In this episode of the Economics Explored podcast, host Gene Tunny interviews Professor Larry Marsh about his proposal for a new monetary policy tool that uses a central bank digital currency (CBDC) to end inflation without causing a recession. They also discuss the disconnect between the financial sector and the real economy. Larry Marsh is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame and author of the book “Optimal Money Flow.”
What’s covered in EP184
- What is optimal money flow according to Prof. Marsh? [1:28]
- What is the role of government in controlling the economy? [6:24]
- A helicopter drop of money [13:58]
- What is the idea of a Federal Reserve/central bank digital currency (CBDC)? [18:56]
- Fractional Reserve Banking [23:08]
- Narrow banking as a solution to the banking sector problems [24:55]
- A good example of an all-employee owned company: Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, MO [31:31]
- What Larry describes as a winner-takes-all economy [34:37]
- The invisible hand of the market [37:43]
- Gene’s wrap up: How the current monetary policy tightening is causing hardship in many economies, it may well be worth experimenting with a new monetary policy tool [43:47]
Links relevant to the conversation
Larry Marsh’s Optimal Money Flow website:
Where you can purchase Larry’s Optimal Money Flow book:
AEA conference session in which Larry presented his idea for the new monetary policy tool using a CBDC (presentation available for download):
Australian ABC News article referring to Nicholas Gruen’s savings policy proposal mentioned by Gene in the episode:
Nicholas’s 1999 paper outlining the policy proposal:
Links to videos on China a listener sent me in response to EP182 with Dr Jonathan D T Ward:
A new Monetary Policy tool to end Inflation and avoid Recession w/ Prof. Larry Marsh, Notre Dame – EP184
N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.
Gene Tunny 00:06
Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host Gene Tunny. I’m a professional economist and former Australian Treasury official. The aim of this show is to help you better understand the big economic issues affecting all our lives. We do this by considering the theory evidence and by hearing a wide range of views. I’m delighted that you can join me for this episode, please check out the show notes for relevant information. Now on to the show. Hello, thanks for tuning in to the show. In this episode, I chat with Professor Larry Nash about his idea for a new monetary policy tool which uses a central bank digital currency, a cbdc. Larry argues that this new tool could end inflation without causing a recession. Larry is professor emeritus in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. In the episode, Larry and I also discussed the disconnect he sees between what’s been happening in the financial sector and in what’s often labelled as the real economy or Main Street. Okay, let’s get into the episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Professor Larry Marsh. Professor Larry Marsh, welcome to the programme.
Larry Marsh 01:27
Well, thank you, Gene, this is a great honour to be on your programme.
Gene Tunny 01:31
Excellent. Larry, I’m keen to chat with you about your book optimal money flow. And also a proposal that you presented at the American Economic Association meeting earlier this year. Now this is all very topical, given what’s been happening in the US and in Europe, with banks, we’ve got this age old problem of the stability of the banking system that we really haven’t resolved after many centuries. So I think, I think your book and your work looking at the role of money, the role of credit in the economy, I think that’s, I think that’s highly relevant. So to begin with, Larry, could I ask you about your book, optimal money flow? What do you mean by optimal money flow? And what’s your argument in that book, please?
Larry Marsh 02:28
Well, it’s primarily about the role of government in our economy, and that there’s, in order to have a efficiently running free market economy, government plays a critical role in certain realms where they need to be able to match the marginal cost with marginal benefits. And so you got some that are fairly obvious negative externalities, water pollution, air pollution, positive externalities, where you can talk about a vaccine for a highly contagious disease. So if it was not contagious, and it would be up to the individual to pay for the whole thing. But if it’s a contagious disease, then there’s a common property resource aspect to it. And so you have also you have public goods, and then you have things like highways and so forth. But there’s there’s a lot of areas that people have neglected and not fully recognised. Then I do get into the book into the role of the Federal Reserve, and propose a new policy tool to the bigger the fundamental problem is the the financial markets have become more and more separated from the real economy. No, my father was a Wall Street investment banker. So I learned as a little boy, how the markets worked, and how to invest the money and all of that. But the thing is that the real economy, the GDP has been growing on average, over the decades, about 3% In recent decades, whereas the stock market has been growing by 10%. There’s over three times as much. Well, how can it be that these financial markets are growing so much faster than the real economy? And part of it is the back in 1996? I believe it was that our Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, was talking about irrational exuberance. He said, All these people are pouring money into these financial markets and but then instead of doing something about it, he contributed to this and then other fed chairs and fed boards have contributed to pumping money into the financial markets, whatever they thought the economy was a little bit on the weak side. So part of the problem is that so much money has been diverted, from the real economy, from employees and so forth, that they can no longer afford to buy back the value of the goods and service that they’re producing. And so they go up to their eyeballs in