Modern Monetary Theory: Nothing New Under the Sun

What is Modern Monetary Theory?

The term “modern” in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is probably not the best choice of words, since it implies there is something new in MMT. As many MMT critics point out, looking for something new in MMT is a pointless excercise. There is nothing new to be found. Paul Krugman,1 Lawrence H. Summers,2 and Kenneth Rogoff3 are three renowned economists who did not pull their punches when evaluating MMT. Still, the lack of novelty and the strong adverse reactions have not stopped MMT’s rising popularity, especially among progressive-leaning policymakers. How so?

To understand this situation, it is important first to clarify what MMT is and is not. At least as I understand this theory, the term “modern” in MMT does not refer to something new or novel but to the modern-world way of doing monetary policy. Namely, the term modern refers to the epoch that starts with the abandonment of the remaining remnants of the gold standard 1971. “Modern” refers to the full adoption of fiat money; it is not a reference to a new model or theory. We can agree that the adoption of fiat money is a gamechanger in policymaking but disagree on the implications of such monetary regime change.

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