Arjun Jayadev and I have a new piece up at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, trying to clarify the relationship between Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and textbook macroeconomics. (There is also a pdf version here, which I think is a bit more readable.) I will have a blogpost summarizing the argument later today or tomorrow, but in the meantime here is the abstract:
An increasingly visible school of heterodox macroeconomics, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), makes the case for functional finance—the view that governments should set their fiscal position at whatever level is consistent with price stability and full employment, regardless of current debt or deficits. Functional finance is widely understood, by both supporters and opponents, as a departure from orthodox macroeconomics. We argue that this perception is mistaken: While MMT’s policy proposals are unorthodox, the analysis underlying them is largely orthodox. A central bank able to control domestic interest rates is a sufficient condition to allow a government to freely pursue countercyclical fiscal policy with no danger of a runaway increase in the debt ratio. The difference between MMT and orthodox policy can be thought of as a different assignment of the two instruments of fiscal position and interest rate to the two targets of price stability and debt stability. As such, the debate between them hinges not on any fundamental difference of analysis, but rather on different practical judgements—in particular what kinds of errors are most likely from policymakers.