debt they get the private debt is just mushrooms tremendously. So there was this large buildup of private debt as more and more money went into the stockpile. And then I kind of discovered this personally, when I invested in a company and kind of forgot about it, and later discovered that I got a 7,000% return on my investment. I thought, wow, I thought why deserve a decent return, but not 7,000%. You know, I thought free free markets and free enterprise is all about incentives and giving people incentives. So hard work pays off, but not for the person doing the hard work hard work, hard work pays off for the shareholder. And so you really want to see people like Steve Jobs at Apple Computer, you know, when he created Apple Computer to get rewarded strongly, all the hard working employees, the company that I had invested in was Adobe. And they were very creative, and imaginative people, but, but I was getting all this money. And what did I do all 84% of the stock market is owned by the 10% richest people. And when you get a certain amount of money, it gets to the point where you’re not quite sure what to do with it, you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time or buy one car at a time, you may have a couple of summer cottages and you know, maybe you have three or four cars. But after a while it gets to be a burden to deal with all these things. And so you basically just find that you have to invest the money somewhere. I mean, you couldn’t just take it home and stuff in your mattress. So it makes sense to reward entrepreneurs and creative people. But because the stock market has been ballooned by so much money going into it, and then Chris Leonard wrote the book, The Lords of easy money about how the Federal Reserve was pumping money. And then Karen Petroff, has written the book the engine of inequality, about how the Fed is pumped so much money into the give the money to the wealthy people through the financial markets, and then trickle down with the idea that it would trickle down to the real economy. And unfortunately, doesn’t trickle down all that well. And it just builds up and the markets just growing up, up and up without the money. And it’s gotten so bad that non financial firms have discovered that they can actually make more money investing in the stock markets and investing in their own business. So instead of creating new products, or enhancing the products already have or improving their productivity, they say, Hey, we can take this money and put it into the stock market and get a better return than just investing in your own business. And this is really hurt productivity in America and in other developed countries as well. And money flows from around the world into New York financial markets. And sometimes it’s detracts from real investment in the real economy. And so, in retrospect, I think maybe I should have bought my book distorted money flow, or money flow. You know, I was trying to say where we should be going. But I probably should have spent more time laying out where we are, and what what needs to be done than just laying out an optimal world as to what the role of government should be in that in that situation.
Gene Tunny 08:06
Okay. So Larry, in your view, what does need to be done? Well,
Larry Marsh 08:11
as far as the Federal Reserve is concerned, I think it’s very important to recognise that there’s two tools that one could use in controlling the economy. The tool that the Federal Reserve uses exclusively is the cost of borrowing tool. But there’s also a return on savings tool, which the Federal Reserve has ignored. Well, of course, part of the reason it’s ignored it because it hasn’t been authorised by Congress to make use. So I can’t really blame Jay Powell and the others in the Federal Reserve Board for not using a tool that they have been authorised to use. But I talked about this in the book, and why they need to have accounts for everyone with a social security number in the United States would get an account with the federal government. And these could be interpreted as part of a central bank, digital currency, to be a true central bank digital currency, you would have to allow anybody in the world, say somebody in India or Australia, who had US dollars, to set up an account with the US Federal Reserve Bank. And so if anybody anywhere in the world could could set up an account, and then transfer money in and out of their account that account when in fact be a digital currency. That’s the kind of the idea behind digital currencies. Now you the alternatives is have a coin based or per token type base, like Bitcoin, but then you would be supporting money laundering and a lot of legal activities. So one of the ideas I had to protect people’s privacy was to have two separate files. So transactions file, where you keep track of all the transactions that take place, and then a personal identification file. There may be a few transactions that need to go on the personal identification file because it’s becomes too obvious who the person is. But basically, you want to have a situation where government agency, government authorities can look through the transaction file all they want. If they find something that looks suspicious, that looks like criminal behaviour, then they go to a judge and get the authorization to access the Personal Identification file. So this would hopefully satisfy some conservatives that were concerned about the government having too much oversight or control over their accounts and what they were doing and so called spying on them. I personally knew that I’m happy to have the government spy on me as long as I can spy on the government, but you know, happy to have the police spy on me as I can, I can spy on the police. So I don’t have a problem with with the privacy issue, but some people do. And so I did propose that as part of this idea. The other idea is to use these accounts, so that you could intervene directly into the real economy, and not have to go through the financial economy. And so if you were able to offer say, if they have a six or 7% inflation, if you’re able to offer 10%, return