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Debunking Economics - the podcast
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Debunking Economics - the podcast

Author: Steve Keen & Phil Dobbie

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Economist Steve Keen talks to Phil Dobbie about the failings of the neoclassical economics and how it reflects on society.

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380 Episodes
In his election pledges President-Elect Javier Milei promised the people of Argentina two things. First, he would do dollarize the economy. He’d ditch the Peso and replace it with the, already widely used, UD dollar. Secondly, he would abandon the central bank, who he blames for the rampant inflation, which is one part of many fronts of destruction against the Argentinian economy. But can a country really do without a central bank, even if it is reliant on the currency of another country? This week Phil and Steve talk about the roles of central banks – everything from controlling inflation, to maintaining the stability of the banking sector. Could it all be managed by governments internally? Some of the work is deeply technical and people in governments don’t tend to be very good at anything that requires working with numbers.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Too many people?

Too many people?


Last year net migration in the UK reached 745,000 people. A new record, which amount to more than 1% growth in the population. It’s an unsustainable population growth but Steve Keen argues growth on the planet as a whole is unsustainable. He worries that as climate change destroys food production migrants and UK locals alike will be queuing for relief flights to Rwanda. Climate aside, what is the impact of migration on the economy. It’s helping recipient economies by boosting GDP, often through lower page jobs for the migrant workers. Meanwhile the origin nations are losing workers and expertise, inhibiting their ability to develop. Is part of the solution more control on wages, so local workers are more willing to take on jobs left to migrants? That could slow the migration, encourage foreign workers to build their domestic economies and control the population growth in developed nations. Is that the logical way forward? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
George Osbourne was the UK Chancellor wedded to austerity. “More cuts, more difficult decisions” he said at the start of 2014, as he struggled to get the British budget back into surplus. But regular listeners to this podcast know that a government budget in surplus is sucking money out of the economy. Steve Keen reminds us of the logic that shows austerity does nothing except cause damage. Phil talks through some of that damage, including cuts to public services, a shortage of UK life expectancy, even an increase in hate crime. But, weirdly, the country is still facing austerity. Not through a lack of government spending, but through a high level of taxation. People are still struggling, and the economy is on a fast road to nowhere, whilst other countries follow suit. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Last Wednesday Optus phone, mobile and internet users in Australia went without and sort of service for a full working day, starting from about 4 in the morning. At he same time, Thames Water in Surrey were slowly connecting back customers who had not had water supplies since the previous Saturday morning. Why are things we have always assumed we can rely on, suddenly starting to break? A spokesperson for Thames Water says the outage was because of a rare storm that only occurs every ten years. So are we now specifying infrastructure is good enough, even if it can’t cope with a one-in-ten year event? How did we get here? Is it the privatisation of these services, is it the political culture, is it ravages of uncontrolled competition or is a lack of engineering focus. Phil and Steve are joined this week by Matt Tett, who runs Ennex Test Labs, a Melbourne based company that runs performance checks on key bits of infrastructure, including equipment within telecommunication networks. What does he think we can take out from the Optus failure? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Everyone is talking about AI right now. Rishi Sunak’s new best friend is Elon Musk, who has been over in Britain to talk about it and the danger it presents. ‘Civilization destruction’ is how he described it. But, whilst that might be a long-term concern, isn’t the short-term danger of more concern. Liker deep fakes. Or the rising use of energy by data centres and processing power. Or a reliance on an intelligence that just be plain wrong about things – there are some examples in the podcast. Even the wins, like fighting cyber-crime, could they be negated by cyber-criminals using AI to fight AI? And how much of what we are going through was predicted in EM Forster’s 1909 short story, The Machine Stops? