Money on the Left

The Modern Money Movement with Andrés Bernal

August 15, 2019
Money on the Left
The Modern Money Movement with Andrés Bernal
Chapters
Money on the Left
The Modern Money Movement with Andrés Bernal
Aug 15, 2019
Money on the Left
We discuss the rise of the Modern Money Movement with AOC policy adviser Andrés Bernal.
Show Notes Transcript

We are joined by Andrés Bernal, policy advisor to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and doctoral student at the New School for Public Engagement, Division of Policy Management and Environment. We speak with Bernal about his history with political organizing and the critical role he has come to play in the modern money movement, including the struggle for a Green New Deal. He also sketches out his dissertation project, which focuses on the Green New Deal as a site of collective action, political communication, and policy analysis.

Additionally, Bernal is a research fellow with the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, and lecturer Urban Studies at CUNY Queens College. For more from Bernal, check out the article “We Can Pay for a Green New Deal,” which he coauthored with Stephanie Kelton and Greg Carlock. [link the article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/opinion-green-new-deal-cost_n_5c0042b2e4b027f1097bda5b]

Speaker 1:
0:05
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
0:12
I'm often struck when talking to people about MMT, they seem to think that it's merely a set of ideas or sort of academic school on its own, whether those encompass the idea that money is a creature of government in law or that there are no nominal limits to public spending or even that the rate of unemployment is a political decision. And of course these are really important, perhaps even transformational ideas. But I think I, and we in this podcast insists that mt is more than mentee is really a movement,
Speaker 3:
0:48
right? And it's a movement that is interdisciplinary, intersectional and International. It involves academics across the social sciences and humanities, lawyers, finance and political journalists, activists and organizers, union leaders and politicians as well as institutions such as nonprofits, think tanks and media organizations, which is why we're really excited to be speaking today with undress. Bruno was a phd student in the public and urban policy doctoral program at the new school and also an advisor to Congress member, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. He's come to play a constitutive role in some of the most exciting recent developments related to the MMT movement. And as you'll hear in our conversation today, his biography is something of a window into the history and future of that movement. Here's our conversation on the RESPA now. Uh, welcome to money on the left.
Speaker 4:
1:46
Pleasure to be here. Let's start, can you tell our listeners just a bit about your personal background and scholarly training? Yeah, sure. So, um, I, I was born in Bogota, Columbia and uh, I immigrated to the here to the u s when I was four years old and I kinda grew up, um, in different places. I spent my childhood in the suburbs of Chicago and uh, around 10 or 11 years old, I moved to south south Texas to the Rio Grande Valley. And, um, that's why I spent most of my life. That's kind of like my, my home base now, but, uh, after college. And so during my Undergrad I studied philosophy and that was kind of the formation of my, um, ideas and kind of intellectual curiosities and whatnot. Mostly I was interested in these two themes that kind of keep coming back in my life in different ways.
Speaker 4:
2:44
And one of them is this theme around questions of the meaning of life and existentialism, um, philosophies around experience, phenomenology, psychology, psychoanalysis, that sort of thing. And then on the other hand, there was these steep interest in political questions, social theory, political philosophy. Why is the world the way it is? Why are hierarchies the way they are, what our political structures, what are social structures, what are social systems, that sort of thing. So those two questions were kind of like the foundation of my life. And after, uh, after my Undergrad I moved to San Diego and I did a masters there at the University of San Diego in leadership studies. And so that's kind of what I was kind of like an interesting part of my journey because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. Um, but I hadn't been very influenced from the time I was 17 by this um, nonprofit institute called the National Hispanic Institute that I participated in when I was like 17.
Speaker 4:
4:01
And so they run these like leadership development programs for high school, Latinos and Latinas around the country where we like build our own government. And participate in these debate tournaments and really hone and develop these skills around speaking and understanding, um, kind of systems and logistics and government processes and institutions and having these really interesting, very impactful formative experiences when you're a teenager. So that really made a mark on me and, um, kind of contributed to this whole narrative around who am I versus why is the world the way it is. Um, so I wasn't sure where to take that. Um, I don't know if I was as confident with myself as a thinker, as a writer, you know, at that time in my life, I definitely as I am now or anything like that. So I found this very interesting program in leadership studies and it focused a lot on organizations and, uh, group life, the way that people construct like authority relationships and, um, their own identities within groups and within organizations.
Speaker 4:
5:18
And I found that very interesting. So they had like this one practitioner side to it where we would learn a lot of coaching skills and consulting skills. And then also it had this other dimension where you could study policy. Um, a lot of nonprofit management skills and they had this one particular class that for me was really kind of the thing that did it, that made me decide to go to this program. And that was a summer class that you could take in Spain at the, at the Mondragon cooperative. And so, um, you know, for the listeners, Mondragon is a worker owned firm in Spain. It's the most famous, most most successful, makes uh, several billion dollars in profit with, uh, thousands of employees. It's all democratically owned and managed. So we got to go over there, I got to go over there, spend some time in Mondragon, uh, listened to the worker owners, get toured, uh, here, a lot of presentations.
Speaker 4:
6:11
So that was a great experience as well. And, uh, spent two years in San Diego doing that. Um, so what happened after that? Uh, took a year off. I lived in Austin, Texas for a bit. I did some, some kind of independent contract work with a organization there that no longer exists, but they were doing some really great work. They're called cooperation Texas and they were, um, kind of expanding worker owned businesses in central Texas. So I did, uh, I interned for them. I did a little bit of research for them and, uh, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I did, I also did an internship for a startup that was putting together like these leadership development experiences for, um, different nonprofits and organizations and hospitals and stuff like that for the, for the employees and the staff. So anyways, I found this program at the new school, uh, in public and urban policy and it kind of had the master's programs that were in that department were very similar to the things I was interested in.
Speaker 4:
7:18
So they had like their organizational change management program. They had, um, an environmental sustainability program. They had a policy program. So I was like, wow, this is really interesting. This is kind of like everything I've been doing, both my practitioners side. Um, and also these theoretical questions that I'm so interested in because at that point, um, I felt that the best path forward towards kind of systemic change involve democratizing economic life. And, uh, that became a very important theme for me because, um, you know, I kind of wanted to explore why many, uh, big social movements and a kind of attempts to systemically, uh, transform society were either, either didn't go, didn't reach their full potential, uh, maybe faced the backlash that, uh, began to dismantle a lot of the advances that were made. So for example, like in a lot of welfare states in the 20th century and whatnot, or kind of devolved into, you know, authoritarian types of types of dynamics and, um, you know, we all know all the criticisms from that side.
