Date:   Time: 
              Home page     Our publications     Series     Reservations     Contact

Overview of book: Monetarism & The Real Economy

The evolving state of the economy of the United Kingdom


Following close to 13 years of applying quantitative easing (QE) which combines monetary injections in the economy combined with very low base interest rates, enough evidence has been accumulated to throw doubts of the efficacy of monetary theory as a foundation for monetary policy. First raised as a problem by the British economist Hector McNeill, policy makers have ignored this possibility. Recently, the Lords Economic Affairs Committee published a report entirled, "Quantiative Easing: A dangerous obsession?" Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, considered the word "obsession" to be inappropriate. However, the evidence given by the Bank of England to the Economic Affairs Committee was entirely unconvincing. Indeed, the evaluation section of the Bank admitted that the Bank was "still learning" about the impact of QE!. Amongst the academic contributions to the Economic Affairs Committee evidence, one emphasised that QE was a policy without a theory.

Last year, the Correspondents' Pool of Agence Presse Européenne (APEurope) requested that this media organization sponsor a review of the impact of monetarism on the real economy. APEurope finally asked the Decision Analysis Group that Hector McNeill heads at SEEL (Systems Engineering Economics Lab) in the Hampshire in the United Kingdom, to undertake a review under the general title of "Montetarism and the Real Economy. Several organizations requested that APEurope syndicate this report content so as to create as wide a dissemination as feasible. As a independent syndication medium APEurope agreed to this request.

This edition of Emancipation provides an overview of this review prepared by the senior economist on the APEurope Conrrespondents' Pool, Nevit Turk. Nevit Turk has interviewed the author of this review on several occasions in the past an therefore has a good background to assess this latest output.

The Review has now been released (31st January, 2022) in pdf format. Readers can purchase a copy using the PayPal card payment link provided on this page.

Nevit Turks's overview follows below and his reference document is the syndicated version that has been released under the series title of the "British Stratetic Review".

Introduction

The British Strategic Review in an unusual strategic document because it introduces a range of facts and concepts which have not previously appeared in a single text related to monetarism or to the real economy. The real economy relates to the supply side production of goods and services employing around 98% of the working population as wage-earners. Nevit Turk is an economist and the APEurope correspondent with the most experience in dealing with the subject matter covered in the British Strategic Review. Nevit has also interviewed the author of the Review on related topics on several occasions. APEurope Correspondent's Pool asked Nevit to provide his overview of this important publication.
John Penrose
ACP
The British Strategic Review, not just a strategic document

Nevit Turk
Senior Economics Correspondent
APEurope
Paris

The British Strategic Review is unlike any other strategy document I have read during the last 30 years. It is unique in that it not only describes how monetarism came to dominate macroeconomic policy but it also traces how some of the events that caused this transition in the 1970s have persisted. This is because the root causes, linked to faulty economic theory, derived policies and inappropriate political decisions helped maintain the problem of energy dependence and income disparity as permanent unresolved issues over the last 50 years.

The review has 10 sections covering different time periods since the Great Depression following the 1929 New York Stock Exchange crash. It is not possible to touch on the considerable amount of original material and revelations in this document so I have limited this overview to the main points of interest but remain aware that it is difficult in the space available to do this work justice.

In the section entitled,"Further turmoil and the turning of the tide in the 1970s" there were rising concerns with the global ecosystem, population pressure on food supplies and the limits of growth centred around Cambridge, Stanford and MIT but these were pushed to one side as a result of the International Monetary Fund's actions that enabled Arab oil exporters maintain a strategy of price rises designed to punish those who supported Israel in the wars in the Middle East. This led to a seven-fold price increase in petroleum prices within just a decade, starting in 1973.

The IMF came up with the idea of recycling petrodollars as a useful buffer to discourage a possible military responses to this globally destabilizing action. Access to these funds were extended through the IMF and from private banks to military hardware corporations and to politicians and political party coffers in the West. The petroleum price was more of an issue of the cost of living to wage-earners but not to those benefiting from the proceeds of recycling and those deciding on macroeconomic policies.
Why the book, "The Stages of Economic Development" is flawed

The American economist Walt Rostow published a book in 1960 using the example of British economic development to that point in time, as a case study of the complete cycle of economic development.

The Review points out that, based on hegemonic cycles, that the UK had at least sixty or so years to run to complete what are considered to be final phases. This final phases are always associated with financial speculation and decadence.

The Review covers this period in some detail. Most economists, like Rostow, do not appear to study hegemonic cycles in their training. This field consists of a far more comprehensive systems approach to the analysis of economic development phases based on copious evidence drawn from past hegemonic cycles. Most end, and this will be familiar to readers, in increasing income disparity and social instability, confrontational politics and authoritarianism and warfare.
More to Say

Jean-Baptiste Say's contributions to economics are not included in most university economics courses. Sometimes something called "Say's Law" is referred to, almost in passing within the context of supply and demand, where a lecturer or professor might state that this is, "Production creates it own demand". Some even present this an illogical statement and even a cause for amusement. After all, how could this French economist get things so wrong? All rational economists know that demand creates supply, or production.

The Review points out that the British period of economic development between 1945 and 1965 saw unprecedented real economic growth, full employment and declining income disparity, the introduction of the National Health Service a transformative period in the standards of living and health. Those in the supply side production of goods and services sectors received rising real wages. These funds created the multiplier effect on real consumption leading to the need for increasing production. Only about 10% of investment came from banks with most investment and innovation coming from profits and savings. As can be seen, it was the increasing productivity of the goods and services sectors that generated the increasing marginal incomes that generated the unprecedented growth in demand.

Under this regime, which did not operate as a function of the now widely acclaimed Aggregate Demand Model (ADM) applied by monetarists, Keynesians and Supply Side Economics advocates. It operated according to Say's Model of real economic growth based on a Production, Accessibility and Consumption Model.

The subtitle of Say's "Treatise on Political Economy" published in 1803, as a celebration of the concepts of Adam Smith of entrepreneurialism and innovation is, "The Production, Distribution and Consumption of Wealth"; it is well worth reading.
It's mechanisms stupid

Hector McNeill studied under David Wallace, at Cambridge, the UK pioneer in the introduction of gross margin analysis and who introduced this as a required part of undergraduate course work where students were required to visit enterprises and work out how to improve performance. He also studied under and Bruce Lusignan at Stanford who introduced post graduate systems engineering courses on practical issues such as low cost housing, the collecion of vital natural resources information and the management of marine resources, at the Engineering School. McNeill attributes his preoccupation with mechanisms or the infrastructures of cause-and-effect based on the needs of individuals or microeconomic units, in part, to this early experience and training.

This approach helps avoid the distraction that comes with the rhetoric and levels of assertion associated with the so-called schools of economic thought which tend to hide flimsy analysis and hidden political and personal agendas. Identifying transmission mechanisms, forces economists to make explicit all of their assumptions and as a result helps identify gaps while at the same time communicating the state of relevance of thinking to matters of practical concern. Mechanisms help establish the proof of concepts by building decision analysis models, following the discipline of decision analysis as developed by Ronald Howard of Stanford University.

McNeill applied these approaches in the development of RIP and applied the same logic to explain in very simple terms why the QTM does not represent reality.
The Review places the reason for this development of the recycling concept and its consequences, at the feet of the Managing Director of the IMF Johans Witteveen. He was a Moslem of the Sufi sect and they referred to him by his other name of Murshid Karimbakhsh. His decision to promote recycling was lauded for "keeping trade going", however, this development and the private sector involvement resulted in slumpflation enduring for more than 20 years into the mid-1990s helping exacerbate income disparity worldwide while petroleum substitution and alternative energy development were shelved largely because of a lack of political interest and foresight.

An interesting detail was the fact that two distinct policy options were developed to tackle slumpflation starting our around 1975. One was Supply Side Economics (SSE) and the other was the Real Incomes Approach to Economics otherwise known as Real Incomes Policy (RIP). Although SSE was taken up by the US Reagan administration, it was simply a fiscal scheme involving reductions in marginal taxation in the hope that the windfall funds would result in higher investment in price-reducing initiatives. This "trickle down" notion did not work out in practice because much of the windfall went into executive and shareholder's pockets and assets. Income disparity rose. The Thatcher government tried the same thing. Inflation did fall slightly, but this was a direct result of a decline in the international price of petroleum in the years concerned while income disparity rose.

RIP was developed by the Hector McNeill, the author of the Review. This is completely supply side, and its theory is quite different from the Aggregate Demand Model (ADM) the paradigm of Keynesianism, monetarism and SSE. I interviewed McNeill about seven years ago when he explained that in 1975 he had attempted to write a proposal to tackle slumpflation but could not find a solution applying any of the conventional policy instruments (interest rates, taxation, monetary volume controls and government loans and directed investment) he realized that all of them, if applied, would create severe prejudice for constituents. Having received his economics training at the Universities of Cambridge and Stanford, McNeill found this state of affairs to be unacceptable. He therefore started from scratch to identify the logical mechanisms that create slumpflation in order to identify the theory behind the mechanism. He then used this to design a policy able to resolve the particular issue of tackling inflation by means that do not prejudice constituents and, in particular, wage-earners.

The first issue of note was that slumpflation was clearly caused by cost-push inflation while all of the conventional policy instruments applied under the ADM paradigm assumed inflation to be demand-pull. The Review notes that at that time, and ever since, monetarist advocates, such as Milton Friedman, were never able to describe the actual mechanism of how increases in money volumes create inflation in goods and service prices. The best Friedman could do is assert that this happens in the "long run", but as McNeill observed, "This is not a mechanism". The go to justification for these monetarist assertions is the Quantity Theory of Money (QTM) an identity which by default, is structured to make prices rise with a rise in money volumes but the QTM is not a determinant model because there is are no variables linked to any functions that explain the mechanisms or routes as to how prices rise; the QTM, therefore, was put on notice as being flawed. To finally prove that the QTM is in fact flawed had to await the overwhelming evidence generated by quantitative easing (QE) some 30 years later.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee evidence on QE gathered during 2021 resulted in a report entitled, "Quantitative Easing: A dangerous addiction?. The Review points out that some of the evidence presented to the Economic Affairs Committee, refereed to QE as, "...a policy without a theory". The Review confirms this by presenting a step-by-step demolition of monetary theory in the form of the QTM and to present a substitute in the form of the Real Theory of Money as a more complete and more useful identity. By the same stoke, this demonstrates why the QTM is of no utility.

The Review calls upon past advocates of an alternative theory to the aggregate demand model in the form of the French Economist, Jean-Baptiste Say (17671832) and Nicholas Kaldor (1908-1986) who became the Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge when McNeill was a student there. What brings these, apparently, unrelated economists together is based on the contributions of these economists to the basic theory of RIP in the form of the Production, Accessibility and Consumption model. First of all Say in his treatise, subtitled, "The Production, Distribution and Consumption of Wealth", published in 1803, emphasized the importance of the role of entrepreneurs in bringing about more efficient ways to deploy resources through innovation. In 1819 Say took up the chair of industrial economy founded for him at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. It is this that links him to Nicholas Kaldor who was one of the first economists to introduce the impact of technology and changes in technology in models of the economy.

In 1975, Denis Healey the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) under a Labour government, abandoned Keynesianism and a wages policy and introduced a crude form of monetarism whose conditions were intensified under the terms of an IMF loan. Kaldor, who had advocated a proactive industrial policy, resigned from his position as an adviser to the Labour government in 1976 to became one of the strongest and most consistent critics of monetarism during the beginning of the Thatcher government. Kaldor's predictions that the impact of monetarism would be a hollowing out of British industry and manufacturing, declines in productivity, rising income disparity and unemployment, and a falling balance of payments under the yoke of monetarism, all turned out to be correct.

Based on the general analyses covering all of the above, the Review then summaries the overall impact of monetarism in the form of a serious constitutional issue that has arisen and made more apparent under QE. This is that monetarism has created two distinct sets of constituents. Those whose incomes depend upon the wages paid by a declining industrial base (the real economy) and those whose income is proportional to inflating asset holdings or transactions. Real wages are declining affecting 98% of voters while asset holder incomes have risen sharply affecting around 2% of voters. The 2% of asset holders are the main benefactors of the Conservative party and the media so the likelihood of necessary change is very small and will remain so until the British political party system is subjected to necessary changes. In the meantime the purchasing power of around 25% of the population in work, has arrived at a low point with many needing to use food banks or take on debt to maintain their standard of living. For most, the standards of living are declining.