the 10% savings interest rate, then this, this would target the marginal saver where you don’t know it’s only on the first say $10,000. Or you can even limit it to 5000, you want to target the marginal saver not the wealthy who are just moving their money around, not the poorest of the poor that can afford to save anything. But the marginal saver who’s probably making about 50,000 US dollars a year and could be saving more. Because the whole problem with inflation is you’ve got too much money chasing too few goods, the demand is too strong and the supply is too weak. The problem with the way the Federal Reserve does it now is when they raise the cost of borrowing. Yeah, they do raise the cost of items that require getting a loan, for example, automobiles or housing. But it doesn’t affect the items that don’t require getting a loan. So you’re really just shifting the inflation from the items that require loan to items that don’t require a loan. But where the Fed is able to be effective is through the supply side. Because there’s a lot of businesses that have to borrow. Some are retail businesses that operate in the red most of the year until they get to the holiday season, where they cover their costs and make a profit is farms that may operate some marginal fields where they have to put a lot of money in in the spring, and they don’t get any money until harvest time. So there’s all sorts of businesses that have to pay for their inputs before they ultimately work to the point where they have outputs to sell and get the money. So if you raise the cost of borrowing, this, this puts the brakes on to some degree, it means that the these businesses cut back hours layoff workers and close outlets. And this ultimately suppresses demand because the workers aren’t getting the money, and you can’t spend money you don’t have. Yeah, so ultimately, that’s what slams on the brakes, and causes us to suppress the inflation, but it does so at a great risk of having a recession. Whereas if you offered the 10% on savings, and targeted the marginal saver, and of course, prices are set on the margin, not on the average. So it’s actually the marginal saver that sets the prices and determines the inflation or not. And in times of recession, you can inject money directly into these accounts, the central bank digital currency accounts for everyone with a social security number within the United States. Now, you can offer the 10% savings on the first say $10,000, but only for those that had a social security number. So if you’re in Australia, you wouldn’t get the 10% return on the money in the accounts because you didn’t have the social security number, your social media, because the US would be targeting its own country, you know, the US in terms of inflation or recession? And then presumably, Australia would have its own central bank digital currency could do something similar. In that respect. Yeah,
Gene Tunny 13:58
that it makes the so called helicopter drop of money a bit easier what it is, that’s essentially what it is you’re injecting an additional 10% into all of these accounts in the States.
Larry Marsh 14:10
Yeah, there’ll be different ways of doing this. So if you’re trying to fight inflation, you offer 10%. But if you’re trying to stimulate the economy, you can inject money directly, and just put it in the people’s accounts say, okay, and which, which they’ve done to George W. Bush, they did, they did inject money, you know, gave people the money. So there’s certainly a more direct way of doing it, then doing it through the financial markets during trying to trying to control the real economy through the financial markets, which has not been working very well.
Gene Tunny 14:38
Well, and it certainly, I mean, people are asking a lot of questions about I’ve noticed that so that, I don’t know if you saw the interview that Jon Stewart had with Larry Summers, and I mean, he absolutely ripped apart Larry Summers it was it was quite extraordinary. And it just shows the popular. Just how the Federal Reserve’s going about it. monetary policy, it’s difficult for it to explain and it’s difficult for the, for it to convey to the public why it needs to do this. And you may have seen the other exchange that was at some of the senators with Jay Powell, and he was trying, they were trying to get him to say that he was, you know, he basically wanted unemployment to go up to slow inflation. So it’s a very, it’s very difficult for the central banks to explain what they’re doing. And perhaps Yeah, this could be another tool for them. But Larry could ask about the feasibility of this, what do we know about the responsiveness of savings to interest rate changes to the returns on saving? Well, that’s
Larry Marsh 15:39
a good question. And this, I would agree that I am not very precise on this. And so we would have to do some experimenting to find out what level of interest rate may work. Now we know that when things get too extreme, people will respond. So we know for example, when inflation starts getting faster and faster, people will start spending money faster and faster. And then sometimes they’ll get their paycheck, and they need to spend it within hours in Zimbabwe or, or Venezuela, where you get this horrendous inflation. So we know that people do ultimately respond to financial incentives. It’s just a question of how extreme you have to go. And so we would experiment I’ve said 10%, right off the top of my head without any empirical evidence to support it. So I would be the first one to admit or to agree that there needs to be a great deal of econometric research to determine what the appropriate levels would be, and how effective they would be.
Gene Tunny 16:37
Yeah, yeah, I had to look at what the literature says, doesn’t mean people. consumption spending will be influenced by in savings will be influenced by the way, those interest rates to an extent, but then they’re influenced heavily by your, your level of income. So I might have a look, I might do some digging myself. It’s an interesting proposal, for sure. Can I ask you about the Postal Service? Yes. Can you tell us that story, please.