Speaker 4:
8:39
So I felt that while maintaining a lot of the same ideals from kind of progressive democratic socialist movements and social, social democracy, social, yeah, social democracy itself, introducing this other of economic democracy and a worker ownership, a cooperative sector in the economy, and expanding that as much as possible, uh, would be an important thing. That's kind of where I was, uh, going into my doctorate. So I went ahead and applied to the doctoral program there at the new school and it was the only program I applied to and I got in. So I decided to go ahead and move forward with that and study an initiative in New York City that was being led by the city council that actually started the year I applied, um, to use discretionary funding that the city council had, uh, to kind of expand worker ownership in New York. So that's what kind of led me there and that began that journey.
Speaker 2:
9:42
So over the past few years, you've been swept up into this whirlwind at the heart of contemporary politics and economics. And so how did this happen? How do you see your role in contemporary political struggles and intellectual debates because of it?
Speaker 4:
9:57
Yeah, it's, it's just been, it's been a really wild ride. Um, so I spent three to four years, um, doing this work, getting to know the people, the activists, the thinkers and the organizations that were, um, building an expanding economic democracy in New York City. And I began to learn more about things like participatory budgeting, community land trust, and these other, uh, initiatives at the local level that were meant to kind of, uh, empower communities directly. I became, uh, I was very interested in that and I kept doing that. Um, and then of course, the 2016 presidential election came and came by. And, um, you know, I had been pretty disappointed with what we had achieved. And before, you know, I, I, I think I was, uh, in early in college when Obama ran for the first time, and at that point in my life that was very exciting for me because of everything that represented, et cetera.
Speaker 4:
11:05
You know, like so many others. As soon as the policies came in and the appointments came into different parts of the government and whatnot, I was, I was pretty, pretty disappointed. So it was kind of like, um, you know, there's a layer of pessimism there as the election approached, but, um, when Bernie Sanders and Aronson and then all of a sudden kind of became this huge phenomenon, and it was, it was incredible. It was very, very powerful thing. And I, and I kind of started believing that there may be a chance to introduce many of these, um, initiatives to create more systems change into the mainstream and the political discussion.
Speaker 5:
11:46
Um,
Speaker 4:
11:47
I think that that time to it, you know, throughout my, my doctoral program, um, I, I became, I became very interested in attempts to try to de naturalize the way that we speak about economics. I'm deeply influenced by people like Carl Palani and, uh, and the field of economics, sociology. I, I, uh, I really gravitate it to this idea that, you know, if we look at the history of markets and of capitalism and its development, um, so many in and, you know, in fact, kind of just the mainstream and all of the Orthodoxy and even people on the left speak about these dynamics as if they're, there are like these natural forces that just kind of move, uh, and have this logic to it. But that logic is not shaped legally, politically, you know, like that most things are secondary. But really at the core is this kind of natural phenomenon, whether it's, you know, moving through history as something that can't be necessarily shaped in different ways or whether it's just that markets are the primary source of human interactions, that sort of thing.
Speaker 4:
13:07
And instead of started looking at the way that, um, economies have been shaped the way that the state was, the state and governments were heavily involved in creating markets within capitalism. And, uh, this notion that governments intervene into markets was kind of completely nonsense. It just completely misunderstood the way, um, that these institutions were structured. So I was very, very interested in that and I felt that with Bernie's roam, you know, it because it was out of nowhere. Uh, and it kind of disrupted a lot of what mainstream political discourse was at that time. I felt like, okay, maybe this is an opportunity to start to have these conversations and, um, and expand the level of, uh, of the debate that we're having. So of course, um, you know, in the end, Bernie doesn't make it, but, uh, that, that experience I think was so influential to my friends.
Speaker 4:
14:08
And I that, um, one of my good friends here in New York City who, you know, flashback to that nonprofit in Texas, uh, the National Hispanic Institute, um, a friend of mine, she had participated in it as well, and we were both kind of alumni, um, that had gone back to a function in different roles, different educational roles and whatnot. Um, she was also very much, she participated in, in, uh, the Sanders campaign organized in the Bronx. Um, she was very moved by it as well. After the campaign, she decides to, or around the time she decides to go to standing rock and, uh, and joined the protests over there and has this like deeply transformative experience, you know, like meets with elder and indigenous elders and, and it's just kinda like the, the spirit, the energy at the time was just kind of crazy. Right. So honey name is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. So she comes back from standing rock and she's like super calm, motivated, and uh, you know, I remember we had had conversations before any of that about, you know, what, what do we do? Like, what is our larger purpose? Um, she would always tell me things like, I feel like I have to, I'm, I meant to do something. Like, I don't know what that quite what that is yet, but something big and um, she decides to run for Congress. So,
Speaker 6:
15:38
um, [inaudible]
Speaker 4:
15:39
for the first, you know, year, it was something like the, I'm so happy that you're making this decision. I want to support you any way I can. But, um, I think deep down we, we all understood that it was a very, very difficult thing to accomplish and tried to be realistic about it, but just as things unfolded little by little, even, even though some moments just seemed so difficult, uh, in that campaign and you know, the length to which that extended and moments where you felt like you were just losing any kind of traction or you know, you had to think to yourself is, is this really worth it? And still find the resilience to keep organizing, keeps speaking at events, keep telling people. And also like with volunteers, with the people that were advising her, people around her keep the faith, keep believing that something like this could, it could produce important results. We, we just stayed at it, everybody contributing in whatever way they best could.
