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Keynes’s view of deficits and functional finance: a Modern Monetary Theory perspective

Phil Armstrong

International Review of Applied Economics, 2019, vol. 33, issue 2, 241-253

Abstract: The immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis (GFC) was characterised by a resurgence of interest in the work of Keynes. Fiscal policy became at least temporarily acceptable again, in turn leading to government deficits and debt, as a proportion of GDP, reaching levels not seen since before the onset of the neoliberal period. Keynes’s own pronouncements on deficit financing generated renewed interest. Despite the strength of the neoclassical counterattack – which has been relatively successful in reassessing the crisis as a government failure – confidence in orthodox economics has not been fully restored, at least outside the confines of academia. Although the hopes of heterodox economists – that the GFC might mark the beginning of the end of the neoclassical hegemony – have not been realised, the upswing in interest in Keynes’s views has not entirely died away. This paper considers Keynes’s views of deficits and debt and then looks at the controversial area of Keynes’s position vis-à-vis functional finance. The paper concludes by considering how Modern Monetary Theory might increase our understanding of the nature of deficits and debt and thus provide valuable insights which might underpin the use of fiscal policy to pursue public purpose.

Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1080/02692171.2018.1475139

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