Yves here. We are continuing our festival of Michael Hudson with an interview by Real Progressives. The talk dates from September (it can take time to get transcriptions don and dusted) but the issues are very fresh. It has also just been released to the general public on YouTube, so enjoy!
[00:00:06] Luke Parcher: All right. For those who might not know me, I’m Luke Parcher, I’m a student and activist. I volunteer with Real Progressives. I’m on our leadership team and I also do a show on Sundays covering politics and current events, and I do some interviews throughout the week and things which you guys can find on Real Progress in Action.
I want to quickly talk about Real Progressives. If you’re interested in learning more about us, you can go to realprogressives.org. We have articles, content, podcasts, all sorts of things. And if you’re interested in helping us out, we are a nonprofit. You can go to realprogressives.org/donate. I also want to plug our founder and CEO, Steve Grumbine’s shows. He does the Rogue Scholar on YouTube on Real Progress in Action. He also does the Macro N Cheese podcast, where you can find our guest today, Michael Hudson, as one of many fantastic guests on that podcast.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce our guest today. Michael is an economist, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s also a researcher at the Levy Institute at Bard College. He’s a former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, and commentator and author. Michael, thank you so much for taking the time.
[00:01:06] Michael Hudson: Well, thanks for inviting me.
Question | Luke Parcher
[00:01:08] Luke Parcher: I wanted to kick things off for the first question. The title of your book is The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism, or Socialism.
Can you just explain how you came to such an all-encompassing title?
[00:01:20] Michael Hudson: Well, the world economy is now fracturing between two parts, the United States and Europe is the dollarized part. And this Western neoliberal unit is driving Eurasia and most of the Global South into a separate group. The conflict really is between finance capitalism in the United States and Europe against other countries – China, Russia, Iran, India – that are following the more traditional ethic and strategy of industrial capitalism.
The question is: how are countries going to be economically planned? Because every economy is planned by somebody. In the United States, the central planning has been taken out of the hands of government and put in Wall Street. In the City of London. A very rightwing philosophy. In other countries, there is a mixed economy – China and the rest of Eurasia – and their objective of planning and money creation and credit is to create industrial capital to create the means of production.
Obviously, also environmental cleanup now, not merely the means of production but an overall economic system, not simply to make fictitious capital, finance capital, without any reference to the industrial capital base, the earning of labor and industry together.
So there are two economic philosophies and I began the book by contrasting the dynamics of industrial capitalism with finance capitalism. And industrial capitalism in the United States, Germany, England, and every country where it took off, was to promote a public investment in basic infrastructure monopolies in transportation, communication, education, healthcare.
The idea is that if the government would provide these basic services and basic human rights at subsidized rates – or freely, as in the case of education and healthcare – then employers would not have to pay labor a high enough basic wage to make labor pay for healthcare – as in the United States where 18% of GDP is for healthcare – or to pay for education, the 1.7 trillion that goes for student debt in the United States, not mentioning the education that is not debt-financed.
Finance capitalism basically sought to break away all of the public infrastructure. Most financial fortunes and financial fortunes in history were made just in the way that Zola had described, by prying thefts from the public domain.
But the financial capitalism doesn’t say… You don’t have to steal it; you actually make it your policy, giving away the financial domain in the way that President Yeltsin gave away all of Russia’s natural resources, public utilities, electric companies, anything that yields an economic rent that can be just easy income without any investment. And you financialize it.
You’ve had, for the last – really since the 1980s, but even since World War 1 – this movement to prevent industrial economies from being low cost. But the objective of finance capitalism, contrary to what’s taught in the textbooks, is to make economies high cost, to raise the cost every year.
That actually is the explicit policy of the Federal Reserve in the United States. Turn over the central planning to the banking system to essentially inflate the price of housing, with government guaranteed mortgages, up to the point where buying a home is federally guaranteed up to absorbing 43% of the borrower’s income.
Well, you take that 43%, you take the wage withholding for social security and healthcare, you take the taxes; the domestic market shrinks and shrinks. And the finance capital strategy is exactly what it is in the United States today, in Europe. Shift all of the money away from the profits of industrial capital that are reinvested in making new means of production. To expand capital into a shrinking economy where the financial sector intrudes more and more into the economy of production and consumption and shrinks the economy.
The rest of the book all spells out how this transformation from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism occurred and how the fight between the United States and Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, and India – it’s really a conflict of economic systems. There’s no rivalry because they’re not trying to do the same thing. The objectives of the U.S. and Europe are completely different from the economic objectives of Eurasia. It’s a war of economic systems. And that’s why the United States is trying to prevent other countries from following the same path to industrial prosperity that made the United States, Germany and other countries originally rich.
So you have on the one hand a high productivity, high standard of living economy that used to be in the West and is now in Eurasia, as opposed to an economy of austerity planned by the IMF and central banks, as you’re finding in Europe.
Question | Virginia Cotts
[00:06:38] Luke Parcher: Fantastic. Thank you for that. First here we have Virginia Cotts, one of the people helping us backstage, has a question – if Virginia wants to come on screen and ask.
[00:06:47] Virginia Cotts: Michael, I’m not an economist. Can you explain debt deflation – but also how debt siphons money away from the real economy.
I once heard you say that the finance sector is the overhead of the real economy. I think these questions are related? If you could explain that.
[00:07:09] Michael Hudson: Well, the classic discussion of debt deflation was in Volume 3 of Capital, by Marx. And Marx said that debts tend to grow by compound interest.
He gave a citation of everybody from Martin Luther onwards about how any interest rate is a doubling time, it doubles in a given number of years. And it grows exponentially in an up-curve, like X equals Y squared. But the economy grows in the shape of an S-curve; it tapers off.
And one of the reasons that it tapers off in the business cycle is that as the cycle gains momentum, people go further and further into debt. And if you have to pay debt to a banker, if you have to pay student loans, if you have to pay credit card debt, if you have to pay mortgages on rising house prices, then the money you pay to the banker is not available to be spent on goods and services.
So as you have the debt ratio growing in every economy, that crowds out the ability to spend your income on goods and services. So right now many graduate students – you graduate from school, you have a student debt, and you have to live at home with your parents because you can’t get a mortgage to buy a house because the banks say, “Well, you’re already paying so much of your income for student debt that you don’t have any money left over to buy a mortgage, so you can’t buy a mortgage.”
Right now, you’re having the debt-ridden American economy being squeezed. More and more money is paid, not only for debt, but also for other overhead, like healthcare and various monopoly services that are not available to buy goods and services.
Debt deflation is when the growth of debt exceeds the rate of growth of the economy. And that’s true of every economy. The most sophisticated mathematical models that I’ve seen were the ones that were taught to every student in Babylon in 1750 BC.
We have the models that they were told. They say, how fast does a debt at the going rate of interest, at 20%, double? Well, it’s five years. How long does it take to redouble? Well, that’s 10 years. How long to quadruple? Well, that’s 15 years. You see how fast it is. They also would have students calculate the growth of a herd of sheep for instance, and it would all taper off. And when Assyriologists began to translate these cuneiform tablets, they thought, well, this must be an actual report of how the herd actually grew.
But then they found out that the Sumerians already in the third millennium had quadratic equations and very sophisticated mathematics. The mathematics that they used 5,000 years ago were far in advance of what the National Bureau of Economic Research uses.
The National Bureau here is officially in charge of explaining when there’s a recession, when there’s a boom, and explaining the business cycle. The basic theory was outlined and traced by Joseph Schumpeter. It’s a sign curve going up and down regularly, up and down. And the whole philosophy of the National Bureau is a right wing anti-government philosophy saying the economy has automatic stabilizers.