Speaker 6:
16:42
Um,
Speaker 4:
16:43
and all of a sudden by the, by kind of late spring in 2018 so a couple of months before that primary, she starts to like get more and more popular. [inaudible] does this interview on the intercept that I remember very clearly where she spoke about ice, spoke about abolishing ice and kind of the history of a lot of our immigration practices and whatnot in a way that, you know, most Democrats just don't even dare going there. And I was like, wow, like what a spectacular interview and more and more people start catching on then, uh, that, that a campaign video drops and goes viral. So I think it was at that point I'm like, you know what I think, I think she could pull this off. Like she's going to pull this off set. [inaudible]
Speaker 7:
17:29
with the Bronx and Queens needs is medicare for all tuition free, public college, a federal jobs guarantee and criminal justice reform. We can do it now. It doesn't take a hundred years to do this. It takes political courage. A New York for the money is possible. It's time for one of us vote well
Speaker 4:
17:53
for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on June 26. So I think the story starts to get interesting from, from my perspective, uh, around that time because I had been spending about a year at that point, I'm reading and getting to know the body of work that we call modern monetary theory right now. We get to the gates though, um, because, because I was so just frustrated with the way that we were talking about everything that had to do with these bold ideas and trying to, um, you know, I'm a big fan of man reformed mister form. So you know, reforms that are not just trying to tweak the system or make it a little bit more humane, but reforms that are going in a direction that could have more substantive, substantive, uh, transformational effects, uh, over time. And as we kind of build on these changes. So, you know, I was just incredibly frustrated because anytime that we proposed any major idea to kind of de commodify aspects of our lives that shouldn't be commodified in the first place, like health care and you know, it's kind of things you're met with this answer, right?
Speaker 4:
19:05
And like how you're going to pay for it. And so many, uh, on the center left and progressive's and, and even on the left, answer that question on Neil classical, neoliberal conservative terms. So we like debate on their terms and kind of get, I get the impression though that, um, we get kind of pushed against the wall and we end up having these arguments around, you know, where are we going to find exactly the kind of money that we need to fund these programs and then how are we going to keep that money going? And then when we win, it's like this barrage from the right about whatever program, you know, going broke or whatever. And I just felt like it can't quite be like that. Um, and I was skeptical for two reasons. One, because from what I did know about the new deal at the time, I was like, Eh, I don't think that that's how it works.
Speaker 4:
20:00
Like that's Kinda crazy. I know that toxins were, uh, heavily increased on, uh, the most wealthy people. But, uh, you know, a lot of them also found huge loopholes at that time too. And you know, a and B, um, it's not like they were trying to find dollar for dollar for things, you know. So I was skeptical already from that. And then secondly, given that I was, uh, into economic sociology and trying to understand the social embeddedness of economic institutions, of money, of firms, ev markets, uh, I thought to myself, you know, I think there's another layer here. So I had recalled that at a conference when I first got to New York, there was a, this kind of Wacky zany group called the modern money network and they had a cool logo and a, and they kind of just like stayed in the back of my mind for the next four years.
Speaker 4:
20:56
And then finally I was like, you know what? I'm going to give these guys a look again and I'm kind of started researching and yeah, so I went down the rabbit hole and it took me a while to really start to grasp the ideas beyond, um, some of the, just kind of like surface layer assumptions that I think lead to a lot of confusion. Um, and, and form like a more in depth understanding of, of what were the implications of these things that, that P, that modern monetary theory was saying about money, about federal finance, about sovereignty, about resources, all this kind of stuff.
Speaker 4:
21:39
So, um, of course, I, I ended up becoming a supporter and advocate of the jobs guarantee because I'm introduced to modern monetary theory. And I learned about the role of the jobs guarantee as a central component, um, of full employment of, uh, kind of working as a stabilizer for inflation of challenging the notion that, uh, we have to keep a natural rate of unemployment in order to, uh, keep inflation at, at desirable levels, all of these things. Right. And, uh, and I ended up at this event and having a conversation with some of, uh, oh, cs volunteers and, and, and staffers from the time. And you know, we're talking about ubi and kinda talking about universal basic income and talking about like different things that can be proposed to really stand out and keep pushing because, you know, that was, that's always been at the core of AOC political project is to kind of keep pushing, uh, with what's possible in a way that is accessible to people that doesn't feel intimidating.
Speaker 4:
22:45
And so, you know, there was this moment where I'm just like, you know, you all need to really look into this jobs guarantee thing because, um, it's really powerful and it's, and it's grinded in this framework that, uh, that I think is going to revolutionize the way that we understand policy and politics. And it just so happened that around that time there was a conference and the new deal kind of in memory of the new deal. And then looking forward from the new deal where many, uh, modern monetary theory scholars were on panels included. So Derek, Derek Hamilton, who was at a my program at the new school at the time, he was there and the conference itself was at the new school. So Avalina trip, Nivo was there, Stephanie Kelton was there, rent you, ray was there, you know, a lot of the big names. Uh, and I invited Alexandria to, to come with and watch some of these presentations.
Speaker 4:
23:40
So she got there like right in time for, I think it was like Derek and Stephanie's presentation on, on the jobs guarantee and some other things. And I, you know, she was taking notes in the back and stuff. Um, so you know, at one point after that the jobs guarantee gets announced that it's on her platform and it becomes this kind of big deal. And then all of a sudden you have like the Washington posting all of these people reporting on the jobs guarantee. And the friends that I had started to, I think Scott, this is like around the time that we became Facebook friends.
Speaker 4:
24:16
Yeah. So all of these major media sites start talking about jobs, you know, job guarantee programs. Bernie comes out in favor of it. Jill, a brand comes out in favor of it. I think booker talks about it. Um, it reenters the public consciousness and some of these friends like, you know, like, like you guys that I was making at the time. I think we started having more conversations there because, you know, there was this question of like, how did this get to this rock star candidate out in New York? So we started to build on these relationships and I really saw an opportunity there, um, to contribute, uh, to the way what that, that, uh, que, how, what Alexandria represented in her candidacy could connect also intellectually to a movement that was challenging and establishment in policy and in economics. So I, I saw this tremendous opportunity to begin to craft relationships and have certain conversations that could contribute to this process.
