Sunday, October 18, 2015

Forstater on MMT and Labour Theory of Value.


Peter Cooper found a 2012 radio interview on the relationship between Marx's labour theory of value (or law of value, as some prefer) and MMT: here.

The interview is conducted by Tom O'Brien from Alpha to Omega, and the interviewee is Prof. Mathew Forstater, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Cooper has written about this subject before (relevant links in his post, above) and I've mentioned in this blog the views of two leading MMT proponents -- L. Randall Wray (here) and Bill Mitchell (here) -- on the subject of the LTV.

19 comments:

  1. That's a lovely interview.

    I know we're off the subject of certain pretenders to Keynes's estate, but I can't help but think of how everyone's favorite Post-Keynesian pitbull routinely claims allegiance to MMT thinkers -- quoting them and posting their talks and so on -- while denying the existence of this very pronounced current within their thought. In the end, he can only maintain PK purity by modifying or erasing things PK theorists say.

    To add to your growing body of examples, Lord Feigns does much the same with Tony Lawson -- cite him as an authority, add him to his endless lists (always with the lists!) of people on His Side, and totally ignore his content where convenient. He claims to be a realist, and Lawson is a thinker in the tradition of Critical Realism, so it should be a match, no? Yet if you actually use concepts basic to CR to draw attention to his overt positivism/metaphysics, it's "utter gibberish," "absolute proof of ... intellectual bankruptcy." (Won't link it here, but see the post from April 3.)

    The reason should be pretty clear: CR is essentially a fleshing out of Marx & Engels's "dialectical materialism," taking into account the past century of philosophical thought. But then, it's no surprise that Cold Warriors sideline facts in favor of winning ideological warfare.

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  2. Hi, Hedlund.

    Sorry, but I don't follow that charlatan's blog, so I'm afraid I won't see his post from April 3, or any other, for that matter. Mind, you, initially I thought to reply to him (an example: http://aussiemagpie.blogspot.com/2014/05/gravitation-mysticism-or-metaphor.html), but I found that exercise rather pointless.

    I don't know whether anybody, short of Pilkington and the Austrians, actually take him seriously. The late Prof. Frederick Lee - for one - had a very low opinion of him (use Google to find Lee's comment to one of his posts on heterodox economics: it's quite telling).

    Cheers.

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    1. Ah. Understood. Sorry to darken your door with my little bitter rant, then.

      For what it's worth, it seems Pilkington ran out of patience, too. These days he only shows up to call out our lad's awful hatchet jobs (esp. in re: post-structuralists).

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  3. Hedlund,

    You really should read Frederic S. Lee's comment (April 16, 2014 at 7:15 PM) to the post "A Third Revised Family Tree of Heterodox Economics":

    "Regarding your Heterodox Economic School, clearly you are making up your own strange view of heterodox economics. (...)".

    It's fairly long and scathing.

    It closes with some very good comments, raising interesting questions which M'Lord v2.0+ did not answer, pretending he didn't read, as he is wont to do whenever something sensitive appears:

    "Instead of speculating about what heterodox economics is, you should actually show up and give papers at the Association of Heterodox Economics, Society of Heterodox Economists, Association for Evolutionary Economics, Association for Institutional Thought, Association for Social Economics, Unin of Radical Political Economics, Conference of Social Economists, International Associstion of Feminist Economists, European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy, and many other heterodox associations annual conferences/meetings."

    Lee - who died last year - was a professor of economics at UMKC.

    If you observe carefully, M'Lord v2.0+ formats his posts pretty much like papers, ask yourself why?

    If memory serves, he claims somewhere in his "journal" to have at least an economics degree (just like Pilkington, who made a lot of claims: among them, to have a degree in philosophy and to have studied economics as a masters', and, yet, does not know the difference between a Keynesian multiplier and the marginal propensity to consume and cannot even use the words "metaphysics" and "teleology" appropriately).

    He wants people to believe he has some kind of academic authority. Fine.What academic authority?

    To put it plainly: who the fuck is M'Lord v2.0+?

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    1. Agreed on all points.

      He made three or so references to his own education in Feb 2015 (5th, 8th, 24th). By the sound of it, it was some time ago. I infer something on the order of decades, which would suit my theory that he's dyed in the wool with Cold War Kool-Aid, but of course I could be wrong. The important thing is, he doesn't seem to have had the misfortune of experiencing a proletarian existence as you and I have.

      Incidentally, the coward stopped publishing my comments in August, irrespective of topic, tone, or whether I'm even contradicting him; just a full-spectrum silencing, with no fanfare or direct acknowledgment.

      When he first tried this, I said to him: If you want me to stop commenting, just say so directly and I'll comply. That seemed to goad him into discourse for a bit longer, but eventually he decided it would be too much like an admission that he can't rise to my challenge; better for optics to just "disappear" me, like an oldschool tyrant.

      Great guy, though, I bet. Total class act.

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    2. Hedlund,

      We do not understand each other. I'll try to be crystal clear.

      "Lord Keynes" is a charlatan, a poseur, a fake. That blog is a hoax. I doubt he/she is an economist or even an adult. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised more than one person is behind "Lord Keynes". That would explain how "Lord Keynes" manages to post that much crap (while supposedly keeping a job, the usual family life one would expect of a professor and whatever other personal interests normal people have).

      Let's speculate. I picture "Lord Keynes" as a teenage/early twenties male (assuming it's just one person). That blog fulfills his fantasy of being a great intellectual, another Lord Keynes. He formats his posts as scholarly papers as much to impress his readers as to feel important.

      That, however, doesn't mean his/her posts are less crap. Prof. Lee -- a real Post Keynesian economist and scholar -- wasn't impressed. In fact, he was clearly shocked and displeased by the amount of nonsense "Lord Keynes" produces. When Lee challenged "Lord Keynes" to present his papers, he knew "Lord Keynes" had no papers to present. That explains why "Lord Keynes" ignored Lee's challenge.

      "Lord Keynes" hates Marxism with a passion because Keynes had an irrational hatred towards Marxism. Keynes had no qualms about lambasting Marx and Marxism without knowledge. Why should "Lord Keynes" have any scruples? The real Keynes hated Marxism, that's enough for "Lord Keynes".

      "Lord Keynes" constantly references philosophy, because Keynes fancied himself a philosopher. He believes in fundamental uncertainty, because Keynes believed in it. He doesn't need to understand Keynes' merits or lack thereof for that. But real statisticians, after reading the real Keynes, dismissed and still dismiss him, whenever the subject of his philosophy of statistics is broached. Sir Ronald A. Fisher -- another eugenicist employed by the Eugenics Society, of which Keynes was an influential member -- produced a blistering review of Keynes' book. Keynes, for all belligerence, never replied to Fisher and for decades studiously avoided statistics. Fisher, unlike Keynes, was a real statistician.

      Incidentally, "Lord Keynes" may be more extreme than most in this unhealthy Keynes mimicry, but he's hardly alone on that. Haven't you ever seen Keynesians fighting over Keynes' legitimate heritage? Don't Post Keynesians constantly lambast Paul Krugman, for instance, because he is no real Keynesian? Joan Robinson coined the "Bastard Keynesianism" as a way to hurt and show her contempt for the American Keynesians.

      Again following Keynes' example, "Lord Keynes" doesn't need to study any economics (not just Marxism): Keynes pontificated on economics, without ever studying it (Keynes, the real one, had only 8 weeks undergraduate training, which he took because Marshall asked him and Marshall was going to hire him as a lecturer, paying him from his own pocket).

      The only real difference between the real Keynes and "Lord Keynes" is that the real Keynes wasn't a dummy.

      ----------

      Let me put things this way. Do you know the Post Modern random essay generator? It's a computer algorithm that generates meaningless "papers" according to academic formatting conventions (http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/).

