Monday, September 12, 2011

David Graeber links

Economic anthropologist David Graeber recently published Debt: The First 5000 Years. It gives a good historical background for the MMT theory of money as debt. BTW, the book is a fantastic deal — 544 pages in hardback for only $20 at Amazon (link above).

C-Span, Debt: The First 5000 Years (1 hour interview)
(h/t RSJ of windyanabasis)

I previously posted this link to an interview of Graeber by Philip Plinkington at Naked Capitalism. He also participates in the comments.

UPDATE: Anonymous reminds in the comments that David Graeber and Robert Murphy recently tangled at

The action is in the comments


Arthur said...

I read this book last weekend. The first 300 pages are a great summary of the anthropology of credit, debt and money. It cites many of the big history of money authors used by MMT folks.

The only problem with the book is the last fifty pages or so which attempts to describe the modern monetary era. Graeber gets a lot wrong about the structure of the current system in a way that detracts from this book's overall contribution to MMT lit.

But still worth a read.

Tom Hickey said...

Happens all the time when people get out of their field.

But Graeber seems open to learning about the modern monetary system. I hope Randy Wray, who is also an expert on the history, will work with him on this and get him up to speed.

Anonymous said...

Tom, he recently had some debates with Murphy at Mises place. You may want to update links.

The book is great, btw the author earns more with digital versions.

Tom Hickey said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I updated the post with the links to Murphy.

Unknown said...

Hey I tried sending the mss to Wray and all sorts of other economists before it came out, asking if there was anything I got wrong. I waited almost a year and no one got back to me.

Detroit Dan said...

Graeber's response made good sense to me.

The "Austrians" came out with their usual assortment of nitpicking arguments, and chose to miss the main points. Nick Rowe chimed with what I thought was a silly argument on the side of the Austrians...

Tom Hickey said...

Sorry to hear that, David. I guess everyone is already overloaded. Anyway, the MMT economists that I have heard mention your work like it.

Matt Franko said...

From David at another blog:

"after all, since kings usually controlled the gold and silver mines, what exactly was the point of stamping bits of the stuff with your face on it, dumping it on the civilian population, and then demanding they give it back to you again as taxes? It only makes sense if levying taxes was really a way to force everyone to acquire coins, so as to facilitate the rise of markets, since markets were convenient to have around."

Related from Apostle Paul: “Who is warring at any time supplying his own rations?” (1 Cor 9:7)

Matt Franko said...

Sorry not from David but from a blog about David's book here:


Ken said...

Also interviewed today on Pacifica's "Against The Grain".

They'll probably have a podcast of it up in the next day or two.

Interestingly, he was immediately followed by Michael Hudson on the show "Guns and Butter", and MMT was specifically mentioned.

I heard Graeber on BookTV (cspan) and downloaded the book to my Kindle ... not had a chance to read yet though.

Elwood Anderson said...

Another economist that is discussing similar arguments to MMT is Steve Keen of Australia. Here's an example:

You might want to put him on your list of contributors.

Elwood Anderson said...

Since this post has a lot of links, here's a few more. How about a feedback section for general comments?

There are two sides to the MMT story. Here is the other side.

A government acting irresponsibly under MMT is just as dangerous as one acting under conventional assumptions. MMT has a lot to offer in the case of a liquidity crisis like we have now because it does not put governments at the mercy of private creditors. But, if governments act irresponsibly and spend money wastefully on unproductive resources, in the long run it can drive investors and consumers to other currencies or commodities, destroying the economy of the country. What is necessary is for governments to see the value in both the conventional view and the MMT view and act responsibly.

For anyone interested in this battle of views on fractional reserve banking, I suggest reading these two Wikipedia articles first. They are quite wonkish, so you may want to bypass the really technical stuff. But it will at least give you a feel for the difference between the conventional view of fractional reserve banking and the MMT view.