Larry Marsh 17:09
So I talked about using a central bank digital currency to influence the problem and inflation or the problem where the recession, but one could also do it through the postal bank accounts, which we used to have in the United States under the postal banking act of 1910. So for over 50 years, when I was young, over 50 years, people could go to their local any post office and cast a check or set up a savings account. And Canada also did this. And we continued until 1966, when they terminated this postal savings accounts. And Canada went for a couple more years, and they terminated theirs in 1968. But Canada now in 2022, has reinstituted the postal banking, they they’re focused somewhat on concern for the disadvantaged to get into an automobile accident or a medical emergency or the rent goes up and they go to pawn shops or payday loans, and they get exploited where they they get deep into debt and then can’t get out of debt. So there’s been some political concern for these people in the in the United States with the end in Canada, as to how you could make loans available at a reasonable interest rate small loans, and Canada has now started their their postal banking back and are making these loans available to people who are in a tight situation and don’t have much income and need need some help with the over the short term without having an exorbitant interest rates.
Gene Tunny 18:56
Rod. Okay. So with your your proposal, you’re proposing that people could have accounts, essentially with the Federal Reserve, so you have this CB DC, does that do away with the need to have a bank account or to deposit money into? I don’t know what’s what the I mean, what are the banks had put money in in the states would have been Chase Manhattan? It was at an investment bank. I’m just thinking in Australia,
Larry Marsh 19:27
Bank of America, Bank of America an example. Okay, yeah. So this is a very interesting gene, because there’s been a lot of people have been raising questions about this, and saying, well, maybe there’s a better way to do it. And I would agree that it’d be interesting to have intermediaries to access your fat account so that the referring to it as the Fed account in the central bank, digital currency, United States is the Fed account. And so you could go through your regular bank and they would be paid a fee for allowing you access to your central bank digital currency. So it might be that instead of by going directly to the Fed, you would be operating through PayPal Venmo, you know, digital wallets. And part of the idea behind that is the feeling that the private sector has a tendency more creative than to come up with other financial tools and things that are valuable to consumers. And so rather than trying to exclude the private sector, from the central bank, digital currency, we might even pay them to help carry out some of the work and, and the the access by individuals and, and how to access their account and how to use their financial situation more efficiently in this context.
Gene Tunny 20:45
Yeah, yeah, there may be some benefits in that rather than having the central bank having to manage all of that. So yeah, I can see the logic in that. Larry can ask you about the banking system. So one of the things I’ve talked about in a previous episode, is this idea of narrow banking, which has been one of the proposals to address this fundamental problem that we’ve got with banks that rely on deposits. There’s this mismatch in the the maturities of their assets and liabilities. Have you done any thinking on this? What was called the Chicago Plan, this narrow banking concept? And is that a way that some of these problems could be solved? Could it fit into your framework? Could you tell us about that, please?
Larry Marsh 21:36
Yeah, people don’t realise that. Over 90% of the money in the United States is actually not created by by the Federal Reserve is created by banking system, that that people sometimes have the mistaken belief, and it’ll be called the loanable funds theory that you put money in the bank and the bank loans that money out? Well, that’s not what’s happening. Then other people think, okay, I put $1,000 in the bank, and the bank leaves $100 And they loan out $900? Well, no, that’s not the way it works. either. You put $1,000 in the bank, let’s say you put a 10 $100 bills, okay, so that’s, that’s real money, or whatever you want to call it. And then the bank would that $1,000 can then create $9,000 out of thin air. That because then that, that 1000 is 10%, which is the wonder the quote, so called fractional reserve banking, but it really the the term fractional reserve banking is a little bit misleading. It should be called Creative creation, banking, or something like that. But so part of the problem is that you are, as you point out, if you’re allowing people or banks to create all this money out of thin air, just on the basis of deposits, especially checking deposits or deposits, that can be withdrawn almost immediately, then that makes for a very shaky situation. And not only does it make it for a shaky situation for individual bank that might get into trouble as we’ve seen. But it also creates a situation where when, when the economy is doing well, the economy starts expanding and really looking great, then these banks have a tendency to make lots and lots of loans, because they have all these excess reserves, so they can they exacerbate the situation so that the irrational exuberance carries over into the loan market. And it’s become even worse now that they can securitize these loans. So it used to be that the local banker was very careful in making loans that be pretty certain things would be, and they would know about local conditions, much better than any one out any other banks or outside the local area. And so but nowadays, they can securitize the loans, they can make a loan. And it’s a little bit shaky. Yeah, what the heck, I’ll just sell it off to the markets. And so this securitization has made it even more shaky. And then when the economy starts to slow, or when they think, for example, that the Federal Reserve is trying to slow the economy and might push us into a recession, then they say, Oh, we better cut back on our loans. So they cut back. And that makes things even worse, and especially during an inflation, the banks don’t want your money, when they think the economy is going to be slowing. Because they don’t, they’re not going to use it. And they just have to pay you some interest rate. They’d like to set the savings rate at zero at that point that would freak everyone out. So they’re not going to do that. But they really don’t have use for your money. And but you’re putting money in the bank that just causes them a liability of having to pay you on your account for money they don’t need and don’t want. So that’s why it’s necessary for the government to step in and offer say 10% on savings in order to slow inflation those times because the banks aren’t going to do it.