It can never get out of balance because the free market is always going to prevent any kind of chronic downturn. If you have a boom, well, prices will rise and that will cut into profits and that’ll slow investment. And that’ll means that wages will fall until it’s more profitable to begin employing labor again. And you’ll have a recovery, and things go on and on and on, like a sign curve, at a given frequency, forever and ever.
Well, what this deliberately leaves out of account, deliberately expurgates, is the fact that every recovery in the United States and every other Western economy since 1945, has occurred with a rising level of debt. And as debt grows each time, each recovery has been slower. And the reason it’s slower is because as the volume of debt rises, this leaves less and less income available to spend on goods and services. And so, the so-called recovery is weaker until finally it grinds to a halt.
Well, Ricardo anticipated something like that in 1817 in his Principles of Political Economy. He said: well, look at what’s going to happen to land rent. If we don’t prevent the landlords from being the planners of the economy, then the more and more population increases, the price of food will rise, the rents to the landlords will rise more and more until the entire economic surplus is paid for rent and there won’t be any opportunities available to industrial employers. And Marx said, well, this was the Armageddon of capitalism.
In Ricardo’s day, people didn’t borrow to buy housing. It was still hereditary landlords. If your ancestors conquered England and killed enough Englishmen to become aristocrats, you’d inherit it and you didn’t have to borrow. But now that real estate has been democratized in the United States, England and Europe, you have to go into debt in order to buy a house.
And the largest amount of debt in every economy is for real estate, which accounts for 80% of bank loans in the United States and England. Essentially, if you want to buy a house you go to a bank they’ll calculate — well, here’s the rental value of that house. The winner, if you’re trying to bid for a house or an apartment against somebody else, the winner is the buyer who promises to pay the most for the property by taking out a bank loan that absorbs most of the rent as interest. So today, the rent that Ricardo said was going to drive industrial capitalism to a halt, is turned into interest. So it’s the rise in interest that is the Armageddon of industrial capitalism driving the economy to a halt.
I chart most of these in my book Killing the Host, where I give a history of compound interest. But basically the Western economies are all subject to debt deflation today.
And that’s why they’re shrinking. And living standards here are not rising and the economy is not growing, in contrast to China, Russia, Iran, India, and the other countries that don’t have this kind of financial sector doing their planning.
Question | Luke Parcher
[00:13:47] Luke Parcher: I was hoping you could expand on a point you actually mentioned just before we went live, distinguishing between different kinds of debt and which kinds of debt are parasitic and need to be rid of and which ones do not. Can you just quickly distinguish between different types of debt?
[00:14:00] Michael Hudson: Well, in textbooks that students read, corporations will borrow from a bank and they will use this borrowing to build a factory, and to buy machinery, and to produce something.
And the profits will be paid – shared 50/50 or so – with the creditor. So a productive debt is debt which, actually, enables the creditor to repay the loan with the interest and still keep something for himself. Banks don’t lend money to build factories. The stock market does that. The money the banks lend is unproductive debt.
Unproductive debt is when the debt doesn’t enable you to earn more money to pay the creditor. In an unproductive debt, you have to earn the money elsewhere and take money that you may earn as wages or profits and pay the bank. And it’s your loss. It’s a zero sum game, not a positive sum game.
Now this distinction between productive and unproductive debt was built into Sumerian and Babylonian laws. Only unproductive debts were canceled under the Jubilee year the rulers announced. Their word was, andurarum and, the Hebrew, cognate was deror and that was the word used for the Jubilee year.
It meant the rural debts – that when there was a crop failure, and the borrower could not pay the advance of the land rent and the other means of production. Obviously, if the borrower couldn’t repay because there was a crop failure, or a drought, or a disease, or a flood, then the debts were wiped out because that debt did not enable anyone to repay.
And if you didn’t cancel the debt, then the poor cultivator would be forced into a debt bondage to the creditor. And if he did that, then his labor would belong to the creditor and he couldn’t serve in the army. He couldn’t go to work on building public infrastructure. The business debts were all left in place. Debt denominated in silver were left in place and not canceled. The debts denominated in grain were canceled.
Well, in the 12th and 13th century, crusades flooded Europe with money. The Christian Church saw that commerce was reviving. You needed credit. The church theorists said, okay, there’s a productive debt. You’ll make loans to a merchant to trade. He’ll have the money to repay you, that’s productive. But, a debt to a consumer who can’t, is usury. And so ancient languages had no words to distinguish interest from usury.
But the churchmen said, okay, usury is unproductive debt. Interest is a productive debt. Those two words, those were the original meanings of the distinction between interest and usury. That’s been eradicated today when everything is considered productive and part of the free market. And, if it makes the billionaire class rich, it’s productive. That’s basically the thing today.
And the only debts that are supposed to be canceled are debts that the financial sector owns. The banks don’t have to pay the billionaires. Only people with less than a billion dollars have to pay debt. The poorer you are, the more debt you have to pay. They’ve reversed the whole last thousand years of Christian morality as the church has become privatized and financialized.
Question | L Lewis
[00:17:21] Luke Parcher: Fantastic. We have a question here in the chat. This is from L Lewis. It says China has opted for industrialization and the U.S. corporate class clearly has not. Why is the U.S. so belligerent if it doesn’t even want an industrial system?
[00:17:35] Michael Hudson: Because it doesn’t want any other country to have an industrial system. Just like the West fought against communism threatening a new social system after the 1917 revolution, America’s terrified that if China can succeed by following the exact same policy that the United States got rich on in the late 19th century, then they might try to make America rich. And, oh my God, if they do that then there’s no more free lunch for the billionaires.
This is life and death for the billionaires. They make their money by exploiting the economy without producing. The Chinese billionaires make their money by producing and exploiting the economy. But they also produce a lot. And then they have to give up much of what they exploit. So the United States doesn’t want there to be any success in any country achieving prosperity in a way that doesn’t siphon off all of the income to the 1%.
Question | Andy Kennedy
[00:18:28] Luke Parcher: And we have a question here from Andy Kennedy.
[00:18:32] Andy Kennedy: Michael, I believe that you coined the phrase monetary hegemony. I believe it was in Super Imperialism, a book that you wrote a while back. But I think that’s something that a lot of people really have a hard time grasping what that even means. Can you talk a little bit about how the U.S. dollar hegemony has been a large part of why the U.S. became de-industrialized.
[00:19:01] Michael Hudson: Well, that is what my book, Super Imperialism, was all about, that I published in 1972. Dollar hegemony really began in 1972. Hegemony is a word that I can never really work into conversation very easily. It was actually Henry Liu that emphasized that term. He’s a friend of mine and we were colleagues for many years. The dollar hegemony means the United States can issue dollar bonds, IOUs, and it never has to repay them. If we run a balance of payments deficit in the United States, the dollars end up in the foreign central banks. Most of the U.S. balance of payments deficits since the Korean war have been for military spending.
While America is spending money on creating military bases all over the world, these countries will end up with the dollars that we spend to build the bases and buy off client oligarchies. And these dollars are turned over to the local central bank for domestic currency. And the central bank is going to say, “What do we do with the dollars?” Well, they will tend to hold the dollars in the form of buying a U.S. Treasury bond because central banks aren’t supposed to take risks.
