Monday, September 17, 2018

Thoughts on Popper's World Three

In Popper's concept of three worlds (see here for a brief discussion), he characterizes world 3 as "autonomous," and restricts it generally to humans with some minor exceptions, like spiders' webs and birds' nests. However, it seems to me that world three exists at multiple levels in living organisms.

Organisms need a way to pass on their learning through time if progress is to be made and so must search for a world 1 representation of world 3 knowledge to serve this purpose. I suggest that DNA is the representation of world 3 knowledge for cells, while the brain is such a repository for organisms with central nervous systems. In mankind we see, for the first time due to the phenomenon of language, knowledge represented outside of the organism, while it is still within the evolving organic social system. This idea means that we have multiple world 1 representations of world 3 within us (e.g., within the immune system), and that many of them may so far be undiscovered.

This generalization of Popper's thinking is in line with his ideas of evolutionary knowledge and removes its anthropocentric bias. It would appear that Popper was moving radically in that direction when he wrote, in "Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge" (1990, p 35)
Can only animals know? Why not plants? Obviously, in the biological and evolutionary sense in which I speak of knowledge, not only animals and men have expectations and therefore (unconscious) knowledge, butt als plants; and, indeed, all organisms.
I cannot know if Popper would have embraced this idea of a world of world 3s, as he may have seen some flaw and responded with a conjecture that moved far beyond what I am suggesting. After all, it seems like he spent a lot of time trying to explain world 3 to his audiences. However, what seems beyond dispute is that there are representations of knowledge distributed among the many cooperating systems in our bodies, regardless of whether we assign that knowledge to "world 3."

-----

Popper, Karl R., (1990) . "Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge" in A World of Propensities, by Karl Popper, 29-51, Bristol, UK: Thoemmes.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Command or Coordination?

A couple of weeks ago, after an online discussion of some of Denis and Raymond Nobles' ideas to be published in a forthcoming paper, I sent them an e-mail inquiring about a statement that had been made in the discussion that seemed to contradict something I had read in another book  Gary Cziko's Without Miracles. In describing the hypermutation to produce antibodies in the immune system, Cziko wrote "Antibodies that are not successful leave no offspring and therefore soon become extinct..." (1995, p 45), while Denis Noble had said they were "told to die." The important part of the e-mail is produced here:
I did want to ask at least one question that was prompted by something you said – that the immune system cells that do not produce successful antibodies are "told to die." My first brush with the amazing workings of the immune system were in Gary Cziko's book, Without Miracles, in which he suggests that the unsuccessful cells simply cannot reproduce and die in the natural course of things. In my mind there is a great difference in the two descriptions, although the end result is the same. The first I would characterize as an authoritarian regime, while the latter would be self-limiting. 
This difference comes to the fore in upward and downward causation, which you say have differences in your paper. I have biases, and maybe even prejudices, towards methodological individualism, acquired through valuing personal freedom and reading economists like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, and finally, Popper who, as you must know, was friends with Hayek. This methodological individualism leads me to see organisms as cooperative entities – even as societies – of cells and/or organs that are coordinated by signals rather than orders. Possibly, there is no way of testing the difference, but I don't see that cells or organs are acting in the ways they do out of fear of punishment, as is the case in what we might call a human authoritarian environment. They generally simply do what they have to do or, if we may anthropomorphize, what they want to do. Negative feedback mechanisms develop to dampen cheating (mentioned in your paper), but they seem to be spontaneous and, again, operate at the individual level. 
This issue comes up in discussing societal evolution, as people like David Sloan Wilson advocate more central planning based upon the idea of downward causation. I have argued that societies expand and contract based upon their attraction to current and potential constituents. If rules are created that reduce the attraction of a society, there will be pressure for changes (voice) or for exit. For example, the USSR and its satellite countries created a large population of people who, without voice, desired to exit, with almost any country in the liberal West being preferable. This desire demonstrated the attractiveness of liberal values relative to Soviet ones. Wilson, on the other hand, believes the purpose of society is to limit personal freedom in such a way that society is not threatened – something that the USSR was clearly in the business of doing. 
My question to you is how you understand the word "control" when using it in the context of downward causation. Is it authority, coordination, or something else?
 At this point I have not received a reply, and have some guesses as to why. One is that I am just not in the same league as Denis and his brother, and there is some merit in that possibility. Denis, at least, has many honors, and we can easily believe that he has many demands on his time that make responding to me of low priority. When I sent him a link to A Popperian View of The Selfish Gene he didn't know me and responded very quickly, but he may have since seen that I have no publications or academic standing and decided that responding, or even entering into a debate, would not provide him any value. That is a choice that I would respect.