Gene Tunny 24:55
Okay, and I mean with this. So with narrow banking do Do you think there’s merit in that concept?
Larry Marsh 25:02
Yeah, I think there’s some merit in that, because you could limit it to a savings account. So in other words, don’t allow checking to serve as the basis, but you could use any discounts or you could use certificates of deposit, they’re even more solid. Because you can’t withdraw that is readily. So yeah, you could do narrow banking, where you focused on savings accounts and certificates of deposit and not on checking accounts. So that would certainly reduce the irrational exuberance, if you say, you know, the, the generating getting too far out on the limb for the individual banks and, and exacerbating the problems of the economy, for the the banking system as a whole contributing to problems and for the economy. And so, you know, there are definitely both individual bank problems, and the economy wide problems that come about through this fractious so called fractional reserve banking, which I which, as I said, really should be called very credit creation banking. Yeah. And then narrow banking would help reduce these problems, both for the individual banks and also economy wide. So now banking would certainly be better than what we’re doing now.
Gene Tunny 26:17
Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.
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Gene Tunny 26:52
Now back to the show. I wanted to ask you, how was your your presentation at the AAA meeting receive Laurie was it was a positive reception?
Larry Marsh 27:08
Well, I think so now, my discussing. You know, there’s an old joke, I don’t know if you know this, the difference between a British discussion and an American discussing the British discuss it, we will say a few nice things about your work and then proceed to tear it to shreds. The American discussion will summarise your work, and then proceed to spend the rest of the time talking about their own research. But but so my discussion did point out, which I think is perfectly legitimate to do so that if you want something to serve as as purely a medium of exchange, you shouldn’t introduce the interest rate, either positive or negative interest rate, you should just make $1 be $1. And you don’t gain anything, you don’t lose anything. It’s just like the dollar bill in your pocket. A US dollar bill in your pocket. So he felt that to be a medium of exchange, you wouldn’t. And I can say well, okay, but then we could do that through the post office as I’ve, as an alternative, instead of saying, well, your central bank, digital currency will earn you 10% interest, I can say, okay, an account with the post office loan you 10% interest, so we can do it in a separate way. So I did run into the idea that maybe there’s different objectives. And you may want to have a central bank digital currency that doesn’t get you involved in the offering the return on savings and do that through the post office instead. Now that’s a possibility.
Gene Tunny 28:41
Rod. Okay. I’ll have to check whether the discussing prepared any remarks or or a PowerPoint, just to see what they are. They’re driving it there. Right. Okay. Larry, you mentioned about the just this disconnect, or this apparent disconnect between what’s been happening in the real economy. So what’s been happening with GDP, and then what’s been happening in the stock market, and then you talked about the disproportionate returns. Do you have any thoughts on what needs to be done there? Do you have any proposals there? I mean, yes. You mentioned the Federal Reserve’s probably
Larry Marsh 29:20
there’s interesting problem in that. Right now. The way our corporate boards work, is the CEOs tend to get other CEOs on their board. So it’s basically the CEO and his golf buddies or their corporate board. And so I’m on your board and you’re on my board and I maximise your compensation, you maximise my compensation, and we’re all concerned with the short term share price. But the problem is, you want an innovative economy, you want a board that’s really knows what’s going on in the company, and the CEO basically gives the board all these reports about what a great job the CEO is doing, you know. And really, you want representation from product development, you want representation. From sales, you want representation from marketing, you want representation from distribution you want to get. So Germany has come up with an approach where they require a certain proportion of the corporate board be elected directly from the rank and file employees. And this gives representation of what’s actually going on in the company. And not some hypothetical theoretical stuff that the CEO comes up with to show the corporate boy, what a great job they’re doing. And so this problem is that the maximising of shareholder value has diverted the attention to the short term share price. And an example of this would be Apple Computer, Apple Inc, as it’s now known for Steve Jobs is a very creative, innovative guy who came up with all these great ideas and then this, and then John Sculley came along and said, You know what, Steve, you need a professional manager, you need someone that knows how to maximise the margin and get the profits up, and let’s get our share price up. And so John Sculley came along and kind of pushed Steve Jobs aside, and took over. And then after a while, they became to realise that Apple was losing his competitive advantage against his Microsoft and other companies. And they said, no, no, no, we need to get Steve Jobs back in here. Because you’ve gotten off on the wrong track, you’re no longer focused on the customer, you’re no longer focused on innovation, creativity. And so we need a system. And