Thursday, May 23, 2019

Bill Mitchell — Being anti-European Union and pro-Brexit does not make one a nationalist

The European Parliament elections start today and finish at the weekend (May 23-26). The Europe Elects site provides updated information about the opinion polls and seat projections, although given the disastrous showing of the polls in last Saturday’s Australian federal election, one should not take the polling results too seriously. But it is clear that there is an upsurge in the so-called populist parties of the Right at the expense of the traditional core political movements (centre-right and centre-left). It is also easy to dismiss this as a revival of ‘nationalism’ based around concepts of ethnicity and exclusivity and dismiss the legitimacy of these movements along those lines. However, that strategy is failing because the ‘populist’ parties have become more sophisticated and extended their remit to appeal more broadly and make it difficult to relate them to fascist ideologies. The fact that the progressive (particularly Europhile variety) continue to invoke the pejorative ‘nationalist’ whenever anyone begs to differ on Europe and question why they would support a cabal which has embedded neoliberalism and corporatism in its very legal existence (the Treaties) is testament to why the traditional Left parties are showing up so badly in the polls these days. The British Labour Party, for example, should be light years ahead of the Tories, given how appalling the latter have become. But they are not a certainty if a general election was called and the reason is they have not understood the anxieties of the British people and too many of their politicians are happy to dismiss dissent as being motivated by racism. The Brexit outcome so far is a good case study in that folly....
Since MMT focuses on monetary systems, in particular the existing floating rate regime, and currencies are national units of account, nationalism versus internationalism becomes relevant, especially in democracies. 

Limitation of sovereignty, including currency sovereignty limit the scope of democracy by transferring control of previously national matters to international bodies and entities that are not accountable to national electorates and cannot be addressed through the political process.

In this, there is nothing intrinsically xenophobic or ethnic involved. It is simply preserving the power of the people to require accountability from elected representatives.

This was the original idea of Populism, Prarie Populism, and the Populist movement in the US and Canada, as well as Progressivism historically. The basic idea is the people taking sovereignty back from the elite that had hijacked popular sovereignty as the basis of liberalism and liberal democracy, and turned the country into a plutonomous oligarchy.

Very often, international arrangements benefit national elites but not the people at large. Therefore, international institutional arrangements can be viewed as anti-democratic by design. Actual outcomes seem to support this view.

Historically, such issues were discussed in detail at the time of the formulation of the US founding documents, which involved states ceding a great deal of the sovereignty to the federal government, specifically in The Federalist Papers

The discussion there is informed by the founding fathers knowledge of the Western intellectual tradition that was formed in ancient Greece, where Athens was the incubator of Western democracy and the Western liberal tradition. Although centrists led by Alexander Hamilton prevailed at the time, the controversy over federal prerogatives and states' rights remains lively today. America fought the Civil War over it.

My background is in philosophy and while not my primary focus, social and political theory is a sub-specialty. Like Karl Marx, I came to realize that social and political thought and practice cannot be approached comprehensively independently of economic and financial thought and practice. While Marx is often viewed as an economist, his training was in philosophy and whose work is chiefly about social and political theory, not economics per se. Adam Smith also. I regard Smith, Marx and Keynes as the big three in economic thought, and none of them were trained in economics. Keynes was a mathematician, as Michael Emmett Brady has attempted to show, which he contends, is why economists fail to understand what Keynes actually wrote.

The following quotation sums up why currency sovereignty and who controls it are crucial. 
"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws" — attributed to Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild (likely a false attribution)
Even though this quote appears to be spurious, the idea behind it is sound. Thus, the importance of currency sovereignty to democratic governance, and the relevance of MMT to social theory and practice.

Of course, the same can be said of the press, the commanding heights of the economy, and the political process. However, in a plutocracy, which is what representative democracies (republics) are, wealth is determinative. In a plutonomy everything comes back to money, who has it and who doesn't have it.

Neoliberalism can be viewed as a political theory that serves plutonomy. And the neo-imperialism and neocolonialism that follow from it can be viewed as the attempt to extend Western dominance and achieve global hegemony with the assistance of comprador governments run by local elites as minions of the Western elite.

Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Being anti-European Union and pro-Brexit does not make one a nationalist
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

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