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Modern Monetary theory aims to restore full employment as a government policy but instead of trying to organise the economy in such a way that the jobs can be provided by the non-government sector, the government itself should make an unconditional offer of jobs to anyone able and willing to work. A top-down approach in which the government stimulate industry or the financial sector in the hopes that they will create new jobs is replaced by what Pavlina Tcherneva calls a 'bottom-up' approach in which the government money goes directly to the people who need the jobs. In one of the many very impressive, more or less daily essays on his website (they're more substantial than what would normally count as 'blogs') Bill Mitchell lays out the case in the form of extracts from a report published in 1941 - Development of Resources and Stabilisation of Employment in the United States by the government established National Planning Board: 'A reading of that report', he says, 'will leave you in no doubt as to how a national currency issuing government can implement effective fiscal policy to meet both longer term needs of its people but also counter cyclical responses in a time when recession threatened as non-government spending was in retreat.'

Some extracts:

'The provision of the physical facilities needed for the service of the community as a whole has traditionally been considered a proper responsibility for government finance and administration ...

'It was recognised long ago that activities such as these presented opportunities for job creation during recurring periods of widespread unemployment ...

'Jurisdiction over the work is wholly in the hands of public bodies, a large proportion of the labor required needs no special skills, and the work is widely spread geographically ...'

A Report from the British Poor Law Commissioners in 1905 is quoted as saying:

'scheduling of regular public works and regular government purchases in such a way that a larger amount would be done when private business was less active and a smaller amount when private business was more active, with the idea that this would serve as a regulator and stabilizer of the total economic activity of the nation ...' (14)

Written in 1905. Light years ahead of where we are in 2019.

(14) Quoted in Bill Mitchell: Planning public works – history has a lot to say if we listen properly, 30th Jan 2018,

In this way, the Job Guarantee solves the so-called 'Phillips Curve' conundrum which gives us a choice between the evils of unemployment and the evils of inflation. With the Job Guarantee we could provide full employment AND control of inflation. This is one of the things that distinguishes it from the main proposed policy alternative - the Universal Basic Income.

The UBI tolerates and indeed may even encourage unemployment. Nor does it do anything to counter inflation. Indeed since it puts money into the economy without a service being provided in return it could increase inflation. Although it does provide workers with a little more security and therefore a stronger negotiating position when seeking paid work, it doesn't provide those who want to work with an alternative to whatever low paid work in poor conditions might be provided by the private sector. Pavlina Tcherneva has argued that 'if the public employment option offers a decent job at decent pay, employers who pay poverty wages with difficult working conditions would have to match the Jobs Guarantee pay and conditions to retain workers.' (15) It would put an end to the present state of affairs in which a large number of people classified as in employment are still living in poverty. The job guarantee also has the advantage that, unlike UBI, it enables government in conjunction with local government and other public services to direct labour into socially useful services not otherwise provided by the market orientated private sector.

(15) Pavlina R.Tcherneva: The Job Guarantee: Design, Jobs, and Implementation,  Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Working Paper No 902, April 2018.

It seems to me that this body of thought is quite consistent with ideas that were developed in the 1930s and which entered the mainstream during the war and for some twenty years after it. It is a measure of the triumph of what we call Neo-Liberal economics since then that these ideas now appear farfetched and marginal. A related website - 'Naked Keynesianism' - which has reservations about MMT but nonetheless claims to represent the continuity of Keynes's thinking describes itself as 'Hemlock for Economics Students' admitting that if economics students accept its ideas their careers will be ruined. My father studied in Cambridge just before the war under Joan Robinson, possibly Keynes's most distinguished pupil. He became a senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Commerce in Northern Ireland. I was brought up taking the virtues of 'deficit financing' and 'spending your way out of a recession' for granted. The spectacle of the British and European governments abandoning that great tradition instead of further deepening it has astonished me. Now the Neo-Liberal alternative, with its emphasis on 'freedom' - the free market, free movement of capital, of services, of industry - small government, light touch regulation, the balanced budget - has been tried and found horribly wanting. With Modern Monetary Theory I think we have a coherent body of thought with which it can be confronted and overcome. And this - together with an end to military interference in other parts of the world - is the most important political task facing us at the present time.