I found out here in Kansas City, there’s a company called Burns and McDonnell, and a former CEO of burns. McDonald just wrote a book called create amazing. And what it is burns in McDonald’s started as a small construction company in Kansas City, then it grew to a nationwide us wide construction or an engineering company. And now it’s a worldwide engineering company. Well, it turns out that Burns and McDonnell is all employee owns, when you retire, you have to sell your shares and get the money, but only the employees own the company. So you This is recognising the agency of employees, employees are not just another factor and put like steel or glass or plastic, these these people have agency. And when they work together, and they say, Okay, we benefit when the company benefits. So it’s not just that individuals are motivated, because they’re gonna benefit as an individual, but because their teammates need to do their job. So it’s like being on a football team or you know, on any sort of athletic team, that it’s not just you’re doing your job, you got to be on the case of your compatriots, your colleagues to do their job. And so this is really we’re talking about free enterprise, you talked about incentives, the proper incentive structure, and getting employees involved in the corporate operation, and getting them rewarded for their involvement in the proper operation. Instead of giving that 7,000% return to you know, that Adobe, I invested in Adobe and got that 7,000% return while I was a deadbeat, I’d forgotten that invest in the company. I was like getting this money, please creative entrepreneurs, these these employees, these hard working people that create this new software, they should get the money, not me, I should get some return on my investment, but not 7,000%. That was just too much.
Gene Tunny 33:22
Well, yes, I mean, well, Dan Mitchell, I don’t know if you know, Dan, at all, but Dan is former Cato Institute, on his on his website, he often links to, I think you can make voluntary donations to the US Treasury. But now he puts that as a bit of a joke. I don’t think anyone would like to do that. But what I would like to ask you about Larry is if there are these outsized returns, or returns that people really, you know, they may not have needed those returns to have actually inspired them or induce them to invest or to save or invest? Do you see any role for tax policy? Do you see any tax policy changes? Would they be desirable in the US?
Larry Marsh 34:05
Well, that’s a good question. I was actually inspired and reading my book by a book by George Cooper was recently called Money, bloody revolution. And later, he really issued it as sort of a second round revised edition called fixing economics. And he points out and I remember the chair of the economics department, Sherwin Rosen back in 1981, I believe was wrote an article in American Economic Review called superstars. And he’s basically pointed out and George Cooper picked up on this idea that this there tends to be a winner take all approach in our economy and you know, athletics, it’s pretty obvious entertainment is pretty obvious, but it’s also obvious. I’m trying to think about an Amazon I think the average pay was something like 33 $1,000 That year, and the new CEO, I’m trying to remember his name is now getting $214 million a year. I mean, you know, the question is, you know, is this is this the free enterprise system? But no, and the the interesting book by Steven Clifford called the CEO pay machine. Steven Clifford was on these boards. And he came to realise that this was not free market that competing to get the most capable CEO. This was a rigged system, where the CEOs maximise each other’s compensation. And so, you know, when we talk about free enterprise and incentives, we need to be realistic about what we’re talking about. And not imagine a hypothetical world, a theoretical world where there’s full information and one of the things I talked about in my book is that economics is based on rational independent decision makers. When we’re talking about rational expectations and all this rational list and rational down that on average, people should be rational. And then Dan Ariely wrote the book, predictably irrational, but not only are people irrational, but they’re predictably irrational, why is taken out now, of course, the field of behavioural economics and economics has come about to explore some of these possibilities that people are irrational and predictably irrational. But why it took economists so long to figure this out. But the people in marketing have understood this and exploited this for hundreds of years. To kind of uncivil very slow and facing the reality that we don’t have this perfect information, perfect efficiency in the markets don’t solve all of our problems, we need to be realistic about what the markets can do and what they can’t do. And they work very well, for goods and services up to a point, although in reality, Adam Smith, really there was really two invisible hands, people, people talk about the first invisible hands were businesses compete with one another, to produce better quality products at lower prices. But Adam Smith implicitly had a second invisible hand, and in his second invisible hand, is that businesses conspire with one another against the public to raise prices. So you have the second invisible hand of market power, you have the first play of a competition, but then the second invisible hand of market power, and these invisible hands are in constant struggle with each other. And it’s government it has to be has to play a role in making sure that the invisible hand of competition wins out, and that the head of market power doesn’t corrupt and undermine the system.
