Monday, January 31, 2011

Caution: MMT can be hazardous to your love life!

On Saturday night I went out on a date. I was going to have dinner with a girl whom I had just recently started dating. We agreed to meet at one of my favorite restaurants--a nice Italian place with cozy atmosphere in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. Everything was superb. We were seated at an intimate little semi-circular booth near the back, which had a nice view of all the goings on. I knew the owner of the joint so we were treated like celebrities. The evening started off wonderfully, the wine flowed and so did the conversation.

Most people know that there are two things you never talk about early on in a relationship: politics and religion. I know this and I'm always careful to steer clear of these subjects unless I am certain that the person I’m with shares my views. On the other hand economics is not that sensitive a subject, at least I thought.

You guessed it, before long the conversation started to gravitate into economics. I'm not quite sure why; maybe she started asking me more about my profession or maybe I started making my usual observations about the economy generally and how upsetting it was to see so many people out of work and struggling.

For the record my date was self-employed in a field obliquely associated with the entertainment industry. She spoke about how tough her business had become, but added that she still felt that if she worked very, very, hard she could eke out a modest living, but it was no cakewalk by any means. I said that I thought it was a shame that so much sweat was required to make just a bare subsistence and that it didn't have to be that way.

She looked puzzled and asked me to elaborate. That's when it all began. Like a fool, I started with the MMT stuff and from that moment on the whole evening started to go downhill. I "explained" to her how there could be plenty of productive work and income for everyone if the government simply made the investments that our country needed on a scale that we needed them. Stuff like infrastructure, health care, basic R&D, transportation, alternative energy, etc.

Then she asked me how we would “pay” for those things? I responded with my best MMT explanation, that the government merely “pushes a button” and bank accounts are credited and Voila! It’s all paid for just like that. Moreover, I said that there was no limit to how much it could spend and that it needed to spend to distribute enough money into the economy to get it moving again. She looked at me like I was nuts. She said, "You mean just print money?” “Sorry," she said, "But that's just going to create inflation and destroy the value of our currency.”

At this point I could see the debate coming, but I didn't panic because I had been here before. (Though never with a tall, gorgeous, blonde who I really wanted to sleep with!) I responded by saying that as long as the spending resulted in the greater production of goods and services—which it would--then there needn't be any inflation. "You are creating more wealth by definition," I said. "That’s not inflationary."

I could see the smile evaporate from her face and her eyes start to glaze over. She went on and on about the money printing and going into debt and the burden on future generations. She was obviously not buying anything that I was selling. In fact, rather than convince her I could see her moving farther away from my views. She was becoming irritated. To make matters worse, the more I tried to explain it, the more my explanation seemed to become desperate.

Suddenly the conversation went dead. Both of us sat there in silence, staring out into the restaurant when just minutes before we were gazing longingly into each others' eyes. I'm sure she was thinking the same thing that I was thinking: that all she wanted was to be someplace else.

After another seemingly endless moment of silence she turns to me and hits me with this: "If you're so sure about this why isn't there anyone else in economics or in policy or in the media who says anything like this?" To which I responded with this beauty of a refrain: "A lot of people didn't believe Christopher Columbus either when he said the world was not flat!"

The look on her face went to sheer pity. A few more awkward comments were exchanged, but at that moment we both knew the evening had come to an end. I ordered a double grappa. She left. In a strange way I felt relieved, like a fighter who had just taken pounding, but the fight was at least over.

In the end I realized that the next time I am on a first date, I will never discuss religion, politics and MMT!


Tom Hickey said...

MIke, I filter early on vital issues like attitudes to the important things in life, and that is not just in love life.

Some ideological divides just cannot be breached unless both parties are able to leave that dimension of life behind and completely ignore it. That is pretty difficult in most intimate relationships, though, and that includes friendships. I don't like being in situations in which is awkward being myself.

I just find myself spending much less time with people when I have to watch what I say. While I don't dump old friends because we have grown apart on certain sensitive issues, I do spend less time with them, and I find it's better to get potentially contentious issues out of the way early with new ones.

My experience is that there are two types of people that question MMT, or similar contentious issues. There are the ideologues that have their minds made up and those with open minds. I'll take a chance on wasting some time on people with an open mind.

But when people are rigid on one thing, they are usually rigid on a lot of other things as well. Better filter them out to avoid the hassles that are sure to come. So you likely saved yourself some grief. I don't think that that person showed you respect.

Matt Franko said...


"tall....blonde..." You didn't patch it up with Ann Coulter did you? ;)

Mike, Tom has of course made the best points here, you have a lot of integrity.


Stephan said...

OK. I've learned the lesson. Thanks!

welfarewarfare state said...


That was the funniest thing I have read in weeks. Sorry Mike. I think you missed your calling though. You should be writing macroeconomic romance novels.