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Marc Andreessen is the brains behind the Mosaic web browser, that paved the way for the web interfaces that made the Internet useable. He’s, quite rightly, a billionaire. You could even say he has delivered a social surplus, in that we have all benefited from his invention to a value many more times than we was rewarded with personal income. Well done to him. But his belief that technology is unbounded is way off the mark. In a recent blog post – The Manifesto on Techno Optimism – he argues that technology has solved all of mankind’s problems so far, and it will continue to. Once we have resolved the constraints of energy, with fusion for example, we will be able to increase consumption a thousand times over, thanks to the unbridled benefits of technological development. Phil wonders whether we want so much more than we already have, whilst Steve says his manifesto is a fast track to destroying the planet. Maybe that’s why we are planning space flights to Mars. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Entrepreneur Nick Hanauer says he is one of the richest 0.1% of people, but he’s a defender of the people. That’s why he’s exposed the lies we are fed in his latest book ‘Corporate bullshit - exposing the lies and half-truths that protect profit, power and wealth in America’. Once you realise it’s not about facts, it’s about power, it changes how you engage with the information fed from these companies. But, not only do these companies have power, they also have the influence that can convince thousands of others to do their bidding for them. Often playing on people’s self-interest. Nick’s hope is that his new book will alert more people to the techniques used by corporations to convince us that their self-interest is for the good of everyone. Even if they die of cancer I the process. Or the planet is ravaged by the impact of climate change. Nick joins Phil and Steve to talk about the book and what he hopes to achieve through it. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
A simple challenge on the podcast this week – how do you fix world poverty? When he was President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim set a target of ending world poverty by 2030. In 2019 just 8.4 percent f the global population were living in extreme poverty. Sadly, the pandemic added another 70 million people live below the extreme poverty line, lifting it to 9.3 percent of the global population. World leaders seem more intent on fixing the short-term issue of illegal migration rather than fixing the core issue of why people are escaping to the west. This week Phil and Steve discuss why some countries are poor and what we can do about it. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Rishi Sunak is seemingly proud to have cancelled the only real nation building project Britain has had for decades. Instead, the money will be spent on sticking-plaster solutions to existing infrastructure, without any business case or overarching strategy. The reason? It all got too expensive. The other reason, Mr Sunak obviously thinks it’s a vote winner and he is well behind in the polls. This week Phil asks what’s happened to the £25 billion that has already been spent. The answer, of course, is that it has been pumped into the broader economy, aiding economic growth well before anyone enjoys the benefits of the completed project. There’s discussion about why public sector investment doesn’t need to undergo the rigorous cost-benefit analyses of private projects and why the UK is so bad at delivering large scale engineering projects. Will we see any visionary engineering feats again in our lifetime? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Economists like to believe human behaviour is predictable. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have a job. Steve Keen argue that we do tend to behave like the rest of the herd, but how many herds are there? Phil asks if economists need to develop the sort of demographic segmentation modellers that marketers use? It’s certainly a long way from the basic assumption that we all act the same – as one representative agent, driven by fear and greed. But if we develop a more sophisticated approach, predicting behaviour for a number of segments of society, wouldn’t we arrive at a model so complicated, so full of assumptions, that it renders the model useless? In other words, can we ever really understand the psychology of human behaviour? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Liz Truss Deciphered

