Moderna monetarna teorija: Ko deficit postane oddaljen mit

Ko se srečajo tradicionalni keynesianizem, nizka inflacija in sekularna stagnacija, dobiš moderno monetarno teorijo (MMT).

Pripadniki MMT so naokrog sicer že nekaj časa, vendar se s svojimi idejami do sedaj niso uspeli prebiti. Mainstream ekonomija jih je zavračala. Osnovno poanto MMT, da kadar država izdaja svoj denar (monetarna suverenost), ne more proračun nikoli zaiti v plačilne težave, saj mu centralna banka da vedno na voljo dovolj denarja prek odkupa vladnih obveznic, so mainstream ekonomisti vedno pobili z argumentom, da nobena država tega ne more početi dlje časa, saj to vodi v hiperinflacijo. Dobimo Zimbabve ali Venezuelo. Hkrati pa država z zadolževanjem na trgu vpliva na dvigovanje obrestnih mer in s tem izriva zasebne investicije (crowding-out effect). Slednje je sicer neumnost, navaden larpurlartistični neomonetaristični teoretski koncept, katerega edini namen je z oranžnim alarmom svariti pred vladnim investiranjem in trošenjem, v realnem življenju pa nima nobene osnove.

No, potem pa je prišla Stephanie Kelton iz univerze Stony Brook z novo knjigo “The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy”, ki je na zelo preprost način na dobrih 300 straneh pokazala, da je proračunski deficit v sodobnih časih (za ZDA) le še mit.

Keltonovi in modernim monetaristom gre na roko sedanja situacija izjemno nizkih obrestnih mer in inflacije ter sekularne stagnacije, ko centralnim bankam v razvitih državah kljub nepojmljivim, astronomskim količinam denarja, ki ga infuzirajo v ožilje finančnega sistema, nikakor ne uspe niti dvigniti inflacije z ničle niti dvigniti obrestnih mer. Vlade razvitih držav se po finančni krizi iz 2008 očitno lahko zadolžujejo v nepojmljivih količinah brez učinka na obrestne mere, dokler za njimi stoji kredibilna obljuba kredibilne centralne banke, da bo naredila vse, kar je potrebno, da zagotovi dovoljšnjo likvidnost gospodarstvu.

Drugi argument proti MMT pa je, da je ta opcija lastnega “velikega bankomata” (ko država sama sebi izdaja denar) na voljo le zelo velikim državam, ki imajo svojo in močno valuto in kjer imajo večino javnega dolga v lasti domači subjekti. Tipičen primer sta Japonska in ZDA.

V zadnjih tednih je bilo objavljeno nekaj deset recenzij knjige Keltonove. Eno izmed njih objavljam spodaj, za ostale pa bom enkrat objavil zbirni pregled. Recenzije so tipično toplo – hladne, vendar ne več sovražne. Zanimiva je diskusija med Krugmanom in Keltonovo (denimo tukaj in tukaj), oba sta iz taborja progresivnih ekonomistov.

Naj zaenkrat ostanem pri tem, da je v sedanji specifični situaciji MMT lahko povsem dober koncept, in celo zelo koristen, saj omogoča lajšanje socialnih stroškov sedanje pandemske krize ter financiranje prestrukturiranja gospodarstva v zeleno in digitalno smer. Sedanji reševalni programi FED in ECB delno temeljijo na tem konceptu, Christine Lagarde Evropsko komisijo celo zelo eksplicitno spodbuja v to smer, da zeleno transformacijo financira prek ECB. Ni pa to univerzalen koncept za vse države in vse čase (kot tudi nič drugega v ekonomiji).

The basic argument of “The Deficit Myth” is simple and strong. Since a government that can issue money cannot run out of the stuff, it should spend as much as is needed to ensure that the country’s available economic resources are used as fully as possible. How can we tell when that point is reached? Simple, says MMT. It’s time to stop when inflation rates get close to uncomfortable levels.

The first part of the argument is powerful. Old-fashioned talk about governments needing to find the money they spend is confused. The only thing a finance ministry or central bank needs is the right keyboard sequence for increasing the electronic balance in the government’s bank accounts. As Kelton puts it, government spending creates the money which can then be reclaimed through taxes and borrowing, not the other way around.

What about the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product? Not that long ago, many economists were worried that growth would slow down when this number reached 90%. Kelton counters that government debt is an asset which allows people to save safely, making it more of a stabiliser than a threat.

As Kelton notes, the MMT approach to government finance was presented by Abba Lerner under the name of functional finance back in the 1940s. In a nice turn of phrase, the economist called for balancing the economy, not the budget. The approach was a bit radical for the time, especially given his relaxed attitude toward direct money creation. In the 1970s, uncomfortably high levels of inflation, which were widely blamed on excessive government deficits, relegated his ideas to unmerited obscurity.

They came back to life after the 2008 financial crisis, when large fiscal deficits revived growth without pumping up inflation. Many mainstream economists have now decided that even more aggressive government spending would have led to faster recoveries, especially in the United States.

Kelton wrote “The Deficit Myth” before the coronavirus pandemic locked down large parts of the global economy. But many governments are now following the basic MMT prescription. They are pushing large amounts of money into the economy to prevent activity and consumption falling more than is necessary for public health. Deficits are being ignored, at least for now.

True believers in MMT are sometimes accused of cult-like dedication to a fairly detailed economic model. Thankfully, Kelton’s book is light on dogma. She has a light touch, interspersing anecdotes and analogies for easier reading.

Even so, the second part of the basic MMT argument, that governments can find an optimal level of spending, is much less persuasive. It is naive to imagine a simple, almost mechanical way to optimise resource use and the distribution of jobs.

But simple and mechanical is exactly how Kelton presents her main policy recommendation: a guaranteed government job scheme. She’s probably right that it would do no monetary harm.  However, corruption and incompetence are serious risks. And finding work that people can actually do well and that will help the economy requires many more difficult choices than are implied by her vague talk about local control, a caring economy and environmental responsibility.

Vir: Edward Hadas, Reuters

3 responses

  1. MMT je v svojem bistvu opis dejanjskega delovanja monetarnega sistema, zato v tem smislu oz. v tem delu ni in ne more biti ‘koncept’, saj navaja dejstva (monetarne operacije kot potekajo v praksi). Zanimivo je, da mnogi centralni bankirji opisujejo točno iste stvari, recimo aprila 2020 Gertjan Vlieghe iz Bank of England:

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=44808

    Zanimivo je tudi to, kako počasi mainstream ekonomisti dojemajo pomembnost točnega razumevanja delovanja monetarnega sistema. No, z vsako krizo se stvari v tem pogledu malce izboljšajo, tako da čez kakšnih 20 let bo pa pravi opis delovanja tudi v splošnih učbenikih makroekonomije. 🙂

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