Speaker 4:
25:29
And, um, from there just, uh, I think once she won the primary and, and once kind of, we got over, well, I don't know if we'll ever be over the kind of, the euphoria of that victory. But, uh, what happened very quickly was that we realized that, you know, it's, you know, it's serious, like, Holy Shit, this is serious work. She, she won. Um, we're, we're legit, you know, gonna have this, this crazy, crazy opportunity. So, um, I, I knew that right from the beginning, she was very interested in the green new deal because, you know, AOC herself, but also so many people in that, in that kind of ecosystem understood the urgency of climate change and understand the urgency of climate change. Um, and I, I think like that's something that just brings a lot of anxiety to, to people of, you know, in and around our generation and, and, you know, [inaudible] hello? [inaudible] so, you know, right away, AOC was talking about a green new deal. And, um, around that time as well, I was introduced and started to hang out and have conversations with, uh, Robert hocket as well, who's been on the show and things just kept unfolding. So I decided at that point to kind of
Speaker 4:
27:04
pivot from what I was doing with economic democracy and work around ownership and really [inaudible]. And I just decided to really go all in on the green, new deal. Um, and I, and I feel like what I was already studying didn't just become irrelevant, but instead it plays a huge role, you know, conceptually. Um, and also moving forward from something like the green new deal. And so it wasn't like I just kinda threw that away or anything, but I shifted and I decided to really look into this aspect of like, what are we talking about when we say green new deal? What is, what are the implications for this policy-wise? And what does that mean about the kinds of debates and conversations that we don't need to have about federal finance and macroeconomic policy and full employment and sustainability and growth and all of these questions.
Speaker 4:
28:01
Who's making these, uh, who's driving these conversations? How is it getting articulated in the media? What are the naysayers saying? All of these kinds of things become incredibly important and relevant to me. So then that's where, that's where we are now. So that's kind of like how we get the present day. And, um, I, I always, uh, really admired activists and organizers. I felt like, you know, I always had tremendous respect for people in that field kind of while I was like, you know, in, in a classroom or, or whatnot. And then I just found myself with this, you know, really blessed opportunity to, um, travel to many different places and talk about a green new deal and talk about all these questions that, uh, have become relevant. Um, and that's been incredibly rewarding.
Speaker 8:
28:51
This brings us to your dissertation. Yes. Which seems to put questions of both Democratic Organization and institution building and political communication and discourse at the center of movement building and policy making. Can you quickly outline or not so quickly up to you outline or sketch out your dissertation project, how, how are you conceiving of it and then how does it intersect with and potentially inform your more political activist and organizing work?
Speaker 4:
29:25
Sure. Yeah. So, okay.
Speaker 4:
29:29
I'm, I'm thinking, you know, the starting point here is how has, number one, how do we traditionally think about policy and what's of like a lot of the mainstream views on that. And I think it's very similar to the field of economics where it's kind of very formalistic and, and you know, quote unquote rational based consumption's rational actor based conceptions of how government functions and how rational actors behave and how this is what constructs policy and government action. And that point of framing in the mainstream usually is used to explain how then these actors will try to find ways to incentivize market forces or fix market failures. And that has been, I think historically a lot of the approach to environmental policy in the U S at least. Um, and even just a lot of policy in general. So I'm kind of coming at it first of all, trying to problematize that in and of itself, trying to properly problematize the notion that that's the best way to study policy and that's actually how policy happens.
Speaker 4:
30:56
So I'm interested in looking at policy as a number of things, right? It's like this process that involves organizational components, that involves political struggles. Um, and that is also mediated by language, by the way that we communicate and construct these narratives or discourses about our goals, about the society that we live in, about the people in the different actors and categories within that society. How we frame and talk about all of this stuff plays a huge role in what we think is possible in what we do and how we do it. And so recognizing all of that and recognizing the different institutional process, even how the institutions function, all of that is incredibly important for me. Um, and then I'm thinking, I think on top of that there's issues of political economy, which is, you know, for the last 40, 50 years or what we can call the neoliberal era, we've kind of stopped caring about political economy and assume that the system that we have today is as good as it gets. Right? So taking all of that back into consideration, I'm interested in examining, all right, what is this green new deal that we're talking about? Uh, who are the actors that have made it politically relevant? How have they done this? You know, are there social movements involved? Um, what kind of like institutional or organizational relationships or networks are being constructed? Um, how, what kind of challenges are they facing? Right? So like, um, from one end it's, it's that part of it. It's the green new deal. Yes, it's a nonbinding resolution,
Speaker 9:
32:40
but it's so much more than that too, right? It got to that place. It didn't just appear there because somebody thought it was a good idea. There was this whole backstory to how we were able to get that to that place. [inaudible] and, and then, you know, a whole story that's unfolding about where does it go from here. So there's that question, right? The organizational political apart. And then there's a question about how are we talking about it? How is the public imagination being shaped and informed? So that's what I'm really interested in. Uh, it's a qualitative research project. So reading, analyzing, deconstructing a lot of the documents that are coming out about the green, new deal, the interviews, the way people are talking about it. And then also going in and observing these things. Kind of documenting the experiences I've had thus far, uh, in that space. And talking to a lot of people who are, you know, making these big decisions and shaping things as well.
Speaker 8:
33:48
Have you thought much about, um, kind of the, um, the dual roles that you seem to be taking on, which, uh, for your dissertation where it's, on the one hand you're kind of doing ethnographic observation analysis, but you're also, um, a participant, right? Yeah. And, and I mean, at least from my perspective, a pretty major participant. I mean, you're not AOC or not yet, but, uh, but you know, I mean, you're playing constituent of roles, um, in this project and I'm, I'm curious if, uh, how you're dealing with that, how you're thinking about that. It has, it, has it brought up any, um, like weird questions or problems for you?
Speaker 9:
34:34
Yeah, I mean that's definitely, um, so on one hand you have, I, I've always been a fan of parts of Participatory Action Research and I think that it's important to, um, open up that space for knowledge building in general because, uh, I think it is important to think about the way information and knowledge is produced, not as this, um, not as like a static, totally neutral thing, but actually the production of knowledge is deeply ingrained in political processes and themselves. So I'm always been a fan of that idea and the notion that like, you know, we are connected, we are collecting knowledge and information, but we're also shaping it and having that awareness, um, situating ourselves in that experience to, uh, on the other hand, it is, it is quite difficult and it requires a kind of like a
Speaker 1:
35:33
very [inaudible]
Speaker 9:
35:36
keen, reflective process, ongoing reflective process about, um, what, what's happening, what you're, what, what I'm doing and what's happening out there. I think you can be difficult in the sense that as an activist and an organizer, there's so many things that I want to do. And uh, you know, I don't like to say no to things and I have a lot of big ambitions, but then it's like, do I want to finish my dissertation and graduate? Um, and it's important to kind of stay focused and be able to keep that discipline and um, just get through things but then also find some time to, uh, to engage in these bigger issues and, and think about things. I'm kind of like this larger level. Um, which is interesting because the way you framed it, Scott, kind of Roma, it makes me think about, uh, uh, Mariana Mazzucato his approach to industrial policy where she, she kind of critiques using cost benefit analysis for everything and kind of says, you know, let's actually have an ongoing evaluation of our projects and the different kinds of social returns and different kinds of results that they can produce. Uh, it kind of strikes me as similar to participatory action research, but actually used productively by the government rather than relying on these like, kind of ridiculous reductive methods that we traditionally do.