Another possibility is that the mention of Mises and Hayek, along with the indirect criticism of David Sloan Wilson, led Denis and his brother to believe that I am a "market fundamentalist." If they tend to agree with an authoritarian view of downward causation an answer could have led to a tedious debate, linking this possibility with the first. It would have been a terrible waste of their time to present arguments to someone with no standing, and not answering nipped the problem in the bud.

Of course, I would like to have known, and if I receive any communication from the Nobles on these subjects, I will follow up in the comments, or edit this post to indicate the change in status. In any case, I have enjoyed reading Denis's and Ray's works, and suggest than anyone who reads this post could benefit by doing the same.

Cziko, G. (1995). Without Miracles: Universal Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mises Vanquished

Ludwig von Mises, a giant of 20th century economics and an untiring advocate of true (classical) liberalism, has been vanquished at the institutions most connected with his work. Some of my readers may welcome this event, as they perceive Mises's methodology and epistemology as, at best, inferior, and at worst, damaging to progress in economics. I don't happen to share that view, but my concern at this moment is more for the continuance of his liberal project that even his detractors in economics may support.

Today, I read a disturbing article, Universal basic income: a solution to a looming problem, by Michael Munger, Director of the Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE) program at Duke University. Professor Munger has run for office as a Libertarian and published in the Austrian economics journals, such as the Review of Austrian Economics (see his CV here). In the article, Munger advocates a universal basic income (UBI) as:

  1. An aid to the economic revolution that the "sharing economy" represents,
  2. A cheaper replacement for all of the means-tested welfare programs now in place,
  3. A pacifier for the violent workers that will be injured by the economic revolution (see 1).
Munger says "Poor people aren't lazy," with which I agree. But this is a program to pacify them and encourage them to be lazy. Let us hear from Benjamin Franklin:
“I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
Alexis de Tocqueville notes in his monograph, Memoir on Pauperism: Does Public Charity Produce an Idle and Dependent Class of Society?:
The countries appearing to be most impoverished are those which in reality account for the fewest indigents, and among the peoples most admired for their opulence, one part of the populations is obliged to rely on the gifts of the other in order to live.
But, what does this have to do with Mises?

Upon reading this article after a couple of weeks of dismay over events surrounding the Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI), including the "Cultural Marxism" post of Ron Paul and Tom Woods's lecture to Mises University mixing Austrian School economics with the libertarian movement, it occurred to me that Mises has failed to hold sway in any of the institutions that might carry on his project.

It appears that the Philosophy, Politics, & Economics programs at Duke and other universities, cleave more to Hayek than Mises. After all, Hayek, as did Munger, suggested that a social safety net should be required. This unfortunate fact makes the abandonment of otherwise clear principles, especially for political gain, less problematic. Mises, in his review of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, was quite clear. After a number of laudatory remarks he makes the following criticism:
Unfortunately, the third part of Professor Hayek's book is rather disappointing. Here the author tries to distinguish between socialism and the Welfare State. Socialism, he alleges, is on the decline; the Welfare State is supplanting it. And he thinks the Welfare State is, under certain conditions, compatible with liberty.
 In fact, the Welfare State is merely a method for transforming the market economy step by step into socialism.
In light of Munger's defection to the interventionist camp one wonders which "libertarian" institutions to support. Of course, LvMI would never support a UBI, but are they supportive of Mises's liberal project?

