Hyman Minsky at 100: Was Minsky a Communist?
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Hyman Minsky at 100: Was Minsky a Communist?
byRiccardo Bellofiore(Mar 01, 2020)
Riccardo Bellofiore is a professor of economics at the University of Bergamo. He is the author and editor of multiple books, including In Marx’s Laboratory: Critical Interpretations of the “Grundrisse” (Haymarket Books, 2014). He would like to thank John Bellamy Foster, Diana Minsky, and Alan Minsky for their help on this article.
This paper was presented in Bergamo in June 2019, in Palermo in October 2019, and in Milan in December 2019 in celebration of Minsky’s 100th birthday. It was also presented in San Diego at the 2020 Allied Social Science Association meeting, in the session hosted by the Association for Evolutionary Economics and the American Economic Association on “Advancing the Progressive Ideal by Reshaping the Role of State and Market.” The argument about the socialization of investment engages some points more fully developed in Bellofiore’s “The Socialization of Investment, from Keynes to Minsky and Beyond,” Working Paper 822, Levy Economics Institute, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, December 2014.
Since the Great Financial Crisis of 2007–09, Hyman Minsky (1919–96) has been widely recognized as one of the late twentieth century’s most insightful economic theorists. As Thomas I. Palley wrote in Monthly Review in April 2010:
Aside from Keynes, no economist seems to have benefited so much from the financial crisis of 2007–08 as the late Hyman Minsky. The collapse of the sub-prime market in August 2007 has been widely labeled a “Minsky moment,” and many view the subsequent implosion of the financial system and deep recession as confirming Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis” regarding economic crisis in capitalist economies. For instance, in August 2007, shortly after the sub-prime market collapse, the Wall Street Journal devoted a front-page story to Minsky.
Nevertheless, if Minsky had still been alive at the time of the Great Financial Crisis, there would have been little likelihood that his new-found reputation would have resulted in his receiving the so-called Nobel Prize in Economics (the Bank of Sweden’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) since he was a heterodox and socialist economist and thus an opponent of the dominant neoclassical orthodoxy. It is this topic of Minsky’s heretical views and how these are related to the wider critique of capitalism that Riccardo Bellofiore addresses in the following article.
In 1976, Guido Carli left the Bank of Italy, of which he was the governor, after being appointed chairman of Confindustria. There, he refounded the Centro Studi di Confindustria (CSC), the research department of the Italian Industrial Association. Paolo Savona, who also came from the Bank of Italy, was the first director of the CSC. The think tank was open to international economists of various theoretical orientations, ranging from Monetarists to post-Keynesians. Thanks to the post-Keynesian economist Jan Kregel, who had been hired by the CSC, Hyman Minsky was invited as a visiting scholar starting in 1978. Through Michele Fratianni, who was on the Scientific Committee, Savona was in contact with the Swiss monetarist economist Karl Brunner. Savona and Fratianni encountered Brunner at a Shadow Open Market Committee meeting at Rochester University. Brunner was furious about Minsky and complained that they “had brought home a communist.” Carli and Savona were not very impressed.1
But the question still stands: Was Minsky in fact a communist? Of course not. But, a century after his birth, it is useful to clarify often neglected aspects of his intellectual biography. His intellectual (and political) legacy has been constrained paradoxically by the very financial instability hypothesis on which his reputation stands, which is important but also limiting.
Let us, then, start with his beginnings, which also formed the title of a paper Minsky wrote for the BNL [Banco Nazionale del Lavoro] Quarterly Review.2 The article, together with his entry on himself for Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer’s Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists, is a treasure of details.3
A self-identified red diaper baby, Minsky was born in Chicago on September 23, 1919. Minsky’s mother, Dora Zakon, was active in the trade unions, while his father, Sam, left his home country of Russia after the 1905 Revolution. The pair met at a gala of the Jewish section of the Socialist Party in Chicago to celebrate the centenary of Karl Marx’s birth, which is why the centenary of Minsky’s birth is one year after the bicentenary of Marx’s. When he was in secondary school, the young Minsky followed the family tradition and was involved in the youth of the U.S. Socialist Party. Minsky enrolled in the University of Chicago as an undergraduate in September 1937 and four years later received his Bachelor of Science in mathematics. Minsky recalled never truly connecting with other students interested in economics, either at the University of Chicago or Harvard, where he attended graduate school, and his friends were mainly studying other disciplines. Despite this, the University of Chicago left its imprint of intellectual discipline and stimulation, hard work, great discussions, and political involvement. In fact, he ultimately attributed the decision to study economics after 1939, abandoning his original intention to specialize in mathematics and physics, to the development of his social and political interests and commitments at the time.