So they will essentially buy the Treasury bonds and the United States has no intention of ever paying the Treasury bonds. How is it going to pay? It was paying in gold until 1971. So when the United States would spend money in Vietnam, the dollars that were spent in Southeast Asia, in Japan, in other countries, would be sent from Vietnam to their head office in Paris.
And General de Gaulle would say, “Well, here are these dollars. Now give us gold.” And the U.S. gold stock was going down and down and down. The American strategists worried that this was going to really hurt the country’s ability to dominate the world. So when they went off gold in 1971, everybody thought that this was going to end American financial leadership.
Instead, it was a great increase. It created dollar hegemony because there was nothing for foreign central banks to hold their reserves in except U.S. Treasury bills, Treasury bonds. In other words, Treasury IOUs. So the more money that America would spend abroad in a balance of payments deficit, this money would end up being recycled to the United States in the form of Treasury securities. And so it was actually the balance of payments deficit by military spending that helped finance the U.S. domestic budget deficit. Other countries really didn’t have an alternative. And so when the United States took the lead in creating the Eurozone, it made sure that the Eurozone would never make the Euro an alternative currency to the U.S. dollar because it limited the Eurozone’s ability to run a budget deficit to just 3% of GDP.
Well, what that means is that when Europe goes into a recession and needs to increase government spending like the United States does when it’s in a recession, or like the United States is doing today, running a budget deficit way in excess of 3% of the GDP, Europe is not. So there are not enough Euro bonds by the central bank to ever become a rival for the United States dollar.
Well, all of this is now being changed by Russia and China that they have discussed for the last few years. “In order to stop U.S. hegemony, we have to avoid financing our own military encirclement by lending to the U.S. Treasury that turns it over to the military industrial complex and Pentagon to build bases here.So we’re going to have an alternative to the U.S. dollar.”
Well, they were talking about it – Russia, China, other countries – really for five years. And amazingly enough, the end of dollar hegemony occurred last year when the United States itself said if any country pursues a policy that we don’t like, we can grab all of the dollar reserves that they hold in the United States.
We can grab all of the Treasury bonds they hold. We can just take them. All the bank deposits they have, we can grab. They grabbed that of Venezuela first. They grabbed that of Iran. They grabbed that of Afghanistan. And then they grabbed the $300 billion of Russia. So now the United States has told any country, if you do anything that we don’t like, if you do not let our companies buy control of your economy, or if you try to sue one of our oil companies that pollutes your land, we will grab all of your money and you’ll be isolated.
Well, this ends other countries’ ability to finance the American empire anymore. Other countries are terrified now. If they’re all saying “Let’s not denominate our trade in dollars. Let’s not use the dollars. Let’s use each other’s currencies. We will finance other governments’ treasuries.”
And these treasuries that they’re financing – between China, Russia, Iran, India, and their neighboring countries – are loans to help their treasuries build infrastructure and internal improvements to actually increase the economy growing. Well, the United States itself has brought this about by all the sanctions that it’s imposing. It’s an example of the self-defeating character of the U.S. strategists.
Fortunately, none of them understand how an economy actually works anymore than they understand how military strategy really works. So we’re having armchair amateurs essentially ending a whole system that was giving America a free lunch for the last 50 years.
Question | Jordan S
[00:24:54] Luke Parcher: So we have one here in the chat from Jordan Soreff. He asks, how do you see the interaction between major shareholders of large financial institutions and major shareholders of industrial enterprises? Do you see a lot of common ownership between these kinds of institutions? And if so, wouldn’t they collaborate in order to avoid starving industrial enterprises of access to credit and guarantee some basic form of growth, not only for financial institutions, but also for industrial enterprises.
[00:25:20] Michael Hudson: Not at all. They’re collaborating in destroying the industrial sector. They collaborate in turning industrial corporations into financial firms. and when you turn the management of a corporation away from the engineers and turn it over to the chief financial officer, the chief financial officer says, “Our job is not to increase our industrial production. Our job is to increase the stock’s price. And we can maximize the stock’s price by, instead of spending on research and development that’ll take years to pay off, we can spend our income on buying the shares.”
92% of the profits of the Fortune 500 are spent on share buybacks and dividend payouts, not on new investment. Once you financialize an industrial corporation, you’re trying to make money by financial engineering, not industrial engineering. And you do this by essentially using your income to buy up the share price. This is short term – and finance lives in the short term. The reason finance has no interest in building up industrial power is that that takes years and years to actually plan a factory, plan the production. You have to develop a whole marketing system.
How are we going to sell the product once we produce it? How are we going to distribute it? It takes a lot of planning. It’s beyond the ability of the financiers. You don’t need brains to be a financier. All you need is greed. And you really don’t need a business school. All you need is greed.
And greed is short term. I want it now. Greed is not long term planning. And so, you have a completely different mentality of a financial corporate leader, as opposed to an industrial leader. Someone like, let’s say, Henry Ford, or like the old type of industrial leaders that would try to increase the overall profits to expand production more and more. Today the objective is to shrink production more and more.
Question | Jonathan Kadmon
[00:27:18] Luke Parcher: And we have a question here from Jonathan.
[00:27:21] Jonathan Kadmon: There’s a concept you mentioned in the book that’s also very near and dear to my heart. The commodification of essential goods and services, and extortionist incentives that come when you…
[00:27:32] Michael Hudson: Is that the title of a book?
[00:27:33] Jonathan Kadmon: No, it’s definitely a theme you touch on a bunch of times in your book.
[00:27:37] Michael Hudson: Oh, okay.
[00:27:37] Jonathan Kadmon: And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about how the hostage situation created by commodifying things like housing, healthcare, food, transportation, fuel, things like that – that people need rather than want – is used to extract rents and siphon wealth out of the productive economy to service the wealth demand of the FIRE sector [Finance, Insurance, Real Estate]
[00:28:00] Michael Hudson: Well, the free trade ideology that backs monopolies says that all markets are a function of choice. But the way to control a market is not to give the consumers a choice. And when you say hostage, what that means is people don’t have a choice between whether to eat or to pay a bank.
If they have to buy food or if they have to buy medical care, they have to pay whatever the going price is. Anatole France said that the rich person was as free as the poor person to sleep under the bridge when he didn’t have a house. So the objective of rent seeking is to essentially create a situation where people have no alternative but to buy the service or the good that you’re producing.
If they have no alternative, then you can charge whatever you want. This is the case with most public infrastructure. If you want to mail a letter, you have to pay whatever the going postage is, or whatever parcel service costs. Well, this is why, for about a thousand years leading up to the late 20th century, all governments kept basic services in the public domain – the post office, education, healthcare. You don’t want to privatize them and leave them to the market because if you leave them to the market, then it really isn’t a matter of choice at all.
It’s a matter of letting a monopolist take something that everybody needs, no matter what the price, and charge as much as the market will bear. And that’s a rent-seeking monopoly. That basically is the philosophy that Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and the free marketers developed since the 1980s, when you had a privatization of basic needs, especially in housing. And the most important utility that’s been privatized of course has been money and credit creation – the banking system. What has enabled China to avoid the financialization that’s occurred in the United States is because the Central Bank of China is run by the government, not by a financial oligarchy of bankers that get together to run the credit system for their own benefit. But if the government treats money as a public utility, everybody needs money, everybody needs credit, and the government will provide the credit as needed for the economy to grow.
And if the economy has a slowdown, or if a company runs into a financial problem, if you’re the government as a creditor, you can write down the debt. In the United States, if you’ve made loans to a company like General Electric and all of a sudden it can’t pay, the company either goes bankrupt or begins to sell off its assets piece by piece to other people and you have industry being turned into gentrified luxury housing.
