin Credit program could be established.

At the Texas State level, the relevant statute is Texas Government Code § 1202.003, which requires the issuer of a public security to submit a proposal to the Texas Attorney General, who must confirm that the public security was issued in conformity with the law before it can be issued. Many of the legal requirements surrounding public securities govern the calculation of interest. However, since Austin Credits will not pay interest, these regulations are inapplicable. The one that is applicable is Texas Government Code § 1202.021, which requires that the public security authorization designate a registrar who will keep records of the public security. This statute states that “a home-rule municipality with a population of more than 100,000” can be the registrar of its own security, so this will not be an issue. The City merely has to designate itself as registrar for the Austin Credit.

Texas State Law grants immense discretion as to the terms of a public security. Tex. Gov’t Code § 1201.021 and 1201.022 read as follows:

§ 1201.021

“A public security may:

(1) be issued in any denomination;

(2) bear no interest or bear interest at one or more specified rates;

(3) be issued with one or more interest coupons or without a coupon;

(4) be issued as redeemable before maturity at one or more specified times; and

(5) be payable:

(A) at one or more times;

(B) in installments or a specified amount or amounts;

(C) at a specified place or places;

(D) under specified terms; and

(E) in a specified form or manner.

§ 1201.022

(a) A public security may be:

(1) issued singly or in a series;

(2) made payable in a specified amount or amounts or installments to:

(A) the bearer;

(B) a registered or named person;

(C) the order of a registered or named person; or

(D) a successor or assign of a registered or named person;

(3) issued to be sold:

(A) at a public or private sale; and

(B) under the terms determined by the governing body of the issuer to be in the issuer’s best interests; and

(4) issued with other specified characteristics, on additional specified terms, or in a specified manner.

(b) The governing body of a county or municipality that issues bonds that are to be paid from ad valorem taxes may provide that the bonds are to mature serially over a specified number of years, not to exceed 40.”

These sections grant a great deal of flexibility to the issuer of a public security. Particularly, the fact that public securities may be payable under specified terms and in a specified form or manner necessarily means that the city can limit their redemption to credits against City Bills. This section also implies that a public security must have some maturity period and redemption, which out of an abundance of caution, we interpret to mean that there must be some way for holders of the public security to get cash, but there is no maximum statutory maturity period that applies to all forms of public security. At the longer end, maturity dates for bonds tend to be 40 years, which is why 40 years is the period at which Austin Credits may be redeemed for cash from the Austin Credit Trust. Although the Austin Credit is not a bond, the 40 year maturity provides a failsafe in the event that the Texas Attorney General does decide that Austin Credits are a type of bond secured by the ad valorem taxes of the municipality. However, because Austin Credits are ultimately payable from the Austin Credit Trust, it’s not clear that the regulations surrounding bonds apply. Most likely, because Austin Credits are not direct promises by the City to pay money, they are public securities which do not fall into any statutorily defined subcategory, but the 40-year maturity is intended as a show of good faith that should bring them into general compliance without causing them to be restricted by provisions which are more specific to certain types of public security. In the worst-case scenario, we would use the authorization to issue Anticipation Notes. However, since Austin Credits would be used for general operating expenses, under Tex. Gov’t Code § 1431.009, they would need to mature within one year of receiving approval by the Texas Attorney General. This would limit flexibility, but would not be fatal. As described in the section above, dealing with Federal Constitutional issues, Austin Credits are designed with various incentives to save them built-in, and the City could make the cash redemption value of AC significantly the City Bill redemption value. For example, people could buy 1 AC for $1, but the cash value would be $0.05, although the City would accept them at $1.05 when people paid their City Bills. This would effectively make them anticipation notes with a negative 95% base interest rate and a conditional 5% interest rate; the relevant statutes only define a maximum interest rate, not a minimum one. Because they would be accepted by the City at the $1.05 price in payment of City Bills, AC would trade with a fair market value higher than $0.05, but neither the City nor the Austin Credit Trust would ever need to worry about a cash run on AC, and the AC would qualify under the anticipation note provision.

Superestructura: Latin America Edition

Money on the Left is thrilled to release English and Spanish transcripts from our Superstructure podcast with Daniel Rojas Medellin (@DanielRMed), now Coordinator of newly inaugurated President Gustavo Petro’s transition team (@petrogustavo), and Mexican economist Jesús Reséndiz Silva (@Tlacuachito). In the episode, co-hosts Andrés Bernal (@andresintheory) & Naty Smith (@orangeasm) speak with Medellin and Silva about what it means to think beyond economic orthodoxies in Latin America. 

This episode was published originally in May 2021.

Link to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
http://flirtingfullstop.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @actualflirting

Transcript (English–See Spanish Below)

The following was transcribed and translated by Natalie Tabb S. and has been lightly edited for clarity.

Natalie – Hi, I’m Natalie, co-host of Superstructure, or ‘Superestructura’ for today’s purposes, as well as an editor at Money on the Left. We’re going to do something a bit different today and have our first Spanish language episode. We care a lot about centering Latin America in our analysis of international economic and political possibilities.  As an American living in Chile I’m living between a variety of worlds. I’m doing this neochartalist or MMT political education project with a mostly American collective and while we try our best to always take an international viewpoint our main network is still in the US.  So we wanted to expand the conversation a bit and bring in some more international voices. Apologies in advance for my Spanish which is still sometimes all too Gringo  even after all these years. We also have with us today my fellow Money on the Left contributor Andrés Bernal and a couple of great guests. But first, Andrés, handing things off to you; you, tell us about yourself and your story.  

Andrés – Hi everyone, I’m Andres Bernal; I’m an editor at Money on the Left and Superstructure and I’m excited to be here today to help build out this conversation about MMT and Latin America. I teach Urban Studies at CUNY Queens College and I’m finishing my doctorate at the New School with a focus on the Green New Deal. I’m also a political advisor; I worked on Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s initial congressional campaign and I’m currently working with the Diane Morales campaign for New York mayor. Happy to be here today to have this really important conversation. We’ve been wanting to talk about international economic issues that lots of people to try to avoid or ignore, especially in mainstream economics, but you see this blind spot pop up in heterodox and neochartalists circles too. Like Natalie, Spanish isn’t my first language so who knows, maybe we’ll speak some Spanglish and mix it up a little. 

We have a couple of guests with us today; first, from Tampico, Mexico, we have Jesus Resendiz.  Jesus, tell us a bit about yourself. 

Jesús. – Hi Andres, Natalie; thanks so much for the invitation, it’s an honor to be with you all here on Superstructure. I’m an economist and I’m from Mexico; I’m a researcher for the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity where our friend and colleague Fadhel Kaboub is the current president.  I’ve been advocating for MMT informed policies with you and many other MMT friends for a while now, especially in my case in Mexico. That’s my principal work and I’m also a professor at the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas and have worked as a political advisor for a variety of political actors over the years in addition to my work as a social activist. 

Andrés – Thanks Jesús. We also have with us today José Daniel Rojas from Bogotá. Colombians have been glued to current events recently to keep track of what’s happening with the social movements.   Daniel; tell us, who are you, what do you do ? 

Daniel – Pleasure to join you all from Colombia and contribute to this discussion; we’re all trying to fight back in the wake of the latest crises. Now that we’ve made some progress fighting Covid it’s as good a time as any to consider whether there are other ways of managing the global economy. It’s been a contentious conjecture in Colombia. The social movement isn’t just for fun, it’s an existential necessity for us to be able to forge new paths forward. My name, as you said, is Daniel Rojas; I’m an economist and Congressional economic advisor; right now I’m working for senator Wilson Arias and I’m also part of Colombia Humana. We’re supporting the candidacy of Gustavo Petro for a new path for Colombia in 2022. We hope things work out how we hope and we have a lot of faith. The Colombian national anthem says; “The horrible night will end” and that’s what we’re hoping and aiming for. 

Andrés – Thanks Daniel. 

Jesús – I forgot to mention that I’m also on the Money on the Left editorial board. 

Andrés – Thanks ! So to give a bit of context, one of the reasons we wanted to get together was … 

Naty – …That there are indeed MMTers from outside Europe or the US. 

Daniel – Of course ! 

Naty – That’s what we’re going to talk about. 

Daniel – This is how you cross borders. 

Andrés – We want to push some boundaries because not everything happens in the US or Europe. In the MMT world we’re always getting pushback that these ideas are only relevant for countries with more monetary capacity; countries like the US that have, for example, a global reserve currency. There are really a whole series of excuses people are always giving for why the insights and ideas of MMT can be ignored.  

Unfortunately much of the world rejects the lessons of MMT precisely because they are told it’s only relevant in powerful countries like the US. We want to reject that idea and have this conversation to demonstrate how the MMT frame can help structure how we think about public policy in the Global South. We want to ask what we can take from MMT for these countries that have a history of brutal colonization; that have suffered under the thumb of imperialism; that are variously historically and politically disadvantaged.  

Naty – Most of the Spanish language MMT movement is coming out of Spain, so we wanted to expand the MMT framework to Latin America a bit. This way we can get a clearer understanding of the economic situation in countries with less monetary capacity or sovereignty. Contrary to popular belief, these are places there are MMT policies you can implement.  In Argentina for example they had the MMT inspired Job Guarantee “Plan Jefes.” But people will still say, “No, their hands are completely tied  because they’re pegged to the dollar and have foreign denominated debt.” But it’s just not true; there’s still space to spend and implement some social programs. Unfortunately, the only model in Chile for financing public spending is still just to tax the rich; this is an international impulse. I’ve been watching the Chilean elections and everything is about funding the upcoming government with taxes on the ultra wealthy. 

Andrés – As if it’s the only way you can spend. 

Nay – Exactly, and of course, that’s great ! We’re happy for the government to tax the rich. But taxpayer money is not the source of spending. 

Andrés – That’s some of what we’re gonna be talking about today. Like Natalie said, we have some Spanish MMT colleagues with a project called Red MMT, but we wanted to open the conversation up to Latin America as well. Let’s go ahead and start with Colombia, which is going through an intense time right now. Daniel, tell us about what’s going on there and the connections with issues of money, public spending, austerity, and so forth. 

Daniel – The situation in Colombia right now isn’t so different from the situation anywhere else in Latin America. We have a government that gets into power by promising to lower taxes on big corporations, with tax breaks on the wealthiest tax brackets supposedly creating jobs and jumpstarting the economy. When that government gets into office in 2018, their strategy is to get tax revenue so low that according to the dominant international model they all follow, you have to severely restrict public spending. And right in the middle of this discussion; Covid hits. We have an emergency where we need the government to increase public spending in order to meet the demands of the crisis. And they are telling us they don’t have the resources to meet the needs of the crisis;  that they’d need to raise taxes and generate revenue. And not just any tax ! No, it would have to be a tax on working class consumption and income. Unemployment in Colombia has gotten as high as 14 – 17 % in recent years, so this is affecting the middle class, the people who have jobs.  

All these factors help create a situation that leads to an “estallido social”, uprisings where everyone from the most vulnerable classes to the middle class are taking to the streets. We’ve had some really impressive mobilizations, but unfortunately the only response the government knows is repression. Some political currents have come out at this moment, including us at Colombia Humana, to say, “You know what. It’s not really the ideal moment for tax reform. There’s no reason the government needs to handle this crisis by raising taxes; we can just raise the public deficit.” The government could be increasing public spending to do things like implement  the Job Guarantee proposal we’ve brought before Congress. But increasing the public deficit is politically tricky; I assume that’s one of the topics we’ll be addressing today. MMT ideas are absolutely applicable in a Southern Cone or Latin American context. Obviously we are perfectly aware that the Colombian peso is not an international reserve currency. But we are also aware of the fact that there is no other government that emits Colombian pesos so we can increase public spending in Colombian pesos. A public deficit creates a private sector surplus. We can  stimulate demand from Colombian families and businesses. But we’ve been told we are macroeconomically irresponsible for making these kinds of proposals. 

Naty – Populists. 

Daniel – Populists, because we are proposing creating inflation. 

Naty – Venezuela ! 

Daniel – Yes, an example that gets thrown around a lot is that of Venezuela. I think there’s a good debate to be had there. Unfortunately, fights in Colombia such as the latest for tax reform have been consistently met with violence. The state’s response has never been dialogue. We could have a real dialogue, democratic debate, and ask, “ What’s your theory and what’s mine ? What’s your proposal and what’s mine ?”  But there is no debate; they simply believe that other formulas do not exist. It’s the orthodox formula or the bullet. Some of the most orthodox sectors of the Colombian academy recently put out a statement alongside some of the more conservative professional organizations, including the financial guilds, insisting there is only the classic orthodox model.  In response, 11 heterodox economists, mostly from  Colombian National University, the biggest public university in the country, put out a letter insisting that there are indeed other paths; that it simply cannot be the case that the only way forward is with exogenous money. 

The current situation has opened up opportunities for economic discussion and debate on social media. These debates have primarily remained limited to social media, but we have a real opportunity to get more of these ideas out there with the Gustavo Petro campaign.  That’s where we find ourselves in Colombia right now; there’s a brutal repression in the streets, but a really vital intellectual debate has taken root online. This is all great news for Colombia because we’ve been living under the boot of the same repressive vision for the last 30 years. There’s a Job Guarantee bill in congress that the opposition is all supporting; it may not get passed,  but a debate has absolutely taken root in the streets, the academy, and online. I think a new way of economic thinking is making its mark in Colombia. 

Naty – That’s great; they had a lot of signatures on their letter. It’s worth noting as well that MMT got its start in the 90s on social networks. 

Daniel – It’s true !

Naty – The repression reminds me of what we went through in 2019. When  I’m watching videos coming out of Colombia now I’ll notice the dissipated molecular revolutions and think “Ah yes, we have the same phenomenon here in Chile.”

Andrés – Daniel, tell us about that, about your participation in the revolution. 

Naty – It turns out that theory comes from a Chilean Neo- Nazi, by the way. I was like ‘Ah, it all makes sense.’

Daniel – There’s an important articulation between the Chilean and Colombian right.  The repressive forces of Colombia train the repressive forces of Chile; Colombian SWAT teams train the Chilean police. Then Chileans send us their Neo Nazi thinkers to teach the Colombian how to invent nonsense about molecularity. 

Naty – 80s Frenchies.

Daniel – Their goal is to seed Colombian and Chilean society with a popular imaginary where all protestors are enemies,  enemies of democracy and stability. The same way sound finance is the only way to  manage the economy, the only model of governance the regime knows is repression. You must be violent; there is no other way. 

Andrés – I’ve always thought Pinochet’s legacy manifested itself really clearly with Uribismo in Colombia. I think it’s one of the places where Pinochet’s military neoliberal legacy has had the most profound impact.

Naty – There’s people with power in Chile who are going to go out and protest if Judith Butler comes to town. They’ll be like “Oh no, there are criminals and vandals in the streets for gender!”

Daniel – The Chicago Boys would have never been able to enter Latin America the way they did without the use of military force. 

Andrés – And that’s the thing too with these so-called molecular revolutions. To give  listeners a bit more context, ex-president Alvaro Uribe has been spreading a conspiracy theory saying Colombia is in the throes of dangerous dissipated molecular revolutions. This is how deeply they fear the social movements on the streets. Speaking of Judith Butler and feminism, one of the biggest objections people made about the Colombian peace accords in involved “gender politics” as they say there. The Colombian right is terrified of feminism, of movements for LGBTQ rights;  it’s all connected. In a way these movements do share some of the strategies you’ve seen in the US from movements Black Lives Matter where there isn’t one particular leader . . .

Naty – I think a lot of popular momentum in the region was jump-started in recent years with movements like the International Women’s Day marches, in 2018, 2019;  in Argentina, Chile, Peru . . . you have “Not one more” anti-femicide protests, in Mexico too. These movements have given people experience with mobilization . . . There’s lots flowering in Latin America. 

Jesús – A question — why molecular ? 

Naty – Because of Deleuze and Guattari!

Andrés – There’s two French post-structuralists; Felix Guattari, not sure on the pronunciation, and Gilles Deleuze. We disagree with some of their ideas here at Superstructure but it’s a very different disagreement from the one these right wingers and neonazis have, it’s more ontological. Jesús, thinking further with some of these issues; Mexico is a country that’s considered very politically important in Latin America. You had a change of administration with the election of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador that raised a lot of expectations and hopes. Can you tell us about the experience Mexico has had since those elections ? 

Naty – Mexico was just in the news the other day, too. (with the metro crash in Mexico City)

Andrés – So what’s been going on in Mexico;  what policies have been proposed and /or put into place by Morena; what role have economic debates played ? 

Jesús – Honestly with Mexico I barely know where to begin. 

Naty – It’s a small country where not much goes on. 

Jesús – Like all the countries in the region, Mexico is a complicated place. This has been especially true with our experience of this administration.  It’s really hard to describe the sensation. First, we had so many years of PRI governments, the party of the Mexican Revolution. Then, we have a PAN government and what happens next ? Without going into too much detail, the current president AMLO ran for president in 2006 against the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón, and lost by a small margin, giving PAN continuity in a transition from Vicente Fox to Calderón. Then, we get to the 2012 elections and AMLO runs again but this time loses to the PRI frontrunner, Enrique Peña Nieto. 

So what you have now is a president who has been gunning for the job over the course of two presidencies. In 2018, he finally wins overwhelmingly, with very high approval rates in the majority of the country. What we’re seeing now is interesting; for some people it will be surprising and for others less so. We have what Andrés, Natalie and Scott have called in some Milenio columns the “conventional left” in power at a federal level. This conventional left models its political and economic programs on the old-line economic orthodoxy. The economic platform, the macroeconomic spine, is really exactly the same as the one the previous PRI and PAN administrations had. Obviously this has created a lot of problems. The AMLO administration has tried to meet the country’s needs by financing big showcase programs like the Tren Maya or the refinery in Tabasco called Dos Bocas. 

Naty – AMLO looked very happy in that video the other day – “Look at me here with my beautiful refinery!”

Jesús – This also includes the new airport in the state of Hidalgo, Santa Lucia. All of our public economic resources have been channeled towards these projects. But now, as Daniel said, the pandemic is really laying bare some of the shortcomings of the orthodox model AMLO’s government is organized around. This is an austerity program that has explicit Fransiscan overtones, as Scott Ferguson has so often pointed out. The government is tightening its belt as if it were a private firm or household. 

Naty – And money is the devil so the right thing to do is to not spend, but from the left. 

Jesús – You have a discourse where money is literally diabolic; it can only shape and influence society for the worse. So you have to reject spending in favor of austere simplicity. In this vision it’s always important for the government to be humble, simple, and austere.

Andrés – This is the same president, Jesús, who literally gives speeches describing money as demonic. In a way you really end up romanticizing poverty. 

Jesús – Exactly, he’s pretty much adopted the Fransiscan view of money whole cloth.

Naty – Listen to Money on the Left, we’ve had episodes about the history of Latin American colonization with … 

Andrés – Franciscan thought. 

Jesús – This leads to a lot of suffering.  No resources have been put into the education, health, science or technology sectors because according to them, there’s no money !

Naty – For the police, though, I’m sure there’s infinite money. 

Jesús – Indeed,  the armed forces, particularly the army, are actually in charge of the government’s big construction projects like the Santa Lucia airport project, among others. So yea, as Naty says – for this kind of project of course there’s money. 