Speaker 8:
37:06
Yeah. And I think that there's an assumption in there that there really is no outside observational position, even if there are different modes, uh, that might, you know, uh, lean toward, uh, reflexivity and contemplation and analysis on one on one hand and then, um, um, action and decision making and coalition building on the other.
Speaker 9:
37:37
Absolutely. And for me personally, that's a lot of my philosophy background coming back in. Um, particularly like how interested I was in continental philosophy, social theory, critical theory, um, and kind of like the poststructuralist movement. Um, you know, a lot of people can dismiss that tradition as just being, you know, classroom, ivory tower stuff. But I think that it's really important to bring these insights to, you know, actual levels of, um, political life and institutional life to help us rethink what, what, you know, how we, how we manage a society, um, on real terms. So, yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 3:
38:25
So from your avowedly, an inescapably insider perspective where you're both researching and participating in this discourse, I wonder if you might offer some kind of preliminary conclusions or, or observations about, you know, at the level of political communication and discourse, uh, around the green new deal, what has been especially, and maybe surprisingly effective. We talked with Bob hocket about some of the metaphors that have been, uh, mobilized here to, to, to frame and, and promote the green new deal. Could you comment on what's working well rhetorically and what might you know benefit from additional fought and um, uh, um, meditation?
Speaker 1:
39:10
Yeah,
Speaker 9:
39:12
I think that, um,
Speaker 9:
39:16
given some of the insights of modern monetary theory and its introduction to a lot of mainstream audiences, the way that we're responding to these, uh, questions about finance, federal finance and how do we pay for these things, although then the, they are not where I personally would want them to be right in this kinda like goes back to this thing of like, you know, advocate activist versus someone that's collecting data and information. Um, I think it's still a big step forward and it's really interesting to see the nuances of what people make of this kind of new,
Speaker 9:
40:08
uh, this new insight that, hey, maybe we don't need to, um, maybe at the, you know, the federal government doesn't need to like find the money somewhere because they issued the money. So maybe the question is different, maybe the, the terms and the criteria for how we evaluate the limits and, uh, the way that we should spend money on these, on these projects that we want should change. Right. So it's very interesting to see the different ways that people are kind of thinking about that. It's very interesting to see people just kind of react and criticize modern monetary theory. I think that in and of itself is pointing to, um, very interesting data on, on what terms are people criticize, criticizing it under how, you know, what strategies are people using to dismiss, uh, it altogether as a body of thoughts and also kind of what alternatives to the, the proposed best strategy by advocates with modern monetary theory. What are the other strategies that are being, uh, kind of put on the table by different actors about a green new deal, right? You hear a lot about public banks and, um, there've been some pieces written about let's, let's create a network of public banks to finance a green new deal. And so that's very interesting to kind of, you know, just observe, but then also from my perspective, contribute to that conversation by saying, I
Speaker 4:
41:34
don't think that that's the best way forward and you know, this is why, um, and then you hear about, uh, establishing new institutions or leveraging private capital in different ways, right? So the, the way that the conversation is moving forward has definitely been an improvement because we're not stuck on just like, whose taxes are we going to raise? Um, but rather having a more holistic and robust conversation about what it would mean to finance and mobilize a green new deal. Also, just considering the fact that like, we're on a clock, we're running out of time and you know, for me personally, like this means, you know, the last thing you want to do. Um, and I think it's a very important point to make. The last thing you want to do when we're talking about, you know, something to this, the level of going to the moon or winning a world war that's level that we're talking about here.
Speaker 4:
42:33
And if we got like 11 years, then the last thing you want to do is start to give people loans and uh, and extend credit, even if they're from public banks, even if they're a good thing, cause I support public banks, but you, you know, you sh I don't think that you should be a grounding your entire project on something that's going to require this, uh, debt issuance and require some kind of financial return or repayment of these loans because there's just too much that we have to do too quickly. Uh, so I do see like things like credit unions, public banks, other experiments as complimentary. Uh, but you know, given what we're facing, we need just, you know, what I might, my position is we need the modern monetary insight of direct federal spending or what's most urgent about agree new deal.
Speaker 2:
43:29
Hmm. So interesting cause given, you know, the last, you know, metaphor that you used in AOC has used as well to talk about climate change. I think it raises the question discursively of the way we can properly communicate the urgency and, and all of the sort of contouring factors as you said to this potential mobilization. And I was wondering if perhaps you could reflect upon the ways in which the, our embeddedness in this policy structure yours, a ocs and the green new deal itself sort of start to turn into a sort of propagandizing vehicle for this intersectional justice that we talk about. And if we think about the war or the moon landing, could you reflect on the ways in which the role of governance and of the state and its manifold apparatuses of communication are influencing the ways in which we talk about the green new deal?
Speaker 9:
44:42
Yes. Um, that's a great question.
Speaker 10:
44:45
Okay.
Speaker 9:
44:48
You know, John Trump like really did some weird stuff to the culture into the society. And part of that is like he just exposed what was happening and kind of exaggerated the way that, uh, media and political structures shapes our imaginations to the level of absurdity. And in a way I feel like Donald Trump kind of like unveiled a lot about who we, who we are, kind of our darker side or shadow side. Um, we kind of built this virtual reality television, sensationalist spectacle culture throughout the 90s and you know, throughout my childhood. And then as social media came into the picture in the two thousands as an adolescent and then young adults that kind of got taken to new levels. And I feel like Donald Trump is like this reflection of everything that wrong with an uncontrolled on hinged spectical society.