So the same thing with healthcare. If you privatize healthcare, everybody needs to go to the hospital. Everybody needs doctor care. If you privatize it then in the United States, 18% of your GDP is going to go to healthcare. The objective is to make healthcare as inefficient and cheap as possible to maximize the profits of the health insurance companies. And the sicker you get, the more money they make.
Also, by the way, the sicker you get, the more GDP goes up. GDP goes up because you have to spend more money healing yourself. So, that’s, a growing part of the American GDP – along with rent and debt service and interest. Well, if you keep healthcare in the public sector, the public sector is going to try to actually keep people healthy instead of sick. And they’re trying to minimize the expense of getting sick so that you leave more money in the hands of households to spend on the real economy of production and consumption, not on giving money to the monopolies.
But in the United States the main utility beside money that’s been privatized is government. Under the Citizens United ruling, the government is now really up for sale and auctioned off to the highest campaign contributors. In the Democratic Party, for instance, every Democratic representative has to raise a given amount of money from campaign contributors to give to the Democrat National Committee.
So whoever can raise the most money gets to be the committee heads. Well, you’ll have the pharmaceuticals industry giving a lot of money to some representative they want to be head of the health committee. You’ll have the bankers giving money to whoever they want to be the head of the banking committee and so on. So, the function of government itself once it’s privatized is to make money for the donor class, which basically is the financial class and the monopoly class that finance creates. Banks have always been the mother of monopolies and the financial sector’s largest business market is in creating monopolies. So, you have basically the privatization of monopolies.
And the monopoly rent of these monopolies is used for paying interest to the banks that finance the corporate raiders, or whoever wants to take over and buy these monopoly privileges.
Question | Luke Parcher
[00:33:14] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Paul Birtwell. Paul, go ahead.
[00:33:18] Paul B: Hi, Dr. Hudson. Could you briefly touch on the concept of economic rent and unearned income as well as how the establishment became established by conquering Europe, privatizing the commons all the way up through colonialism, and how they use all these little privileges through copyrights, patents, formula, and it’s not really through effort or innovation, but it’s through rake off.
I remember you in an interview, I’m paraphrasing, saying something like: For the crime of being conquered, the 99% and all of the descendants are obligated to take care of the 1% and all of their descendants into perpetuity.
But it would be great if you could touch on those historical elements because most folks think, “Hey, these folks that are really rich are smarter, they worked harder.” And as we know, it’s not based on effort or individual contribution but rather just milking society.
[00:34:16] Michael Hudson: Well, it’s very hard to answer that question very briefly in a question and answer. I’ve written two chapters of the Destiny of Civilization describing exactly what you’ve asked: economic rent. All classical economics – from Adam Smith through Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Alfred Marshall – was all about value and price theory in order to segregate how much of the price is not reflected by a real cost of production. Economic rent is unnecessary income.
Economic rent is what you’re able to charge more than just the cost of producing goods and service with a profit. It’s “What is a free lunch?” And the free marketers say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” That’s what Milton Friedman said. But a rentier economy is all about a free lunch. The concept of economic rent in the 19th century was aimed at landlords because they inherited the land. The land does not have a cost of production. And yet, if you have an ownership right to the land, a privilege of legal ownership of the land, you have a legal boundary and you can charge rent without any effort of your own.
John Stuart Mill said economic rent is what landlords make in their sleep. They don’t have to make a productive effort. Well, actually a theory of rent went way back to the churchmen in the 13th century describing what is a fair return to bankers. The economy needs credit, all economies work on credit, traders need credit. They need the money exchange from one currency to another. The value of banking services is the cost of living, the cost of doing business, the cost to have a certain lifestyle that’s becoming of a banker.
But everything that’s over and above normal living prosperity and costs is called usury. That’s not a valid cost. And so that was deemed illegal already in the 13th century. Well, Ricardo in the 19th century used the landlords as the main rent recipients of the hereditary landed aristocracy. Rent is what a landlord would get just for the ownership privilege of having a land. And so if you go out and buy a house today and the price of land goes up because the city will increase bus service or a transportation service. For instance, in New York City, a few years ago, they extended and built the Second Avenue subway that went uptown, along Second Avenue. Real estate prices all soared for real estate on Second Avenue. That was a free lunch.
The landlords didn’t do anything at all to increase the real estate rents that they were charging. Rents went way up. If you lived on Second Avenue or First Avenue, even Third Avenue, you had to pay much higher rent because you no longer had to walk half a mile to get to the Lexington subway that was very overcrowded. You could have the nice uncrowded, Second Avenue subway.
And yet, this rent increased not by the expenditure of any cost. It was rent without value. It was the price of housing without cost value. So rent is the unnecessary element of price over and above what it actually costs to produce something. And rentier income is the income that is unnecessary.
To actually pay a industrialist for building a factory… industrialists would be happy with making the normal rate of profit. But if you have a special technology monopoly like the drug companies, then you can make super-profits. So rents are super-profits, basically. That’s the difference. Anyway, that’s to your question.
Question | Roxanne D
[00:37:58] Luke Parcher: Right on. We have, a question here from Roxanne Devereaux. She says, if you’ve answered this, maybe just elaborate on your answer, but in a perfect world where government actually served the people, what would a debt jubilee look like and how could it reverberate through society?
Most examples I’m familiar with happened before the industrial revolution.
[00:38:14] Michael Hudson: Well, the best example is the German financial miracle of 1947, 1948, the allied monetary reform. All internal debts were canceled except for people’s bank accounts up to a given amount and except for the money that employers owed their employees.
And the reason is that most of the wealth, most of the bank deposits, most of the creditors’ claims, were by the Nazis. And the American occupation said, well, we don’t want the Nazis to get rich. So the good thing about canceling debts is you cancel the savings of bad guys. In 1947 it was the Nazis; today it’s the 1%.
If you cancel the debts that I’ve said should be canceled – the sort of bad debts that are not necessarily production – then you cancel all of this vast accumulation of savings by the 1%. For instance, if you cancel student debts, that would free income for spending on democracy.
If you cancel all the debts that US banks owe to the offshore banking centers in the Caribbean, Panama, Liberia. All of this is flight capital. This is criminal capital. Cancel out all the debt of criminal capital and fraud. When Greece was running into its financial crisis seven years ago, Greece owed 50 billion euros of debt that it was trying to write down.
And the IMF produced a list called the Lagarde List that had deposits of Greek crooks and tax evaders in Switzerland were $50 billion. That 50 billion could have been wiped out. One of the first debt cancellations that went wrong was in Sparta in the third century, BC, under Agis and Cleomenes. When they canceled the debts, the people who wanted to cancel the debts were people who’d bought land on credit and they wanted their debt.
They wanted to own the land free and clear and cancel the mortgages. So some debts you don’t want to write down. If you were to write down mortgage debts, Donald Trump and real estate speculators would be the richest people in the country. So you don’t want to write down their debts.
Their debts will remain on the books. But if they were written down, well, first of all then, their debts are the banking systems assets. So Citibank would be even more insolvent than it is already and the banks would go under. They would be taken over by the public sector because if you have the mortgage debt wiped out, there’s still economic rent. Because people are willing to pay more money for a well-situated property that would, uh, in place of the banks getting the rental value as mortgage debt, the government would get the same rental value in the form of a land tax. That was what classical economics was all about. That was Adam Smith. That was John Stuart Mill. That was the whole reform movement of the late 19th century. So you want to cancel the bad debts, but you don’t want to make debtors who are just speculators rich in the process.