Naty – There’s always money for oil. 

Jesús – It’s truly wild what’s going on in Mexico right now. Last year they pseudo-raffled off the presidential plane to supposedly pay for the government’s bills. This is a plane that had originally been purchased by Felipe Calderón and then Peña Nieto used it after him. So AMLO said, I’m not going to use the plane, let’s sell it and use the proceeds to purchase medicine and pay our medical personnel’s salaries.  Of course there’s a political dynamic at play here, but the message they’re sending people is that the government doesn’t have money and has to sell off its assets to finance itself. You have people buying five hundred dollar bills to help the government. 

Naty – Perverse. 

Daniel – Unfortunately these ideas that seem funny to us have a lot of purchase in the population; people really believe that the government doesn’t have money !

Jesús – Exactly. 

Daniel – They think there’s just literally no way to pay for anything. Here our Treasury Secretary, the Minister of the Economy, said a month or so ago that Colombia had only 6 weeks left of liquidity ! Obviously, people were completely panicked;  “We’re going to run out of resources, what are we going to do, the government is out of money.”  People really think about the economy this way; as if government accounts were equivalent to a household’s account. 

Naty – In Chile, instead of actually spending public money on some sort of Covid support, they’ve had people withdraw from their private pension funds. Of course people are going to think the government doesn’t have any money if you make it seem like the only way you can get people money is by funneling some from their retirement savings. If you say, “This is the only money left,” obviously people will learn that. 

Andrés – Wait, so what’s this? I haven’t heard about this; they’re recycling or returning money ? 

Naty – Yea and this is in part a left move ! Instead of getting a public payout you have to take out money from your AFP pension fund. AFP is the private pension system that Sebastian Piñera’s brother José helped design in the 80s during the dictatorship. So we’re on the third withdrawal of 10 % of your pension savings . . .

Jesús – But the difference is that Daniel is talking about a right-wing government and in Mexico we’re talking about a left-wing government. It’s one of the worst, most surprising things to go through  what we’re going through right now. Even worse, we have heterodox economists supporting these kinds of measures. 

Naty – Like at the Treasury, right ? There’s a Marxist doing the Doug Henwood sound finance thing ? 

Jesús – They nominated a sociology professor which created a bit of an outcry from the business sector; they wanted to know how you could put a Marxist in charge of the Treasury. But as we all well know, being a Marxist hardly disqualifies you from supporting sound finance socialism. 

Naty – So tragic; such an embarrassment. 

Jesús – In the end they got exactly what they wanted. But I hope Jacobin won’t come after me now for saying that.  

Andrés –We’re in such a crucial political moment; we’re in the middle of a global environmental crisis and we have fascist movements on the ascent working to win power internationally.  But the left is all too often stuck on models that are paralyzing us and preventing us from seeing a way forward; a different path. In my eyes there’s three different formations we’re trapped in. First, there’s the left that thinks our only possibility is to redistribute a bit from the rich and then maybe we also pay for some plan or other by raffling off the presidential plane. Second, there’s the left that thinks nothing is possible without world revolution, only then will we be able to do anything. When the US is no longer the global reserve currency, then we can finally invest. 

Naty – Before that, sorry Latin America, no MMT for you.  ‘Because of colonial finance your hands are tied.’  Some of these detractors will never get the irony. 

Andrés – I think something you see a lot on the US left is people who talk about Latin America like it has no agency, as if the whole region were completely powerless.  So there’s that tendency. The third formation I see is an alliance between austere sound finance and petroleum lefts.

Naty — With resources … state resources … 

Andrés – Exactly. These are people who think the only way you can implement left policy is by getting funds from the oil companies. Under this framework you actually need the petroleum industry to be successful for your country to thrive or have space to maneuver and if prices fall you’re in huge trouble. 

Naty – It’s the same with copper, really with any of these resources. 

Daniel – Commodities ! 

Jesús– You have these generic heterodox economists whose only solution to a lack of funds is to raise taxes on the rich. These are left economists, and they’re out on social media promoting the idea that you can only fund the government with a “Tax the rich” revenue increase agenda. But it seems like there’s been more of a reaction to MMT in Colombia than in Mexico where there is a total silence. 

Naty – Chile is the same;  barely anyone has heard of MMT . . . maybe there’s some people who’ve studied abroad but there’s not really a presence . . .  Maybe when Stephanie Kelton’s book arrives? I’m not really sure. 

Jesús – That’s the elephant in the room. Like Andrés said, there are people supporting the oil sector whose whole plan is to “tax the oil rich”,  that’s literally their whole agenda. 

Naty – Yep, “tax the super-rich”;  they say it every day. 

Andrés – Daniel, what’s your experience been with the Colombian left as far as sound finance debates ? 

Daniel – I don’t think my experience has been too different; the left here tends to be pretty conservative. It’s almost  impossible to get people to imagine revenue not funding spending.  There was even a movement a few years ago that opposed any public debt whatsoever. It still exists; I’ve been to some of their meetings and the culture is just ‘no to debt because no.’

Naty – Money is the devil. 

Daniel – Well, they claim that public debt is bad because it’s a Northern tool of subjugation over the Global South. And there’s not zero truth to this; I don’t think it’s so, so, so far from the truth. But this framing puts you in a position where you have to deny that you can spend on public debt, that you don’t always need new revenue. Sadly the Colombian left is completely convinced by this frame; Jesús  is totally right about that. But you have people doing other things. Take, for example, the economics faculty at the National University, which is a public university; they’ve really made an effort to seek out dialogue with research going on in other parts of the world. This alone is already a way of saying, “Yes, there are other ways.”

Now we have this open letter that’s come out and it’s been signed by 100, 200 economists from all over the country. These are university professors who are in the academy and have been published saying, “There are other ways.” They’re not just saying in other words, “Let’s do a progressive tax reform and tax the rich.” Obviously a progressive tax reform is urgent in Colombia,  but not because we need it to generate resources; it’s more for a kind of leveling. In Colombia the rich don’t really pay taxes at all and that creates a concentration of wealth where the GINI coefficient is literally the same after taxes as before. So there’s an imbalance. But this is not the real  fiscal issue for Colombia. No, the fiscal problem in Colombia is that the state isn’t investing where it ought to be. We are working from a sound finance model that the people in charge don’t really even believe in. I think the presidential candidate Gustavo Petro gets what we’re trying to say or at least or is starting to get it. It’s certainly not immediate, but at least people are starting to be able to say, “We don’t need to fear a fiscal deficit.”

Naty – I wonder if there may be a bit more awareness of MMT once the Job Guarantee proposal gets more publicity . . .  Certainly that hasn’t always happened in the US, whether with the Green New Deal or Job Guarantee proposals. Most people still think those bills would be paid for with tax revenue. But I still think proposals like these can create some space for MMT ideas. 

Daniel – That’s right. The main question you get in debates these days is how you are going to confront the crisis. The answer we should be giving is that the central bank ought to use its power to emit money and finance the government and generate employment and stimulate demand and put some money in people’s pockets. It was like we committed heresy for the Colombian media when we said the central bank can emit money.  So now the first thing you always hear is, “Gustavo Petro prints money,” so that’s just one more thing we have to confront when talking to people. It’s easy for the opposition to distort our proposals. In Colombia they always start by conflating emitting money with printing money and then as you know, they invoke Venezuela. 

Naty – And cocaine. 

Daniel – Last year Colombian banks emitted 40 BILLION pesos via quantitative easing. You have the government basically gifting private banks with liquidity, so we’ve used this fact to say to people, “ Look, emission is not the problem. The problem, rather, is profoundly political.” I think Jesús is right to say that we’ve made some progress on these issues in Colombia. So much so that the director of the doctorate program at Javeriana University had  some choice adjectives for our program; the debate has definitely escalated in Colombia, especially in academic circles. I have faith that this escalation will lead somewhere positive. 

Jesús – You have a dynamic underway in Colombia where people are trying to take the severe adversity really all nations have been facing during this crisis, but especially countries like ours, and use this moment of crisis to challenge the dominant economic framework. The effects of the pandemic have hit Mexico really hard over the past year.  Yet some progressive left economists recommendation was simply for Mexico to take out a line of credit with the Inter American Development Bank; that’s to say, more external debt. There’s really no better illustration of how lost this segment of the left is in this regard. 

Naty – And foreign debt has a very serious history in Latin America. 

Andrés – I think it’s important to clarify some subtleties that are confusing for people, because a lot of people who are afraid of public debt think foreign-dominated debt is the same as domestic debt. And this leads people to implement sound finance policies that just creates an ever stronger dependence on foreign-denominated debt. This is why people always think  they’re dependent on the dollar as a reserve currency. To be honest, the left hasn’t really had an answer to this problem. We haven’t really led on putting forward a strategy to get us out of the trap of foreign-denominated debt or dollar debt. 

Daniel – I think we have to push ourselves to be less reticent in certain areas too. When they ask us about inflation we always say, “Well, hey, we don’t support inflation.” And that’s true. MMT is not advocating outbreaks of inflation. But in practice, for countries like Colombia where we import pretty much everything, up to and including screws,  there are certain issues we have to  be concerned about with the currency. But this is just one more battle we must refuse to be afraid of.  What we really ought to ask ourselves is how much inflation we’re willing to accept. How much unemployment do we think is tolerable ? People act as if the Phillips Curve has died, as if it didn’t exist anymore. But in countries like ours, it absolutely still exists. 

That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t allow for some inflation to bring down unemployment. This is really the core paradox; it’s a fundamentally political question. If we want, we can keep inflation super low and decide we don’t care how high unemployment gets. We can keep unemployment at 15% and inflation at 1%. Sometimes we have DEFLATION in Colombia. It’s important to do some self-criticism sometimes and I think we’re making a mistake if we respond to questions about inflation by insisting we completely oppose inflation. No, we can permit a certain level of inflation if it means bringing unemployment down. But in Colombia the orthodox economists say that inflation is the worst possible tax you could impose on poor people. My answer is to ask whether it’s worse than leaving your population in misery; poor, unemployed and hungry. Like seriously? So what you have here is a moral debate. 

Naty – I wanted to ask you Jesús, since you’ve talked a lot with Fadhel Kaboub  who is I think the most prominent MMT economist on Global South issues; on countries with less monetary capacity that tend to import a lot because they haven’t been able to develop their domestic food or energy capacity and maybe rely heavily on commodities exports, what are some of the challenges or limits when you’re thinking structurally?

Jesús – Ever since the implementation of neolibral policies in the 80s in Mexico, technocrats here say that the best industrial policy is no industrial policy at all. That’s what they say ! So Mexico has had no real industrial policy to speak of in recent decades; no way to build up their internal market and strengthen domestic productive capacity. Instead, they’ve increased our dependence on the exterior. We’re importing goods under the framework of these free trade deals that have Mexico only exporting low value added products. 

Daniel – And petroleum. 

Jesús – Exactly. So Mexico, in terms of industrial manufacturing, is really just an assembly line. It doesn’t have the domestic capacity to produce high value-added products because we don’t invest in science, technology, or innovation. In fact the government eliminated important resources in these areas. So what I’m getting at is we don’t really have an industrial policy; this leaves us with a weak science, technology, and innovation sector, reducing the scope, range and spectrum of economic activity and capacity possible. If we keep depending on the exterior for development, it’s going to continue to cause us problems moving forward.

Andrés – And then the pandemic comes and the infrastructure collapses. 

Jesús – That’s another thing; you have poor planning and corruption in addition to this total shortage of public resources that have been allocated towards maintenance of the public infrastructure. 

Naty – What happened the other day in Mexico City with the metro. 

Jesús – In that case people had been warning the government about problems for quite some time. So of course this is the result. At the federal level the policy is austerity and budget cuts and it’s the same at the state and municipal level. You mention cutbacks on the metro line,  but what’s interesting is recent budget reports that came out show that Mexico City just didn’t spend the funds it had budgeted for the metro. A planned austerity regime creates a whole series of errors and problems. 

Andrés – I think Daniel and Jesus both open up really well some different lessons we can take from MMT. Something I really want to highlight is the way economic orthodoxy tends to conflate inflation with hyperinflation; as if it’s all the same and 1 % inflation means we have hyperinflation. 

Daniel – Disaster !

Andrés – Yes, disaster, like it’s interwar Germany. 

Naty – It always comes back to Weimar. 

Andrés – I think it’s really important to draw out some of the subtleties modern money theory can help illuminate.  For starters, our argument is that Colombia and Mexico not having international reserve currencies is not the most important thing. They will still always be able to emit the domestic currency to mobilize domestic resources, period. This is just logical. The limit isn’t that you can’t find the money;  that you don’t know where you’re going to withdraw money from next; that it’s all running out and  you have to raffle off a plane. The real limit is the question of at what point inflation becomes a real problem.  But this never happens because there is simply too much money in the economy. No, it’s a question of the country’s domestic productive capacity. So that’s one issue. The second question is what a country’s productive capacity is, whether you’re really using the resources you have at your disposal. In Colombia and Mexico both you have people and resources that you aren’t utilizing. So the inflationary pressures in these countries have less to do with public spending than they do with private power. The issue is the power of the private financial system, the monopolies and corporations that have the power to set market prices, that’s where the inflationary pressures are coming from.  So we’re not going to talk about money as if it were a solid thing with actual value like a piece of gold. Money doesn’t just have intrinsic value and we need to locate the rich people to get some of that value. It’s not like those cat memes where the cats are running around trying to escape the red light and get the white light that isn’t real, that doesn’t exist. It’s the same with MMT’s understanding of money; money isn’t like a nugget of solid gold with some intrinsic value. No, money is an institutional infrastructure, a way of organizing debt.  It’s how we mobilize our productive capacity and form our most important governing relationships. So you have that element. The last point I want to make is that, as both Jesus and Daniel mentioned, our countries haven’t invested in domestic productive capacity. Instead, we have depended on foreign investment; we depend on dollars. If we don’t have dollars, we don’t have an economy. This gets us deeper and deeper into a hole where we have to ask the World Bank for a loan or hope some American or European investor comes in from abroad to rescue us before they leave us high and dry the moment they see fit. This is the current system and it makes our currency weak. The failure to invest in public education, a sustainable energy system, just food systems, or public employment makes us more vulnerable to inflationary pressures. Without investment in these vital areas our economies are severely weakened. 

Naty – We need a Latinx Green New Deal. 

Jesús — To add to what Andrés is saying about currencies, one of AMLO’s advisors proposed a few years back that we should go off the peso and adopt the dollar as the Mexican currency.

Daniel – No ! 

Naty – That’s gone really well for Ecuador, great. 

Daniel – But this was someone from Morena ? 

Jesús – No, a businessperson. Another proposal was to anchor the value of the peso to silver. 

Naty – Back to the future, it’s the 70s, great. 

Daniel – It’s funny because you have this debate gaining momentum in Colombia; more and more people are talking about these issues from a variety of different viewpoints. Sometimes it’s a very fair, very enlightened debate; other times people are completely distorting the truth. But at least people are talking. And it’s so funny because we have these orthodox economists who a professor at the National University started calling “The Seventh” economists. This was meant to be a cheeky allusion to the US where people say there are the freshwater economists and the saltwater economists. There’s a similar professional differentiation in Colombia. “Seventh” economists are working in the seventh region of Colombia which is the Bogotá area where all these historically orthodox economic faculties are; the Andes, the Externada, the Javeriana. And when we met with this group of economists they took out Stephanie Kelton’s book and opened it up and said, “look, Stephanie Kelton says right here that in countries like Colombia that rely heavily on imports MMT doesn’t make sense.” 

It’s so ironic because these are the same people who have spent the last 30 years running Colombia’s industrial and productive apparatus into the ground. They have brought us to a point where Colombia is only producing petroleum and cocaine. Yet they are so shameless and spineless that they have the gall to then say “ Sorry, Colombia doesn’t have the right productive system to allow MMT ideas to have a seat at the table.” Really they are confessing how badly they have managed everything. They ran the Colombian productive apparatus into the ground. So of course, I really like the idea of a Latin American Green New Deal because it helps us think about how we can mobilize our society’s productive apparatus. If we don’t do that; if we keep importing everything, we are really going to have problems. Integrating Latin American value chains is really important here to break borders; it could be a really important idea. I think about something like lithium production in Bolivia, or gas and copper . . . and I think about how, of course, we really need to look at things from a climate perspective because we are in the throes of a full-on climate cris. But I think it’s also possible to generate Latin American value chains and allow ourselves to think about a Latin Green New Deal from the South. 

Andrés – Daniel, where do you think the Colombian left is heading; do you think they’ll really be able to internalize this vision we’re putting forward ? 

Naty – Tomorrow. 

Andrés – Literally tomorrow. 

Daniel – I think it’s a process. Look, I’ll tell you right now, the truth is that there are some very conservative ideas on the Colombian left. But I think Petro´s presidential campaign will have an opportunity to get people debating some of these ideas. When you’re in the midst of a crisis  and have debates where suddenly public figures are actually able to say the words “monetary emission”, that is actually a huge step forward for a society as conservative as Colombia’s. And now a lot of people are repeating it! So we need to direct more energy towards theorizing and pushing these ideas. Having the job guarantee bill in the congress can help open up some space for debate. I think we’re heading down an underexplored path, and while progress is slow, taking a step in this direction is already an important advance.  The other thing that makes me optimistic about Colombia is that we are not putting forward some singular isolated proposal. No, this is the platform of the presidential candidate who is leading the polls today. So we know there is popular support and therefore the possibility of pushing  some of these ideas and programs forward. I think the first and maybe most difficult battle is going to be with our own side; we have to defeat some conservative ideas our friends and comrades on the left still harbor.  It’s hard, but I think we can do it. 

Jesús – We are really paying for the errors we’ve made in Mexico, these issues are so important. 

Andrés – These “Seventh” economists seem to me more like, as they say, garage economists. 

Daniel – But they govern Colombia;  they’ve governed the country for 30, 40 years. 

Andrés – Jesús;  expectations for Mexico, how do you see things going ? 

Jesús – I think it’s very unlikely the current administration will change in the next term. They have made their position clear. Nevertheless, we are being observed; the world is watching us. We are being observed and furthermore there is some turn to MMT. I can say that there’s been some timid outreach to our camp. It’s slow but there’s some movement. 

Daniel – That’s great to hear. There’s a part of the Colombian left that really sees AMLO as an important referent. They say, “Wow he doesn’t use the presidential plane” and then their whole big program is to lower the presidential and congressional salaries in order to fund the government. 

Andrés – There was a time when I would see Mujica in Uruguay living in his little house and I’d say “Ah, that’s the left.”

Naty – He smokes weed and has a small house so everything with Uruguay is obviously okay. 

Daniel – It’s like with Petro; they published some photos of him wearing Ferragamo shoes and they said, “See, he’s a fake, a hypocrite;  he wears expensive shoes; how can you be on the left and not be barefoot?”

Andrés – Jesús, before we recorded you were telling me about some social justice initiatives in Mexico, can you talk about these as a vehicle for integrating MMT ideas into a Mexican social justice agenda ? 