In one very significant sense, I have to answer, "no;" and that sense is on immigration. Mises was very much a supporter of the free movement of labor, believing that liberalism would facilitate conditions where workers could move from one country to another without hindrance, contrary to the wishes of labor unions and protectionists. Mises writes (Human Action, 3rd ed., p 377):
[Labor unions] are intent upon restricting the supply of labor in their field without bothering about the fate of those excluded. They have succeeded in every comparatively underpopulated country in erecting immigration barriers. Thus they preserve their comparatively high wage rates. The excluded foreign workers are forced to stay in their countries in which the marginal productivity of labor, and consequently wage rates, are lower. The tendency toward an equalization of wage rates which prevails under free mobility of labor from country to country is paralyzed.
But, in this speech at the Mises Circle in Phoenix that I attended, Lew Rockwell became the mouthpiece of Hans Hermann-Hoppe, the spiritual guide of LvMI, and rejected Mises's view, stating that Rothbard "had begun rethinking the assumption that libertarianism committed us to open borders." It appears that this rejection comes following a wave of antagonism to "illegal" immigrants and panders to the fears of American conservatives and libertarians who find themselves uncomfortable with the consequences of markets. Unfortunately, these attitudes also promote the exclusion of refugees of drug war violence and regime destabilization for which the U.S. government bears a large responsibility.

It seems that in PPE programs, and possibly others supported by the Kochs, and in the institute founded in his name, Mises's voice is lost. It's not that Mises was right on everything, but he had no successors that rose to his level. Although Hayek and Rothbard added to his work, they also subtracted, leaving us with an ideological mess and, at least in my case, a feeling of deep despair.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Popperian View of The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Problem

Richard Dawkins, in the "Preface to the 1976 edition" of The Selfish Gene wrote:
We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. Though I have known it for many years, I never seem to get fully used to it. (1989, v)
Although I never finished the book, I read enough of it years ago to understand, and accept, what Dawkins was selling—that these inanimate molecules were selfishly controlling evolution.

I believed this narrative for many years—actually, until recently. Then, having become ever more familiar with Karl Popper's philosophy and his evolutionary epistemology, I came to believe Dawkins's narrative was false for reasons I will attempt to explain.

For those readers who are not familiar with Popper's work, some introductory remarks are in order. For a wider review of Popper's most important works, see Rafe Champion's Popper: The Champion Guides.

The Tetradic Schema

Popper expressed his evolutionary, trial-and-error epistemology in a "tetradic schema":

     P1 → TS → EE → P2

This schema may be read as Problem situation 1 produces Tentative Solutions that undergo Error Elimination, leading to the new Problem situation 2. The schema represents an infinite process, as each new P2 becomes a new P1. Note that TS may represent an array of possible solutions.

Popper linked his thinking to Darwinian evolution in his early works, writing in The Logic of Scientific Discovery, "We choose the theory which best holds its own in competition with other theories; the one, which by natural selection, proves itself the fittest to survive" (1959, 108). In his  "Of Clouds and Clocks," Popper made the connection between his tetradic schema and evolution, writing that it describes "the fundamental evolutionary sequence of events" (1972, 243).

Three Worlds

Popper divided the world into three categories:
  1. World 1: the world of physical objects.
  2. World 2: the world of mental states.
  3. World 3: the world of objective—that is, intersubjectively criticizable—knowledge.
Much as Mises discussed action in the context of humans, Popper focused on the human component of these categories, while acknowledging a glimmer of world 3 in the preconscious animals. Examples of the latter would be a spider's web (1972, 112) or a bird's nest (1972, 117). He did assert a connection between animal knowledge and genetic information:
This statement of the situation is meant to describe how knowledge really grows. It is not meant metaphorically, though of course it makes use of metaphors. The theory of knowledge which I wish to propose is a largely Darwinian theory of the growth of knowledge. From the amoeba to Einstein, the growth of knowledge is always the same: we try to solve our problems, and to obtain, by a process of elimination, something approaching adequacy in our tentative solutions. (1972, 261)
World 3 in a human context contains the consciously-constructed results of conjecture and refutation that Popper called objective knowledge. For the process of refutation or error correction, the conjectures being evaluated must be in a form to be criticized. For that reason, world 3 objects are generally represented in world 1 objects like books or recordings. I believe, in the case of humans, they may also be represented in myths and ballads that are passed on through retelling and memory.

