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In a recent post about debt-free money, Randy Wray makes some remarks about the relationship between the role of taxation and the movement of the monetary circuit. It is my purpose here to explore the character of this relationship from a logical perspective. Wray contends that taxes are a sufficient but not necessary condition for driving the monetary circuit. As his comments were not entirely clear to me, I asked him what he meant. Among other comments he made, which we will get to, he made these remarks.
If I said “taxes are a necessary and sufficient condition” then that means you must have taxes and nothing else will do. I don’t say that.
If I said taxes are a necessary condition, then that means you must have taxes, but maybe that alone is not enough. I don’t say that.
If I say taxes are a sufficient condition then that means if you have taxes you will drive a currency. However something else might drive it, too.
I think these statements are relatively clear even if not entirely logically so. In order to show what I mean by this, let me specify, how, logically, necessary and sufficient conditions are specified. First, we have a variable, x, that ranges over taxes. Now, we are in a position to specify the exact character of necessary and sufficient conditions relevant to Wray’s concerns.
Sufficient condition (for tax to drive monetary circuit): if x is a tax, then x drives the monetary circuit.
Necessary condition (for tax to drive monetary circuit): is x drives the monetary circuit, then x is a tax.
Necessary & Sufficient condition (for same): x is a tax iff x drives the monetary circuit.
It is probably apparent that my formulations do not quite conform to Wray’s formulations. We can ignore the stipulation about tax being a necessary and sufficient condition for driving the monetary circuit, as it is obviously false. Therefore, we need concentrate only on the other two. First, we must note that Wray is engaged in a complexly compacted argument. Let us take sufficient condition first.
The first sentence is nothing more than a statement of what a sufficient condition is. When he mentions that other factors may drive the circuit, he is merely pointing out that for something to be a sufficient condition for something else, this does not rule out the possibility of other sufficient conditions being operative. He is right about this; it is a logically elementary feature of the context.
When we come to Wray’s discussion of necessary conditions, we encounter a little prolixity. When Wray says that were taxes a necessary condition, this would mean that one must have taxes but that this might not be enough, it is not entirely clear, logically, what he is trying to say. For tax to be a necessary condition,this means that if you don’t have taxes (via an application of modus tollens), the circuit will stop unless some other factor can drive the circuit (like the situation with the sufficient condition). While Wray may be clear what he means, the logical structure of what he is trying to get across certainly isn’t.
However, in denying that taxes are a necessary condition for the movement of the monetary circuit,he seems to be saying more than that if x drives the monetary circuit, then x is a tax, from which follows, if x is not a tax, then x does not drive the monetary circuit. This situation does not allow one to contend, as Wray does, that if taxes were a necessary condition of monetary motion, one must have taxes. Additional assumptions are needed in order to derive this conclusion. Hence, I can do no other than to conclude that Wray’s comments in this regard obfuscate the point he is trying to make. Which I think is a straightforward one. it is that the stipulation that taxes are a necessary condition for the driving of the monetary circuit are false because he denies the implication that if something isn’t a tax, then it doesn’t drive the monetary circuit. From which one can conclude that only taxes can do this driving. Which is false. There are other factors that can drive the monetary circuit besides taxes, such as fines, tithes, and the like.
Taxes as a sufficient condition allow for these additional factors to be drivers of the monetary circuit along with taxes. Hence, Wray’s contention that taxes are only sufficient but not necessary.
Upshot: while the logical structure of Wray’s argument isn’t entirely clear, he is consistent. And the role he assigns taxes vis-a-vis the monetary circuit seems to be more than reasonable.
Bank of England governor admits central MMT axiom April 24, 2014Posted by larry in economics, MMT, money.
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I gave a presentation recently at a Radical Statistics conference where one of my contentions was that money was nothing more than a legally binding promissory note, or as Randall Wray like to refer to it, an IOU, much like it states on US bills themselves. Now, we have Carney, the Candian BoE governor, saying exactly the same thing publicly.
The Bank of England, as reported by David Graeber, finally admits publicly what I contended in my talk at the RadStats conference, that the UK is not finance constrained and that money is just a legally binding promissory note [or as he says, an IOU]. As Graeber notices, this completely contradicts Osborne’s justifications of his austerity program, which it appears he may mention again in his budget statement tomorrow along with further comments about the [nonexistent] recovery. Labour’s problem is that There Is An Alternative [TIAA], MMT, which would completely undercut Osborne’s entire economic program, but they continually fail to utilize it.
Here is the link.
Update: it seemed that Osborne might mention what the BoE governor said about the nature of money in a contemporary economic system, but he didn’t. This is not surprising, as to do so would have seriously undermined his entire economic program. He and Cameron have since then, for what would seem to be obvious reasons, combined to form a double act extolling what they claim is an economic recovery. That there is no such thing, I take here as read.
Read this book: Ann Pettifor, Just Money February 24, 2014Posted by larry in economics, money.
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After you finish reading this short book, devoted to explicating the nature and function of money in modern societies, you will be able to see not only just that almost everything that Osborne and Balls say about this aspect of the economy is wrong, but why it is is wrong. The intended audience of this book is that group of people who don’t quite understand what money is or how it works, which unfortunately includes both Osborne and Balls, so it is written in as jargon-free and elementary a manner as possible. It is in Chapter 4 where she really drives the knife into the neoclassical acolytes and their financial backers.
In reading this book, you will obtain a greater understanding of what is wrong with the austerity policies of this and other governments and what to do about it. I would recommend reading Just Money before going on to other more complicated, but also reasonably accessible, books like that of Randall Wray’s Modern Money Theory. Just Money and Modern Money Theory, in that order, the latter going beyond the former to cover the entire economic system, will tell you almost everything you need to know in order to understand what is wrong with contemporary economic policies. How they can be so wrong and their justifications so misguided is sometimes difficult to believe.
Also, the subject is not easy, but Ann Pettifor knows that and does her best to explicate what is difficult to explicate. In order to see that most journalists also fail to clearly understand the function of money in our society, even when that is supposedly their specialty, this book is a must read. It is available in pdf format from PRIME or in Kindle format from Amazon.