      I see "Lord Keynes" as a low-tech, flesh-and-blood, version of it.

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    3. Your thoughts are well-taken. I think I had more or less grasped the thrust of your initial remarks, as I've read quite a bit of your blog and already had in mind similar comments from the past. :)

      The possibility of a collective hadn't occurred to me, but I would venture it'd need a spirited effort to maintain such a consistency of voice throughout. I had just assumed someone without the full demands a life of wage labor places upon time -- either a labor aristocrat, bourgeoisie, retiree, or parents'-basement-dweller. (Or, you know, just a really really dedicated class traitor, if I'm wrong re: time.)

      All these speculative jaunts are anyone's guess, really, and age range is no exception. As I noted, his references to his own schooling seem to suggest an "academic comfort zone" a few decades old -- e.g., a strong preference for Popper, Searle, etc. However, depending on the institution and type of course, these can still be plausibly contemporary -- it stands to reason that an intro to cog-sci course would discuss the Chinese Room thought experiment, etc. His politics are a tad antediluvian, but with all the neoreactionary (NRx/Dark Enlightenment, etc.) stuff brewing on the internet these days, all that is old is new again, if no less unconscionable. At any rate, whatever his physical age, there's a definite lag in emotional maturity.

      Your remarks on fantasy fulfillment are spot-on; there's a definite fetishization of academia -- the glitz of being an Authority, even if there's no comprehension to justify it. (As an aside, though his hostility toward criticism runs against academic ideals, it DOES have a certain resonance with many actual academics.)

      The pomo-generator comparison is amusing, considering the reliable ways he will reuse commenters' terms without really grasping the content, and fall into reliable trenches ("Yes or no: Do you deny [the thing you've just denied three times]?"). Who knows.

      To draw to a close:

      It may seem bizarre to fixate on this person, but I see his work as part of a much larger trend of right-wingers operating in left-wing spaces, marketing reactionary, social chauvinist or imperialist ideas to left audiences. And the fact of the matter is, whatever his shortcomings, his search engine optimization is apparently excellent, often placing him high in Google search results for a variety of topics in economics (and, as of recently, even a handful of Marxist ones). That alone, I think, makes it worthwhile to reply to his disinfo.

      Anyway, I'm mostly just happy to know I'm not the only one pondering this shady character.

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    4. Well, I myself am rather bored of speculating about that thing, too.

      "It may seem bizarre to fixate on this person, but I see his work as part of a much larger trend of right-wingers operating in left-wing spaces, marketing reactionary, social chauvinist or imperialist ideas to left audiences. And the fact of the matter is, whatever his shortcomings, his search engine optimization is apparently excellent, often placing him high in Google search results for a variety of topics in economics (and, as of recently, even a handful of Marxist ones). That alone, I think, makes it worthwhile to reply to his disinfo."

      Now, this topic of search engine optimization is really interesting. Personally, I'll admit I'm utterly ignorant about this and any simple pointers -- or quick and easy advice -- would be really appreciated.

      Personally, I think replies are useless. To have an effect, replies need to be acknowledged, which requires a modicum of intellectual honesty. Some time ago I read comments by a programmer named Alberto Brandolini to the tenor that "the amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it." Brandolini called that Bullshit Asymmetry Principle.

      I too have noticed -- and am concerned about -- the presence of those "right-wingers operating in left-wing spaces, marketing reactionary, social chauvinist or imperialist ideas to left audiences", particularly among the PoKers, kind of wolves in sheep's clothing; again, more info would be appreciated.

      Finally, what is "NRx/Dark Enlightenment"? Somehow, the idea of an Austro-Keynesian syncretism -- about which I've written before -- comes to my mind.

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    5. I only know a few things about SEO myself -- keywords in meta tags, making sure link anchor text is descriptive (not just, e.g., "click here"), using alt text on images, etc.