Jesús – Absolutely, MMT in a  Latin American context;  especially in Mexico, MUST go hand in hand with a social justice agenda; you have to dialogue deeply with the sectors of the population that are suffering the most right now. It’s critical to integrate and consider the strategies social movements are using to develop the left. In Mexico you really have many different countries; every locality has its own particular problems, whether it be security, the environment, or the lack of job opportunities forcing people to emigrate to the US. For MMT to be relevant it has to take these issues seriously and make social problems integral to its framework. The issue of security is also crucial for a functioning economy; I think in Colombia you’ve had similar issues ? 

Andrés – In the Colombian case, absolutely, a vision for peace is so central. It’s the same as in Mexico where so many people have lived through really serious violence, whether it be caused by narcotrafficking or a general lack of social stability. We aren’t creating public employment opportunities; we aren’t investing in sustainability. Those are the things we need to create a serious, durable peace that is sustainable long- term.  

Naty – That’s how you actually try to get out from under the domination of the empire, right ? To defeat the ‘empire’ you can’t just keep importing more and more forever. 

Andrés – To wrap up, government accounts are not like those of a household, states have constitutional power over their currency, and you don’t need taxes to fund spending. Taxes are important, rather, to keep people from accumulating obscene amounts of wealth. 

Naty – Allowing people to purchase dissipated molecular revolutions. 

Jesus – We need to raffle off planes. 

Daniel – Lower congressional salaries . . . 

Naty – Ok, great conversation, thanks so much everyone for coming to talk with us. 

Daniel – In a world where people are literally dying in the street it’s immoral to continue down our current path. Any state can rescue its citizens and guarantee certain rights if it wants to. The fact they don’t isn’t because they can’t; it’s not because they don’t have the resources. The question is political power. The issue is political, not economic. The economy is honestly almost over-diagnosed. We have so many studies and theories that show that governments can allow themselves to rescue their citizens. So the issue is not really technical. 

Naty – Right, it’s not technical. I think at Superstructure and Money on the Left that’s one of the most important arguments we want to make, that MMT isn’t just some cold technical trick where you say, “Ah, we have the best science,” and that’s all she wrote. These are deep, serious, important social questions for everyone. 

Andrés – For us, technical issues are also social and political issues !

Naty – True, the binary is false.

Daniel – The economics academy teaches you that there is a natural rate of employment, that this is something natural which exists. This is a lie, it’s a total lie. 

Naty – And then you have your little mini-Friedmans on Twitter with their ridiculous little cartoon avatars.

Andrés – According to orthodox economics,  unemployment is like gravity; it exists in nature, just because. This is an idea the left must resoundingly reject. 

Daniel – When the textbook says there is a NATURAL rate of unemployment, you have to naturalize this “natural,” no ? They’re telling you this is something you cannot dispute. It’s a great farce. 

Naty – That’s the idea, no ? They don’t want people actually discussing these topics; they want neoliberalism to continue;  they want the hegemony of the World Bank and IMF and their friends at Harvard Business School to continue.

Andrés – The other one is the natural rate of interest . . . 

Daniel – Everything is nature. When they’re screwing you over, that’s just nature. 

Naty – Ok y’all, great conversation, thanks so much. Excuse my Spanish at times, despite living here for years my Spanish still isn’t nearly as good as I wish it were ! 

Daniel – Really cool to talk with you all. 

Andrés – Listeners, thanks for being here with us for this special episode of Money on the Left and Superstructure.

Naty – Superestructura.

Andrés – Please follow us and listen to our work;  we have a patreon you can support;  I also suggest you follow the work Daniel is doing in Colombia, especially with Colombia Humana and with senator Wilson Arias. Also follow Jesus Resendiz and his work with his column at  Milenio. 

Naty – What are your twitter handles ? 

Daniel – @ DanielRMed, from “Medellin”, but it’s just “Med.” 

Jesús – Mine is @ Tlacuachito. 

Andrés – Perfect, we’ll write those up on twitter too so people can follow you all, thanks so much ! 

Jesús – Thanks so much.

Naty – Thanks.

Daniel – Thank you all, a pleasure. 

Transcripción en Español

Natalie – Hola, yo soy Natalie, co-host de Superstructure  o Superestructura, y una de las editoras de Money on the Left. Hoy día vamos a hacer algo un poco diferente, un episodio en español. Para nosotros, es súper importante incluir a Latinoamérica en nuestro análisis de las posibilidades económicas y políticas en el mundo. Y yo como estadounidense que vive en Chile, de una forma vivo entre varios mundos. Estoy trabajando en este proyecto de educación política con respecto a MMT y aunque vivo en Chile, la mayoría de los miembros o todos los miembros del colectivo viven en EEUU  y mientras el podcast tiene un ámbito internacional, igual su red principal viene de los EEUU  así que igual quisiéramos expandir la conversación un poco. Hay que unir fuerzas y las vías de comunicación. Por cierto, disculpa mi español, que sigue siendo muy gringo después de tantos años aquí. Tenemos con nosotros dos invitados y también Andrés Bernal, que también es parte del colectivo – ¿quien eres Andrés ?  ¿ Cual es tu historia? 

Andrés – Hola, buenas tardes a todos, yo soy Andrés Bernal, editor también de Money on the Left y Superestructura, aquí también para hacer parte de esta conversación sobre MMT y Latinoamérica. ¿Quién soy yo? Bueno, yo soy un profesor en CUNY Queens College de Estudios Urbanos. Estoy terminando mi doctorado también en el New School, con enfoque en el Green New Deal y soy asesor político. Estuve un momento con la campaña de Alexandria Ocasio Cortez; en este momento estoy con la campaña de Diane Morales para la alcaldía de Nueva York. Entonces bueno,  un placer aquí estar con todos Uds. para tener esta conversación que nos parece muy importante, primero, porque para abrir el espacio lingüístico de idioma, y también para hablar de temas que muchas veces evitamos o se ignoran en el mundo del pensamiento económico y también de MMT. Entonces bueno, también, yo; español no es mi primer idioma, entonces quizás qué –we’ll speak some Spanglish– and we’ll mix it up a little. 

**

Andrés – Tenemos dos invitados aquí con nosotros, primero tenemos aquí desde Tampico, México, Jesús Resendiz, Jesús, díganos, ¿ quién eres? 

Jesús – Hola Andrés, Natalie;  muchas gracias por la invitación, es para mi un honor estar aquí en Superstructure. Bueno pues yo soy mexicano, soy economista de profesión, y soy miembro e investigador de Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, donde el presidente de este instituto es nuestro colega y  amigo, Fadhel Kaboub y bueno, ya llevo cierto tiempo impulsando junto con Uds., con mis amigos de la Teoría Monetaria Moderna, esta como le decimos en inglés– la MMT o la TMM en español– impulsándola en mi caso particular de México. Entonces, digamos que en grandes rasgos esto es mi trabajo aquí, y bueno soy profesor en la Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, he sido asesor de algunos actores políticos, y también activista social. 

Andrés –Gracias Jesús. Y también tenemos con nosotros José Daniel Rojas desde Bogotá, que ahorita, bueno yo también como Colombiano, todos estamos muy pendientes de la situación que está pasando en Colombia– los movimientos sociales que se están viviendo en este momento. Daniel, cuéntanos ¿ quién eres, qué haces?

Daniel – Hola, ¿cómo están? Placer estar aquí con Uds. y desde Colombia integrarnos en esta discusión que emerge en medio de esta crisis ¿no ? Ahora que el mundo global empieza a soportar la crisis de Covid, está bien empezar a pensar si es que existen otras formas de gestionar y de gobernar la economía y desde Colombia también  en medio de este maremagnum de confrontaciones que emerge de la movilización social. Pues para nosotros no solamente es un placer sino una necesidad empezar a encontrar nuevos caminos y nuevas fórmulas para el desarrollo. Mi nombre, bueno como se lo dicen, es Daniel Rojas,  economista de profesión; soy asesor económico en el Congreso de la República;  en este momento trabajo con el senador Wilson Arias y también hago parte de la Colombia Humana, que es el esfuerzo de el candidato presidencial Gustavo Petro para encontrar un nuevo rumbo en Colombia en el 2022. Esperamos que así sea y tenemos muchísima fe en que va a ser así. Esto, como dice el himno nacional; el himno nacional de Colombia , dice –cesará la horrible noche– y vamos a esperar que así sea, vamos por eso. 

**

Andrés – Muchas gracias Daniel. 

Jesús – Se me olvidó decir que también soy miembro del consejo editorial de Money on the Left. 

**

Andrés – Bueno, para un poco de contexto también en esta conversación,  este diálogo y una de las razones . . . 

Naty — . . .  Parece que sí, sí hay gente fuera de Europa y los Estados Unidos; parece . . . de MMT. 

Daniel —- Claro, claro que sí.

Naty – Eso vamos a hablar. 

Daniel — Así asciendan fronteras.  

Andrés — Asciendan fronteras; no todo pasa en EEUU o Europa, exactamente. Entonces pues, en nuestro mundo de MMT o la TMM, como mi amigo Jesús aquí lo dijo, muchas veces escuchamos que solo hay relevancia para  EEUU, que simplemente es porque  EEUU tiene una moneda que es reserva mundial o una cantidad de razones o excusas porque ignorar las ideas, los –insights – que no sé como se dice en español –insights– ? 

**

Jesús –  ¿ Características, no ? 

**

Andrés – ¿ Visión ? 

Naty – Sí, percepciones, entendimientos . . . 

Andrés – Sí;  bueno, el conocimiento;  el conocimiento que nos da MMT es rechazado en muchas partes del mundo porque se dice que solamente funciona o es relevante en los Estados Unidos. Entonces nosotros queremos rechazar esa idea y poner en práctica y tener esta conversación sobre cuáles son los aprendizajes y las cosas importantes de usar  . . .  la TMM o MMT como un marco de referencia, como una estructura para pensar en las políticas públicas y las ideas basadas en el dinero;  en la función del dinero en una economía, específicamente, para países en el sur; para países que han estado en desventaja política;  que tiene una historia de colonización, de imperialismo, etc. ¿ Qué podemos aprender de MMT en esas situaciones? Entonces, bueno, Naty, ¿qué más ?

Naty – Sí, sin embargo, yo creo que hay más movida de TMM en España dentro del español, pero queremos expandir para Latinoamérica y lo que pasa es que el marco de TMM macroeconómico nos puede ayudar dar a entender cómo funcionan las cosas. Incluso cuando no haya tanta soberanía se puede usarla como en Argentina donde tenían Plan Jefes, una garantía de trabajo. Pero sin embargo, igual dicen –No, no puedes hacer nada ahi, porque estan vinculado al dólar y tienen la deuda externa y bla bla bla– pero sí, se puede hacer programas;  se puede gastar. Pero también tienen muy arraigado esta idea de que . . .  en Chile todo el mundo en la izquierda está hablando de –impuestos a los super ricos– cierto? 

Andrés – Como la única manera que hace algo para gastar. 

Naty – Sí y bacán; genial que haya un impuesto a los super ricos, cierto? Pero no es la fuente de gastar. 

Andrés – Exactamente. Esos son los temas que vamos a tocar hoy. Como dice Natalie, tenemos unas camaradas en España que tienen un proyecto de MMT, se llama Red MMT, pero nosotros aquí también queremos abrir esta conversación a Latinoamérica. Bueno, entonces empezando con Colombia;  por el momento que se está viviendo ahorita ¿que está pasando, Daniel ? Cuéntanos un poco sobre ¿qué pasa en Colombia? y ¿cómo se conecta esto con cuestiones de dinero, de gasto público, de austeridad, etc. ?

Daniel – Bueno, ya, es que lo que está pasando en Colombia no es muy distinto a lo que se está pasando en Latinoamérica, sinceramente. Tenemos un gobierno que llega y que gana las elecciones bajo la promesa de que disminuyendo impuestos a las grandes corporaciones y a las personas que están en el nivel más alto de ingresos y de patrimonio podría reactivar la economía, creando puestos de trabajo.  Y en 2018, cuando esa propuesta empieza a gobernar evidentemente, lo que hacen es disminuir los ingresos tributarios para llegar al punto en común en EEUU, en Europa, en todo el mundo: bajo la visión dominante de como hay pocos ingresos tributarios;  hay pocos gastos públicos, ¿ verdad ? Poco gasto público. Y en esa discusión, llega el Covid. Y entonces, en el momento en el que el gobierno requiere aumentar el gasto público para atender la emergencia, lo que eso nos dice es que no hay recursos y que los recursos solo se pueden recaudar vía impuesto. Y no cualquier impuesto, sino que tiene que ser impuestos al consumo y a la rentas laborales de la parte baja. Claro, eso afecta mayoritariamente a las personas que tienen trabajo y las personas que tienen trabajo en Colombia es la clase media porque el desempleo en Colombia ha llegado a unos niveles del 14 a 17 % en el último año. Entonces, en ese escenario se crea todo un estallido social porque es la clase media la clase que está –digamos, esos sectores;  esos segmentos de la sociedad que está en la vulnerabilidad; la que empieza a llenar las calles y a colmar las calles en unas movilizaciones impresionantemente grandes; que solamente tienen como respuesta el gobierno la represión. Ante ese escenario; algunos expresiones políticas hemos dicho, dentro de esas Colombia Humana, de que no es momento de hacer una reforma tributaria. Es decir, de que el gobierno no tendría porqué atender la emergencia imponiendo impuestos, sino que pudiéramos aumentar el déficit público de tal manera que el gobierno responda mediante un proyecto que hemos radicado en el Congreso de Trabajo Garantizado en el cual pudiéramos dar respuesta a la crisis aumentando déficit público. Y aumentar el déficit público tiene muchas aristas y eso creo que lo vamos a hablar en este espacio. Yo creo que, claro, estos tipos de ideas que vienen de la Teoría Monetaria Moderna tienen su grado de aplicación en los países del Cono Sur y en países Latinoamericanos. Somos perfectamente conscientes de que el peso colombiano no es una moneda de reserva; pero también somos perfectamente conscientes de que somos el unico gobierno que emite pesos colombianos y que por lo tanto podemos permitirnos a aumentar el gasto público en pesos colombianos de tal forma que el déficit público sea superávit en el sector privado y que las familias y las empresas colombianas pudieran tener un choque de demanda. Lo que se nos han dicho es que somos unas) de irresponsables, macroeconómicamente hablando . . . 

Naty – Populistas. 

Daniel – Y de populistas, porque lo que estamos proponiendo es crear inflación y ya. 

Naty – ¡Venezuela!  

Daniel – Sí, el ejemplo que sale a flote es el de Venezuela. Bueno, creo que ahí hay un buen debate para dar. Afortunadamente, en este escenario y en el que se impone esa reforma tributaria; los hechos de violencia  en Colombia han sido el pan diario. La respuesta del estado no ha sido al diálogo y miremos –¿ Cuál es su teoría y cuál es la mía ? ; ¿ Cuál es tu propuesta y cuál es la mía ?–  dentro de un marco democratico del debate; sino que simplemente no existe el debate; no existen otras fórmulas. Es el fórmula de la ortodoxia o la bala y ahora mismo salió un comunicado de la academia más ortodoxa colombiana y de los gremios, principalmente gremios financieros, en los que se decían– esta es la única vía que existe y ante eso sale una respuesta que es una carta abierta de once economistas heterodoxos principalmente de la Universidad Nacional Colombiana, que es la universidad pública más grande en Colombia, que dice — No. Hay otras formas. Hay otras formas porque no puede ser que la única manera que tengamos dinero es exógeno.–

**

Daniel – Que existen otras formas, digamos.  Y eso ha puesto que el debate económico en Colombia una muy buena discusión en las redes sociales, principalmente en las redes sociales. Pero la campaña presidencial de Gustavo Petro para el próximo año empieza a escoger estas ideas y en eso nos encontramos en Colombia. Nos encontramos en las calles una represión brutal; pero en las redes y en los escenarios de debate y de pensamiento; ya hay un debate instalado. En este momento hay un debate instalado y eso es muy bueno para lo que pasa en Colombia porque llevamos 30 años con una sola visión- Hay,  con esos términos; hay en el congreso de la República en este momento cruzando un proyecto de ley de Trabajo Garantizado que lo ha afirmado todo la oposición y que quizás no tenga suerte de ser aprobado en el congreso; pero en las discusiones, insisto, que se empieza a dar en las calles y en la academia y en las redes sociales; está ya empezando a instalarse otra manera de pensarse la economía en Colombia. 

Naty – Está buenísimo eso– que tenían hartas firmas y como también– la TMM empezó en los años noventa en las redes sociales.

Daniel – Es cierto. 

Naty – Interesante también como la represión– me acuerdo de Chile;  cuando veo videos, como es en Colombia ahora y veo las revoluciones moleculares disipadas y digo –ah, tenemos el mismo fenómeno!–

Andrés – Sí, Daniel, cuéntanos de eso; cuentanos de tu membresía en la revolución. 

Naty — Esa teoría viene de un neonazi chileno . . . 

Daniel – Aquí hay una articulación entre la derecha chilena y la derecha colombiana; las fuerzas represivas colombianas entrenan a las fuerzas represivas chilenas; los SWAT colombianos entrenan a los carabineros chilenos y los chilenos nos mandan sus pensadores neo nazis para que instruyan a la derecha colombiana y entonces se inventan  de estas cosas de la molecularidad …

**

Daniel -– Tienen como destino crear en la sociedad colombiana y en la sociedad chilena el imaginario de que las personas que están en las protestas son vándalos; son enemigos; son enemigos de la democracia;  de la estabilidad ¿no ?  Así como solamente existen finanzas sanas como única forma de tener la economía;  también solamente una única visión de democracia;  que es entender el régimen como lo demuestran y otra forma tiene que ser represivo;  tiene que ser violentado;  porque no existe; no existe otra forma. 

Naty – Se van juntos.

Daniel – Pero insisto;  aquí hay algo que es valioso y es que hoy ya la gente se está entendiendo que hay otras formas; hay otras formas de entender, tanto la economía como  la política; como el orden social. 

Naty – Sipo.

Andrés – Yo siempre he pensado que el legado de Pinochet se manifiesta en Colombia con el Uribismo como uno de los momentos y los espacios que más profundamente representan lo que fue eso. 

Daniel – Así es. 

Naty –  . . .  Es que hay gente con poder que si viene Judith Butler a hablar van a protestar, como –ahh – están andando vándalos a la calle por el género!–

Daniel – Los Chicago Boys jamás hubieran podido entrar así en Latinoamérica si no hubiera sido por el uso de la fuerza militar. 

**

Andrés – Y también como eso mismo, todo esto de las revoluciones moleculares; que bueno, para los escuchantes– el ex presidente Alvaro Uribe ahorita está hablando de una conspiración de una revolución molecular disipada; que para mi demuestra el miedo que le tienen estos grupos a los movimientos sociales que se están tomando las calles.  Pero hablando de Judith Butler y el feminismo, etc., bueno, uno de los argumentos más fuertes en contra de los acuerdos de paz en Colombia fue la política de género, como lo dicen allá, la derecha en Colombia le tiene mucho miedo al feminismo, al derechos de la comunidad LGBTQ  . . .   Está muy conectado esto. Entonces eso me hizo pensar que es la misma estrategia. O aquí en EEUU – Black Lives Matter, que es un movimiento de protesta que no tiene a un líder en particular, sino que es disipado  . . .  

Naty – Y también con 8 M – 2018, 2019;  empezó mucho en Chile y en muchos lugares– Argentina, Perú  . . . Ni Una Más, en México también– contra el femicidio;  que mucho de la práctica de movilizar viene en los últimos años de esas movilizaciones. . . . en Latinoamérica florece mucho. 