Gene Tunny 37:43
Raw and okay, I’ll have to look back. I know that there are I know that famous passage in Adam Smith about how seldom do men have the same trade gather together? And the the conversation does not eventually get on to some conspiracy to fix prices or something like that. Exactly. That’s exactly, yeah. But did he was he? Was he suggesting that was another invisible hand? Was he did he do that explicitly? I’ll ask well, I
Larry Marsh 38:09
don’t think he did that explicitly. No, no. So I’m basically proposing that, you know, but I think others may have proposed that as well. So say there’s really two invisible hands.
Gene Tunny 38:17
Gotcha, gotcha. Because he did actually talk about the invisible hand of the market or the price mechanism. And then your suggested or and others have suggested that there could be this other invisible hand. That’s that’s an interesting concept. But yet he certainly he was, he was concerned about market power. I like that example of what was it Burns and McDonnell. City. So to look at that, it is challenging to find, I mean, I know there are examples of these of a worker cooperatives or cooperatives more generally, in the world, and either asset, some successful examples, but they’re, they’re often special circumstances, or it can be something that’s hard to get, right. But that’s it sounds like they’re doing something right. Or they’ve got a very good culture, they’re in their business that enables them to be successful, and then how to look on their website looks like they’re doing all sorts of incredible things in aerospace and in, in clean energy, etc. So I’ll put a link in the show notes to that operation. Okay. Couple more things. Larry, there was a proposal in Australia here from an economist, Dr. Nicholas grew and which, when you were talking about your, your idea of these accounts with the Fed, and then you could use, you could use this borrowing rate to encourage saving and that can pull you know, that means that there’s less money chasing those few goods and that can pull back on inflation. There was an idea from an economist to Dr. Nicholas grew and he was suggesting that in Australia, we could use the there’s a compulsory superannuation system so what you could do is If there is a inflationary time, you could require more contributions into that. So that’s another. That’s another concept. I don’t know whether you’ve seen that idea at all whether you have any reactions to that. I know I
Larry Marsh 40:14
need to understand that a little better. Okay, I’ll might I
Gene Tunny 40:17
might send on a link to the to that that idea, because probably should have given you a heads up on that.
Larry Marsh 40:25
Very interesting. I’d like to look at that. Yes, absolutely.
Gene Tunny 40:28
Yeah. So because there’s a bit of discussion about this in Australia at the moment, too, because these interest rate increases are starting to affect households. And I think unlike in the US, the large majority of you know, people who borrowed for Home Loans here in Australia, mortgage holders, they’re, they’re on variable rates. So they’re really affected when those interest rates change when they increase and so there are people who are now paying $1,000 or more a month, on their, on their home loans. And that’s really starting to affect budgets. Okay, Larry, before we wrap up any final thoughts on optimal money flow, or how we can make things better?
Larry Marsh 41:16
Well, let me first just say that if one purchases Apple mindset, or directly to Apple University Press, then all $24.95 goes to student scholarships, I pay for the production of the book and the mailing of the book. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to listen to Apple money flow for free, Bupa digital.com, is used by many public libraries. And it’s actually better in my average humble opinion than Libby or some of the other ones where they where the public library just gets a couple of copies of an e book or, or an audio book, where and then then you have to go through a hold period to wait until one becomes available. But in hoopla digital, it’s a rental system. And if 20 People suddenly want this book, big, all 20 Again, so there’s no hold period. So it’s free to listen to through your public library, or your Public Library’s paying for it, and you’re paying for it in your taxes, which is important. And that’s something I also wanted to point out was the public libraries. And public education in general is so important, because our most valuable resources are people. And too often, conservatives overlook the important role that government plays in making sure that we get or as close to equal opportunity as we can. Because they say the most important decision you make in your life is your choice of parents, you want to choose rich, well executed parents, well, you haven’t been able to do that, then the public library and our public education system is designed to give you a fighting chance. So I think that we need to recognise how important it is to make sure that all children and I like to say I think the solution to crime in the inner cities is college, get these kids out of that crime laden area and get them into college, we have a number of colleges now, because of the low birth rates and the fewer people coming to college, who are really trying to help get scholarships, funding for disadvantaged students, and get them out of those prime laden inner cities and get them into nursing, accounting, chemical engineering, anything other than shooting it out in the inner city. So, you know, I like to say the solution to crime is college.
