Real Progressives

Episode 140 – What If We Lose Faith in the Dollar? with John Harvey

Our friend John Harvey is back to answer a question that’s usually accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth: “what happens if people lose faith in the dollar?”  The question contains all sorts of assumptions and intentions, which the Cowboy Economist proceeds to dismember, dispelling all sorts of myths – from inflation to the Fed. (He even tells us why China will continue holding US dollars, in case you’re worried.)  

One approach taken by the “faith in the dollar” Cassandras is that government is bad, therefore non-governmental currency (Bitcoin!) is better… because the free market is more efficient. However, to say efficiency is good means accepting all sorts of negative social conditions and behaviors, including racism.  

John talks about economic models and their need to mirror real world behavior.  

…you go back to Milton Friedman’s philosophy of positivism. And this is how you do economic research. The idea was that it doesn’t matter how unrealistic the assumptions of a model are, as long as they predict well. “Indeed,” Friedman goes on to say, “often the most significant models are those with the most unrealistic assumptions.” 

Try telling a physicist that the most significant theories we put forward in physics have the most unrealistic assumptions. 

If it’s no longer necessary for me to justify my model assumptions based on real world phenomena, then what is this really allowing me to do? Well, it’s allowing me to preconceive my conclusion. I hate the government. So I’ve got my conclusion already and now I make up premises that will allow me to get there. 

John not only dispels the notion that creating currency causes inflation, he also maintains that all inflation is not created equal. Are rising prices a bad thing if wages are increasing even more? If more people are employed? 

Steve and John discuss the difference between the financial markets gambling on currencies and the real economy, where people buy and sell and pay taxes.  

It all boils down to there not being a clear understanding. Okay, what creates the ultimate value for the dollar? The fact that on April 15, that’s the only thing the US government accepts. And faith is irrelevant in that case. 

The episode revisits some of the basic insights of MMT. Around here, we can never get too much of that. Money isn’t just dropped into the economy; it’s created when the government spends it into existence. It’s spent on labor, production, real resources, commodities, war… it isn’t dropped from helicopters.  

John Harvey speaks in a language anyone can understand, which makes this interview so valuable to us non-economists. It’s packed with answers to the questions and arguments we constantly encounter. Be sure to bookmark it, because you’ll want to refer to it again. And don’t forget – each episode of Macro N Cheese is accompanied by a transcript, making it easily accessible. 

John T. Harvey is a Professor of Economics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, where he has been on the faculty for over thirty years. His main areas of research interest are exchange rates and business cycles and his teaching responsibilities include Intermediate Macroeconomics, International Monetary Economics, and Contending Perspectives in Economics. He has published over forty refereed articles, two edited volumes, and two books. John has a YouTube series called The Cowboy Economist and a blog at Forbes.com. 

@John_T_Harvey on Twitter 

cowboyeconomist.com 

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Our friend John Harvey is back to answer a question that’s usually accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth: “what happens if people lose faith in the dollar?”  The question contains all sorts of assumptions and intentions, which the Cowboy Economist proceeds to dismember, dispelling all sorts of myths – from inflation to the Fed. (He even tells us why China will continue holding US dollars, in case you’re worried.)  

One approach taken by the “faith in the dollar” Cassandras is that government is bad, therefore non-governmental currency (Bitcoin!) is better… because the free market is more efficient. However, to say efficiency is good means accepting all sorts of negative social conditions and behaviors, including racism.  

John talks about economic models and their need to mirror real world behavior.  

…you go back to Milton Friedman’s philosophy of positivism. And this is how you do economic research. The idea was that it doesn’t matter how unrealistic the assumptions of a model are, as long as they predict well. “Indeed,” Friedman goes on to say, “often the most significant models are those with the most unrealistic assumptions.” 

Try telling a physicist that the most significant theories we put forward in physics have the most unrealistic assumptions. 

If it’s no longer necessary for me to justify my model assumptions based on real world phenomena, then what is this really allowing me to do? Well, it’s allowing me to preconceive my conclusion. I hate the government. So I’ve got my conclusion already and now I make up premises that will allow me to get there. 

John not only dispels the notion that creating currency causes inflation, he also maintains that all inflation is not created equal. Are rising prices a bad thing if wages are increasing even more? If more people are employed? 

Steve and John discuss the difference between the financial markets gambling on currencies and the real economy, where people buy and sell and pay taxes.  

It all boils down to there not being a clear understanding. Okay, what creates the ultimate value for the dollar? The fact that on April 15, that’s the only thing the US government accepts. And faith is irrelevant in that case. 

The episode revisits some of the basic insights of MMT. Around here, we can never get too much of that. Money isn’t just dropped into the economy; it’s created when the government spends it into existence. It’s spent on labor, production, real resources, commodities, war… it isn’t dropped from helicopters.  

John Harvey speaks in a language anyone can understand, which makes this interview so valuable to us non-economists. It’s packed with answers to the questions and arguments we constantly encounter. Be sure to bookmark it, because you’ll want to refer to it again. And don’t forget – each episode of Macro N Cheese is accompanied by a transcript, making it easily accessible. 

John T. Harvey is a Professor of Economics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, where he has been on the faculty for over thirty years. His main areas of research interest are exchange rates and business cycles and his teaching responsibilities include Intermediate Macroeconomics, International Monetary Economics, and Contending Perspectives in Economics. He has published over forty refereed articles, two edited volumes, and two books. John has a YouTube series called The Cowboy Economist and a blog at Forbes.com. 

@John_T_Harvey on Twitter 

cowboyeconomist.com 

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