Jesús – Una pregunta … ¿ por qué molecular ? 

Naty – Por Guattari, por… Deleuze y Guattari. 

Andrés – Sí es que hay dos post-estructuralistas franceses; Felix Guattari, no sé cómo pronunciarlo y Gilles Deleuze; que tienen sus ideas y bueno; aquí en Superstructure tenemos un conflicto con ellos, pero un conflicto muy diferente  . . .  Tenemos desacuerdos ontológicos con ellos pero no de la manera que estos derechistas y neonazis están proponiendo. Bueno, Jesús … Hablando de estos temas; México, que es un país que, bueno, se considera extremadamente importante en la política Latinoamericana, vivió un cambio de líder con la elección de Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador . . . Hubo muchas expectativas, pero ¿ qué ha pasado? ¿ Qué hemos vivido desde esas elecciones ? 

Naty – Recientemente estaban en las noticias también;  el otro día, justo.  

Andrés – Exactamente. ¿Qué ha pasado en México? ¿Qué ha sido de estas políticas públicas; ¿Qué ha propuesto Morena y en qué manera los debates de pensamiento económico han tenido su función ? 

Jesés – Bueno, en el caso de México, no sé por dónde empezar. 

Naty – Un país chiquitito, no pasa nada ahí. 

Jesús – Sí. Pues bueno, como los restos de los países latinos, México también es un país complejo. Pero en el caso particular de lo que estamos viviendo ahorita, nosotros pues bueno,  no puedo explicar que – el sentido de que después de tener gobiernos del PRI, del Partido Revolucionario Institucional, el partido de la revolución mexicana. Pues, tuvimos también gobiernos del PAN, del Partido de Acción Nacional. ¿ Qué pasa ? Pues, para no entrar mucho en detalles,  en el 2006 el actual presidente de México, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, compite en las elecciones, en donde gana por un pequeño margen el candidato del Partido de Acción Nacional, Felipe Calderón. Entonces, pues, comienza la continuidad del gobierno Panista, que inició con el ex presidente Vicente Fox. Después, llegan las elecciones del 2012. Vuelve a competir el actual presidente Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador por las elecciones ahora, siendo el candidato más fuerte a vencer Enrique Peña Nieto del PRI y gana Enrique Peña Nieto.

**

Jesús – Bueno, pues, entonces ¿qué pasa? Pues, fueron en términos generales, que serán dos sexenios en donde, un poco más de dos sexenios, en donde la actual presidente empezó a luchar para poder ganar las últimas elecciones. Entonces gana las elecciones en el 2018 de manera masiva; con un nivel de popularidad muy elevado; con una aceptación enorme en la población, la mayor parte de la población. Y lo que vemos ahorita es algo interesante, que puede para muchos sorprenderlos;  pero para otras personas no. Lo que estamos viendo es que el actual gobierno federal, un gobierno de izquierda;  de izquierda convencional como lo hemos llamado Andres, Natalie, y Scott en unas publicaciones que hemos tenido en las columnas de Milenio. Un gobierno convencional en donde lucha o tiene su plataforma económica y política desde la ortodoxia económica. Entonces, plataforma económica que la tuvieron los gobiernos anteriores. Entonces la columna vertebral, en términos macroeconómicos, es exactamente la misma de los gobiernos del PRI y los gobiernos del PAN. Entonces esto ha generado muchos problemas porque el gobierno del presidente Lopez Obrador, para poder hacer frente a ciertas necesidades del país, incluyendo el financiamiento de los proyectos insignia por ejemplo el Tren Maya, la refinería en Tabasco que se llama Dos Bocas . . . 

Naty – Está feliz! Hay ese video ahí el otro dia— ¡Ah, mírame con  mi hermosa refinería!–

Jesús – . . . El nuevo aeropuerto en el estado de Hidalgo, Santa Lucía.  Entonces todos los recursos económicos públicos han sido enfocados en esos proyectos y bueno ahora llega la pandemia y como lo mencionó Daniel; desnuda aún más las deficiencias del enfoque ortodoxo que está inspirado del gobierno del presidente Lopez Obrador. ¿ Entonces qué estamos viendo? Estamos viendo que hay una política de austeridad franciscana, como lo menciona Scott Ferguson, en donde el gobierno está abrochando el cinturón como si fuera una empresa privada o un hogar.

Naty – Y que el dinero es como el diablo . . .  así que hay que no gastar, pero desde la izquierda.

Jesús – Hay una discusión en donde se ve al dinero como algo diabólico, como si fuera un mecanismo que va a influir negativamente en la sociedad y que por lo tanto no hay que hacerle caso y hay que ser austeros y sencillos.  También por lo tanto es importante tener un gobierno sencillo. 

Andrés – Jesús, el mismo presidente en tu discurso también invoca estas imágenes del dinero como  algo demoníaco y como una romantización de la pobreza a veces . . . 

Jesús – Si, exacto.  Básicamente se está pegando lo que es este el enfoque fransiscano del dinero. 

Naty – Escucha Money on the Left . . .  hemos tenido episodios sobre toda esta historia de la colonización de Latinoamérica con . . . 

Andrés – El pensamiento Fransiscano. 

Naty – Sí. 

Jesús – Y eso tiene a la gente en sufrimiento. No hay recursos públicos en el sector educativo; en el sector de salud; en el sector de ciencia, tecnología e innovación ¿Por qué ? Porque no hay dinero, según ellos. 

Naty – Pero para los pacos y la policía; imagino . . .  eterno. 

Jesús – De hecho son las fuerzas armadas, principalmente el ejército, el que administra y está construyendo las grandes obras que tiene el gobierno;  como ese el aeropuerto en Santa Lucía, entre otros proyectos.  Entonces algo bien, como dice Naty—para este tipo de proyecto; sí, hay dinero. 

Naty – Claro, para el petróleo siempre. 

Jesús – Sí . . .  Está tremendo lo que está pasando en México, que el año pasado se dio la –rifa no rifa– del avión presidencial y supuestamente esta rifa del avión presidencial;  que lo compró un avión;  el avión presidencial lo compró Felipe Calderon;  lo usó el presidente Peña Nieto. Entonces el presidente Lopez Obrador dijo –Yo no voy a usar ese avión; vamos a venderlo; vamos a venderlo para pagar los sueldos del personal médico y comprar medicamentos.– Sin duda hay una dinámica política detrás de eso, definitivamente. Pero el mensaje que se le está dando a las poblaciones es que el gobierno no tiene dinero y que está vendiendo sus activos para poder pagar el gasto público; para poder financiar el gasto público.  Entonces tienes a la gente comprando sus billetes de 500 pesos para ayudar al gobierno. Es realmente . . . 

Naty – Qué perverso.

Daniel – Eso que nos parece chistoso a nosotros tiene mucho arraigo en la gente. ¡La gente realmente piensa que el gobierno está sin dinero ! 

Jesús – Exacto. 

Daniel –  . . .  Que no tienen manera, ni forma. Aquí el Ministro de Hacienda, el Ministro de Economía, dijo hace un mes que Colombia tenía seis semanas de liquidez . . .  y la gente entró en pánico; es verdad, la gente entró en pánico –Nos quedamos sin recursos ¿ que vamos a hacer? El gobierno ya no tiene plata.– Y realmente la gente piensa que así como es la economía de su casa, es la economía del gobierno. 

Naty – Y con Covid; ahí Chile, en vez de dar un bono, están dando solo plata de los fondos de pensión.  Obvio que uno va a pensar que no hay dinero si hay que darme mi propia plata de mi fondo de pensión privada y me dicen –Ahí está la única plata que queda.–  Obvio también ahí van a aprender eso. 

Andrés – ¿Cómo es eso? no he escuchado mucho, ¿están reciclando dinero o están devolviendo el dinero? 

Naty – Sí y ¡ eso es la movida de la izquierda !  En vez de dar un bono;  hay que retirar plata de la AFP.  La AFP es el sistema de los años ochenta del hermano de Piñera;  Jose Piñera, Pinochetista. Pero sí, ahora están en el tercer retiro;  tercer retiro de 10 % . . . 

Jesús – Pero la diferencia es que Daniel habla de un gobierno de derecha y aquí estamos en un gobierno de izquierda . . . 

Naty – Claro.  

Jesús – Lo más sorprendente, lo más grave, es lo que estamos viviendo. Y no solamente eso, porque grupos de economistas que se dicen progresistas heterodoxos están apoyando estos tipos de medidas. 

Naty – ¿Como en la tesorería, no ? ¿ Que hay un marxista que está haciéndose igual a Doug Henwood, como finanzas sanas? 

Jesús – Se nombró una persona, una profesora,  que es socióloga . . .  Hubo muchas reacciones de  determinados sectores económicos, principalmente la empresarial, para decir;  en el sentido de que dijeron –¿Cómo va a estar una marxista frente a la Tesorería de la Federación en México? –  Sin embargo; bueno, nosotros sabemos que ese perfil de ser marxista cumple con los requisitos para cuidar el –sound finance socialism–. 

Naty – Qué tragedia. Qué vergüenza. 

Jesús – Entonces realmente era el adecuado, pero espero que con esto no se me echen encima en el Jacobin.

Andrés – Es muy importante el momento político en el que vivimos. Estamos con una crisis ambiental mundial; estamos con el fascismo por todo el mundo, se está  subiendo al poder. Y la misma izquierda está reforzando ciertos principios que nos están paralizando como sociedades mundiales de poder salir, de poder encontrar una salida diferente. Entonces estas izquierdas de las finanzas sanas; las veo yo como paralizadas o encarceladas en tres puntos. Por un camino, ven que lo único que es posible es poder redistribuir un poquito de los más ricos para hacer algún u otro plan o no sé, poner el avión presidencial en una rifa. Por otro lado; el segundo punto, hay una izquierda que no ve que nada es posible sin la excepción de una revolución mundial; sólo en ese entonces podemos hacer algo; si por todo el mundo hay una revolución y ya EEUU deja de ser la moneda de reserva, ahí de pronto podemos tener bienes públicos; ahí podemos invertir.  

Naty – Antes, Latinoamerica cagó; nada de MMT para ellos. –Por la colonización financiera, no pueden hacer nada– . . . no captan la ironía nunca. 

Andrés – Y algo que es muy común es escuchar ese tipo de izquierda; acá siempre es izquierda norteamericana hablando de Latinoamérica, como si Latinoamérica no tuviera ninguna capacidad de actuar, de hacer nada; porque todo está jodido.  Entonces está eso. Y el tercer punto creo yo es la asociación entre las finanzas sanas y este tipo de austeridad por la izquierda y el petróleo . . .  la izquierda del petróleo. 

Naty – Y los recursos . . .  estatales . . .  

Andres – Exactamente. La única manera de hacer políticas de izquierda es si los petróleos, si el sistema petrolero nos da dinero a nosotros. Entonces en ese sentido tiene que ser muy exitoso en la industria del petróleo para que los países puedan hacer cosas y si caen los precios; nos jodemos todos.  

 Naty – Y igual con el cobre, con cualquier recurso. 

Daniel – ¡ Commodities ! 

Jesús – Yo agregaría que, por ejemplo, este grupo de economistas heterodoxos genéricos, para llamarlos así, que ven;  creo que Daniel lo mencionó, que para darle solución al tema de la falta de dinero hay que instrumentar impuestos a los que más tienen, los ricos, Y que solamente así es posible financiar programas sociales. Entonces uno puede ver por ejemplo en las redes sociales este grupo de economistas de izquierda, están promocionando; están impulsando esta agenda- de –tax the rich– para poder financiar el gasto público. Y yo lo que veo es que en Colombia ha habido un poco más de reacción a la TMM, a diferencia en México. En México como que hay un silencio.  

Naty – Chile igual . . . nadie ha escuchado de la TMM . . . creo gente que ha estudiado fuera quizás . . .  es como que no hay nada de arraigo ¿Quizás cuando llegue el libro de Stephanie Kelton? No sé. 

Jesús – Ese es el elefante en la recámara.  Andrés menciona que en la parte de petróleo también está lo que es –los impuestos a los más ricos– y esa es la agenda, definitivamente. 

Naty – Si, 100% – impuestos a los super ricos–; cada día lo dicen. 

Andrés – Daniel, ¿cuál ha sido tu experiencia en la izquierda colombiana con estos puntos de finanzas sanas en el mismo grupo de camaradas ?

Daniel – Yo creo que no nos diferenciamos mucho. Acá, la izquierda suele ser muy conservadora. Y casi que es muy difícil para nosotros comprender algo distinto a que los gastos solo se pueden suplir con ingresos. Incluso, aquí hay un movimiento o hubo un movimiento muy fuerte en contra de la deuda pública. Todavía existe y yo he asistido a algunas de sus reuniones y la cultura de ellos es –No a la deuda, porque no.– 

Naty – Es el diablo. 

Daniel – Claro, es el diablo . . .–La deuda es mala porque es un mecanismo de sometimiento de los países del norte contra los países del sur– y puede ser cierto; yo no creo que sea tan tan tan lejano de la realidad. Pero te pone también en una posición política de que te niegas a que existe la deuda pública y que solamente el gasto público pueda financiarse con impuestos y una izquierda colombiana que está convencidisima de eso, convencida. Pero lo que dice Jesús es cierto, fijate que a través . . .  y esto ha sido muy importante  . . . lo digo así muy sinceramente– la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas de la Universidad Nacional, una universidad pública;  que se ha encontrado, digamos, que ha buscado, ese mecanismo de interlocución con lo que está pasando en otros lugares del mundo.  Es decir, existen otras formas.  Y fijate que esta carta que yo menciono, que hasta ya lleva la firma de algunos ciento o doscientos economistas en todo el país, gente que ha publicado; gente que está en la academia; gente que son profesores universitarios, diciendo – Hay otras maneras.– Y no solamente otras maneras de decir –Cobremos impuestos a los más ricos– o –Hagamos una reforma tributaria progresiva.– Claro, en Colombia es urgente la progresividad tributaria, pero no para encontrar recursos, sino para que haya una redistribución, porque realmente en Colombia los ricos no pagan impuestos. Entonces eso ha generado una concentración . . .  el GINI en Colombia antes de impuestos es igual después de impuestos. Entonces claro, ahí  hay un desbalance. Pero ese no es el problema fiscal en Colombia. El problema fiscal en Colombia es que el estado no está invirtiendo en lo que se debe invertir y que esa teoría de las finanzas sanas,  incluso no la creemos nosotros. Bueno, yo siento que el candidato presidencial Gustavo Petro lo ha entendido. Lo ha entendido a la forma en la que empezamos a entenderlos, los que empezamos a centrarnos en esto ¿verdad ? Que no es de forma inmediata, pero sí por lo menos empieza a decir –No le podemos tener miedo al déficit fiscal.– 

Naty –  Mi pregunta . . .  yo creo que habrá un poco mas de conocimiento quizás con esta propuesta de garantía de trabajo . . . no ha pasado todo el rato con el Green New Deal por ejemplo o Job Guarantee en EEUU . . .  igual hay gente que piensa que el Green New Deal y Job Guarantee van a venir de los impuestos, pero igual tener estas propuestas en la mente pública da un camino para abrir las ideas de TMM. 

Daniel – Así es. Y fijate que la principal pregunta en el debate de hoy es ¿Cómo piensas enfrentar la crisis? Y la respuesta fue que hay que emitir el banco central debe emitir y financiar al gobierno para generar empleo, para generar una renta, para reactivar la economía, un choque de demanda vía emisión. Y eso fue, en los medios de comunicación de Colombia  como si hubiera dicho una herejía. Los medios de comunicación, lo primero es que –Gustavo Petro propone imprimir dinero–  que es otra cosa a la que tenemos que enfrentar cuando hablamos de estas cosas. Porque tergiversar nuestras propuestas es demasiado fácil. Y en Colombia lo primero que hacen es confundir emisión con impresión de billetes. Los memes de Gustavo Petro;  está con impresor imprimiendo billetes; Venezuela, como Uds. ya saben. 

Naty – Cocaína. 

Daniel – Pero fijense en Colombia,  el año pasado el banco de la república emitió 40 billones de pesos; billones, mediante –quantitative easing–. Le dotó de liquidez a los bancos privados. Y entonces, eso lo hemos utilizado dentro del debate para decir a la gente –Fíjese que el problema no es la emisión. El problema no es la emisión. El problema es profundamente político.– Y creo que como decía Jesús, sí hemos avanzado en Colombia en dar ese debate. Tanto así que el director del doctorado de la Universidad Javeriana piensa que tiene que acudir a unos adjetivos;  a adjetivar debate, porque ha escalado en Colombia. Por lo menos en el plano académico, ha escalado. Y yo tengo la fé de que ese escalamiento nos va a llevar a un buen punto. 

Jesús – Para agregar quizás un poco, como que en Colombia se está dando la dinámica de cambiar el marco económico bajo el contexto adverso que todas las naciones estamos viviendo, especialmente las naciones como las nuestras. Aquí en México el año pasado empezaba a sentirse ya los efectos de la pandemia y de la crisis económica que llevaba  méxico arrastrando antes de la pandemia; esos economistas progresistas de la izquierda pedían que México aceptara una línea de crédito del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, o sea, deuda externa.  Entonces nada más para situar que tan perdida está ese segmento de izquierda en este aspecto. 

Naty – Que la deuda externa tiene una historia tan fuerte en Latinoamérica . 

Andrés – Pienso que es muy importante hacer esta diferencia porque hay mucha gente que con el miedo que le tiene a las deudas públicas, piensa que es lo mismo una deuda externa que una deuda pública doméstica. Y las mismas políticas de las finanzas sanas construyen una dependencia más fuerte de nuestros países en las deudas externas. Es el problema, que la misma izquierda no ha podido proponer una solución. Entonces por eso es que siempre están pensando que dependemos de la reserva de dólar  y que esto y lo otro, porque no hemos construido una estrategia que nos saca de esta mentalidad que el problema es la deuda externa.  El problema es que tenemos deuda en dólares. 

Daniel –  Fijate Andrés que nosotros también tenemos que despojarnos de algunas reticencias, ¿no ? Es decir, a nosotros nos dicen –inflación– y entonces, nosotros decimos –eh no, nosotros tampoco estamos por la inflación.–  Y es verdad. En la teoría  MMT no está proponiendo brotes inflacionarios. Pero en la práctica, los países, países como Colombia; en Colombia importamos hasta un tornillo. Tenemos que preocuparnos por ciertos asuntos.  Sin embargo, es otra batalla a la que no hay que tenerle miedo. Es decir, ¿cuánto inflación podemos permitirnos? o ¿ cuánto desempleo podemos permitirnos ? Es que, pareciera que en el mundo se murió la curva Philips; ya no existe. No, existe; y en los países como el nuestro existe. Pero podemos permitirnos un poco de inflación con tal de reducir el desempleo; esa es la paradoja y esa es la pregunta política porque es fundamentalmente político. O tenemos que tener unas muy pequeñas inflaciones sin importar cual sea la  tasa de desempleo.  En Colombia la tasa de desempleo está en 14,7 % y una inflación del 1 %. Las variaciones mensuales a veces son de cero; a veces hay deflación en Colombia. A veces pienso; y esto es una autocrítica, que de pronto debemos hacernos, qué cuando nos dicen –inflación– y decimos –No, no nos gusta la inflación, no nos gusta para nada la inflación.–  No, permitámonos un nivel de inflación, pero permitámonos también reducir el desempleo. Porque en Colombia los economistas ortodoxos dicen –es que la inflación es el peor impuesto para los pobres–. Y yo les digo –¿es peor que estar desempleado y en la pobreza y con hambre y en la miseria ? En serio?–  Y ahí hay un debate moral. 

