A morning on modern monetary theory at the Al Stone Lecture Series

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 6:26 PM

The birds still chirped the morning of Thursday, Sept. 20 when Dr. Robert Cogan addressed the 20 or so people gathered intimately in the basement of Diebold Hall in the Al Stone Integration Center. The scent of coffee and cinnamon cookies mingled with that of wooden theater props. The chit-chat of friends and acquaintances catching up with each other created a welcoming atmosphere. 

 Cogan, a retired professor of philosophy, spoke on modern monetary theory. Specifically, he talked monetary theory as interpreted by Stephanie Kelton, the economic advisor on the Bernie Sanders campaign.  

“I was trained in analysis, linguistic analysis, a school that rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s in England and the United States,” Cogan began. “The key to this school of philosophy is that we seek evidence for claims and write them down, turn them around and over and look for their implications — defining their subjects. This training led me to think that I might facilitate understanding of this (monetary theory) because it is an abstract subject [and] by using a sort of Euclidean method I will propose an axiom and then try to give you proof of it — visual proof.” 

As he wound a baking timer to 45 minutes, Cogan remarked on the dense academic nature of the subject at hand. “There is a phenomenon known to economics professors called EGO. When I have to listen to a lecture on economics my ‘eyes glaze over,’ so I will hopefully make it concrete with pictures, diagrams and maybe a little humor,” he said.

 In keeping with that statement, the audience stayed engaged throughout the speech, challenging Cogan’s comments, debating stats and asking questions. 

 Cogan defined modern monetary theory in a series of three statements: (1) Governments have no financial restraints; (2) all governments face ecological limits as to what can be created and consumed; and (3) the government’s financial deficit is the public’s financial surplus. 

Cogan also defined what he called “National Debt Terrorists.”

 On his list were the Koch Brothers, whom he said, “Have been pumping into American economic conscious as it is, the idea that the national debt is a terrible problem which is going to require cuts to the social entitlement programs that we have.”

 In learning modern monetary theory, Cogan said, campaigners will be trained to “wipe away the austerity that we can’t provide for these things (Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare), and so on, ideas that are threats to the general welfare. “

 Dr. Robert Rhodes organized the Al Stone Lecture Series and moderated the speech. The next lecture in the series — to be presented by Michael Morrison of the department of business and economics — will be on the subject of “The Economic Costs and Benefits of Tariffs.” 

 The Al Stone Lecture Series is hosted by the Al Stone Integration Center, and the series will continue through this semester hosting speakers from a number of academic disciplines presenting on various topics. 

That next speech will take place Oct. 4, in the basement of Diebold Performing Arts Center at 9:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

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