You want to make sure that you only cancel the bad debts and you don’t create a new rentier class. The idea is to look at the economy as a system and see what should the government receive as economic rent. And it can decide what is it going to receive for healthcare. The government… if the government took over the healthcare industry, it probably would not charge the prices that healthcare charges today. It would charge less. Same thing for housing. If housing were run like England ran its council housing before Margaret Thatcher, it would be very low. In Germany, Germany pays only 10% of its average family income for rent, not 30 or 40% as in the case of the United States.
That’s what used to make Germany, until last month, so competitive an economy. So, you’d restructure the economy so that it would only have debts that were socially necessary to keep the economy operating. Debts will begin to grow all over again.
Debts will always begin to grow over and over again. If you don’t ban interest, you permit debts to grow, but when they get so problematic that they threaten economic growth, then you have to write them down to a level where they will no longer prevent economic growth from occurring as they’re doing today.
Question | Doug G
[00:42:45] Luke Parcher: So we have one from Doug Greer here. He says many people seem to confuse the lessons of MMT with the super imperialism of the US dollar being the reserve currency of the world. Is the ability to create dollars to finance domestic needs of the US, like healthcare and infrastructure, dependent on the US dollar being the reserve currency?
Can you clarify?
[00:43:05] Michael Hudson: They’re completely separate. Any country can use its credit creation, either by the central bank or by commercial banks, to create credit. It doesn’t have to be linked to the balance of payments, except that if a country’s running a balance of payments deficit its currency will fall, unless it can balance the payments somehow.
So they are different questions.
Question | Fabiano D
[00:43:30] Luke Parcher: We have one from Fabiano D. Being that politicians, therefore government, are in the pockets of the rentier class, how do you think we could get rid of such rentier influence in order to implement socially oriented policies?
[00:43:43] Michael Hudson: That has never happened without a revolution. That’s the problem. How do you get rid of them? Well, I don’t see any way for the United States to get rid of them. It took a revolution in China. It took a revolution in Russia. That’s the problem right there.
You did have the beginning of a peaceful revolution in England in the 19th century and, leading to a constitutional crisis in 1909 and 1910, when the House of Commons actually passed the land tax and the House of Lords, being the landed aristocracy, canceled it. That caused a crisis.
And the upshot was the House of Lords was never, again, going to be able to negate a revenue act passed by the House of Commons. So that was actually a peaceful resolution of a constitutional crisis. Then World War I came and changed everything. But today I don’t see that kind of a peaceful resolution occurring in the United States.
They’re not going to repeal the Citizens United act, and, from what it looks like to me, the economy is going to get more and more highly squeezed and more polarized between the 1% and the 99%. I would say it’s a class war except finance isn’t really a class because everybody is a creditor as well as a debtor in some sense or another. So it’s really a financial dynamic against the rest of the economy. One of the points that Marx made in Volume 3 of Capital was that finance grows by purely mathematical laws of its own, having no relation to the growth of the economy. It’s an autonomous economic system.
And I think that autonomous economic system is independent of the government here and yet, unless you have a study of economics as an economic system – understanding what’s causing the polarization and the poverty in the United States – you’re not going to be able to have a reform movement to change the system.
The role of economics departments is to dumb down the understanding of the economy. You’re not going to have any kind of a peaceful reform movement here.
Question | Cristina
[00:45:47] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Cristina who asks, what are the steps we can take to fix the housing crisis? Kind of a broad question, but if you have any policy prescriptions there, that would be great.
[00:45:57] Michael Hudson: There’s very little that individuals can do. The 19th century dealt with this question increasingly. And their solution was if you have a calculation of the land rent, as opposed to what it costs to build a building – we all know that if you build a building the contractor and the builder or developer have to make a profit, but if the government will tax the land rent, then it will not be available to the banks to charge as interest.
So, if you tax the land rent, then the land rent is not going to be capitalized into a bank loan, and housing prices will be kept down to the actual cost of construction plus normal profits. And as housing becomes more desirable, or as the economy becomes more profitable, or as cities build more Second Avenue subways and the rental value goes up, the taxes will go up. That will prevent this increased rent from taking a financial form and will simply be the source of a government revenue. It requires a tax system to tax away the economic rent, so that housing does not reflect the speculation and the economic rent that is caused by the privatization that’s been occurring. Especially since 2008.
Question | Tim
[00:47:11] Luke Parcher: So this one is from Tim. Tim says one argument against de-dollarization is the liquidity and stability of the US dollar. For example, oil is based in dollars and many OPEC countries have their currencies pegged to the dollar, such that they benefit from a strong dollar. At this age, the transition into trade in local currency pairs against these advantages of dollar as reserve currency.
[00:47:32] Michael Hudson: Well, that’s exactly what this last weekend’s Shanghai cooperation meetings were all about. Any country that holds its central bank reserves in dollars has a stake and in wanting to lose the money. China has the largest dollar holdings of any government and its currency has gone down and down and down.
China’s willing to take a loss on this by moving out of the dollars. The solution is, as both President Xi and President Putin pointed out, we’re going to move out of the dollar so we don’t have a stake in the dollar. It can go up or down. It is not going to bother us. They’re not buying or selling to us anymore.
Anyway, they’re sanctioning us. So let’s go with what president Biden wants. He says, you go your way, we’ll go our way. Fine. Let’s go our own ways and use each other’s currency, and that way, it won’t matter. So, it won’t matter to them. If moving out of the dollar means that there’s less demand for the dollars and it goes down, what they’re gaining is freedom.
So, this is the price of their economic liberty from dollar diplomacy.
[00:48:34] Luke Parcher: We have another question here from Virginia Cotts.
Question | Virginia Cotts
[00:48:36] Virginia Cotts: Michael, I feel like we have… some people have a lot of nostalgia for the post World War II social democracies of Europe. I can’t remember if it was in your book or in an interview you described Thatcher’s process of privatizing in England. Could you talk about that? Because I didn’t know a lot of that.
[00:49:00] Michael Hudson: Well, Margaret Thatcher said that her greatest contribution was Tony Blair. And Tony Blair was an opportunist who got enough support from the United States to move the British Labour party to the right of the Conservative Party and do what Margaret Thatcher never could have done. By even privatizing the railroads, by being more viciously anti-labor, the social democratic parties in every country have been so pushed by what the CIA called “the mighty Wurlitzer of public opinion” – meaning bribes to the politicians – that they’ve financed the campaigns of neoliberals to pretend to be pro-labor, to pretend to be socialist, while actually they’re the far right wing of the political spectrum. I won’t call them fascist. But let’s just say there’s nothing the fascists would not like in the social democratic parties. So, here you have the most right wing parties in Europe are the social democratic parties. Way to the right.
I guess the most right wing neofascist party is, of course, the Greens in Germany that are the pro-war party. And anti-labor. But basically, there is no longer a real labor party representing the interests of labor. They’ve all been co-opted by demagogues. The social democratic parties in a way have been like the peace parties.
The first thing that every peace party does when there’s a war is they’re at the head of the pro-war patriotism parade. That was what Trotsky noted about World War One. The peace parties jumped on the bandwagon in Germany, Austria, England, America. Social democratic parties have done the same thing when there’s a neoliberal right wing corporatist financialization. They’ve all been persuaded to do it.