Speaker 9:
46:04
And I think that somebody like AOC comes in with the knowledge that millennials have of Twitter and social media and means and the, you know, I, I, it can be, you can sound funny, but I think memes, you know, are one of the most important facets of contemporary life. You know, whether it's through humor, uh, you know, novel humor, the witness, the delivery, the medium for humor, and the medium for insight about the world. So, so AOC county comes in with this knowledge of meme culture, of Twitter, of, um, of all our, our experiences growing up in this culture with like that biting satire, but also in a, here is where I think that there is a step in, in a better direction because a lot of our culture and you know, [inaudible] there's a lot of criticisms about like hipster culture and stuff like that based on just too much irony. Like everybody's becoming, instead of getting involved in politics, people are becoming overly cynical and overly ironic. And it's just like everybody's got some cynical hot take about everything and whatever, you know, that can be kind of Douchey. So I think AOC comes into the game having a lot of this knowledge and sharing a lot of these experiences that we all share, but bringing with her like some genuine wholesome desire to really connect with people for the world to better connect with one another.
Speaker 1:
47:52
Okay.
Speaker 9:
47:53
And to like heal, to heal from all the trends of our history as human beings and, um, and the trauma of political life, uh, to at least the tent, to dare to be bold enough to attempt to heal and to do better, you know, to, to connect with our, our better selves, our best selves to dare to do that. Um, and, you know, it's, it's, it, AOC is one figure that I think represents this attempt. And you know, I, I love her to death. She does this brilliantly, but I think that it's not just her, right? It's like who else can, who else is a part of this? And I think there is this kind of desire, um, to bring struggle and critique and the rage and the anger that comes with injustice. The, the desire to mobilize politically and say this is wrong with also the desire to care for one another and to heal. Um, and so I think that those messages and those metaphors have the potential to emerge through. I don't know if I'm going totally off topic here, but I think they have the potential to, uh, emerge through the apparatuses of the state in different ways, in ways that change the state itself. The more that we engage in the political process.
Speaker 8:
49:14
Yeah. Agreed. And certainly the public provisioning of media and pushing back to a job guarantee and other, um, efforts pushing back against this, um, intensely privatized, corporatized, um, media spectacle machine is, uh, I think where all this is pointing.
Speaker 9:
49:35
Yeah. And it's, you know, it's just so transactional and, um, it's so atomizing and there's these contradictions that exist where we feel like we need, uh, you know, like we need a lot of likes and stuff like that. You know, and this is kind of like the, the struggles that contemporary people deal with and especially young people where on one hand we are kind of, uh, driven to think that this is what we need to be happy and to be content. Um, but there was this kind of like overwhelming emptiness, uh, with that as well. So trying to find different ways of engaging with these structures and the capacity that the public has by challenging this, these, these, you know, these structures that are atomizing, that are transactional, um, and, and, and, uh, supplementing them with other opportunities. And I think the jobs guarantee is a huge potential for something like that as is the green new deal is capacity in general to mobilize people to save the planet.
Speaker 9:
50:45
I mean, I think like that's where it's at. It mobilizing people to go to war is one thing. Um, and if you can construct that narrative in a way that, that, uh, speaks to people's patriotism, nationalism, whatever, you know, World War II defeated the Nazis, that's definitely a very galvanizing force, uh, going to the moon, you know, the curiosity that we have to leave this planet. I think we still have that curiosity, um, to, to the technological aspect of going to the moon. And then also there was a political aspect of like, you know, out competing the Russians and whatnot, and that speaks to the same things that like war does. Uh, but the green new deal kind of like offers this opportunity to take a lot of that same energy, but just repurpose it for something that's qualitatively distinct, saving the planet, not by killing one another or not by intimidating our enemies, but by learning to live in harmony. I mean, what a concept, right?
Speaker 2:
51:52
Hmm. Two, to make a connection that thinks implicit in what you're saying. Right. Similar to your methodology as this sort of embedded participant observer, um, you seem to be saying that there's this sort of embedded praxis mode within the spectacle itself that you and certainly your analysis of AOC, um, our argue is vital to the very structures of change-making and movement building that we are undertaking, I think through this podcast and then collectively on the left.
Speaker 9:
52:34
Absolutely. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it's so much also about, um, society today is being mediated through like these coproduction mechanisms. Um, but, but we also see that there are these attempts to keep these systems private and monopolized, whether it's Facebook or, uh, or Google or the NSA or that kind of controls our data. But yet at the same time, we're like, called upon to participate in making and remaking ourselves. So I think at this level too is that we are in the process of observing politics. We are like making and remaking ourselves. Yeah. It seems like a dialectical potential built into the present media, social
Speaker 3:
53:27
and political and economic system.
Speaker 9:
53:30
Yeah. And, um, so you know, for example, our, our colleague ran great, it kind of talks a lot about the importance of, uh, privacy rights and establishing good, uh, Fiat digital Fiat currency and digital payment systems for public purpose. And like, I think that's so key because we hear all this stuff about like bitcoin and the blockchain, you know, and, and it may become these huge fads that have like such a cultural identity aspect to them where people feel like, yeah, I bought Bitcoin, I'm gonna change the world. Right. You know, like there's this aspect of that, but it's often missing this foundational piece of, of the political dimension of it. And, and whether we can go beyond this, uh, private, you know, Scott, you use the word privation alive and it's, it's, it's definitely applicable in this case, um, where we deprive ourselves of the capacity to act in public in a way of public purpose.
Speaker 3:
54:42
Okay.
Speaker 9:
54:43
So I definitely think that potential is there.
Speaker 1:
55:18
[inaudible]
Speaker 3:
55:19
so hearing you talk a little bit about AOC and how she seems sort of, um, like the, the perfect political actor for our times in terms of engaging with the, our, our modes of communication and kind of, uh, having the, the, the ironic read of the situation, but then toggling back to this kind of affirmative, here's what we now need to do, given how bad things are and how clearly we see they are. I'm also thinking about that, that original campaign ad which was produced by means TV and thinking about how important that was and then seeing means TV come alongside, you know, and start their own thing. Um, and then, you know, MMT converging with, with AOC. Um, if you were, um, you know, just looking at it for the first time these last couple of years, you might think that this just, this was a sort of cosmetic alignment.