Naty – Quería preguntar a Jesús que ha hablado harto con Fadhel Kaboub; que es como yo creo el economista de TMM más famoso en términos del sur, de países  con menos capacidad monetaria o también donde tienen que importar harto; porque no han desarrollado sus recursos de comida, o de energía, o tienen que exportar ¿Podrías hablar un poco de esos desafíos o esos límites de pensamiento estructurales, en términos de ser el ‘sur’ entre comillas?

Jesús – Bueno, desde que se instrumentaron las políticas de corte neoliberal a partir de la década de los ochenta, en México, lo que decían los técnicos es que la mejor política industrial es que no hubiera política industrial. Eso es lo que decían. Entonces, México, a lo largo de estos años, ha carecido de una política industrial que fortalezca el mercado interno, que fortalezca la estructura productiva nacional y por el contrario lo que se ha hecho es depender del exterior, depender de importar las específicas de los tratados de libre comercio en donde lo que México exporta son productos de muy poco valor agregada. 

Daniel – El petróleo también. 

Jesús – Exacto. Entonces México es, en términos de la industria manufacturera, una línea de ensamblaje, no tiene la capacidad para aportar ese valor agregado porque no se invierte en ciencia, en tecnología, innovación. Y a propósito de ciencia y tecnología e innovación, el gobierno eliminó recursos importantes en esas áreas. Entonces eso realmente va . . . si ya no tenemos política industrial y ahora con un débil sector de ciencia, tecnología e innovación, estamos debilitando el espectro de capacidad económica que tiene el país y eso nos va a generar muchos problemas al futuro;  depender del exterior para poder salir adelante. 

Andrés – Y después llega una pandemia y se colapsa toda la infraestructura. 

Jesús – Exactamente, sí; ese es otro tema, en donde además, obviamente de la mala planeación, de la corrupción, está el problema de la falta de recursos públicos para el mantenimiento de la infraestructura pública. 

Naty – Lo que pasó el otro día en DF, con el tren de metro. 

Jesús – Sí y la cuestión aquí fue que ya la gente llevaba tiempo advirtiendo de estos problemas. Entonces, hay resultados,  tanto a nivel federal; si hay recortes, hay austeridad, tanto a nivel estatal y municipal. Ahí se mencionaba que no había recortes a la línea del metro. Sin embargo, en la cuenta pública, de la recién publicada de las cuentas públicas,  ahí se ve que el metro de la Ciudad de México no se gastó lo que al inicio se había presupuestado. Entonces, una serie de errores; una serie de problemas que van desde la corrupción, la planeación, y desde luego; la austeridad, la política económica. 

Andrés – Entonces yo creo que hay dos puntos muy importantes de lo que dice Daniel, tanto como Jesús;   que como que nos conecta con la importancia y el aprendizaje que viene de MMT,  la TMM. Por un lado,  que la ortodoxia confunde la inflación con la hiperinflación y piensa que todo es lo mismo . . . como que si ahí crece la inflación por un por ciento, tenemos hiperinflación como . . . 

Daniel – Desastre.

Andrés – Como el desastre; estamos como Alemania antes de la segunda guerra mundial. 

Naty – Siempre, siempre hay Weimar.

Andrés – Exactamente, y diferenciar eso es muy importante  y ahí la teoría de la moneda moderna nos da enseñanzas para aprender, primero de todo, que nosotros argumentamos que no importa si Colombia o México no son las monedas reservas mundiales; siempre van a tener la capacidad de emitir su moneda en su país a los recursos que tienen domésticos, punto.  Eso es un hecho lógico. Y que los límites no son límites de encontrar el dinero o que vamos a sacar la plata; de donde va a salir, que se nos va a acabar todo, que hay que rifar un avión. Los límites son límites de a qué nivel puede ponerse problemática la inflación; pero eso no es un resultado de que existe mucho dinero en la economía, sino es un resultado de la capacidad productiva de un país, por un lado. Por un lado, la capacidad productiva de un país y si estamos usando más recursos de lo que tenemos. Pero en Colombia, como en México, tenemos una cantidad de gente desempleada y recursos que no estamos usando.  Y por otro lado, en nuestros países hay presiones inflacionarias que no tienen nada que ver con el gasto público y todo que ver con el poder privado, del sistema financiero  y de los monopolios, y las corporaciones que pueden poner precios donde ellos quieran porque tienen mucho poder sobre el mercado. Ahí también hay poderes inflacionarios. Entonces nosotros estamos hablando no del dinero como si fuera una cosa que tiene el valor, un pedacito de oro, que tiene cargado el valor y todos tenemos que ser ricos, como esos memes de gatos que están buscando la luz, que están corriendo, que tiene la luz y el gato está corriendo por todo el piso tratando de escapar la luz roja, y que nunca la puede porque no existe. De esa misma manera, la teoría de la TMM no ve el dinero como un pedacito de oro, como algo que captura el valor, sino que el dinero es una infraestructura institucional. Es una manera de organizar las deudas. Es una manera de movilizar capacidad productiva, es una manera de crear esas relaciones de gobernación;  que son tan importantes. Entonces por ese lado también, y esto es lo último que digo aquí ahora en la conversación,  es que nuestros países,  como decía Jesús y Daniel también, no han invertido en su capacidad productiva;  dependemos de inversión extranjera, dependemos  de dólares; y si no tenemos esos dólares, no tenemos economía. Entonces cada vez nos hundimos más y más en este hueco;  que nos dan préstamos el banco mundial o si un inversionista americano o europeo entra en su país y ellos se van cuando se quieren ir y nos dejan jodidos; eso es el sistema que tenemos ahorita;  eso crea pesos débiles;  eso está resultando en los problemas inflacionarios que podemos tener y el hecho de que no invertimos en la educación pública, en los sistemas de energía sostenible, en los sistemas de producción de comida justa, en estas cosas tan importante, en el empleo público;  eso es lo que nos tiene nostros como economías débiles. 

Naty – Necesitamos un Green New Deal Latino. 

Jesús – Para agregar un comentario, lo que dice Andres sobre la moneda; hace unos años, un ex asesor de la ahora presidente tenía la propuesta de quitar el peso y que adoptáramos el dólar como moneda. 

Daniel – Noo. 

Naty – Se ha ido muy bien para Ecuador, está buenísimo. 

Daniel – ¿ Pero es una persona de Morena ? 

Jesús – No, es un empresario. Otra propuesta era anclar el valor del peso a plata. 

Naty – Volvemos al futuro. Años 70, genial. 

Daniel – Fijate que en Colombia pasa algo curioso, porque como yo les decía, este debate está cogiendo fuerza, hay mucha gente ahora este debate, desde diversas perspectivas. A veces es un debate ilustrado o a veces simplemente se tergiversa sobre el mismo. Pero por lo menos la gente lo está hablando.  Y es muy chistoso que a estos economistas ortodoxos, un profesor de la universidad nacional les llama –economistas de la séptima–,un poco haciendo la alegoría, en EEUU – los economistas de agua dulce y los economistas de agua salada.– Bueno el trabajo ese es símil a la colombiana y les dicen –economistas de la séptima– porque sobre la carrera séptima en Bogotá están las facultades de los Andes, de la externada, de la Javeriana; que han sido muy ortodoxos históricamente. Y entonces decían, escogieron el libro de Stephanie Kelton y nos mostraron la página, – -Mire, aquí dice la señora Stephanie Kelton que en países como Colombia que importan mucho, nos decías no tiene ningún sentido.–  Y es muy chistoso porque son los que 30 años han llevado a Colombia a que el aparato industrial y el aparato productivo se deprima y ya que solamente Colombia produzca petróleo y cocaína, porque lo único que producimos hoy  es petróleo y cocaína y nos trajeron hasta acá. Y son tan descarados y quebraduras que nos dicen –es que fijate, no tenemos un sistema productivo como para que las ideas de MMT tengan un asiento en Colombia.–  En realidad, fijense que es una confesión,  de todo lo malo que han hecho, verdad ? Deprimieron el aparato productivo colombiano y por supuesto;  yo creo que me gusta mucho la idea de un Green New Deal Latinoamericano porque eso nos tiene que poner a pensar en cómo potenciamos el aparato productivo de nuestras sociedades; porque realmente si no lo tenemos, si seguimos importándolo todo, vamos a tener problemas. Y la integración latinoamericana; las cadenas de valor latinoamericanas, romper fronteras en ese sentido, podría ser una muy buena idea. Yo pienso algo así como la producción de litio en Bolivia, del gas, del cobre, de buscar, claro . . . esto tiene que tener una perspectiva climática, porque estamos en en el marco de una crisis climática, pero podemos incluso generar unas cadenas de valor latinoamericanas que nos permitan pensarnos en un Green New Deal Latino desde el sur. 

Andres – Daniel, ¿Ud.  piensa que la izquierda colombiana va en camino para, de verdad internalizar esta visión que aquí nos propone? 

Naty – Mañana. 

Andres – Mañana mismo. 

Daniel – Yo creo que estamos en un proceso. Mira, la verdad, como les decía ahora mismo, en la izquierda colombiana hay unas visiones muy conservadoras, pero siento que la campaña presidencial de Gustavo Petro está poniendo en el debate estas ideas. Y cuando se pone en el debate en el marco de una crisis, de una crisis, que por ejemplo el tipo sea capaz de decir, –emisión monetaria–, eso es un avance impresionante en una sociedad tan conservadora como la colombiana. Y fijate que él lo dice y ya  hay un montón de gente repitiéndolo, ¿no ? Hay un montón de gente diciendolo. A esto hay que ponerle un poquito mas de teoria, un poquito mas de fuerza, a estas ideas. Tenemos en el congreso de la república un proyecto de ley de trabajo garantizado y eso también incentiva el debate. Creo que vamos por un camino que sigue siendo un camino un poco inexplorado, pero empezamos a caminar, empezamos a andarlo, y eso ya es una garantía impresionante. Y lo otro, que a mi me hace ser optimista de lo que pasa en Colombia; es que no es simplemente una propuesta aislada, sino que la del candidato presidencial que hoy está liderando las encuestas, y eso quiere decir que tiene apoyo popular, y si tiene apoyo popular, podemos tener la posibilidad de echarlo adelante. Y de vencer, los primeros que hay que vencer es el conservadurismo de nuestros propios compañeros y amigos de la izquierda, que a veces suele ser los más difícil, pero yo creo que lo podemos lograr.  

Jesús – Y versa en nuestro caso, en el caso Mexicano, o sea los errores que ahora estamos pagando, es muy importante. 

Andrés – Estos economistas de la séptima me parecen más a mí como los economistas de garaje, como dicen por ahí. 

Daniel – Pero son los que gobiernan en Colombia, llevan treinta, cuarenta años gobernando. 

Andres – Jesús, ¿esperanzas para México, como lo ves ? 

Jesús – Yo creo muy difícilmente en el sexenio, en la actual administración, va a haber cambios. El gobierno ya ha claramente fijado su posición. Sin embargo, estamos siendo observados;  el mundo nos vigila. Estamos siendo observados, y bueno, parece ser que están volteando a la TMM. Incluso, me atrevo aquí mencionarlo, se han acercado a nosotros, al equipo de la MMT. De manera un poco tímida, pero se han acercado. 

Daniel – ¡Qué bueno ! En Colombia hay una parte de la izquierda que ve a Andres Manuel como un referente, y dicen, –Mira que no se monta en el avión presidencial–. La gran iniciativa de ellos, es decir, –Propongamos bajarles el sueldo al presidente y bajarles el sueldo a los congresistas, y ahí tendríamos recursos.–

Andrés – Sí, hubo un momento en el que yo veía al presidente Mujica de Uruguay viviendo en su casita y decía –Ah, eso es la izquierda.–

Naty ––¡Fuma marihuana y tiene una casa chica así que con Uruguay, todo está bien.–

Daniel – A Petro le ponían unas fotos porque tenía zapatos ferragamos y entonces era incoherente, una farsa,  usaba zapatos caros, mira, – ¿porque no anda descalzo si es de izquierda ?–

Andrés – Jesús, antes de esta grabación tu me hablabas de las iniciativas de justicia social, temas sociales y cosas así , ¿ves eso como un vehículo para integrar las ideas de la TMM en México con temas de la justicia social y cosas sociales ?   

Jesús – Sin duda, la TMM, en el caso Latinoamericano, específicamente  en el caso de México, tiene que ir de la mano con el aspecto social; en donde se busque platicar, dialogar con los grupos sociales que están viviendo dificultades específicas y considerarlas en las estrategias que se vayan a desarrollar. Entonces en México . . . tiene diferentes . . .   muchos países  y cada localidad tiene sus diferentes problemas; desde el tema de la seguridad, el tema del medioambiente  y el tema obviamente de la falta de oportunidades de empleo en donde las personas tienen que emigrar a EEUU para buscar mejores oportunidades laborales. Entonces la TMM tiene que aterrizarse, considerando esos aspectos y más por ejemplo,  un Green New Deal tendría fuerzas que consideran los aspectos sociales y sobre todo el marco también de seguridad que existe; la dinámica de la seguridad, en la economía, es fundamental. Y obviamente; en el caso de Colombia, definitivamente, sería algo semejante al de México, ¿no ? 

Andrés – Claro, en el caso de Colombia también creo que esta visión es fundamental, para la paz, ¿no ? Como en México, que se está viviendo violencia también; en nuestros países que han vivido tanta violencia con narcotráfico y también con falta de estabilidad social, programas de trabajo;  empleo público, inversión y  sostenibilidad;  todas estas cosas garantizan la paz de manera profunda y de manera que es sostenible ¿no ? a largo plazo. 

Naty – Sí. Y es la manera de salir de ser dominado por el imperio, ¿ cierto ? La manera de ganar al –imperio– entre comillas, no es importar aún más cada vez más. 

Andrés – En fin, amigos, los estados no son hogares; los estados tienen capacidad constitucional sobre sus propias monedas; los impuestos no son necesarios para la capacidad de gastar, son necesarios para otras cosas– para la desigualdad;  para no dejar que la riqueza se acumule de manera obscena. 

Naty – Para comprar revoluciones moleculares disipadas . . . 

Jesús – Necesitamos hacer rifas de los aviones . . . . 

Daniel – Bajar el salario de los congresistas . . . 

Andrés – Exactamente. 

Naty – Ya, muy buena conversación, gracias por venir y hablar. 

Daniel –  . . . Que exista gente muriéndose literalmente de hambre es una inmoralidad. Todos los estados pueden permitirse rescatar a sus ciudadanos y garantizar ciertos derechos. Que no se hagan no es porque no puedan;  por no tener recursos. Es porque hay poderes políticos detrás . . .  eso es simplemente político; eso no es económico. En lo económico;  está sobrediagnosticado, existen todo tipos de estudios y de teorías que demuestran que los estados pueden permitirse rescatar a sus ciudadanos.  Entonces es más moral y política que técnica.

Naty – Si, no es técnica. Yo creo que con Superstructure y Money on the Left es uno de los puntos más importantes; que queremos que TMM no sea solo como algo técnico, como ah –Mira, es solo ciencia.– Estas preguntas sociales son importantes para todo el mundo. 

Andrés – Para nosotros, todo los asuntos técnicos son asuntos sociales y asuntos políticos. 

Naty – Claro, que el binario también no es cierto.

Daniel – Le enseñan en la facultad de economía que existe una tasa natural de desempleo y es natural que exista. Mentira, eso es mentira.   

Naty – Todos los mini Friedmans de twitter – que van con sus monitos.  

Andrés – Según los ortodoxos, el desempleo es como la gravedad. Existe en la naturaleza, porque si. Y eso, como hemos estado hablando,  es algo que tenemos que rechazar profundamente como izquierda. 

Daniel – Es que cuando los libros de texto dicen –tasa NATURAL de desempleo–, ese –natural– hay que naturalizarlo ¿ no? Que es algo sobre lo cual no puedes pelear, no puedes controvertir. Es una gran farsa. 

Naty – Es la idea ¿ no? No quieren que vayan discutiendo estos temas; quieren que siga el neoliberalismo, la hegemonía del Banco Mundial, el FMI y con sus amigos de Harvard Business School . .. 

Andrés – La otra es la tarifa natural del interés; eso es la otra – natural rate of interest–

Daniel – Todo es natural. Cuando te estafan ellos,  es natural. 

Andrés – Si, exactamente. 

Naty – Ya, muy buena conversación, muchas gracias, perdon mi español a veces, llevo acá años y años  pero igual me molesta que no hable mejor. 

Daniel – Que chevere hablar con Uds y compartir. 

Andres – Escuchantes, gracias por estar aquí con nosotros en este episodio especial de Money on the Left and Superstructure. 

Naty –  Superestructura. 

Andrés – Nos veremos pronto, por favor siganos y si quieren escuchar más, tenemos un patreon y también les sugiero el trabajo que hace Daniel en Colombia, en  Colombia Humana, con el senador Wilson Arias y también Jesus Resendiz, en su columna de Milenio . . . 

Naty – ¿ Cómo se llaman en twitter ? 

Daniel – @DanielRMed de – Medellin–, pero –Med–

Jesús – El mio es @Tlacuachito. 

Andres – Perfecto, lo tendremos escrito también en twitter para que los puedan seguir. ¡Bueno, muchas gracias ! 

Jesús – Muchas gracias. 

Naty – Gracias. 

Daniel – Gracias a Uds, que estén bien, un placer. 

Cloudmoney with Brett Scott


Brett Scott joins Money on the Left to discuss his recently published book Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for our Wallets (Harper-Collins 2022). A committed advocate for financial heterodoxy, Scott grounds his perspicuous critique of “cloudmoney”–the conjoined efforts and outcomes of Big Finance and Big Tech’s drive to go “cashless”– in his anthropological training and work as financial derivatives trader in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis.

Through our conversation we explore the possibilities and limitations of different metaphoric frameworks for understanding money, paying special attention to the pitfalls of figuring money as blood-like fluidity. Scott’s own comparison of financial operations with the functioning of the central nervous system prompts further discussion of the temporal and physical realities of modern money. We also discuss how awareness of the principles of monetary design clarifies the need for physical cash and the perils of privatized and surveilled forms of digital money.

Visit our Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music by Nahneen Kula: www.nahneenkula.com

Transcript

The following was transcribed by Mercedes Ohlen and has been lightly edited for clarity.

William Saas: Brett Scott, welcome to Money on the Left.

Brett Scott: Good to be here. Thanks for having me on.

William Saas: It’s wonderful to have you. It’s been a long time coming. Last time we saw you was at the first international MMT conference at UMKC in 2017. And before that you worked in finance and had been writing about money and crypto for a while. Could you share a bit about how you ended up at that MMT conference and maybe catch us up on what you’ve been up to since then? 