The equivalent was like what the Clintons did to the United States since the 1990s. In the United States, the Democratic Party is the far right wing party now. And I guess when I answered the question about what can Americans do to help the housing crisis… You cannot solve the housing crisis until you end the Democratic Party. You cannot solve the labor problem without ending the Democratic Party. Because that is the party of Wall Street. That is the party of the 1%. Its function is to make sure that there cannot be any left wing opposition to block the Republican Party’s program.
What Bill Clinton did, the Republicans never could have done. Backing Alan Greenspan and the right wingers in getting rid of the acts preventing banks from owning insurance companies and brokerage houses. Getting rid of the Glass Steagall Act. And no Republican could have done anything as viciously anti-black and anti-Hispanic as President Obama, whose policies are basically identical with those of the Ku Klux Klan.
Obama’s role was essentially to reverse the attempt by blacks and hispanics to become homeowners. His objective was to replace black home ownership and hispanic home ownership with ownership by private capital companies. His role in 2009 was to bail out the banks – the fraudulent banks that had written the junk mortgages – and to keep the junk mortgages on the hook to evict almost 10 million American families. And not fine the banks, not throw a single crooked banker in jail. This ended the hopes of the low income Americans – and especially the minorities – to have housing.
If you say, what can we do about housing? Well, if you’re black or Hispanic, you must avoid the Democratic Party like the plague. And you must come to terms with the fact that it was Obama that was the most anti-black president of the 20th century, except of course for Woodrow Wilson. The damage that he’s done has not been widely recognized here.
And, he has put in place a Democratic Party leadership that is so anti-labor, so white racist. and so pro-Wall Street that I don’t think it is reformable.
Question | Luke Parcher
[00:53:18] Luke Parcher: And just to build on what you were just talking about there, Michael, I’m kind of stunned by the extent to which people buy into the partisan false dichotomy in this country and seem to think there are all these massive differences between the parties.
And that obviously is an issue-by-issue thing, but I’m curious where you think that buy-in comes from and how we might be able to cut into it. The fear mongering about Trump is I think overstating the differences between Trump and Biden on these issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:53:43] Michael Hudson: Yes. The Republican Party’s role is to say to Wall Street, “Yes, please.” And the Democratic Party’s policy is to say “Yes, thank you.” But that’s basically it. You’ll notice, like in Ohio, the Democratic National Committee is backing a right-winger who is going to play the role of West Virginia Senator Manchin or Arizona’s Sinema. The Democrats want to make sure that it has enough Republicans running as Democrats, that if there’s ever a danger of promoting a bill that is good for the working class or the racial minorities or ethnic minorities, that you’ll have the Republicans running as Democrat to cancel it, to play the role.
There’ll always be many senators right behind Manchin and Sinema in the wings to prevent the Democrats from doing anything that does not serve the short-term immediate interests of their Wall Street bankers… Backers.
Question | Bruce W
[00:54:39] Luke Parcher: Rotating villain is a very real concept for sure. We have a question here from Bruce Wall who asks, which of the public banking and monetary reform movements do you support, if any? I have in mind Public Banking Institute, American Monetary Institute, the Alliance of Just Money, Christine Desan’s Just Money. What about figures like Robert Hockett?
[00:54:58] Michael Hudson: Well, I’m on the board of directors of the Public Banking Institute. Steve Zarlenga was a good friend of mine.
I was at all of his early conferences. So they both have very good ideas. And… I’m blocking out the name. Who’s the head of the public banking?
[00:55:15] Virginia Cotts: That’s not Ellen Brown, is it?
[00:55:17] Michael Hudson: Yeah. Ellen Brown. Ellen would be all in favor of many of the things I’ve talked about, but she doesn’t think that a debt cancellation is politically feasible right now. And of course, she’s right. So she’s said that, well, public banks can provide the model for what could be. The result of what happens if Obama would have let Citibank go bankrupt.
The Republican head of the FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] urged that Citibank, being run by crooks… but, Obama put an even bigger crook in charge. Geithner, who was working for his banker Robert Rubin, basically did not let Citibank go bankrupt because that would’ve wiped out the stockholders.
And as Sheila Bair, the head of FDIC, said, well, it was all about the bond holders. And Sheila said, if Citigroup would’ve gone under, then that meant the government would’ve had the biggest bank in the country, and it could actually run a commercial bank along making good loans instead of making loans to corporate raiders. Instead of making crooked mortgage loans and fake loans, it could actually make loans to help the economy grow. Well, she’s quite right. That would’ve been a good idea.
So she’s concentrated.on public banks for what they can do. And she said, at least by having a public bank, you’ll keep the deposits of the public sector – the government, the state agencies, and hopefully the local city agencies – in the public domain, out of the hands of, the commercial bankers and Wall Street, so that you can use the money for a good purpose.
So, I’m all in favor of what she’s doing. Steve Zarlenga at American monetary Institute was for the hundred percent reserve plan that was proposed in the 1930s. And that is, commercial banks would actually be reduced to the status of savings banks.
A hundred percent reserves. Could not create credit. They could only make loans from deposits. Of course, if they had a productive loan made, the government, the Treasury, would act as the depositor – simply increase the deposits in the bank to enable them to make productive loans.
And that also, in principle, is a very good idea. That’s why I supported that. And of course that was the program that was introduced by Dennis Kusinich in his presidential run. I was Kusinich’s economic advisor. So those are the two groups that I’m most familiar with and the most in favor of.
Question | Rasha
[00:57:41] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Rasha. What role does defining money play in shaping the economy? How do you define money? Is it a record of value transferred between economic actors or is it a commodity? If you agree that money is a record of value transferred between two or more economic actors, isn’t it possible to create money on demand by any two or more economic actors in a decentralized manner, as opposed to central private banks providing there is a scientific formula by which value of goods and services is assigned.
[00:58:10] Michael Hudson: Oh, my God. I can’t even begin to answer that. The jargon is so misleading. Money has nothing to do with value. Money is debt. That’s the opposite of value. It’s a transfer of debt among people, it’s not a transfer of value. You’re using a very right wing, quite frankly, a fascist economic terminology, maybe without meaning to. But it’s not value, it’s debt created out of thin air. It’s credit.
When you go into a bank and you take out a loan the bank doesn’t say let me see how much money I have on deposit to lend you. They will just write you a loan. They’ll create a bank deposit and in exchange you’ll give them an IOU. It’s debt, loans, that create deposits, not the other way around. Anyone who talks about money and value, you want to stop talking to them immediately. Because you know that it’s just going to be patter talk for propaganda.
Question | Tom
[00:59:03] Luke Parcher: So we have one here from Tom. Tom asks: all prices of all things for sale are not rising. Therefore, the term inflation is not what we are experiencing. For example, the market is working. Money is moving from those without oil to those with oil.
Why does no trained economist understand and label this a normal market redistribution period or some term listed in textbooks for reference? And why is the concept called inflation, which scares unknowing economists and today’s consumers who needlessly suffer from money famine, so poorly taught and so poorly understood?
[00:59:33] Michael Hudson: The question is so bizarre, I cannot answer it. It’s just how do you, how do you answer a swamp and straighten out what they’re saying to give them an answer? It’s a swamp. I can’t answer that.
[00:59:42] Luke Parcher: I suppose in general, what would you prescribe the price increases that we’ve seen today to?
[00:59:47] Michael Hudson: Very largely monopoly positions. The reason oil prices are going up is not because there’s an oil shortage. It’s because the oil companies find an excuse to use the newspaper reports that there will be an oil shortage at some point to raise the prices right now. Adam Tooze wrote a good article a few days ago, comparing the inflation in Europe to the inflation in the United States. In Europe, the price inflation is almost exclusively for energy and for oil and gas derivatives. In the United States, the inflation is much broader – it’s over the whole course.
