Over the past several years, I’ve steadily come around to the MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) view of macroeconomics. Some of my past posts make me out to be a deficit hawk; while still true, I now believe that the ROI of government spending is more important than simply looking at the deficit and gross debt alone. This brings me to the headline – why is it that the US cannot default default on its debt, except by choice?
The answer lies in Modern Monetary Theory. In brief:
1. If all of a nation’s debt is denominated in its sovereign fiat currency, it cannot default. The fundamental point here is that the US can always print its way out of default, and so insolvency is never an issue.
2. This is totally different from Europe, in which individual nations do not have sovereign control over their currencies.
3. The only risk of printing money is inflation. This threat must be respected, but it is fundamentally different from a debt default.
While MMT is not yet in the academic mainstream (taught only at University of Missouri-Kansas City), it is the only theory that explains why Japan has yet to default on its debt, why the US can never default on its debt (except by choice), and why the Euro Zone is so screwed.
In future posts I’ll likely dive deeper into MMT, but let me first reference some great resources from around the web on the topic: