It has come to my attention that you’ve taken a battering in the last few years. Apart from a handful of you, the massive failure to predict the financial crisis, and the peddling of tried-and-failed theories of how to get out of said crisis, seems to have diminished your profession’s standing. Some politicians are even listening to sociologists, who say you have have nothing useful to offer on systems for achieving greater well-being, rather than mere economic growth. Perhaps rather unkindly, some now wonder whether your assumptions about self-interest have been a severe case of projection.
I don’t like to see anyone in such a bind. Especially when I sense there is major opportunity for a turn around in your fortunes. Although I’m one of your poor-cousins (i.e. a sociologist), for the past couple of years I’ve been reading some economics, mostly on monetary systems, and mostly by those I think you call “heterodox economists.” As an active reader, I jotted down some questions that I wanted answering. As I read on, it seemed that these questions were not yet answered! I looked everywhere (well, at least not just on wikipedia) and could not find data on them. So if you work on the following questions, not only could your answers become seminal, secure yourself tenure, you might even gain a spot in the next ‘Inside Job’ movie! I hope you read on and come back with peer-reviewed articles in the coming years.
1) How much money is there is in the world, and how much debt? If the amount of debt is much higher than actual money, what mathematical models can you offer for how this will be resolved, and with what implications for overall utility?
2) Which governments do not issue bonds to private banks, or to (semi-)privately owned central banks, but issue their own money (or issue bonds to government-owned central banks that do not then sell those bonds on to private banks – the same as issuing their own money)?
3) Which governments used to issue their own money, but no longer do, and when did these changes take place?
4) How do the non-GDP aspects of the Human Development Index correlate with the periods and places of governments issuing their own money? (Just take out the “income” component from the HDI and if you have got the information on monetary policy and central bank ownership, then bingo).
I realise some of you may have a more neo-institutional approach (dare I say sociological?!), and are interested in how economics is discussed in the media, or used in public policy. So for you, I also have a couple of research questions to suggest:
5) Of the news coverage since 2008, what % of the coverage on “financial crisis” also mentions “monetary reform”? I ask, as when searching on Google, only 3% of websites mentioning “financial crisis” also mention “monetary reform”. If you find similar statistics from trawling databases of news coverage, could you create follow up questions to reveal why there is this lack of analysis?
6) How are countries receiving advice, assistance and training on monetary issues, and what interests and evidence are involved in that advice?
7) How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?
“As many as need the light.”
Ok, so I knew the answer to that one. But could the answer instead be “as many as know the light is needed?”
I’m asking these questions as they relate to my own interests in sustainable enterprise, exchange and development, and I’m not about to retrain in your wonderful arts (sorry, “science”). If you want to know why more non-economists would like you to research these issues, you can view my TEDx talk on the “money myth.” For some output from economists already engaged in related matters, I recommend “Where does Money Come from” by Professor Werner and colleagues. Other, fairly elementary, resources Ive listed on my blog.
So, dear economists, please throw new light on money. I’m waiting for illumination. Posting links to peer-reviewed work in the comments section below would be great.
Professor Jem Bendell
Adjunct Professor at Griffith Business School
Distinguished Visiting Professor at IE Business School