Again, you want to look at the economy as a system. You don’t want to reduce everything to one-dimensional “here’s the price level”. You want to look at the multi-layered economy. What are the cost prices? What are the economic rents? What are the monopoly prices? What’s the tax system? You have to look at the economy as a system, not in a one-dimensional way. So, I can’t untangle all of the jumble any clearer than that.
Question | Paul B
[01:00:55] Luke Parcher: We have one here from Paul Birtwell again. Could Dr. Hudson touch on and acknowledge the validity of MMT? What do you think is the importance of MMT and how does it apply to this discussion?
[01:01:04] Michael Hudson: Well, I was on the faculty of the UMKC, which is MMT center for many years. I’m all in favor of MMT. The point of MMT is that just as banks create endogenous credit on their own computers, the government can create credit. The government doesn’t have to borrow money from the 1% or from bond holders in order to spend it; the government can simply print it as it did under the greenbacks.
The government can create its own credit. And there’s nothing wrong with running a budget deficit because a budget deficit does not have to be paid by taxpayers paying taxes. A government deficit can be funded by simply creating the money on your own computer – not by taxes. That’s the point that Stephanie Kelton has been making again and again in what she writes.
And that really is the essence of MMT. But of course the leading exponent of MMT was Donald.Trump, when he said deficits don’t matter, we can just create whatever we want. And I think, Vice President Cheney also said we can spend whatever we want. It doesn’t matter. George Bush said, you know, it’s all really fictitious anyway; we can do it.
The difference between Donald Trump and the Republicans and the MMTers is, we want the government to run deficits to actually spend into the economy. We do not want deficits to be run for $9 trillion to subsidize quantitative easing for the 1% to promote real estate prices and stock and bond prices.
We want them to actually employ workers and to promote full employment. So the difference is that the MMTers are basically in favor of tangible economic growth, not creating money bad MMT of Cheney and Donald Trump style.
Question | Luke Parcher
[01:02:51] Luke Parcher: Can you talk a little bit about how the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and financialization have contributed to what’s going on right now in Ukraine? I know that’s a little bit broad, but if you could tie in what we’ve been talking about here to the situation in Ukraine.
[01:03:02] Michael Hudson: The IMF’s job is to make sure that the economy is impoverished and that all the money that it gives is to support the currency – to enable the kleptocrats, Kolomoyskyi and others, to take the Ukrainian currency they have and transfer it into dollars and pound sterling at a high exchange rate.
So they will lend Ukraine the dollars – essentially to support the hryvnia, however you pronounce its currency – and enable the kleptocrats to make money and then pull the rug out from under them if any alternatives to the Nazis take power. They want.to make sure that, once the kleptocrats have emptied out the economy, they can let the economy collapse.
They’re of course backing the new labor law president Zelensky has pushed, abolishing labor unions, abolishing the rights of labor to negotiate, and making basically the most fascist labor law in any country’s history. So the role of the IMF is to support client oligarchy, to get their money out of a country before there is a possibility of a leftwing government coming in, and then to deny all credit and organize a currency raid on the leftwing government, to say, “You see, socialism doesn’t work”.
The IMF is one of the institutions that is the arm of American hegemony, preventing economic growth occurring outside of the United States. Essentially the IMF is a… it’s a small office in the basement of the Pentagon, run by the neocons, to make sure that other countries cannot have any policy that would not let American firms come in and buy their raw materials and their natural resources and their monopolies.
So, think of the IMF as a tool of the military, but much more right wing than any general would dare to be.
[01:04:55] Luke Parcher: Thank you so much, Michael. We really appreciate you taking the time today.
I also, once again, want to remind people to please go to realprogressives.org to learn more about us, or find our podcasts and articles, including again, Michael, as a guest on Macro N Cheese. With that, we will go ahead and call it a discussion here. Virginia, did you have anything you wanted to add?
[01:05:12] Virginia Cotts: Yes. I wanted to ask Michael where people can find his work.
[01:05:17] Michael Hudson: Well, Amazon, I guess, is the easiest place to go. It’s all available there.
On my website, michael-hudson.com. And you can go to that and join me on Patreon. I do have a Patreon group, and if you’re a contributor at a given level, then you get to talk to me directly every few months.
[01:05:36] Virginia Cotts: Well, we can all use support. Real Progressives also has a Patreon. So, support us all, please.
I just want to say, Michael, you wrote an article with the greatest title I’ve ever seen, which was something like the US Defeats Germany for the Third Time in a Century. I just thought that was such a perfect title. I think you wrote it right when the Ukraine war was beginning.
[01:06:02] Michael Hudson: Right. It was apparent what was going to happen at the very beginning. And I’m amazed that nobody else was writing about that. I’m not very good on military analysis. I can follow what Andrei Raevsky at the Saker says, and Moon of Alabama, and Andrei Martyanov. The one thing I can tell about military operations is the balance of payments aspects and how it all is spelled out.
[01:06:24] Virginia Cotts: Well… and you talked about how the three main sectors benefited.
[01:06:30] Michael Hudson: Yes. Oil is the key to American diplomacy. And I guess if we’re talking about American hegemony, it comes from America’s control of the oil trade. That was one of the reasons that America wanted to isolate first Venezuela, and then Russia, because if the only source of oil are companies controlled by the American oil majors, then…
Every economy needs energy to grow. And in every economy since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there’s a connection between the growth of GDP and energy use per capita. So I talk about the monopoly rent and the victim economy. If you can control oil then you can control, basically, the world economy.
That has been a key to the American policy. The Americans realized that if Europe cannot buy Russian oil anymore, or Venezuelan oil, then it’ll have to spend 10 times as much buying American liquified natural gas. This means the sanctions against Russia have ended German industrial supremacy. It has ended the German steel industry. It has ended German heavy industry.
They’re now going to be dependent thoroughly on the United States. And the euro is going to become a weakening satellite currency of the US dollar as a result of killing off the German economic and industrial leadership of the European economy, along with that of Italy and France.
[01:07:53] Virginia Cotts: Oh, thank you. I hope we didn’t abuse your generosity with your time.
[01:07:59] Michael Hudson: No. I assume if I said anything controversial, you’ll just take it out.
[01:08:03] Virginia Cotts: Oh, no, we like it. We will actually clip it and plaster it all over the internet.
[01:08:12] Luke Parcher: Oh… [laughs]
[01:08:13] Virginia Cotts: Michael Hudson isn’t controversial, is he?
[01:08:18] Luke Parcher: Well, you certainly don’t mince words, and we very much appreciate that about you. Michael, thanks again for giving us so much time today. And I want to give a brief shout out to Jonathan Kadmon, Andy Kennedy, and Virginia Cotts, who’ve been helping behind the scenes today to make this happen.
Thanks to all involved. Great.
[01:08:31] Michael Hudson: Thanks for having me. I liked the discussion.
I like dr. hudson’s take on “good MMT and bad MMT”..
There has been a lot of miscommunication between those whose aim is monetary reform, that seeks to bring the fed into the treasury, so that the credit creation powers of the US, STOP being controlled through wall street intermediaries.
The idea for dennis kucinich’s “NEED Act”, which takes the stance of the thirties full reserve plan “chicago plan”, in that there is no need for the US treasury to borrow from the federal reserve banks, when the treasury can create ALL of that “money”/credit itself… just by an act of law. Which would supersede the federal reserve act.