      There are a lot of guides out there that can say more than I. Google's is not terribly long, though I think it only covers Google. Third-party guides, such as Search Engine Land and Moz may prove more comprehensive.

      I am familiar with that Bullshit principle, and after ages of Sisyphean battles on forums and blogs, I can attest to its accuracy. However, over the years I've also had many people not directly involved in discussions thank me for my participation. It's instilled in me a sense that even seemingly fruitless talking-to-a-brick-wall sessions can still help (e.g., "including the comments").

      Though the point is moot in this particular case, seeing as I'm apparently banned.

      I don't like to paint PK'ers too narrowly, since some are indeed anticapitalist, but there's no doubt the more liberal among them just serve to draw people into the dead end of social democracy. But the issue of right messaging in ostensibly "left" media is much broader. It's well known now, for example, that the CIA funded left-wing publications critical of revolutionary politics during the Cold War. There is extensive argumentation that the journal n+1 fills a similar role today. Darling of the left Slavoj Zizek spouts antiziganist bile, famously plagiarized a white supremacist, and thinks NATO didn't drop enough bombs on Serbia, and even his fans are getting concerned about his enduring racist shtick. Other lesser figures come in for blistering critique as well. It's a contentious topic with a history of earning eyerolls and snark, and I'm not at all confident I can do the matter any justice at all in the space of a blog comment. I hope those links are of some use, though.

      Lastly, NRx (neoreaction)/Dark Enlightenment are various terms used for what amounts to a strain of nerd fash getting some traction among reprobates. If you have a strong stomach and nigh-infinite patience, Curtis Yarvin (aka "Mencius Moldbug") is generally taken to be one of the key writers. Won't link him. There is an undeniable Austrian influence (e.g., MM's "Crash Course in Sound Economics"), but to the extent that there's any Keynes influence, it'd have more to do with the preference for enlightened aristocracy/monarchism.

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    6. Thanks for all the information, Hedlund. Food for thought.

      ----------

      RE: Austro-Keynesian syncretism.

      I've written a series reviewing Keynes' 1925 essay "A Short View of Russia". I believe Keynes' personal political philosophy -- which his fans to a lesser or greater extent mimic -- in some ways were close to those exhibited by Mises and Rand, among the Austrians, and Nietzsche. Keynes incorporated that particular concept in his economics and is central to it.

      In another series -- "The Horror of the Confidence Fairy" -- I have also argued that, left to its logical conclusion, Keynes' fundamental uncertainty -- which has a very close parallel among the Austrians -- constitutes a defense not just of capitalism, but -- paradoxically enough -- of laissez-faire capitalism.

      Interestingly, although I've noticed that independently and have invested some time on it, some PoKe professors have already written about that and Paul Krugman, among mainstream Keynesians, have noticed similar things.

      And there are some authors/bloggers who openly write -- believe it or not -- along lines of a Keynesian/Austrian convergence (as a curiosum, one of them coined the awful-sounding Keyneso-Austrian denomination).

      Philosophically and politically, they seem strangely close and even sympathetic to the brand of Keynesianism "Lord Keynes" hawks, in spite of the latter's ostensibly anti-Austrian inclinations.

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  4. Hedlund,

    In case you ever check this thread again. Life is full of coincidences.

    Have a look at the comment thread to this post (http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=32225)

    Did you notice anything?

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    1. Aw. I almost feel bad; there's something vaguely hapless in the inability to take criticism, even from an aligned authority.

      Also, considering word economy is the primary scapegoat, he was able to squeeze a downright ironic number of reactions into his very short replies: "it's because the publisher's word limit," "actually it was good," "it can't be done," "YOU do it," "the herd likes metaphor more, anyway," "mercy, please." (Though I notice he neglects some points, such as the use of a Mitchell graph without attribution.)

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    2. My friend, you are leaving aside the ghost-writing. :-)

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    3. True that.