Gene Tunny 43:41
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think education is incredibly important. Okay. Yeah. First, Larry Marsh, thanks so much for your time, I really enjoyed talking about optimal money flow and learning about your proposals. So I thought that was great. And yeah, really found some of those examples. Valuable, though, particularly burns. And McDonnell, I’ll look into that a bit, a bit more. And you gave some good references there, this idea of the co pay machine, that’s something that I find I’m interested in looking at a bit more, because there’s definitely the potential for co pay to get out of proportion to what is optimal, given there is that principal agent problem in companies? So the fact that the people who run the company are acting as agents of the principals who are the shareholders and so yeah, that’s that’s certainly a problem. Yeah, very good.
Larry Marsh 44:52
If I could mention another book by Lynn stout called the shareholder value myth. And so she’s actually a I’m lawyer who has really investigated this whole concept of shareholder value, and found that there’s a lot of flaws in the way this shareholder value concept has been presented. And she really explains that well, and it’s worth looking at the shareholder value event. So I know your guests probably don’t spend all that time promoting other people’s books. But I found so many books that are so valuable. And I mentioned the Greg graves book create amazing another, which is also on hoopla digital. So it’s easy to access to your public library.
Gene Tunny 45:35
Very good. I’ll definitely put a link to to your book, Larry, and to optimal money flow and also to your AAA presentation, which I thought was was was great. Yeah, lots of lots of good illustrations in it. So well done on that. Very good. Well, Larry, I’m pleased that things are getting warmer there. For you in in Kansas City. And thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
Larry Marsh 46:06
Ron Frank Eugene, you have a wonderful podcast. I was very excited when I’ve learned about it. And you’ve covered some wonderful topics. I’ve been going through your podcasts and learning a lot from your guests. So I encourage people to check out your podcasts and take advantage of all their wonderful information that you’re making available.
Gene Tunny 46:26
Excellent. Thanks. Thanks, Larry. And yeah, have a great day. And I’ll see who knows, maybe I’ll chat with you again soon. Really appreciate it.
Larry Marsh 46:35
We’re okay, great, thanks to.
Gene Tunny 46:41
Okay, have you found that informative and enjoyable? Given all the hardship that the current monetary policy tightening is causing in many economies, it may well be worth experimenting with a new monetary policy tool along the lines suggested by Larry. As I noted in my conversation with him, I’m unsure just how responsive household savings will be to the interest rates on cbdc accounts. But I’d be interested in seeing the results of a pilot study of the concept. That said, I know concerns have been expressed about CBDCs by many people, including libertarians and crypto advocates. For instance, there’s a concern that a cbdc could allow central banks and governments greater control over our lives. I probably need a full episode to explore the pros and cons of cbdc. So I’ll aim to do that in the future. I should note here that a previous guest of the podcast, Nicholas grown an Australian economist that I’ve worked with from time to time, he’s previously proposed that the RBA provides digital bank accounts for Australian so a proposal similar to what Larry is proposing for the US. He’s also offered his own interesting alternative to conventional monetary policy. And this is something that the ABC journalist Gareth Hutchins is written up in a recent story of his and I mentioned that to, to Larry, in my conversation, so I’ll put a link in the show notes to that ABC article. In a 1999 paper for the Business Council of Australia. Nicholas proposed very in the superannuation contribution rate. So that acts as a counter cyclical macro economic policy instrument. I’ll link to that paper in the show notes, and I might try to get Nicholas back onto the show to discuss the idea with me. Overall, I’m not sure about the feasibility, economic and political of various alternatives to the existing monetary policy approach to fight inflation. But given the downsides of the existing approach, I’m open to exploring and testing alternatives. Okay, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this episode. For instance, Are you positive or negative about CBDCs? What do you think? And what do you think about employee owned companies such as burns, and McDonnell and Kansas City? Can they work? Have you seen any good examples of them? Please send me an email with your thoughts, you can reach me via contact at economics explore.com. Recently, I’ve had a listener send me links to several videos on China after he listened to my recent conversation with Dr. Jonathan DT ward. Those videos included some rather troubling evidence which would support Dr. Ward’s arguments. So I’m very grateful to that listener for having sent links to those videos because they’re forcing me to think more deeply about the West’s relationship with China. I’ll include the links in the show notes. Finally, if you enjoyed what Larry had to say this episode, please consider getting a copy of his 2021 book optimal money flow, also linked to in the show notes. Thanks for listening. Right Oh, thanks for listening to this episode of economics explored. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. You can send me an email via contact at economics explore.com or Smile via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. If you’ve enjoyed the show, I’d be grateful if you could tell anyone you think would be interested about it. Word of mouth is one of the main ways that people learn about the show. Finally, if your podcasting outlets you then please write a review and leave a rating. Thanks for listening. I hope you can join me again next week.
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