Brett Scott: Sure thing. It’s actually quite a funny story about how I ended up at the conference. I was invited to another conference in Delft in the Netherlands. It was called Reinventing Money. And it was run by these… I want to say quite libertarian Dutch monetary reformers. And I don’t know how much time you guys have spent in the Netherlands scene, but there’s actually quite a long tradition of this quite conservative monetary reform people there. And I think the Netherlands in general has this vibe, which is… it’s one of the first capitalist trading nations. So it has this long tradition of liberal economic thinkers. 

And anyway, I ended up at this conference, one of these Dutch managed monetary reform people, some of whom were quite right-wing. Quite like “gold bug” types. And I ended up on this stage and I was super jet lagged. I had very low blood sugar, partly because I’d actually been blocked from buying a Coca-Cola from this cashless vending machine that refused to take my card. So I decided to start talking about this on stage. But how this machine had stopped me from engaging in a market transaction. And so I kind of ranted on the stage. And right in the front row was Stephanie Kelton, who had also been invited to this since the first time, I guess, she had seen me and then we spoke over dinner. And then she said, “hey, come to this event that we’re doing”. And that’s how I ended up at the MMT conference. It was great. That’s a really cool event.

William Saas: So how’d you end up in the Netherlands at that conference, talking to the “gold bugs” and sharing your market grievances?

Brett Scott: Yeah, so actually in monetary reform circles, there’s a bunch of different traditions, as I’m sure you guys have come across. A lot of the anti-fractional reserve banking, sometimes an anti-credit creation of money people like that sort of one tradition and monetary reform. And so I think that’s quite a sort of strong tradition in the Netherlands. There’s groups like ons geld, which campaign against banks being able to create money. And so I think that Netherlands scene I was… I had new people in that scene, and also new people in the crypto scene. So there’s also this kind of crossover between the anti-bank creation of money, people with this sort of crypto currency, Bitcoin people. 

So yeah, the guys who got me there are kind of in the middle of that world. And actually, the guys who arranged the conference had tried to start the first full reserve bank in the Netherlands. And we’ve kind of, I think it failed, it hadn’t managed to get a banking license, but there was quite an interesting effort. They were trying to create this fully backed bank. They also made a board game about the evils of bank creation of money. So it’s quite an interesting scene. And actually, I remember actually once going into the MMT conference, and some of those anti-fractional reserve people turned up at the MMT conference as well. And so there’s an interesting political dynamic between the MMT movement and the sort of… what would you call those? What do you call those guys? Like the sort of…

Scott Ferguson: Positive Money?

William Saas: Positive Money? 

Scott Ferguson: Yeah, although they’ve… certain Positive Money groups have really changed, I think in relationship to the MMT movement. 

Brett Scott: Yeah.

Scott Ferguson: So I don’t want to blanket call them all the….

Brett Scott: You know, I knew Ben Dyson, who started Positive Money in the UK. [He] sort of then moved away from it and actually became a central bank digital currency researcher at the Bank of England. But, Positive Money has always had this kind of interesting dynamic in the UK where it actually was trying to position itself as a left-wing monetary reform group, but would often attract these people from the sort of political right. You had these conspiracy theories about the banking sector. And I know Fran, who is still the director of Positive Money has always had this trying to sort of distance herself or distance the organization from the more right-wing elements that often crowd around monetary reform.

 But, that’s what partly what makes monetary reform quite an interesting area politically is it actually does attract these different ideological groups who sense that there’s something in the monetary system that needs to be addressed. Yeah, I guess I kind of span between these. But I’ve noticed over the years, there’s been more sort of Positive Money type of community getting into MMT is getting more on board with it.

Scott Ferguson: Yeah, that we’ve definitely noticed that as well. So we brought you here today, we invited you here to speak with us about your new book, which is titled Cloud Money: Cash Cards, Crypto, and the War for our Wallets, which is just out last month with Harper Collins. But before this book came out, you published a regular newsletter that was called Altered States of Monetary Consciousness. And you, even before that, were blogging about finance. And I guess, just to kind of frame our conversation, we’re wondering if you could talk to us about, really, how did you come to be thinking about money and publishing about money and advocating in these various kinds of circles? And how has your approach or your rhetorical strategies changed over time?

Brett Scott: Sure, there’s a lot I could say there, actually. The kind of broad brushstrokes of my trajectory, as it was, I have a background in Anthropology and History. But also quite left-wing politics. And I decided to do this experiment. Well, let’s say adventure. I like to call it an adventure, where the side I’ll go into the financial sector and sort of explore it. Or perhaps embody it. I like to experience things with my… to feel the emotions of things. And so I went, in the midst of the financial crisis, I went and worked in this derivatives brokerage. And so for a while, I was actually involved in high finance and over the counter swap contracts. So basically exotic derivatives in the midst of the financial crisis. But coming from this left-wing political background, and that made… it was quite an interesting experience, learned a lot of stuff about the high finance world. 

But also realized how little people knew about the monetary system in high finance, often because you don’t actually need to know anything about the monetary system, often when you’re working in very specialized finance. And after that experience, I went and I wrote a book for activists, which is called The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money, which is basically a sort of simple guide to finance for people who had some intuitive concerns. And people, for example, got involved in the “Occupy” movements, I was actually asked to write it in the wake of the “Occupy” movements. And you know, that was kind of published by a small left wing press, Pluto Press, a London based publisher. 

And since then, I worked in lots of financial reform campaigns and these other types of financial activism, you might call it, but also got involved in alternative finance, which is thinking about alternative currencies, alternative banking, and so on. But fast forward, you know, into the present day, I also got heavily involved in looking at the intersection between tech and finance, big tech and finance. And my newsletter, which is what you mentioned, Altered States of Mandatory Consciousness, I actually started that amidst the pandemic. 

And it’s still going on, it’s temporarily been paused. Because my book right now, Cloud Money… my new book is taking up lots of my time. But yeah, Altered States of Monetary Consciousness, the basic idea was, I was tired of writing. I’d written for many journalism outlets, or big media publications and so on, but I always find them quite constrained. And what I can say in those publications, they always want some sort of… you have to attach everything to the news, and you have to spin everything in a certain type of way. And what I was actually more interested in was writing for an audience who was more interested in sort of meditating upon the monetary system without having to have it attached to current events.

 And the newsletter basically enables me to do that. And one of the big things I was trying to do in the newsletter is to help people visualize systems that are invisible. Sometimes by literally trying to draw them. And sometimes by using metaphor, because metaphor is seen as a kind of like visual technique, in a way, it’s like you have an invisible system. So, you create a visible metaphor, that person can picture in their mind as a way to sort of help them to grasp this otherwise intangible type of thing. And the monetary system in the financial sector more generally, often very hard to conceptualize, which often is why people feel so alienated. 

And so I’m very highly motivated to do the newsletter precisely because I’m interested in, how can you kind of de-alienate, help people to sort of feel these systems more, picture them more, and then, from that perspective, be able to perhaps do more effective action on them? But if nothing else, just be able to understand their position in the economy better.

William Saas: Subscriber to your newsletter, here. I’ve appreciated it for multiple reasons, but one in a kind of academic and pedagogical sense as somebody who teaches and thinks about rhetoric, it’s, what you’re describing is a project of teaching, through different and adaptive, rhetorical strategies. And I think that that’s part of what has drawn me in and I think lots of others, to the MMT project, which is the insistence on… there’s almost a kind of resistance to metaphor. I mean, it never really works. 

There’s always metaphors running throughout the financial system, and the way that people are thinking about things, but the creation of concepts and systems that are deliberately resistant to popular understanding, esoteric, and so the process of translating that stuff and making it apparent like that bringing before the eyes making visible the structures and systems.

Brett Scott: And metaphors are quite… I find metaphor very fascinating, because it’s also quite dangerous. There’s limitations to metaphors. And what I’m often doing in the newsletters is experimenting to see how certain metaphors work and where they fail as well. And with the monetary system this always becomes an interesting task. So actually, talking about MMT, I did a piece, which was called MMT is a Language of Ants, Not Squirrels. And I was talking about how you got to understand the worldview of a squirrel is like, you’re racing around trying to find acorns. And this is the kind of like, sort of “money user” mentality. The person who experiences money just manifesting in front of them and trying to grab it.

Scott Ferguson: It’s very Lockean. 

Brett Scott: Versus the experience of the actual oak tree or these ants who issue these acorns, and actually want them to spread. And I like this metaphor, to some extent. It kind of shows us the dynamic between users and issuers, but then it has all these other limitations to it. So, in my book, Cloud Money, I’m using a variety of different metaphors, but it’s always like, trying to sequence metaphors together in the right order and not let them clash with each other, is always an interesting artform.

William Saas: But there can be something telling or instructive or constructive about mixing metaphors in a way that you might mix chemicals and see what happens. Some kind of reaction to it. So you mentioned the squirrels and the ants. Is what we find in Cloud Money, sort of representative of your best efforts and successes in this sort of metaphor, experimentation that you’re doing in the newsletter? Or do you feel like you might have hit upon something new that you could share with us now?

Brett Scott: Well, Cloud Money has a very particular agenda. I’m talking about the politics of the states or government cash system versus the commercial bank, digital money systems, and what it’s focused on and the crypto world. It doesn’t necessarily go super deep into some of the more… just more generalized understanding of money, perhaps. So in my newsletter I want to do is these deep dives. And I know you’ve probably seen these nervous system metaphors I use. So, my editors in Cloud Money, I had these whole sections, but I’m just trying to do this huge, like nervous system metaphors for the monetary system. 

And they cut it down quite a lot. Because it’s an I can go into the metaphors but… I think Cloud Money has some great metaphors, but it doesn’t have my entire repertoire. I think I’d like to do another book where I go way, way deeper into some of the kind of different approaches to understanding monetary systems, and particularly this nervous system metaphor I’d like to build upon.

Scott Ferguson: So maybe we can pause here and give you an opportunity to talk about the key contrast of metaphors that you put in the beginning of the book. And that’s the blood metaphor, which is very, very old. You can find that in Hobbes. And then this nervous system metaphor and understanding that no metaphor is perfect, and that you are always experimenting with metaphor. What is that contrast help you argue and help you make visible for the reader of Cloud Money

Brett Scott: Sure, yeah. So at a deep level for monetary systems, in general, I’m using this metaphor of money as a nervous system, rather than a circulatory system. So in many typical economics discourse, there’s this idea of the financial system as some kind of circulatory system, money is blood. And actually, when I used to work in finance, you’d actually find many financiers had the self image of the financial sector as a kind of heart of the economy. So it’s like then they’ll say things like, “without us, these industries wouldn’t wouldn’t get funding, they wouldn’t get the lifeblood that they need to live as it were”. So there’s lots of this idea that money itself has some kind of substance of value that sort of pumps around, and I’m not claiming to be some expert on the human circulatory system.

 But you have this idea of these little blood cells that carry nutrients or carry things to tissues and you can have the same sort of metaphoric understanding of money. This idea of money is somehow carrying value to people. This is the very typical sort of what I often call a commodity orientation to money, it’s sort of like the imagination of money as some kind of mystical substance of value that flows around. Which he finds very typical in many… basically, I’d say the mainstream economics is very typical. 

Implicitly, it’s the underlying kind of mental model of monetary systems. Then I think that blood metaphor is deeply flawed, because in my worldview, nothing can actually, I would say… in the MMT worldview, as well, but more generally, in people who understand the concept of money as credit. It’s understood the actual underlying value and an economy, the underlying sort of substance, as it were, resides in human beings and the natural ecosystem. This is what all economies are is human beings applying themselves to the earth, and building things. And that’s where your value it.

 And it’s not like, the unit of money is carrying that around somehow. But what units of the monetary system is often doing is activating people and particularly people who are locked into very large scale into interdependent meshes. And so if you sort of zoom out, the nervous system metaphor is much more accurate in the sense that nervous impulses activate tissues. But if I’ve been rock climbing all day, and my arms are exhausted and I’ve basically just totally pumped out my arms, no amount of me sending impulses to my arms is going to make them work. And this is like quite a useful thing to be thinking about sort of monetary systems. If you’ve just maxed out the actual labor and resources, new economy, no amount of like issuing money is going to sort of make them work. 

But if you haven’t, if you have a bunch of sort of excess capacity or the sort of underlying substance, you actually can. I think nervous system as the metaphor is good. And also particularly for the financial sector, when you start to think about large scale financial institutions, what they often are doing is… I kind of think about them as a sort of motor cortex. So again, I’m not like a neuroscience expert, but very crude terms, the motor cortex is the part of your brain that translates thoughts into action. So I think, “I want to move my arm” and the motor cortex will translate that into action. I think the financial sector can often be thought about that. 

We’re doing large scale financing of big projects, you’re kind of activating 1000s of workers into action. And those workers are what creates the thing, but the financial sector is able to sort of coordinate that action. And this sort of turns the financial narrative on its head to some extent. It’s not like those workers are unable to… the source of value comes from those work. That’s not from the financial sector. But certainly in an interdependent economy where you’re dependent on money, the financial sector has the ability to activate them. That’s basically the metaphor. And I don’t know how well I explained it. But that’s kind of it.

William Saas: I think it’s great. And it calls to mind, there’s a particularly grisly metaphor that’s sort of in the ether right now around inflation. And it recalls the actions of Paul Volcker and the Volcker shock in the early 80s, as breaking the back of inflation. I don’t know how considerate that metaphor is, but they talk about it as thinking, will Jay Powell now break the back of inflation, just like Paul Volcker? But in a way I don’t think it’s thoughtful in the way that you’re thinking, but it lines up nicely with what you’re talking about. What are they talking about in breaking the back of inflation? They’re talking about deactivating all these circuits and modes of action.

Brett Scott: I mean, I think this sort of stuff becomes very important. I haven’t necessarily thought huge amounts about inflation metaphor. But, certainly, for example, one of the things you’ll find in the commodity imagination of money, this is where you’re imagining money is somehow metaphorically carrying stuff with it. A lot of the inflation scare mongering stuff imagines it almost evaporating out of space. You have this idea that it’s almost a gas leaking out into the atmosphere, some other money is disappearing, it’s floating away. So again, it carries the implicit underlying idea that somehow something is inside the money itself that’s escaping. And it’s not thinking about the full sort of circuitry of an actual interdependent network, where all the actual value lies in human beings. 

So this is very partial descriptions of complex systems. And this is often how you do scaremongering or misinformation around what’s going on. I mean, you see this all over and monetary systems, it’s a big, big thing. During another completely different example, during Brexit in the UK, there was all this kind of scaremongering with them saying, “now we’re spending all this money on the EU”. It’s almost like they had this idea that money was sort of evaporating away or floating away, like some substance. And this idea is well, what do you get for that thing? These are complex systems with these multi-directional flows. It’s not like you just find these singular… 

Yeah, I haven’t explained it very well. But I think there’s a huge amount of this very partial sighted descriptions of monetary systems. And often what I’m interested in doing is showing people like the interconnections and interdependent nature of monetary systems.

Scott Ferguson: Yeah, the blood metaphor. There’s a version of blood speak here too that sees money as hemorrhaging. Which is such a misleading way of understanding. Like we hemorrhage money and we hemorrhage jobs and free trade contracts or whatever. I think of Ross Perot you know, on the campaign trail, and these are like you know NAFTA might be a problem, but it’s not because of hemorrhaging. It’s not because of this unstoppable outflow. 

Brett Scott: Another fascinating one and monetary speak is when people talk about money going into things, for example, when people say huge amounts of money are going into the crypto market and…

Scott Ferguson: They’re getting pumped.

Brett Scott: They’re getting pumped into the crypto market and I’m like… So what are you saying? Because this is quite bizarre because you’re basically handing money to somebody else to buy a token from them, but now it’s exiting. So, this is a very strange idea that somehow it gets captured inside something rather than it’s within an interdependent system that’s moving around all the time. So we had this very strange partial vision idea, you know modern economics is full of this kind of bizarre sort of partial vision on monetary systems.

Scott Ferguson: Yeah I really appreciate your reflexive experimental approach to metaphors and money because it is so taken for granted and it’s a constant challenge. I think we find and you know we often need to appeal to physical things and physical perceptible entities that we can that we can understand, but they very often run us in all these problematic directions.

William Saas: We start to forget that they are metaphors. That’s part of the reason why you can tell the success of a metaphor, by how few people actually recognize it as one.

Brett Scott: Yeah. I think those machines are made to sort of show a Keynesianism that’ll be like water wheels, and… have you guys seen those machines that they use?

Scott Furguson: Yes.

Brett Scott: Who’s the guy who designed that? But that’s all water metaphors for money and weirdly, the Bank of England has also used water metaphors which isn’t actually that far from the…

William Saas: Filling the tub. 

Brett Scott: Blood metaphors. And again, it’s a useful… it’s an easy kind of one, but it carries with it the oldest dangerous sort of commodity imagery for me.

Scott Ferguson: Yeah it’s so fascinating just to kind of keep going down this path. You’ll find those metaphors even in MMT as a popular explanatory strategy. I believe it’s this guy who writes into the pen name JD Alt. Who created all these diagrams of these bathtubs being filled up with you know fiscal spending. I think there are deep limits to those metaphors, but it just goes to show that you can tweak liquid metaphors and they can have a different valence. Even if I would say that I don’t really like them, they’re certainly a lot better than mainstream economics or the financial sector.

Brett Scott: ​I’ve also used them. Actually that’s my concern about my MMT article that I did about squirrels and ants was precisely… it was somewhat acorns it was just commodity imagery. So I’m dealing with these things that have an actual inherent sort of… and I know that I say this in the article, this is the limitation of this… can show you the difference between an issuer and the person who is a user of money, but it will give you the wrong… give you a commodity metaphor of money at the same time, so that’s that’s a kind of trade off on that metaphor.

William Saas: When you’re also with the ants too, there’s the whole… the rest of the baggage of the narrative of the story…of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and all that stuff. Okay, so if the ants are… where are they in the cosmos of the Lord of the Rings universe relative to others?

Brett Scott: We should start a mandatory metaphor school or something.

William Saas: I think so! Or at least we have a publishing space on our website, if you want to riff or whatever, but what I like too is that… so talking about breaking it down to there’s a circulatory system which is ultimately a fluid metaphor, that that can be talked about in sort of bathtub terms, as I think JD Alt does, but what we get with the nervous system is another kind of physical system in electricity. And neurons and impulses and things like that, that are coordination at a distance almost simultaneously as possible in a way that the physical water fluid metaphor there’s a slowness to it. One of the things– talking about metaphors– I gotta shout out Scott’s when we’re talking about the central nervous system.

 We were writing about University currency system, and he talked about the Fed as a “choreographer of credit” in one of the things that we wrote together. And it strikes me as like there’s all sorts of modes of performance available if we think about the system as a set, a nervous system there’s clumsy coordination and then there’s fluid coordination, choreography.

Brett Scott: One of the reasons why I call my newsletter Altered States of Monetary Consciousness is that it has multiple meanings. On the one hand, it could just mean helping people think differently about money. But actually, it is sort of deeper meaning when you go into that sort of more nervous system metaphor. I’m actually literally thinking about manifests as a type of planetary level consciousness. An actual sort of… one of the big things many people intuit about, if you have to imagine the economic system as a kind of super organism, that we’re all connected together and an interdependent mass. In a sense we are the body of the economy. And then the sort of monetary systems, are sort of embedded in that as a kind of nervous system. 