Jim Baird said...

For the record, nobody thought the earth was flat in Columbus' time. The debate was over the circumference of the earth, and whether you could make it to the Indies without starving to death. It so happened Columbus was wrong, but got lucky that there was a continent nobody knew about halfway where he could restock.

I do know that glassy-eyed look, the look that signals "You are a crazy person and I am not listening to anything you say". Once you get it, you might as well stop talking.

Joe said...

hahaha! great question, matt!

mike norman said...


I used Copernicus, too. Maybe that's what did it!

Tom Hickey said...

"You should be writing macroeconomic romance novels."

Now that is a novel way to get the point across. (pun intended). MMT might conquer the world through that venue. :)

Seething said...

Mike, you should have just directed her to your blog. Or Billy's place. Or Kansas City. Or Warren's place.

And then shut the hell up about it.

Getting laid is much more important than talking economics.

BTW, a similar thing happened to me when I got in a discussion about religion with this chick and told her I was agnostic. Big mistake. If I had known she was going to freak out, I would have been quoting bible verses and pretending I was born again. She was seriously hot and worth it.

Bottom line: don't discuss religion or politics on a date.

bubbleRefuge said...

Mike. Come on dude! Get back on the gold standard for a night just to get some.

Neil Wilson said...


You forgot that economics used to be called 'political economy' back in the days before those who weren't clever enough to do real physics moved in.

And of course with the Austrians denial of empirical evidence gives you the very definition of a religion.

So discussing economics allows you to hit on both religion and politics in one easy package.

Definitely one to steer clear of on a date.

TheTallBlonde said...

I want to thank all of you for giving me a real laugh. Silly boys, I couldn't care less about Mike's economic policy. I am a big girl, with my own thoughts and theories and I love a spirited debate. I wanted to hear his opinion as he is an economist. I agreed with a lot of what Mike had to say, I just didn't agree with the MMT. Trust me, that had nothing to do with the fact that Mike didn't "score".

Mario said...

that is hilarious Mike!!! Great story!!

hey it looks like the lady might have chimed in here...but you the heck knows it's her and not some loser dude!!!

Cheers mate!!! Remember...these days especially...economics IS politics!!!

Mario said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheTallBlonde said...

My name is Laura. No loser dude here.

Matt Franko said...

Now I'm confused (probably not difficult!)

Tall Blonde: Are you also the Laura that was debating WWS on some previous threads? And Mike's date?

Different Laura?

TheTallBlonde said...

Different Laura

Matt Franko said...


OK sorry, btw I will post a write up by Tom Hickey which is a brief but I think very good explanation of the MMT, Tom is "not an economist" but otherwise he is a very highly educated and articulate person who I think has very good observations (perhaps consider it a 60-second M.B.A. specializing in monetary operations ;)


Letsgetitdone said...

Mike, Great story. All of us MMT males can empathize.

I think you identified the choke point very well. It's the printing money/inflation thing. So maybe the remedy is to go on dates all ready with a homely story, about the choices business people have if Gov "prints money," at less than full capacity utilization. It's pretty easy to understand that most businessmen aren't going to raise prices, but will increase supply to meet demand instead. So, no demand-pull inflation, until full production capacity is reached.

Anonymous said...

That's why you send scouts out before you invade. If she's big liberal talk about FDR and the pity of spending cuts. If she's a big conservative, talk about Reagan and the pity of tax hikes. ("but its just printing money", you say "yeah that's what the liberals always told the Gipper").

Remember too a woman only needs a one reason to say no to not sleep with you. But afterwords, "the burden of production" (as lawyers say), shifts. she only needs one reason to say yes to justify having slept with you. Save the controversial conversations till after you've sent her out to get breakfast and smokes. :o)

Mario said...

great point Letsgetitdone!! I'm going to use that to "warm them up" in conversations. great call. :D

PresidentThomasJefferson said...

TallBlonde & Mike, as a scientist, I go by empirical evidence & if you want to persuade others who are rational, you have to provide empirical evidence & data --and here's some of the best empirical evidence for MMT w/ charts & statistics (note also that Japan(about 200% debt) & Singapore (about 118%+ debt) both have about 0% inflation, 3% to 5% unemployment, about 0% interest rates & GDP of 1% to 3%+ for the past decade or so despite their debt levels, proving that inflation is not caused by gov deficits per se --instead, energy prices/oil is the primary cause of inflation)

1. Daily Economics EVIDENCE by CEO/economist
2. --Daily Economics ANALYSIS by Professor Bill Mitchell, economics
3. --Seven Deadly Frauds of Economic Policy (PDF Link) by Bank CEO/economist Warren Mosler
4. -Daily Insightful & Most Accurate Economics Analysis by bank CEO/economist Warren Mosler