MMT, describes the way money is created. But the logical fallacy AFTER that is that these “private” banks, all commercial banks; should be kept in business by and for their proximity to the creation of the nations money supply.
It seems that the reform crowd, speaks the same language as MMT’ers; in that they say the ability to “create” money, works.It is how it is done now.
The difference seems to be the question of; WHOM is it working for?
this country doesn’t seem to be able to “get a handle” on the national debt. The nation, is underwater. It may be that if there is an end to US dollar hegemony, those debts won’t be recirculated the same as always. Then the reform proposals to end the “debt” associated with the creation of federal reserve backed US dollars, COULD be “solved” by the US abandoning it’s private bank created money supply, by a money supply that is created ; not as a “debt”, but as an “asset”. The bill of the NEED act,( HR 2990 112th congress), is there for all to read.
And the intention is JUST to change the money creation process of the US.
IF, that makes possible to reform the political stranglehold corporations have on ALL three branches of gov’t, great. But that is another ask, just one that won’t be possible if these financial corporation continue the “free lunch” with the goose that lays the golden eggs,24/7/365.
Then, it would also be another step for the people to exert influence on their representatives of our Republican gov’t, to bring about wise use of these money creating abilities.
All the way down to everyone’s home town, where those in the banking business, get to decide what gets funded, and what doesn’t. Just like “red lining”, preserved the power structures, and moved “money” towards SOME people and not others.
I wish I was allowed to just “make stuff up” and call it a business.
“…Once you financialize an industrial corporation, you’re trying to make money by financial engineering, not industrial engineering. And you do this by essentially using your income to buy up the share price. This is short term – and finance lives in the short term. The reason finance has no interest in building up industrial power is that that takes years and years to actually plan a factory, plan the production. You have to develop a whole marketing system.
How are we going to sell the product once we produce it? How are we going to distribute it? It takes a lot of planning. It’s beyond the ability of the financiers. You don’t need brains to be a financier. All you need is greed. And you really don’t need a business school. All you need is greed.
And greed is short term. I want it now. Greed is not long term planning. And so, you have a completely different mentality of a financial corporate leader, as opposed to an industrial leader. Someone like, let’s say, Henry Ford, or like the old type of industrial leaders that would try to increase the overall profits to expand production more and more. Today the objective is to shrink production more and more…”
Is monopolization also a big reason for the shrinking production? Manufacturing and industry hasn’t stopped among European and US corporations – it’s only been moved around from country to country.
Can the control a few or one big corp can have on any type of industry by controlling prices an/or by creating scarcity have the effect of “shrinking production?”
I see big corporations constantly consolidating and bicycling around the world (like its a monopoly boardgame).
These corps still dream China (as with other countries they bicycle around to) will open more of their coffers to subsizing them and sell more of China to them. It’s crucial for them to maintain a presence in China, even if the totality if their ideology takes hold at a slower pace.
The corps just continue to bicycle around the world, subjugating all to their bottom line and profit margins because, more often than not, they have to pay up quarterly to please the financiers.
NC: thanks for the repetition.
It takes a little while for me to catch up with everyone else, and I am benefiting greatly from Dr. Hudson’s patient re-statements.
On the subject of capital allocation…
Capital allocation (and how bad it currently is done) is a big theme underlying much of what Dr. Hudson is telling us…Wall Street is doing the allocation, and it’s not allocating in a way that benefits the public. It’s allocating capital in order to create monopolies and rent-extraction taps. Gov’t allocation is currently driven by Wall St.
If we do MMT, the fundamental reason is because we presume the Gov’t would do a better job of capital allocation, right? Otherwise, why bother, just let Wall St. continue to do the “work”.
China has a committee of elders (the “party”) that does the macro-level allocation, and lately they’ve done a very good job. Same with Russia this past 20 years or so.
But we’re missing that august policy-maker function here in the U.S.
If we were to institute public banks, and MMT, and so forth, who do we delegate the policy-making to? Not “who cuts the check”, but “who decides what sectors, and what purposes checks get cut _for_?
Are there any current exemplars who’ve published policy papers?
Are there any groups that have defined a “U.S. Economy 2.0” as the general compass-heading for new capital investment?
Seems like we need such a roadmap.
On further reflection …
It seems like such map-making – the fact that the map is made, and the fact that the map is well-understood and made _by the people_ … that would make an excellent foundation for Economic Democracy.
I would find that Roadmap to U.S. Economy 2.0…. very, very interesting reading, indeed.
What if payback to the US will be a “sort of” sanction when we try to obtain lithium? We will be forced into a situation like Cuba was. Cuba AFAICS wasted no time adapting, and if we were to try to get a roadmap directing us likewise…all this Treasury-borrowing-business would seem to just gum up the works (I mean we’d have to move). Seems anyway like the whole contrivance is only there to create hocus pocus in the first place. Speaking of hocus pocus, for all Hudson’s excellent explaining (and Weisbrot’s too) there is still no clear breakdown of the oft repeated our-money-represents-debt (for us simpletons)…
I believe that’s right on faith, but I don’t understand why a dollar existing represents a dollar of debt. Nor do I understand how foreign recycled profits to us gives us a leg up (since everything they put here we pay interest on). Nor do I understand how SWIFT lets us rake in any extra loot (though I see how we can just stop transactions when it’s ones we don’t like). To me, there are plenty of things that still remain to be simplified.
All I can say is environment will press down on those with less access to technology [Ellul wrote that technology has become the modern capital]. The only recourse AFAICS will be to what’s appropriate, low-tech or not. The more problems with roundup are understood and the more insects disappear…the more mere human pollinators will become valued. The more pandemics, the more nurses will be valued, etc. So, for us there might be a necessary switch from hi-tech=money (GMO seeds eg) to appropriate-tech-becomes-capital?
In a political system without legal bribery (not to mention illegal bribery), a democratic government would do a better job of capital allocation in the interests of majority of the public instead of just a small slice of the public. In this case, the policy making could conceivable exist in some combination of the legislative and executive branches (with executive overseeing agencies/depts with specific subject matter expertise).
The root of U.S. domestic and foreign policy dysfunction is a system in which certain people/groups/entities that provide the greatest sponsorship of political leadership end up with the greatest decision making power…and they use that power in their short-term interests. These people feel they have no duty to improve the lives of the vast majority of U.S. Americans. They’ve moved corporate headquarters to low-tax jurisdictions, they’ve routed their personal financial flows into tax havens, and they live all across the world (they consider themselves international citizens). The U.S. is just a political vehicle to their ends, and the U.S. population is just a strip mine…and when they’ve exhausted it, they hope to move onto the next one (e.g., China).
“There’s nothing that the fascists wouldn’t like about the [current] social democratic parties.”
Thanks for yet another great Michael Hudson piece to join those of the last few days. I usually feel I need to read them more than once to start to absorb them. A new idea in this one for me was this:
“And so when the United States took the lead in creating the Eurozone, it made sure that the Eurozone would never make the Euro an alternative currency to the U.S. dollar because it limited the Eurozone’s ability to run a budget deficit to just 3% of GDP.”
So that deficit limit came from the US – it certainly seems plausible.
Michael Hudson is a God That Walks The Planet!!!!!!!!
Thank you Michael for all you do.
@Michael Hudson. Regarding your statement ‘Money has nothing to do with value.’ I beg to differ. Marx teachings about money as a commodity clearly specify the 3 basic functions of money with regard to expressing value – Money as a means of circulation, money as a measure of value and money as a store/manifestation of value.
Real money functions as a hoard, a means of payment and as universal money