Genetic Dualism

In "Evolution and the Tree of Knowledge" (1972, p 256-284) Popper proposes a conjecture:
"The problem to be solved by [my conjecture] is the old problem of orthogenesis versus accidental and independent mutation—Samuel Butler's problem of luck or cunning. It arises from the difficulty of understanding how a complicated organ, such as the eye, can ever result from the purely accidental co-operation of independent mutations.
"Briefly, my solution of the problem consists in the hypothesis that in many if not all of those organisms whose evolution gives rise to our problem—they may include perhaps some very low organisms—we may distinguish more or less sharply [at least] two distinct parts: roughly speaking a behavior-controlling part like the central nervous system of the higher animals, and an executive part like the sense organs and the limbs, together with their sustaining structures." (p 273)
Popper calls this conjecture "genetic dualism" and suggests that it "strongly resembles mind-body dualism."
In the cases which we wish to explain, certain inherited dispositions or propensities like those of self-preservation, seeking food, avoiding dangers, acquiring skills by imitation, and so on, may be regarded as subject to mutations that do not as a rule induce any significant change in any organs of the body, including the sense organs, except those organs (if any) which are the genetic carriers of the dispositions or propensities referred to. (p 273)
Popper goes on to explain that changes in the executive part that occur independently of the behavior-controlling part are likely to be unfavorable, while changes in the behavior-controlling part prepare the way for taking advantage of later changes in the executive part. He concludes, now referring to the behavior-controlling part as the "central propensity structure":
Once a new aim or tendency or disposition, or a new skill, or a new way of behaving has evolved in the central propensity structure, this fact will influence the effects of natural selection in such a way that previous unfavourable (though potentially favourable) mutations become actually favourable if they support the newly established tendency. But this means that the evolution of the executive organs will become directed by that tendency or aim, and thus 'goal-directed'. [emphasis in original] (p 278)
If we consider the context of all known living organisms, the possibility that world 3 is not simply a human phenomenon, and the conjecture of genetic dualism we find an argument against Dawkins's theory.

Are We Slaves of Libraries*?

Just as humans need books, and by extrapolation, libraries, to pass on knowledge, so too must cells have the capability to encode their knowledge to pass on an organism's characteristics. To do so, cellular processes must have discovered or even created DNA and used it to store genetic information. Perhaps this discovery occurred through random combination, or through some method yet to be understood that might be called "unconscious intelligence." In relation to the latter there are a number of competing hypotheses including vitalism, panpsychism, holism, etc., all of which are speculative and might be called "skyhooks" by the likes of Daniel Dennett. The primary point here is that the acting or behavior-controlling part is cellular processes, while genes fulfill the role of the executive part. Applying Popper's conjecture to cells, genes would be relegated to a passive role in the same relationship to cellular processes and libraries are to humans. The question then becomes, are we slaves of libraries?

In Denis Noble's book, The Music of Life, he presents two possible alternatives for genes. The Dawkins version is that living things are the slaves of genes, while the other is that genes are the prisoners of organisms. Each of these choices seems somewhat silly (as Denis Noble has informed me, they were meant to be, as alternatives between which there was no way to choose through experiment). After all, are we slaves of our libraries, or are libraries our prisoners? I would suggest that neither is the case, and that we create libraries as world 3 extensions of ourselves with which we interact, enhancing our survival (Popper, 1994).

Evidence for Genetic Dualism

In the second part of the Homage to Darwin debate held at Oxford (41:36) (also documented in (MacAllister, 2009, p 16)) Noble points out that implanting a genome of one species in the egg cell from another is only able to develop so far before "freezing."
There are extremely few cases of cross species cloning that lead to a living organism. What that tells me is that the genetic 'program' --if we can use that metaphor--lies as much in the cell as in the genome.
I suspect that this observation is in agreement with Popper's genetic dualism in that the control apparatus, the cellular processes, are not able to process the DNA presented to them.

Conclusion

Whatever Dawkins may have thought he was doing when he wrote The Selfish Gene, he fostered a belief that there was some control of evolution exhibited by genes. But when we apply Popper's thinking to the problem, we come to a completely different conclusion—that cellular processes are the world 2 behavior-controlling part that makes evolution appear goal-directed while the world 1 object, DNA, performs the world 3, "library" function.

*I use the word "libraries" to represent those world 3 objects are represented in world 1 form.