Speaker 3:
56:14
How, how could it have happened? Yeah. Um, and, and then there's a degree of truth to that. But I think also, you know, if you take a longer view, you'll see that at least in the MMT respect, there's been an expanding coalition over the past several years, maybe a decade since the, in the years after the financial crisis. Um, could you kind of sketch out for us what you, uh, understand that MMT coalition to be and look like? Um, like who the key players are, where they come from, who they represent, um, who's onboard, who's not key challenges ahead. I could go on. Um, but, but what does the, what does the coalition, uh, around MMT around as it relates to the green new deal look like to you?
Speaker 9:
56:58
Oh Man. What a question. I feel like you can write a dissertation about just that question and someone should do that. Someone should do that. If somebody listened to you should do that. Yeah, somebody do that. Um, I, I think there's like different pieces of it and the key is like for that coalition or ecosystem to figure out how to everybody do their role and work in harmony at the same time or like work towards the same purpose. So on one home there are the figures that are in politics proper. So obviously like Stephanie Kelton and her work as a senior advisor to Bernie Sanders and she's kind of like all over the place. I'm flying all around the world talking about these issues, demystifying the, you know, the fear that people have to talk about deficits and money and making it very, very clear and accessible for somebody to be like, okay, yeah, that makes sense.
Speaker 9:
58:02
Um, so, so, you know, Stephanie, um, I think of Catalina and her commitment to, to the job guarantee and unemployment. I kind of see the role of Adelina and thoughtful Kaboom here. Um, working on this part of the way that MMT is about people not suffering from unemployment and not suffering from austerity through to government action. What does that mean for neighborhoods? What does that mean for public health? Um, what does that mean for the like environment proper? What are the potentials for food, for housing, that sort of thing. Um, so I think there that as well. I think that what Matt for statter is doing, uh, you MKC kinda keeping this work alive by inspiring a new generation of students to use this tradition in paradigm about modern money. Um, but in a way that has applicability, applicability to concerns about, you know, interdisciplinary concerns about rates, about gender and, and kind of being able to formulate the importance of that interdisciplinary perspective, which I think is key because for me, that's what brought me to MMT in the first place.
Speaker 9:
59:37
You know, I came here because I recognized when I first started to learn about it, that we're talking about legal perspectives. We're talking about the history and anthropology of money. We're talking about accounting, we're talking about macro economics. There are so many things, right? And it was just like, all right, yeah, this makes more sense. And these kind of ridiculous models than, you know, classical economists are talking about. [inaudible]. Um, and then, and then there's kind of like, you know, these rogue warriors in, in the modern world, money network, Rowan and Nathan and roll who are maybe a little bit under the radar but a, but are kind of like grinding out all of these things and putting on these conferences, you know, we had, um, how to pay for the green new deal at Harvard law. And, um, it was just like an amazing experience because that got coordinated and organized so quickly and effectively.
Speaker 9:
60:38
Like everybody wanted just like, you know, one day Roman was like, we're going to do this. This is everybody's thing. This, you know, here are the people who are gonna speak, make it happen. If we put it together. And it was just like boom, boom, boom. Right? Talking about overview of the green, new deal and model money. Uh, okay, what about inflation? That's talking about inflation. What about investment? Let's talk about investment. Um, then of course, bringing in Sarah Nelson as a, an ally to a macro economic policy, modern monetary theory. And the green new deal from the perspective of labor and all the amazing work that she's doing, bringing back the labor movement, contributing to bringing back the labor movement and uh, and how important it is to, to not forget that, uh, unions have a critical role to play in this struggle to build a better world.
Speaker 9:
61:35
And we just can't forget that, um, expanding the number of unions, introducing the idea of striking again. Um, introducing the general, the idea of a general strike again, the role that policy at the Federal Reserve has on Labor has on unemployment. Thinking about these issues of uh, you know, people talk about the minimum wage, but when you have unemployment, the minimum wage, nothing, the minimum wages or unemployment and uh, and how that affects and shapes the thinking in the politics of the labor movement. Right. So I think that that's very important to, and, and this question of like, the green new deal is not trying to say is not trying to screw over
Speaker 4:
62:20
working people even if they're working in the fossil fuel industry. Because, you know, the problem is, you know, the industry and the owners of the hoarders of the wealth and the people that kind of keep, uh, giving little options for people to do good work and the lack of options that exist. So kind of getting labor on board that we're serious about a transition to at better jobs, good paying better jobs, to do something that is different, that is not destroying the environment. So I think that that's very important as well. Um, you know, the work that you all are doing in, in Noun asking questions about modern monetary theory and modern money and federal finance at, at, uh, at a kinda like a epistemological level, at a methodological level. Um, you know, the implications for critical theory and political economy about what MMT is saying.
Speaker 4:
63:24
Um, and, and having these debates in good faith because there's not people out there who don't have these debates, debates in good faith, uh, having these debates with other traditions and orthodoxies on the left and, and trying to get to a deeper level of understanding and seeing where we can align, seeing where there really are convergences. And divergences, that sort of thing as well. Um, and then of course you have like people in the legal world like, you know, [inaudible] pocket and whatnot coming at it from law and finance and banking, that's really important too. Um, the relationships that we're building with the sunrise movement is absolutely key with DSA. Uh, with DSA there are environmental socialist working group about has been very, very important as well. I think that the vision that they have a, they'll have a document out on like, uh, environment, uh, eco socialism.
Speaker 4:
64:18
And I think that their vision very much aligns with what a green new deal through MMT, uh, is advocating for as well. Um, the work of people that do participatory economics and economic democracy kind of work in also saying, all right, so we are talking about the capacity to use public money and federal policy, public policy in these ways that are better, different, that really empower the power, uh, empower the, the federal government to use fiscal policy to meet these needs, to use functional finance, to meet certain goals, to invest, to create real social returns. Uh, let's incorporate also the dimension of new forms of ownership, new forms of democratic ownership to manage and administer some of these projects as well. And you know, that kind of opens up a possibility to shift the, between people in the state in the same way that we've been talking about, um, being an observer but also participant, you know, what does that mean for our engagement with our own government? What can that mean? Potentially like a Michael Munzer has some really good stuff on the social public and this new way that we can relate with our government so that it's not necessarily always this traditional bureaucratic, top-down administered system, but can be something a little bit more, um, yeah, collaborative and democratic.