      I guess that aspect didn't faze me because "birds of a feather" and all. Graeber distinguishes himself as more nominally anticapitalist, though there have been no shortage of critiques from the left floating around in the last few years -- whether over his willingness to stump for NATO in Libya and Syria, replacing materialism for moralism in analytical work, et al. (Which is a shame, because I actually enjoyed a lot of his earlier work.)

      Hence, at any rate, why some comedic genius left this gem for posterity.

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  5. I wasn't planning on reopening this discussion, but it has to be noted: In his comment section, LK openly admitted to preferring nazis to communists. Once he'd had a moment to reflect on how this must have looked, he deleted the entire chain of comments in question.

    I am absolutely furious with myself for failing to take a screenshot before refreshing the page, since there probably will never be another chance to do so.

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    1. That is most regrettable, but his/her/their/its preference is hardly surprising. Have you tried the Internet Archive or Google? Was there any other witness?

      The real Keynes, with the British bourgeoisie in general, had a rather ambiguous attitude towards Nazism. I'm not surprised that "Lord Keynes" may switch from a token anti-Nazism -- for public display and consumption -- and a more congenial filo-Nazism, manifested only in exceptional circumstances.

      At one hand, the British bourgeoisie -- including the Real K -- approved of Nazism's anti-Communism and had no problem with the way Nazis treated the wrong kind of Jews (say, Luxemburg's torture and murder at the hands of the Freikorps/Social Democrats).

      At the other hand, they were less sanguine about the way Nazis treated the German bourgeois Jews (like Carl Melchior or even Piero Sraffa, whose family -- I believe -- was fairly wealthy) and maybe a few intellectuals in occupied Europe, like Kalecki.

      Additionally, there is the conflicting interests of both bourgeoisies: the German trying to supplant the British, the British trying to keep its preponderance in world affairs.

      Hitler, personally, also had an ambiguous attitude towards Britain, a kind of love/hatred thing. Hitler saw his Lebensraum policy of expansion towards the East as basically similar to British imperialism, particularly in India.

      (Incidentally, according to historians and military experts, the Nazis stopped short of steam-rolling the British Expeditionary Force in France and, instead, allowed them evacuate Dunkirk in 1940: Hitler was offering the British an olive branch as a secondary imperialist power.)

      Both the Real K's preface to the German edition of "The General Theory" -- which Wannabe K finds embarrassing -- and a passage of Kalecki's article "Political Aspects of Full Employment" can be read as acknowledging the basic greater affinity of Keynesianism and Nazi/Fascism (as opposed to Liberal Democracy). After all, the Nazis/Fascists saw themselves and their role in society as technocrats.

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    2. Interesting thoughts. I don't know very much on the specific links between Keynes and fascism, though what you're saying jibes with the little I've heard. I may do some more digging in the days ahead.

      Unfortunately, the whole thing happened probably in the space of an hour, and no archiving/caching service I am familiar with has the quote in question. Checked Archive, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Coral and WebCite. (If you know of any others, the relevant post is the one from yesterday, "How to Reform the Modern Left." But I seriously doubt anything caught it.)

      Perhaps another time.

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    3. Hey Everyone

      I just read this whole exchange and I just wanted to add I appreciate the work done by both of you very much so.

      Hedlund, this is the first time I would have addressed you (Kinda hope you see it), however your "debates" on the mentioned page with LK were great. You were probably bashing your head on a brick wall however I found your arguments very well thought-out and phrased. I sometimes refer back to them from time to time in order to refresh my ideas on some quite common misconceptions on Marx's theory.

      You are both right to speculate on why LK's blog comes up so high on the google search engine. I can attest to this, as my interest in Marx's work really only became full-blown just under a year ago and searching on google led me to many blogs including his... Which would have been a disaster if Hedlund had not constantly corrected his very confident "dismissals" and "rebuttals" of Marx's theory.

      You both mentioned "proletarian" roots and the "immaturity of youth" as expressed by LK. I just wanted to ask some general advice regarding this.