MacAllister, James (2009). "A Commentary on Homage to Darwin Debate." Retrieved June 5, 2018 from NanoPDF: https://nanopdf.com/download/homageto-darwin-debate-commentary_pdf.
Popper, Karl R., (1959). The Logic of Scientific Discovery.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Popper, Karl R., (1972). Objective Knowledge. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press.
Popper, Karl R., (1994). Knowledge and the Body-Mind Problem: In defence of interaction. (M. A. Notturno, Ed.), London: Routledge.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

A Popperian View

English: Karl Popper in 1990.
English: Karl Popper in 1990. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I intend to write a few posts that use ideas drawn from Karl Popper's work which will have the title "A Popperian View of [fill in the blank]." While these posts will be applications of Popper's ideas, there is no argument that he would endorse the conclusions or agree that the ideas could be applied as I do. After all, I think my view of society is Popperian, but it is quite different from that of Popper's.

I also recognize that others who consider themselves to be Popperians may have different takes and might severely criticize and reject my conclusions, possibly even going so far as to call then non- or even anti-Popperian. I choose to assume in advance that any such differences are simply attempts to arrive at a closer approximation of the truth.

These caveats are not meant to imply that I am tentative about the ideas and arguments I will put forward. They are meant to clear away, in the minds of readers, the idea that I am arguing from authority or that they would not benefit from reading Popper themselves and applying his ideas to these issues and others.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Demarcation: Metaphysical vs. Empirical

English: The front book cover art for the book...
English: The front book cover art for the book The Ethics of Liberty by the author Murray Rothbard. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher or the cover artist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I recently had an interaction on Facebook in which someone who I thought was enthusiastic about my approach suggested that demarcating between science and non-science was "unhelpful for promoting understanding" – that it "smacks of some kind of positivist impulse."* Of course, I disagree.

In economics the demarcation is between the metaphysics of economic theory – where the "action axiom," marginal utility, the law of supply, and the law of demand lie – and the trial-and-error empirical science involved in market processes – the creation of business plans that result in profit (non-falsification) and loss (falsification).

If we do not understand what is metaphysical and, hence untestable (although subject to criticism), and empirical, hence subject to test, we risk the creation of disputes where none would otherwise exist. Examples are the rejection by some adherents of the Austrian school of fractional reserve banking and intellectual property. The first of these rejections is largely because of the "absolute morality" detailed by Murray Rothbard in The Ethics of Liberty, and the latter because of the belief by some (generally followers of Rothbard led by Stephan Kinsella) that economic goods must be "rivalrous" to
qualify as property. These rejections are both attempts to characterize the problems as metaphysical rather than empirical.

Both fractional reserve banking and intellectual property represent business plans that could not be prevented in a free society and would be empirically tested in the event that their realization becomes possible. Confusing the empirical with the metaphysical has led to a great deal of acrimony.

As a final note, the determination of what is and what is not property is empirical in every case. Definitions may be created in an attempt to distill what is apparent in market processes, but any such definition will be subject to revision as its costs and benefits are weighed in the market.

*Full quote:
Personally, I find the "not science unless empirical" distinction to be unhelpful for promoting understanding. I believe too much is being taken for granted in our use of the word "science" in common discourse, and the urge to make this science/non-science distinction smacks of some kind of positivist impulse, leading us to make haughty pronouncements.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Modern Money Theory is really Magical Money Theory

In my quest to understand things economic, I have run into Modern Money Theory (MMT) a number of times, and have adopted the habit of calling it "Magic Money Theory" because it seems to bestow magic properties upon money issued by governments. Feeling that I, perhaps, just didn't understand what MMT theorists were talking about, I searched for their responses to Weimar inflation--something that would seem hard for MMTers to explain. As a result, I stumbled upon L. Randal Wray's series of articles at EconoMonitor, entitled Zimbabwe! Weimar Republic! How Modern Money Theory Replies to Hyperinflation Hyperventilators (Part 1)Not Worth a Continental! How Modern Money Theory Replies to Hyperinflation Hyperventilators (Part 2), and http://www.economonitor.com/lrwray/2011/09/07/helicopter-ben-how-modern-money-theory-responds-to-hyperinflation-hyperventilators-part-3-2/. These articles did nothing to change my views of MMT, and actually makes me wonder if "Maniacal Money Theory" might be more appropriate.

Wray starts his defense of MMT by stipulating 'that government spends by “keystrokes”, this is a description'--no argument there. But then he goes on to state, 'If critics were correct that government spending by “printing money” necessarily leads to hyperinflation, then most developed nations would have hyperinflation all the time.' As far as I know, no critic says printing money "necessarily leads to hyperinflation," but they generally would say that it risks hyperinflation. The claim is hyperbolic as governments can and do reverse inflationary policies. The concerted actions of Reagan and Volker in the early 1980s illustrate the point.