And then the financial system, you can almost think about as more a central part of the nervous system is able to activate stuff. And if you think about critiques of the financial sector, often one of the biggest critiques is how sort of numb it is to its body, as it were, if you think about the superorganism concept. During the financial crisis, you’ll find this extreme disconnection between the actions of the financial sector and the reality of what’s happening on the ground. 

So if you sort of think about this metaphor, seriously designed to think about literally, how kind of like disassociated the sort of system is, and then if you think about alternatives, you start with thinking about how do you make the monetary system more responsive to the reality of its actual… the underlying body of the economy as a world terms of resources, and people? Now think, for example, the MMT movement, in listening to the mainstream policy circles, thinks far more about that kind of stuff, saying, “you guys are fixating upon this abstract stuff about how much money there is, or whatever”. But in reality, we should be thinking about what’s the underlying reality of the economy? 

Scott Ferguson: Yeah, and people and employment and suffering and ecological collapse. Yeah. So let’s pivot and really get into the key critical argument that you’re making in Cloud Money. So, you’re positioning your book and yourself against this dominant and largely taken for granted narrative, that’s surprise surprise, coming out of the banking sector. About digital finance, and that we’re moving kind of in this inevitable evolutionary progressive way, from this old bad thing that we call physical cash to this clean, efficient digital payment system? What’s wrong with that narrative? Descriptively, politically, and whatever else you had to say about it, and what are you sort of offering as an alternative or a counterbalance?

Brett Scott: Yeah. So in some ways, what I’m… there’s a few different things I’m trying to do in the book. But, one of the big ones is to cut through the inauthentic narrative about why we’re seeing declines in the cash system around the world. Now, the typical narrative is very much this idea that it’s something that we’ll want, and we’re driving it through our ordinary everyday actions. And it’s also driven from the bottom up. It’s very, very typical, you’ll find this language if you look at a newspaper article, which says something like, “customers move towards digital payments”. There’s all these articles, you’ll see them in the store. Well, they’ll say “banks shutting down ATMs as people move towards digital payments”. 

The agency is always imagined to exist in the sort of small individual. Everyone’s just collectively acting like this and this is why this is happening. And all the big institutions are then following what the everyday person is doing. So the bank is shutting down its ATMs because all of its customers don’t want the ATMs anymore. All right. Now, that’s a very, very typical narrative. Whereas what I’m doing is sort of filling in the other side, the top down part of that story, saying, “actually, if you look at this, what’s been going on, there’s been a huge amount of top down pushes against the cash system”. 

And actually, the move away from cash is frequently far more in the interests of very large tech and finance companies than it is in the interest of everyday people. And if we go back to the more broad points we were making earlier about an economic system being a huge interdependent network of different players. One of the political questions you ask yourself is who has the most power In the economies that we find ourselves in? We’re all dependent upon each other. And we’re also locked in these huge webs with each other. But also, we’re often operating via these sort of huge corporations. And actually, their economic actors as a collective, they often have a lot more power than ordinary people do. 

So if, for example, you got oligopolies or banks and tech companies who are moving in a particular direction, they’re able to actually alter the whole nature of the overarching economic system. What’s called “the War on Cash”, sometimes, about these types of top down actions with these oligopolies of players are all moving against the cash system at the same time, and pulling people along with them. Now, it’s true that there might be some people who willingly go along with that trend or perceive themselves as you know that it’s in their interests. But in the long term, that’s sort of irrelevant.

 What’s most relevant is that these players are going to do it anyway. And their main job is to either initially convince enough people through sort of ideological techniques and marketing techniques. But they don’t need to convince everyone, they just need to convince enough people that they can set in motion the changes that will then force everybody else to make the change. And if you imagine in some sort of hypothetical future state, it wouldn’t… in countries like Sweden right now, where this process has gone far enough ahead, it’s no longer a choice. These companies no longer have to sort of spin stories saying, “oh, people are choosing to do this”, because they know people no longer have a choice.

 So Cloud Money, I’m basically looking at the… cutting through the spin of why these changes happen. And also pointing out that if you zoom out and look at the trajectory of corporate capitalism, what’s happening is, big tech and big finance are fusing together. Increasingly, Amazon, all these players are saying they can’t operate unless they are fusing with transnational digital finance infrastructures. And then the capitalist system, when you try to maximize profit, your overarching sort of impulse is going to be towards increasing scale speed, interconnection, complexity, acceleration. And cash basically is antithetical to that. Cash is a thing that sort of slows stuff down and creates friction. 

So even if individual human beings who are physical and on the ground actually resonate with the cash system, the overarching economic system they find themselves within, those corporate players doesn’t. Alright, so this is why people will often have this the story in their head, that the end of cash is inevitable. And for that matter, the end of anything that’s not automated or not sort of digitized. That’s the sort of the basic overarching thing in the book. And then I’m also looking at then how the cryptocurrency movements perceive themselves in relation to that growing tech finance vortex. That’s the broad brushstrokes.

Scott Ferguson: Can we dig a little bit deeper into what we might say is your defensive cash? Why cash? Why cash at all? What do people resonate with when we are talking about physical cash? Why is the narrative, the mainstream corporate narrative that is destined to be outmoded. Why is that so problematic?

Brett Scott: Sure bear in mind, cash is still the most widely used one payment in the world. Yet the narrative in the sort of public domain imagines that it’s some kind of thing that’s just obviously destined to disappear. So in terms of actual everyday usage around large parts of the world remains the biggest form of payments, but definitely the ideological tide is against it. And so that’s just one sort of meta point to make. But in terms of it’s the appeal of cash, I’m not saying people have some sort of self conscious love of the cash system, often these are unconscious types of systems. 

But either way, I will describe the cash system as a public utility, or I can describe it as the kind of the public bicycle system of payments. It’s got this public utility aspect to it. It doesn’t require any type of interaction with large formalized institutions. It just works, has immediate finality. A lot of people when they are asked on the Central Bank’s surveys about why cash, there’s a kind of hierarchy of reasons why they prefer cash. One of the immediate ones is that you know the transactions done. So this concept of finality, this immediacy to the transaction. Another big one is budgeting purposes. So there’s a very, very big correlation between the use of cash and income levels. So, and there’s lots of interesting studies about this. 

But cash basically slows down spending. And for people who are already on low incomes, this is important. So it’s in terms of… many people will cite it as an important budgeting tool. They know how much they have, they’re not getting into debt. And actually, one of the things that visa will actively market to businesses is that people will spend more with digital money, so they can spend up to 25% more actually, often. So in terms of going to that point about acceleration in economic systems, you spend more digital money systems on digital systems in general. So in terms of the overarching capitalism possible, more profit accumulation, digital systems were just far more ideologically aligned. 

But there’s also a lot of… there are some people, like libertarians, who like the privacy aspect of cash, right. So this idea that you don’t need to watch what I’m doing. But as you know, many people like that. I’m in Germany right now, and Germany has a big historical tradition of valuing privacy. Especially in the context of the Stasi, lacks surveillance by states and sort of valuing financial privacy. So that’s one aspect, but also distrust of institutions. You’ll find very high cash usage in places where institutions are distrusted. So by contrast, in places where institutions are very highly trusted, you will find quite high digital payments. 

So for example, in Sweden and Norway and places where basically everyone finds it massively surprising that you might distrust the banking sector or the state, this is where they sort of find it feel that it’s somehow obvious that you should want to transition and have been absorbed into large institutions. And you’ll see this in the States probably politically, I haven’t done any sort of detailed ethnographic research. But if I was guessing, I’m going to say, kind of like your urban yuppies are going to find digital payment systems, un-problematic because they’re sort of steeped in this institutional mentality. 

You get easy access to credit, you’re basically viewed as a high status member of society. Whereas if you’re not in that demographic, you’re probably much more likely to use cash. And I’m imagining this goes from like your libertarian rancher doing farming through to your kind of ethnic minorities who don’t trust the banking sector who don’t feel that Bank of America represents them. So there’s lots of…

Scott Ferguson: Or they can’t afford the fee. 

Brett Scott: Yeah, there’s also a bunch of these sort of more immediately practical things like the fact that some people can’t get these accounts or actually, they will get them on detrimental terms. But I think that’s fairly well known in some ways. But so in some ways, I push this idea about the sort of cultural dimensions more because it’s less thought about. In much of the debate around cash, you’ll find this idea that, at least in the mainstream, that if only people could get access to the digital systems, they would obviously want to transition to that. But they face barriers, and that’s the only reason why they don’t. Whereas I feel it’s important to push out this idea that actually within many parts of society, there’s an inherent distrust of formal banking institutions and so on. 

And this is actually one of the things that’s going on underneath the surface if you think about gentrification. This is one of the things you immediately noticed with gentrification is gentrified places automatically are the ones that are most prone to being quote unquote “cashless”. AKA being dependent upon using very large corporations for their payments. So yeah, there’s lots of the sort of cultural dimension. I could go into this further, but you know there’s… does that resonate? Does that make sense?

William Saas: Totally. 

Scott Ferguson: Yeah. Resonates.

William Saas: Yeah. And in what you’re describing with the certification, sounds like it’s probably very similar in most countries.

Brett Scott: I was on NPR Wisconsin a few days ago and it was quite interesting taking calls from listeners who called in and they said a lot of the stuff. The idea that the tangibility is important to me, the budgeting. Also fears about the system going down in length. This is one thing that’s seen in the States is quite important for weather events. This is you know, this is kind of the sort of black swan events. But a lot of people intuitively have this realization that offline forms of money are more resilient. And this is why this metaphor, which is a different metaphor now because the cash is the public bicycle system of payments, actually is very effective. 

Because often what people are told when they’re being shamed for using cash is they’re told you’re using the horsecart of payments, you’re using this old stupid form, what’s wrong with it? Where as soon as you switch to this bicycle metaphor, suddenly it’s like, oh, this makes sense. Actually, bicycles are actually a pretty advanced form of transport, even though they’re technologically simpler than, say, the Uber system. And digital payments are very much like the Uber of payments. And I think this is like a great way to get people to think about this. There’s reasons why we value simple system operators because they just work.

William Saas: Do they have public bicycle systems in Wisconsin? I don’t think we have any down here in Louisiana.

Brett Scott: I don’t know. I mean.

William Saas: Sounds great.

Scott Ferguson: We have lots of privatized bikes…

William Saas: Yes, you can rent them. But you have to use a card usually.

Brett Scott:  Yeah. But also what’s interesting about the cash system for me is politically, it actually appeals to a whole bunch of different players. So if you zoom out and look at the current state of global capitalism, there’s actually a sort of weirdly anti-capitalist element to the cash system. And what I mean by that is in an earlier phase of capitalist systems, cash would have been at the leading edge. It would have been the thing being used to expand market systems.

Scott Ferguson: This is why Marxists say they formulate their critique in terms of the Cash Nexus. The cash Nexus is like the cradle of evil.

Brett Scott: Imagine an early pre-capitalist society, and then there’s some kind of sovereigns trying to sort of move in. One of the first frontiers is going to be the issuance of these units of cash. That slowly infiltrate the communities and break down their local networks and integrate them into a larger economy. So it’s one point in time relation, yeah, the cash system would have been this on the frontiers of capitalism. But in the current phase, it’s this thing that slows it down. So in a weird way, it’s become this break upon the system. And in this context, it has a sort of anti-capitalist element, especially because it actually enables all the many sort of marginalized people in the system to participate without getting watched by the main institutions of capitalism.

 So this is what’s called the black economy or whatever, the sort of the margins of the economy. So that’s one. So it has this kind of anti-capitalist part to it, but also from a centrist perspective, you speak to these various sort of like policy wonk types, they realize that the stability of the monetary system kind of depends upon people having access to government money. So this is a very center political argument. And then also on the right, you’ll find all this sort of nationalist type stuff, where it’s like, I want my national money, and I don’t want to, screw the banks, and give me the actual dollar and so on. And it’s quite fascinating from a political spectrum perspective, seeing who resonates.

William Saas: One of the things that I like, and I think it might be the final paragraph or so of your book, you sort of insist on and defend and advocate for cash precisely because it is dirty and inefficient. And you want to maintain the right to that sort of thing. And I love this idea of cash as anti-capitalist. Part of our project is at Money on the Left and Money on the Left Editorial Collective is to sort of recover democratic public potentials of money. And so I guess I want to say that one of the interesting things about reading your book and engaging with your work, is that it seems like you’re into that, too. 

But you’re also– correct me if you think that I’m wrong– like somebody could read Cloud Money and think that you’re sort of after a post money world, you’re partisan for cash, you’re defending it. That’s not necessarily saying money itself is good and could be used and mobilized in an affirmative ways. 

Scott Ferguson:  And just to clarify, we’re not saying money is good. 

William Saas: Oh, yeah. 

Scott Ferguson: Or that the system now is good. But we’re saying that it is certainly not just flatly evil. And that it is a powerful and capacious medium for collective transformation and democratization. 

Brett Scott: Bear in mind, I don’t have a sanctimonious take on monetary systems like many monetary… they’re are parts of the sort of monetary reform community who had this almost visceral sort of puritanical disgust about money and so on. I don’t have this at all. I see the world in contradictions. I understand that we’re stuck in systems that often we don’t quite know how we’ve ended up in these systems. And there’s trade-offs built into these systems. So for example, in large scale monetary systems, one of your trade offs is that you’ve increased the scale of your economy, and thereby actually gives you access to more and more stuff, but simultaneously increases your alienation, your distance from each person. And you can even imagine, the opposite of this is extremely small scale economies, where you might not even have monetary systems where you have very low amounts of stuff, because you’ve got very low labor pools we’ve connected together. But you have a very, very strong idea of who you are and where you are in the economy. If you picture your sort of quintessential hunter-gatherer type of setting you’re under no illusion as to what your position in that economy is and how you survive. Whereas of course, if you go to an extremely large scale economy, held together by large scale monetary systems, you’re in this much more sort of alienated state, and yet, you have access potentially, to incredibly high end things because you’re tapping into gigantic pools of global labor that you can’t see. 

And this is a sort of contradiction we find ourselves in modern economies. And so I’m not really trying to say that we could live without the monetary system at all. But you know, kind of going back to the nervous system metaphor, there’s a part that didn’t actually make it into the book. That was extending the metaphor. Actually, it did make it in a little bit of a conclusion. But what am I arguing in terms of the cash system and the nervous system metaphor, as I say, in the human body, the nervous system is split into a central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is a realm of like the brain and like the spinal cord,  it’s a very conscious part of you. Whereas the peripheral is a sort of well, as the name says, is peripheral, right. 

And I’m kind of arguing that if we’re taking this metaphor, seriously, the financial sector, and all these kind of digital systems that are connected into it, are part of the sort of central system whereas the cash system can be understood as a the peripheral nervous system, is the movement of this money depends on the sort of person to person contact. Now, I don’t have to go deeply into that metaphor, but the basic idea is that if you’re interested in creating a balanced monetary system, you’ve got to think about how all these different parts intersect. 

And if you think about alternative forms of money, like the mutual credit system that you’re mentioning, the sort of rippling credit systems or local currencies, you can almost imagine those as kind of an…I don’t want to go like too deeply into this nervous system metaphor, but part of the autonomous nervous system is kind of like semi autonomous things that like act by themselves, and I kind of like only partially integrated into the central system. And so I’m interested in future… to think about, okay how do you know, because what we call the “cashless society” would essentially be a type of system where you’re completely always plugged into the central system. 

You’re always going by the banking sector, and the sort of big tech companies. And the cash system actually is maintaining this kind of lack the ability to stay out of that central system whilst remaining within the overarching economy. And that’s what’s kind of the political dynamic of it. But then in terms of the actual political message of the book, the main message is to protect the cash system. But there is a part of me that’s maybe this is for a different book, which is arguing for people to build different systems entirely the sort of like alternatives, and you know, I can go into those if you’d like me to.

Scott Ferguson: Well, maybe we’ll have you on again to talk about that future book. But I think we would be doing a disservice to this book if we didn’t ask you to talk about cryptocurrency. But so what’s your… Yes, crypto tokens, not currency. What’s your experience with crypto tokens? What’s your assessment of crypto tokens? And also, what are your thoughts about the recent cascading crashes in those crypto markets?

Brett Scott: Yeah, I mean, crypto, I could say so many things about crypto. Well, the first thing I’ll say is that actually I was involved in early, early Bitcoin back 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, which was quite a different time in the modern world where it was far more innocent in a sense. It hadn’t turned into a giant, grotesque, speculative marketing/grifter scene. It was an interesting moment to be in it. I kind of got involved in that, because I was… I’d written this other book, the other The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance that was coming out back in 2013. But I was interested in general in people’s attempts at building alternative forms of economy. And obviously, crypto was one of these attempts. So my inner anthropologist was really fascinated by this, and as you know, doesn’t have any potential. But what became very, very apparent to me, and that’s the crypto world or the Bitcoin world in particular, was that you had this sort of political problem, which was that the actual underlying technological architecture was quite radical. 

The core technological feat is basically that it enables large networks of people who don’t know each other to coordinate action between themselves without a central player. Now, that politically is interesting. And actually, a lot of groups can agree that that’s interesting. And, in particular, it was about these people being able to issue tokens, or at least for the system to issue tokens. And then for them to be able to move those tokens between themselves. And this is where all the problems started to emerge, because that was a sophisticated technological architecture, but a very, very crude token system implemented on it. But many people who had no training in any kind of like monetary stuff, visually the token sort of like superficially resembled monetary system. 

And actually, in many ways the imagination that Bitcoin is a monetary system was created through linguistic hacks and visual hacks. So the very term cryptocurrency was the first one of those, but the fact people just started calling it crypto currency. And journalists would report on it as if it was this currency. And then all the visual imagery that was pasted over it as being a monetary system, and many people just sort of took it for granted. They’re like “well, this is a new monetary system”. And what was particularly interesting with it, when it started getting $1 price, the thought of getting price, this in a way kind of just confirmed for people somehow that this was a monetary system, which is very, very fascinating. Because many things that have prices, people don’t perceive as money. 

So it’s not like if I have a ceramic vase, and it gets a price on the market, I don’t fully think about it as a monetary system. But if I take that ceramic vase and I paint monetary imagery all over it, and make it very small and sort of like a disc shaped, suddenly you can be like, “well, it’s money, isn’t it?” And this is actually sort of psychologically literally what was happening in the Bitcoin world, you had these digital objects, which were kind of pasted with this monetary branding and which had a price, and which then superficially, kind of started to resemble a monetary system. And since then, I started writing this about how crypto counter trade works. I don’t know if you guys have sort of seen me doing that. 

But it’s basically saying, well, what’s happening in the crypto markets is you basically have these digital objects that are created, that are then traded on speculative markets, and which get a price on those markets. And once I have a price, you can then swap them with other things that are prices. Which is essentially a way of clearing that sort of money priced things against each other which is counter trade. Now, if I did that with two objects that obviously weren’t money… so for example, if I took a $500 vase and I swapped it for a $500 guitar, nobody would say to me, “oh, the vase is a monetary system”. 

What they would say is you’ve swapped something that’s worth $500 for something else that’s worth $500, implicitly, what you’ve done is you’ve sold the vase to the person who has the guitar, and then you’ve given them the money back to buy the guitar from them. So you’ve had these separate monetary transactions that have been superimposed over each other, giving rise to the barter-like scenario. Okay. I don’t know how clear that is. But that’s concentrated and the whole Bitcoin world works like that. And I know this, because I used to do. I used to buy, quote, unquote, “buy things” with Bitcoin. And this is exactly what you do. You take its current dollar price, compare it to the price of the thing you’re trying to, quote unquote, “buy”, and then you would work out the ratio from that. And this is countertrade. 