Speaker 4:
66:00
I don't know. I can think of so many people. It's almost like a, yeah. There's, there's no way to fit it all in and we might shut out the real progressives. That's right. Yeah. And the work that they're doing, you know, um, online connecting with, um, people who are not in academia and whatnot. And that's critical. Yeah.
Speaker 2:
66:19
And as a shortest side as well. There's work being done, you know, in their own sphere, but by the financial press to really cover, um, the question of money and politics, you know, Joe Wise and Thall or Alexandra scags to name a few of them.
Speaker 4:
66:34
Kate, Kate Aronoff at the intercept. I think she was, she was doing really, really important stuff. Yeah. Like real progressive does. Y'All mentioned I'm almost off the top and you're internationally too. We can't forget about that because what's interesting is every, you know, so many different countries around the world are talking about a green new deal even though, you know, it's this kind of us centered, um, resolution at the moment. The concept at least is it's very popular, whether that's, that's in Latin America or in Europe. So there are people in, in Austria, um, there was a candidate for European Parliament, Julia, her and she was onboard with a European green new deal. Um, and the work being done by, um, you know, economists over there talking about this stuff. It's getting more popular. People in Mexico are very interested in this kind of work. Now in the conversation with people there that's Kinda like the latest I guess in, in, in what I've been doing activism wise. Uh, because of my dual identity as a, as a Colombian one, immigrant, Latin American, um, I feel a responsibility also to be engaged with, you know, my roots and have like a global perspective in that sense. So I've, I've, I'm in conversation with people in Mexico and in Columbia about what MMT can offer when you are not in a country like the United States, when you are in a country that does not have the same flexibility and fiscal space that the United States has the spend. It's, it's uh, it's money and it's currency.
Speaker 9:
68:16
What kind of movements and reforms and changes can be, can, yeah, it can be productive and desirable. So that's really important too. And I think that that is a big part of the future of NMT scholarship to go to that realm of, uh, development, economics and political economy.
Speaker 3:
68:38
What's interesting too, cause the interest in the green, new deal in, in other countries and, and the excitement about it kind of underscores the, the, the way that the task ahead of all of us exceeds the metaphors of the, you know, the nation centered metaphors that we're, we like to use. But, um, it's, it's vital that it becomes an international, um, um, non-competitive, let's do this together kind of of action.
Speaker 9:
69:10
Absolutely. You know, and like these questions are super important. So for example, um, I know some of them, tears and myself were, were critical of the way she framed her industrial policy, um, around producing green technology here in the United States and then kind of selling it to the rest of the world. And, uh, I think that that is, that was problematic for me in the sense that it sounds sound little extended too closely. Like it's stored in the developing world for access to green technology. You know, like nobody else has it. We have it. If you all want to survive climate change, you're going to have to pay up. And, um, that means something very different between, you know, you're up in the United States as it does between a country in Latin America, in the United States. So many, many of us, uh, have been talking about how to reform intellectual property rights so that some of these technologies that are vital for countries to become green and sustainable can have access to them that, that these kinds of like economic dependencies. So that's really important too. And if you take kind of like a crude MMT perspective of imports and exports, you might miss that. So I, you know, I think these are like the nuances that are arising now about power at the international level.
Speaker 1:
70:42
[inaudible]
Speaker 8:
70:42
yeah. And the international solidarity point overlaps with the, uh, the fiscal capacity point, right? I mean, this is, uh, uh, uh, open internet and open relationship to intellectual property, um, um, is good for social justice, but it also makes sense when you recognize that the u s government doesn't need revenue from, from other countries around the world. It can generate as many dollars as it as it needs to, to serve public and ecological purposes.
Speaker 9:
71:23
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. And I mean, you know what that can mean. Also for the, the very idea of the currency itself and you know, in the context of the developing world, many of many countries currencies don't have the same ability that, that the US dollar has. So, you know, can we use the u s dollar in productive ways? Can we come up with a better kind of regional type of currencies to be distributed? Can we repurpose the World Bank for actual productive goals? All of these kinds of things I think come into play. These questions come into play.
Speaker 8:
72:02
Oh, nice. This has been such a great conversation. Um, thank you so much for coming on money on the left.
Speaker 9:
72:08
Thank uh, thank you all. It was my pleasure to be here.
Speaker 11:
72:28
[inaudible]
Speaker 8:
72:29
well, what I liked about that conversation, um, was that Andress really, um, pushed back on some of the, I think popular opinions on the left and maybe in certain Marxist circles that MMT and the money perspective is just a kind of technocratic analysis that's really not about politics or organizing or history or media and communication. I just think, um, our conversation was really important for showing that the MMT movement is so much more than, um, an empty memes and a few technocratic tricks.
Speaker 3:
73:15
Well, and, and along those lines, most of the people who come to NMT come from different places and from different perspectives and on race, uh, talking about the, his, his involvement with the, you know, co-op movements, um, and kind of narrating that and how he finally came to, you know, take the mm n conference stuff seriously and think back on his experience. Just sort of having gone to one of those conferences several years before and then the way that that lines up. And I think that that's another kind of, um, if not misconception, maybe even a, a sort of assumption a lot of people have is that, you know, MMT advocates are all doctrinaire and sort of a historically, so like people come to MMT and, and to neo charlatanism, um, with their own questions and histories. And that usually generates, I mean, in this case, some amazing things.
Speaker 8:
74:10
Then bringing that together with a real
Speaker 2:
74:12
sense of interdisciplinary solidarity, um, I think really speaks to what we're trying to do with this podcast and, and the ways in which, as you've said, Billy background, but also you know, methodology can, can change and alter the shape of what MMT teach it us teaches us. Um, I think that can really came out in this conversation and it's really important for the way we look at not only doing this podcast but conducting, um, a leftist political project along an empties terms.
Speaker 1:
75:07
[inaudible]
Speaker 12:
75:08
you've been listening to money on the left, presented by monthly review online special thanks to undress for now, for joining us today and to Alex Williams for producing the episode. Thanks. Also to hillbilly Billy motorbike for the theme team. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook ad money on the left and check out our full episode archive@mronline.org
Speaker 1:
75:37
[inaudible].
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