The claim is made that "gold and silver coins were the Sovereign’s IOUs that happened to be recorded on metal (rather than on paper or electronic balance sheets)," but sovereign IOUs on paper, such as Tsarist bonds, are now generally worthless, while a Tsarist rouble will, even if melted down, its sovereign connection (and collectibility) broken, purchase a nice dinner for two. A gold coin is no one's debt--it's an asset.

A clear indicator of the falsity of what the MMTers call "nominalism" is that sovereigns began coinage with precious metals and then debased the coinage, producing greater numbers of coins and inducing inflation. Without this credible beginning, coinage would have had virtually no value. The MMT narrative also fails to explain the use of cigarettes as currency in POW camps, although this article attempts to discredit the idea as irrelevant. Note that Menger only argued that money was derived from the most liquid commodity, with reference to why that commodity was the most liquid (see Carl MengerPrinciples of Economics, p 257-262). After all, he was one of the founders of the marginal revolution and the concept of subjective value. MMT also fails on the private coinage front, described in George Selgin's Good Money.

It is correct that governments who claim to be on a gold standard go off it in crises. However, this reaction is generally to a specific class of crisis--war. Wray implies that money-printing constraints are removed to cope with financial crises, but this phenomenon is more closely related to interventionist and, later, Keynesian policies that came into vogue in the 20th century.

What I admit that I do not understand, is why currency boards or a gold standard would present a problem. The country that creates its own money through keystrokes should be able to buy the foreign currency it needs on the deep foreign exchange markets or, likewise, acquire gold. Perhaps, gold markets are not deep enough, but surely the forex markets are. How could there be "imprudent expansion of these IOUs relative to ability to actually deliver the foreign currency or gold," when currency may be created without limit to acquire these assets?*

Near the end of the second "reply" we find the following aside: "(If you think about it, calling in all the coins to melt them for re-coinage would be a very strange and pointless activity if coins were already valued by embodied metal!)." But this recoinage makes perfect sense, as it is the method by which the sovereign may default on its debts. Reducing the amount of gold or other valued commodities and replacing them with base metal, while declaring the coins "legal tender" enabled the sovereign to pay of debts and purchase more commodities. This circumstance takes advantage of the non-neutrality of money as the sovereign was the first to use the debased money at current prices--prices that would increase as the new money flowed into circulation.

In the last segment there seems to be a slight-of-hand--the fact that reserves are not lent is paraded as a reason inflation cannot occur; but the reality, which is glossed over when the deposit multiplier is mentioned, is that 10 times reserves (as much as 30 times by investment banks before the financial crisis) may be lent. The fact that the Fed pays interest on excess reserves (reserves that reduce the ratio of lending to reserves) reduces the incentive to make loans, reducing inflation.

Finally, Wray suggests that unemployment will keep inflation down, ignoring the data from 1961 to 1984, along with "rational" increased net savings by firms and households. The latter, of course, increases reserves and, without the demand or the incentive (due to interest being paid on excess reserves) reduces the deposit multiplier and, hence, inflation.

MMT seems to rest on assumptions that are easy to criticize, and it seems to have a very limited following (Bernie Sanders seems to be their political champion). It contradicts our view of the state as incompetent at best and evil at worst. Did some bureaucrat invent money, or was it that a monarch saw the possibilities of wealth extraction that coinage provided? Was it Menger's evolution or political fiat?

So, what do we have here? Primarily, I would say that it is an argument that creation of money by the state does not necessarily lead to hyperinflation. On this point we can agree, as that is rarely the argument. But is money the creation of the state, or simply the commanding of an instrument created by individuals in order to enslave them? The latter is the view of economists in the Mengerian tradition.

* It has come to mind that the MMT people must think that the population of a country, no matter how little confidence they have in the money still must use it to pay debts and taxes, while people of other countries do not need to purchase, causing a collapse in the foreign exchange markets. However, in Zimbabwe, my understanding is that the US$ was being used in private commerce as the currency collapsed. In When Money Dies, Adam Ferguson documents the fact that farmers in Saxony would not accept German paper currency for produce (p 151). The fact is that unlimited production of fiat money can and will produce hyperinflation, even without the mistakes MMTers claim are required.