Liz Truss Deciphered


Liz Truss is back. She kept a fairly low profile after very short tenure as the UK Prime Minister, but popped up again for a speech at the Institute for Government, arguing that she was right about supply side economics and the need to fight against 25 years of economic consensus. She seems to think if everyone had read Milton Friedman the world would be a better place. There’s no surprise that Steve Keen disagrees with almost every point Truss made, but the law of averages suggests she must be right on some things. Phil and Stebe analyse the speech and look for some bits of it that might actually be worthwhile. Whilst, of course, dismantling the rest of it. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
The US dollar is creating real problems right now. Speculators are buying it up as US Treasuries (bonds) offer higher yields at lower prices than other forms of sovereign debt. US shares are also proving popular as talk of a US soft landing intensifies, suggesting they’ll be more scope for company growth in the US than just about anywhere else. All of that is adding to the strength in the US dollar, which is weakening the value of other currencies. That means other countries pay more for importing goods, adding to the inflation that central banks are trying to bring down. It’s a scenario that wasn’t foreseen by Friedman when he advocated for floating exchange rates. He believed floating exchange rates would balance out terms of trade, but clearly that’s not happening. So, Phil asks Steve this week, is there a case for some form of capital controls, or other restraints on the flow and value of currencies? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
There’s a vain hope in investment circles, and amongst politicians, that we can still enjoy economic growth on the road to NetZero. There are those who believe that we can decouple our economic growth from our consumption of fossil fuels. In other words, we can continue to enjoy growth driven capitalism whilst avoiding the impacts of catastrophic climate change. Steve Keen is less convinced. He fits into the zero-growth camp, where the only way to reduce our impact on the planet is to stop increasing our consumption. So, what would that look like? For many people it might not be too different to life now, with vast segments of the population seeing their wages falling and living standards reduced. But the top echelons of society would feel the difference. Also, how do companies innovate if they lose the profit motive. And isn’t it all part of some global conspiracy for a new world order controlled by the elite, led by Bill Gates, who is merely a puppet for shape shifting reptilians working to destroy humanity? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Are we earning too much? Many of us are now spending less than we earn on day-to-day consumption items We’re putting our excess income into our future earnings, through our pension funds, who use a chunk of that the money to buy non-productive assets, liking investing in shares on the secondary market, to no-benefit of the companies we invest in. Phil talks to Steve about why we have this imbalance between earnings and spending when, at an aggregate level, our income should equal our productive outputs. The difference is, of course, that we borrow a great deal, particularly to buy a house. It’s this reliance on borrowing which is increasing our consumption beyond the outputs we provide to the economy. And we borrow more than we can afford on the assumption that house prices will rise. So the question isn’t whether we should earn less, but whether we should borrow less. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
If he managed to stay out of gaol and makes it to the White House, Donald Trump has proposed a flat 10% tariff on all goods coming into America. He’s called it the Ring Around the Collar of America – which has led some to suggest the policy is a nasty stain that will be difficult to get out. But as phil Dobbie discovers, Trump has one supporter in the shape of Steve Keen. Steve talks from Hungary, where he is currently on assignment, suggesting this form of protectionism will be good for America. But will it come at the expense of GATT (the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs). Could we be entering an era when all nations are imposing trade barriers and the prospect of free trade disappears. “I won’t be shedding any crocodile tears over that,” says Steve. Listen in to see why Steve is a Trump supporter on this particular issue. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Recently Steve was commissioned to write a report for Carbon Tracker, an independent think tank offering in-depth analysis of the impact of climate change and energy transition on the finance industry. Inside “Loading the DICE Against Pensions” he looks at the reasons why pension funds have vastly underestimated the impact of climate change on investments. He talks through the issues with Phil, who asks, even if we know how bad the situation is, how will it change where we put our money?You can download the full report here: Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
There has been lots of speculation about BRICs countries working to develop a new trading currency, to enable trade without the reliance on the US dollar. There’s also talk that maybe this new currency will be backed by gold? Many suggest this will be a challenge to western fiat money. There’s a suggestion that such currencies will lose value against such a strong currency, backed by a physical commodity. This week Phil talks to Steve about this commodity obsession and why this idea wouldn’t work unless, of course, you aren’t interesting in growing the size of the economy. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
QE was big news before the pandemic. Then, as governments issued bailouts to keep us at home, central banks went into overdrive, buying up the mushrooming bond issuance from government. In some ways, it was a sort of People’s QE, because the money was finding its way directly into people’s bank accounts. So, how does that compare to the QE before we all got ill? And is the pandemic-style QE at all responsible for the rise in inflation we’ve experienced since? Phil asks Steve if there are lessons to be learned about People’s QE and inflation. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Phil and Steve return to the well-worn path of talking about house prices. Why? Because, despite the downturn during the pandemic, followed by sharp rises in interest rates by central banks around the world, house prices are again edging up. Clearly, nothing can stop the march higher, even though an increasing proportion of the population simply can’t afford to enter the property market. So, we know who the losers are. Ut who is winning? And what can government policy do to build a more affordable stock of housing? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
The UK is recovering slower than just about anyone from the pandemic. The UK’s GDP is flat compared to where it was four years ago, whereas most countries have recovered from the pandemic, and then some. Inflation rose faster than most comparable economies and is taking longer to come down. So why is the UK struggling so much. This week Phil asks Steve the obvious question, has Brexit got something to do with it? And what role does a growing trade deficit play in the tardiness of Britain’s recovery? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Comments (5)

Giordano Hardy-Gerena

Thank you for this vital discussion!

Apr 18th

William Vaughn

good point that at the macro level opportunity cost only applies at full capacity of the production frontier, if it's valid at all.

Mar 11th

L Jenkins

Great episode

Jun 28th


let the banks fail. everyone's money is FDIC insured. we will be fine.

Apr 23rd

Ron Fischer

excellent discussion, well worth the listen

Mar 26th
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