The Review explains how the recent inflation affecting the UK economy is not just related to supply chain issue or Covid but the mechanism whereby monetarism generates inflation in the goods and services sectors, which always seemed to elude monetarist advocates, is spelt out in very clear terms; the current rise in the cost of living is a direct consequence of monetarism.

The penultimate section homes in on a central issue facing the United Kingdom. Germany, which exists in roughly the same geographic zone of Europe has developed since 1945, reunified with difficulty with East Germany to end up with the largest positive balance of payments in the world consisting of exports of goods or largely industrial products. Germany's balance of payments is larger than that of China a county with over 16 times the population of Germany. On the other hand BREXIT Britain's performance under a continued monetarism presents a sorry state of affairs placing the country as the second to last most negative balance of payments in the world and importing most manufactured goods. This decline over the last 50 years accompanied "free trade globalization" which created depressed rust zones in the UK, today encompassing most of the so-called "Red Wall" areas which were never fully integrated into British economic development and fell behind.

The main point is whereas Germany invested in tacit and explicit knowledge-based education and training the UK continued with a highly academic schooling both in pubic and private systems and higher education training system. Monetarism's policy impacts as the deskilling of the British work force has been a disaster. The Review calls attention to how, at school age level, there is a need to introduce a broader technical education in the UK and to move away from "chalk and talk" or "white boards and chat" and even "Zoom".

The final section spells out an approach to initiate the resolution of some of the issues facing the UK economy and society as a whole. Avoiding the clichés of building back better and levelling up, the Review, having set out convincing arguments in support of the role of learning, tacit and explicit knowledge Since the monetarist theory is convincingly debunked in the review with the outcome in terms of policy being self-evident for the majority of constituents, ans the vital role of innovation, takes the microeconomic mechanisms that can transform productivity to identify incentives based on business rules to lower the risk of investment to eliminate inflation and deliver real incomes growth and falling incomes disparity. Options around a central theme are provided.

In the final section the quandary of the of how to bring all of this about identifies problems associated with our political party system but pointers to solutions are presented. The Review recalls the outstanding Power Report of 2006 as a demonstration of the resistance to electoral reform by both of the leading political parties.

The BRS author, Hector McNeill

The author of the British Strategic review is the British economist Hector McNeill, the leading international developer of the Real Incomes theory and policy (RIP). He manages the Decision Analysis Group at the Systems Engineering Economics Lab, Hamphshire, UK. He initiated the RIP development work at the same time as supply side economics, in 1975.

A graduate of the universities of Cambridge and Stanford he is a development economist and applied strategic decision analysis logician.
There is, fundamentally a strong resistance to arriving at a state where the constituents of the country contribute in a practical fashion to the shaping of policies that impact their livelihood and wellbeing. There is also the problem that neither of the main political parties offer alternative economic policies.In this context the Review lays bare the fact that both Labour and Conservative parties have both been relentless in their pursuit of monetarism without interruption for since 1975 and Denis Healey's fateful decision to embark on this journey. This was more as a result of panic because the Treasury had over-estimated the government borrowing requirement causing Healey to go to the IMF. There was here a lack of due diligence to double check this estimate on his part as well as an unwillingness to take notice of what Nicholas Kaldor has to say on the matter.

Neither Labour of Conservative governments come off well in this Review simply because, to this day, they have both pursued the same monetarist paradigm and therefore aside from rhetoric, they have not offered fundamental alternatives for the people of this country. Until one of them accepts that there is an alternative that holds out promise and therefore worth considering, the country is likely to continue its descent, as is the norm at the end of hegemonic cycles.

This is a timely document that provokes second looks at how we have managed our affairs in Britain and it provides insights into economics of relevance to economies beyond these isles who, like Britain, need better pathways towards sustainable development.