      I'm on a mission to understand this stuff to the best of my ability, I would class myself as young (Still in university) - However I am not studying an economics or even a maths based degree. I have a good and varied interest in philosophy (especially philosophy of science) - yet LK would say the same... So so much for claims of interest, they can only go so far...
      I guess the questions are:

      -> How does one not fall into the "left-wing" trap of immaturity? This does exist, there are plenty of young (and mature) Marxists who seem to "just be" rather than thought out "why" they are so. I could name at least one who you can tell at a glance isn't great at self-reflection or self-critique...

      -> Do I just have to accept that this is a long road, and it may be years/decades before I have a good understanding? (And even it is not gurranteed then)

      -> How do I spot "nonsense" such as LK, without a bit of hand-holding.

      Finally Hedlund, do you have a blog?

      I follow this blog, Kapitalism101, Micheal Roberts blog (this is one is quite complicated at most times) and look at MHI's web page.
      Then again... I (Unlike LK) have a social life plus my degree to balance on top. So it's all a bit difficult.

      Anyway, sorry for the long post and the vague questions with no clear answers probably.

      Solidarity. Seriously, keep up the good work.

      Kind Regards
      D.K.

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    4. Heyo D.K.

      Sorry to reply so late; I happened back here on a chance trawl through my browsing history.

      -> How does one not fall into the "left-wing" trap of immaturity?

      I'm not 100% on your meaning; you mean people who may claim the Marxist label without a strong understanding of the theory? Not sure there's an easy answer to that.

      Learning, obviously and unavoidably, occurs over time, and nobody becomes an expert at something overnight. To an extent I also think it's important to maintain the mindset of a student through life -- to maintain epistemic modesty and to spark curiosity.

      However, if we all wait until we know everything before we join the conversation, then there won't be one. So, by necessity, everyone speaks from a different place along their journey, and being considerate of this is also key to productive and enriching discourse.

      Beyond that, it's hard to say more than "anything goes." (R.I.P. Feyerabend.) I don't know if that answers your question, though.

      -> Do I just have to accept that this is a long road

      It depends. It CAN be arduous, given more than a century of misunderstanding. But then again, much of the brush has been cleared away in the last few decades, so you've already got a leg up on previous generations. :)

      Just be patient, as with any discipline. There's gads to read if you're going back to the sources. If that's your play, it may be useful in the long run to set yourself even a minor goal (say, 20 pages a day). As someone who tends to break impatient, I do understand what a hassle it all seems like, but I think discussion is one of the best ways to keep it all alive and interesting.

      -> How do I spot "nonsense"

      The truest challenge. I say start with fundamentals. Your interest in the philosophy of science will be invaluable, here. Just to name a couple of useful resources:

      John Somerville - The Philosophy of Marxism: An Exposition
      Andrew Collier - Critical Realism: An Introduction to Roy Bhaskar's Philosophy

      Critical realism and dialectical materialism basically express the same thing, albeit differently. Sometimes I find one's language more useful than the other -- e.g., the distinctions between real/actual/empirical emphasized by CR, or DM's laws of dialectics (see chapter 2 of Somerville) or its view of motion as primary over state. Once you have a good sense of how the theory was built, you can more easily spot something that doesn't fit.

      Above all, Always Be Critical. The operation is "the ruthless criticism of all that exists," as Marx put it, "ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be." If multiple items seem plausible, beat the hell out of all of them and see what's left standing.

      Given the blogs you follow, you've clearly already been exposed to many of the sources I've found most helpful (especially Kliman's two books). You might find these useful, too (e.g., the formalizations in "Price, value and profit – a continuous, general, treatment" are handy for communicating these ideas to model-oriented people).

      And no I don't have a blog, yet, though I'm giving serious thought to starting one in the near future. I'm on Twitter as @cenochron; I generally don't tweet much, but I browse on a fairly regular basis.

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