And I think this is really, really fascinating actually, because what the Bitcoin system effectively is, is a type of parasite. It’s a kind of monetary parasite. And if we, you might want to think about the US dollar system as being like a host, in a sense. It can’t actually survive unless it has this pricing. The ones that have it, it’s able to sort of do the sort of money-like kind of thing within that system. And I actually think that’s an incredibly interesting design and in a way, that’s not even a critique. I’m sort of saying, well, kudos in a sense. You’ve designed a monetary parasite. That’s very interesting.

Scott Ferguson: But you can expand this out and say, from an MMT framework, at least, there are degrees of moneyness that exist in all kinds of credit systems. So we often will refer to airline miles, which have different degrees of receive ability and liquidity. So, to a certain extent, you can kind of de-exotisize size, if that’s even a word. De-exotisize crypto, it’s just sort of another, dependent system that depends on this larger system. And then it becomes a question of, but how does this system work? What are its values? What are its social and ecological consequences?

Brett Scott: In my newsletter, I do a lot of analysis of these different types of… if I’m looking at a voucher, for example, let’s say. Airline miles kind of have a sort of voucher-like vibe because they’re redeemable back for a particular thing. So let’s say I have a voucher for a store for a particular thing. Like, I don’t know, a Starbucks voucher or something. In a sense, it’s tethered into the actual monetary system, right? It’s like you and you kind of like it has an issuer, it has a redemption process. You know what you’re gonna get if you hand the voucher back, so it’s very easy to kind of integrate that, and it’s quite easy to describe how it works. 

Scott Ferguson: And the production system, I think as well. It’s tethered into the production system of coffee and of airline vouchers. 

Brett Scott: Vouchers are a credit system. There’s an issuer, there’s a redemption process, and particularly, maybe be able to transfer them. So all credit type systems or IOU type systems have this sort of three part process as an issuance process, some of the issues and out as a kind of promise, then they might be able to be transferred depending on what the nature is, and then they’re redeemed back for the thing that they can supposedly can get. Vouchers are like that. Bitcoin is nothing like that. There’s no ability to redeem Bitcoin. It doesn’t actually even have an issuer. 

If you look at how it’s structured, what happens is you could sort of argue that the miners and the system are kind of like issuers. But they’re issuing it to themselves, they’re not issuing it as a liability. So what happens, they basically exert energy and then write out a number as an asset for themselves. So they’re basically… it’s literally numbers written out off the exertion of energy, which then are then branded in a particular way. But they’re written out as assets to the person who is successful at maintaining the system. And then it has no redeemability. There is no liability side to a Bitcoin token, it’s just this object. But it superficially has the visual appearance of what you would see in a bank account because it has this number. 

So it kind of looks like a bank account, sort of, but it has no actual liability structure. So this is what’s quite interesting. So really, what it ends up being is it’s kind of like branded collectible. With the monetary price which you can swap for things and that does actually have a certain degree of moneyness in the sense of it’s highly swappable. So it’s actually quite like liquid in the way it moves around in a sense. So this is why Bitcoiners get very angry with me when I say it’s not a monetary system. And I don’t have any problem with that. I’m just like, well, it’s not used for pricing. And it very, very clearly… one of the easiest ways to sort of see this like… El Salvador is currently being used as an example of a place where Bitcoin is used.

 But if you go into an El Salvadorian restaurant right now, I would love to see an El Salvadorian restaurant where they put up a fixed menu on the wall with fixed prices in Bitcoin for things. They won’t do this because actually the stuff there is priced in US dollars to work out the quote unquote “Bitcoin price”, they’re always gonna have to constantly check what the US dollar price of Bitcoin is, and then work out a countertrade ratio. So actually, if you go to eat a meal in this restaurant, the price of a meal, you’ll quote unquote, “Bitcoin price” of this meal will change constantly. Because the actual price is in US dollars and it’s constantly being refracted through Bitcoin. That’s a kind of complicated way of saying it. This is a very good example of… clearly the US dollar system is being used here. But you’re kind of disguising it via Bitcoin transaction.

Scott Ferguson: We actually have an episode of one of our other podcasts coming out that’s going to come out before this interview, actually, where we’re interviewing a professor and journalist named Ricardo Valencia, and he is reporting on this Bitcoin situation in El Salvador. And there are protests against this. The president of El Salvador is becoming increasingly authoritarian and wedding his authoritarian politics to this Bitcoin adoption. Bitcoin is not being adopted well in the country. They’re trying all kinds of things, like offering discounts to make it receivable, and people don’t use it. People don’t want it.

Brett Scott: I mean, he’s obviously heavily invested. And actually, it’s quite interesting. I mean, he’s an interesting character, because he’s clearly working the US libertarian scene to get forms of financing and funding, but, probably is doing it with a sort of… probably my intuition was well, we got nothing to lose, we might as well just try and work this angle. I think, in a sense, him aside, the Bitcoin community has quite a lot to lose from backing him. 

And I think a lot of them sort of threw themselves into this kind of euphoria, it was like, “ah, it’s become a legal tender, it’s now the official money” and ignoring all these… not only the protests, but also the fact that in reality, it’s the US dollar that is being the actual… it’s happening since this countertrade process. But now it’s becoming politically difficult to the Bitcoin community, because the whole sort of rhetoric has always been around this like stateless money and this whole kind of thing. So the reality of backing this increasingly authoritarian leader is an interesting one.

Scott Ferguson: So do you have a read of the most recent failures in the crypto markets?

Brett Scott: Not really. Actually, I’ve kind of got bored about following all the specifics of it. A lot of my focus has been on critiquing the ideology of Bitcoin, because… and so the broader crypto scene is going out, a lot of people are being involved, and I know lots of people in it, but the actual sort of downturns I don’t follow. I used to work in financial markets. The way I often see these crypto tokens is  in typical financial markets, you can do fundamental analysis, and you can do technical analysis. Fundamental analysis, you’re looking at the reality of something or trying to look at the reality of something and saying, “well, this is, this company is overvalued, for XYZ reason, they haven’t actually built the factory that they said they were going to build, nobody’s gonna buy their products”. 

So you actually make these little arguments, but it’s actual prospects in the world. And then work out from the projected income streams, and you can sort of work out a theoretical price for a share. That’s a fundamental analysis. And then there’s technical analysis, which is like you watch what other people do, basically. Abstracted through graphs. But basically, technical analysis is just watching what other people in the market are doing. Now, whereas in the crypto world, often the only thing you can do is technical analysis. There’s no way to do fundamental analysis of these objects because they’re not redeemable for any particular thing. 

They’re not legal claims upon anything. There’s no way to work out if they’re overvalued or undervalued. They’re just floating objects, which makes them highly prone to these breakdowns. So I’m never surprised when there’s like a massive spike in the price or crash in the price either. Precisely because they’re untethered to slack. But in terms of the stable coins that were breaking down recently, I suppose that’s a slightly different situation. But like yeah, I didn’t… What’s your take?

Scott Ferguson: I don’t have one. I appreciate your blase attitude. I think you you have your eye on the structural, larger anthropological, political, ideological, 

Brett Scott: Gets boring.

Scott Ferguson: Yeah, rather than following the roller coaster ride and pretending that that’s actually…

Brett Scott: I think what’s probably the best way to analyze it is probably through religious studies. Or like, yeah, a lot of what’s happening in the crypto markets is you have these… And I think there’s interesting sociological ways of analyzing it that are far more interesting than trying to have some economic analysis of why the price has gone up or down. There’s many, many people who feel sort of forms of existential despair in the world who have come to believe that somehow the crypto thing represents some way to escape that and then engage in this fantasy where you can make returns whilst also bringing down the system somehow. So no, actually I empathize with that to some extent. 

There’s part of me that has a certain degree of empathy for people who are caught up in it. Because I have a lot of friends who are caught up in it and they can see this as hope where you can engage in political activism through speculation.

Scott Ferguson: And there’s also a lot of pain and suffering. There are suicides. There are people losing a lot of state money. 

Brett Scott: Yeah, and the main concern in the crypto world because… look, bear in mind that speculation has been going on for a very long time of the capitalist system, this has nothing particularly new. And so I could do a critique of speculation. But I’m not that interested in doing that. Other people can critique the mentality of speculation, it’s well established as a phenomenon within capitalist societies as people trying to get rich quick and escape their situations and so on, whatever. My main concern is that in the process of marketing the speculative objects, a particular narrative about money is projected into society. So the Bitcoin community, those objects… the Bitcoin tokens are not actually a monetary system. 

They’re this collectible, almost like digital medallions branded as money with a monetary price. But in order to get them to compete upon a market against other assets, like shares, or whatever else you could potentially buy with your disposable income, the proponents of it have to market it as a competing monetary system. So its marketing pitch is that some are competing against the dollar. And in order to market that story, they have to create this conservative story about money where they sort of say, money should be this constrained thing, this commodity that’s held taut and rigid. And so it has a sort of weird, puritanical, hard money ideology that goes along with it, which is very heavily associated with libertarian ideology. 

Which is all about engaging in the fantasy that markets exist independently of states. Which requires this fantasy of apolitical money. But you have to have this… the monetary system is somehow natural. And markets are natural, and the states a parasite upon the market, rather than the thing that actually underpins the market with monetary systems. So a lot of the sort of fantasies in the crypto world are about projecting this conservative notion of money, which my concern is that the debt then becomes a big… that’s become the foundation or mandatory training for young people right now. 

Interestingly, the MMT movement is one of the counter narratives in terms of like trying to create a different narrative around money, but there’s lots of 16 year olds right now who basically sitting on crypto forums because they believe it’s technologically exciting, and so on, who sort of imbibing like Murray Rothbard, and stuff like that. You know, if you think about if you’re a conservative strategist from the 19th century, you will like be like, “wow, this is like a really amazing way of projecting ideas into society without actually having the monetary system disrupted”. So it really empowers the Conservatives within the ordinary monetary system. So that’s my concern. Long answer, sorry. 

William Saas: No, that’s perfect. I love the fundamental versus technical analysis. And I think that that’s… it’s almost like if you have the fundamental mental analysis that I think we all share here, then it sort of makes the technical analysis irrelevant. It’s like okay, this is just going to be a carnival. It’s something to watch. And people are gonna suffer. But they have… there are contending fundamental analyses that do kind of seem to… I don’t know, I guess you can be suspicious here and wonder how many people are actually invested in the fundamental analysis that would enable them to think cryptocurrency is actually a viable alternative to existing monetary systems. What’s your read on how many people are actually sort of wedded to that now versus at the sort of speculation side if we’re not going to speculate about speculation.

Brett Scott: Well, I think it’s contradictory because… actually I actually wrote this piece for CoinDesk, which is one of the big crypto publications, possibly the biggest one, actually. And that CoinDesk actually has… there’s a couple of editors there who actually are quite reasonable, critical and want more critical voices. And I did this piece was just called How to Win a Bitcoin Street Fight. And it was based on the old arcade game Street Fighter. And I basically talked about walking into an arcade, an old arcade game. There’s on the one side, you got Street Fighter on the other side, you have Mortal Kombat now to old school like fighting games, and each one has its own universe. Each one has its own like characters in it. All right, so you know, Street Fighter has… I forget the names of the different people. 

William Saas: Ken, Ryu, Blanka. 

Brett Scott: Yeah, exactly right. And then you know, more you can do Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat got Raiden and all these other characters. But once you pick a game you can’t use a player from one of them in the other game. So they were sort of sitting in separate paradigms, and they’re in their own universes. And I think in the Bitcoin world, you find this a lot of the argumentation is based on this sort of trickery, paradigm switching trickery. Because on the one hand, it’s marketed as being that who it’s competing against is the dollar. So this is like the monetary story. So this is like one arcade game, right? That it’s like somebody’s competing monetary system. On the other hand, it’s marketed as an asset within a monetary system that has a monetary price that you could trade to get more money. And in that sense, it’s actually competing against things like the Gamestop shares, or the world or whatever else. Because if I’m spending my $5,000 in savings on Bitcoin, I’m not spending it on Gamestop shit, right? So they’re in a sense competing each other. 

But what happens in the crypto world is that they often try to blend those two arguments together. They’ll say things like, “well, when the price of the asset is rising, it’s a symbol that in the future, it will sort of invert and become the monetary system”. Which is… I’m like, how did you work that out when other things rise in markets, that doesn’t mean that becomes a monetary system. So there’s lots of this sort of justification. And because the actual object being traded has monetary imagery branded over it, it’s quite easy to actually sit with that cognitive dissonance. And many people in the world constantly sit in the state of cognitive dissonance, where they have a sort of almost millenarian story that at some point, it will invert, and everything will become priced in it. 

But in the meantime, we’re trading it for US dollars, and clearly perceiving it in terms of US dollars. And when I say this will happen, you’ll meet some of the hardcore Bitcoiners will be set will say stuff like, “well, I price everything in Bitcoin”. And I’ll be like, well, it’s interesting, because those prices will be constantly fluctuating, right? And what often will say to them is if I’m sitting by a tornado, and there’s like things flying around the tornado, you know, whatever it is… people’s bits of debris, I can psychologically choose to believe that actually, the tornado is flying around the pieces of debris. 

I could imagine the pieces of debris being like fixed points and then perceiving the tornado flying around. But that’s like a mental illusion. You can choose to believe that everything is priced in Bitcoin, but it’s a total mental illusion, right? It’s actually priced in the dollar. And if you’re just choosing to try and see it in this way. And this is a lot of what’s going on in that community. Just another metaphor there.

Scott Ferguson: Well, I think that’s a really… let’s finish this conversation on that mind whittling metaphor. Where do our listeners find you? Where Where should they look for you?

Brett Scott: Well, my newsletter is BrettScott.substack.com. Altered States of Monetary Consciousness. My book is Cloud Money: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for our Wallets. And my Twitter handle is @SuitPossum: S-U-I-T P-O-S-S-U-M. I always get asked how that one came about.

Scott Ferguson: Are you gonna tell us?

Brett Scott: It’s kind of a weird story. I had a musical act, Apocalyptic Possum and then from that a nickname developed called Soul Possum for me. And then when I went to work in the financial sector, I had this girlfriend at the time who said, “now you’re super awesome”. So that’s how it developed but when people see it nowadays, I have no idea what it is. It’s just weird…

Scott Ferguson: Right. That’s great. Well, now all the Money on the Left listeners who have made it to the end of this interview are all cued in. Well, thanks.

Brett Scott: Thanks a lot. Nice chat.

* Thanks to the Money on the Left production teamWilliam Saas (audio editor), Mercedes Ohlen (transcription), & Meghan Saas (graphic art)


Money on the Left: History, Theory, Practice

In this special episode, Billy Saas, Maxximilian Seijo and Scott Ferguson announce the launch of the collective’s new scholarly journal: Money on the Left: History, Theory, Practice.

Click here for the journal’s inaugural publication, “Food, Money, and Democracy: Cultivating Collective Provisioning for Resilient and Equitable Communities of Work,” co-authored by Benjamin C. Wilson, Taylor Reid, and Max Sussman.

As Billy, Maxx and Scott explain in their conversation, Money on the Left: History, Theory, Practice is a peer-reviewed, open access journal of scholarship in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The journal places money’s public origins and capacities at the center of left inquiry and action. It cultivates interdisciplinary approaches to past and present, aesthetics and politics. And it advances intersectional forms of research and practice in service of a just transition from social and ecological devastation. During their dialog, Billy, Maxx and Scott discuss the journal’s key aims and publication schedule, while offering advice for prospective authors. 

Visit our Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music by Nahneen Kula: www.nahneenkula.com

If you are interested in submitting or pitching an essay to the journal, see our Instructions for Authors page.

Food, Money & Democracy

Money on the Left: History, Theory, Practice
Vol. 1, No. 1 (2022)

ISSN 2833-051X

“Food, Money & Democracy: Cultivating Collective Provisioning for Resilient & Equitable Communities of Work”
By Benjamin C. Wilson, Taylor Reid & Max Sussman

Abstract

Coordination rights, or the right to coordinate, is an emerging concept in law and political economy that establishes who is permitted to engage in economic coordination and who does not. Coordination rights are fundamental to the process of building resilient communities and determine whether social provisioning systems are “collective” or “concentrated.” In concentrated provisioning systems, decision-making is consolidated in the hands of a few actors who tend to prioritize profit-seeking over environmental and labor concerns, leading to inequality and ecosystem degradation. Collective provisioning systems instead involve rich human experiences that foster cooperation and a holistic approach to production that improves environmental and social wellbeing. We demonstrate these differences through comparative analysis of industrial agriculture and alternatives such as the La Via Campesina movement for Food Sovereignty, the Black Cooperative Movement in the U.S., and restaurant reactions to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, what is also displayed is that without reliable access to monetary resources collective provisioning systems are vulnerable to financial crisis and collapse. Alleviating these vulnerabilities requires that monetary systems themselves also adopt collective coordination principles. Accordingly, we present small and medium-scale monetary experiments that use food systems as a way to build community capacity. These experiments challenge the exclusionary nature of the dominant profit-driven mode of financial coordination and illustrate the potential of community-driven and socially beneficial frameworks for increasing resilience, equity, and health in our communities.

Click here for PDF.

Benjamin C. Wilson is associate professor of economics at the State University of New York College at Cortland and Research Scholar for the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity.

Taylor Reid is an Associate Professor of Applied Food Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Max Sussman has been a chef for over 20 years. He was formerly the chef de cuisine of Roberta’s in Brooklyn, New York. With his brother Eli he has co-authored 4 cookbooks and owns Samesa, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in New York City. With his wife Kate he founded Bog & Thunder, a regenerative food travel company based in Ireland.

See our Instructions for Authors page, if you are interested in submitting or pitching an essay to the journal.

Medium: Femme – 7 – Abortion (Part 1)

In the first of a three part series following the overturning of Roe v Wade, cohosts Naty (@orangeasm) and Charlotte (@moltopopulare) discuss the ongoing fight for abortion access and rights taking place in both the US and the rest of the world. 

Using the framework of reproductive justice, they contextualize abortion rights within a broader struggle for reproductive autonomy, touching on histories of reproductive control ranging from abortion restrictions to forced sterilisation, colonialism and incarceration. In doing so, they also highlight interconnections with concurrent right wing assaults on trans people, gay parents, drug users, refugees, and others marginalized groups.

Touching on  histories and movements from Australia to Chile, Ireland, Brazil, and the border of Ukraine and Poland, Naty and Charlotte defend the right to free safe and legal abortion without apology, drawing out various trends and intersections to make a positive case for reproductive justice and autonomy.

Visit our Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
http://flirtingfullstop.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @actualflirting



Superstructure 33 – Mediation is the Fourth Estate

Analyzing recent events at The Washington Post, Will Beaman (@agoingaccount), Natalie Tabb (@orangeasm), and Maxximilian Seijo (@maxseijo) develop a theory of media accountability in which heterogeneous institutions and social infrastructures are variously implicated as political participants.

Visit our Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure

Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.
http://flirtingfullstop.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @actualflirting