The decision was also hugely influenced by a short course on the Socialist Party by the Polish economist Oskar Lange. For Lange, who focused on the economic theories of socialism, (decentralized) socialism was thought to be a mechanism for making markets work. Not only did Lange teach a university course on John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (a quite mechanical interpretation, Minsky commented), but he also taught classes on business cycle theories in which Marx (together with Keynes) was the main protagonist. Outside of the classroom, Minsky also remembered advice from Lange about how to dress and behave in the department: always compromise on conventions, never compromise on ideology—a lesson Minsky passed on to his pupils as well. Minsky fondly remembered other mentors and intellectual collaborators. Some were liberals and supported the free market, yet were in favor of a radical reform of capitalism, like Henry Simons. Others, like Paul Douglas, were liberals. An admirer of Robert Owen and Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Douglas became a friend of Minsky: “[He] viewed me as a ‘clean’ person on the left, one who was not ‘tainted’ with Leninism or Stalinism.”
After he served in the U.S. army until late 1945 and worked for the U.S. military government in Berlin until August 1946, Minsky went to Harvard to conclude his graduate studies and begin his Doctor of Philosophy. His first advisor was Joseph Schumpeter, who died in 1950, and he finished his dissertation under Wassily Leontief. Keynes and Schumpeter (but also, through Schumpeter, Marx) define the theoretical field Minsky explored. He labeled Keynes and Schumpeter as “Marxist economists, who are conservative and pro-capitalist.” This hidden Marxian undercurrent knows what economics (of any kind) does not know: that real variables can only be deﬁned ex post in a monetary economy, otherwise they are meaningless for a theory of the capitalist economy. From here, Minsky developed his financial view of investment. In a monetary (capitalist) production economy, any agent (businesses, governments, households) must be defined in terms of cash inflows and outflows. Analysis of the economy is about the interlocking matrix of balance sheets and the temporal dynamics of the stocks and flows of assets and liabilities. Money is the only thing that matters, since it determines everything else and is not neutral.
In 1975, Minsky published his first book, John Maynard Keynes, in which he argued that the instability of investment is the Keynesian determinant of the economic cycle, while, at the same time, investment itself depends in a Schumpeterian fashion on changes and innovations in finance.4 Stability is destabilizing: tranquility turns hedge financial positions into more fragile positions. Speculative ventures are for a long while confirmed by experience, so it is not so much waves of optimism (or pessimism) that give way to panic and crashes. In an economy inspired by the principles of laissez faire, with lean governments obsessed with the myth of sound finance, leverage eventually goes up, embodying a bubble of growing private indebtedness. Sooner or later, if anything goes wrong, the interest rate surges and determines a severe depression, like in the Great Crash of the 1930s, what Minsky labeled “It.” Institutional innovation may build floors and ceilings, thanks to big government (a large government that cushions firms’ cash inflows thanks to a fiscal policy of deficit spending), big bank (the central bank acting as a lender of last resorts, thus avoiding a banking collapse and the generalization of failures in exchange), and big labor (collective bargaining helping to hold up wages).
The following books elaborated and deepened this vision. In 1982, in Can “It” Happen Again?, a collection of articles published after the Monetarist coup, the question was whether a crash like the one of the 1930s would likely reoccur. Contrary to a widespread notion, Minsky’s answer was negative. Even though he thought that, in the new neoliberal age, the risk of a new great depression existed, he insisted that governments would ultimately intervene to protect profits, banks, and finance, so that the new form of crisis would be upward instability. The argument was proven right after the 2007–09 crisis, when the risk was however not stagflation but secular stagnation—although I must confess that I share Paul Sweezy’s warning in “Why Stagnation?” and am even more worried about the countertendencies that may emerge to avoid stagnation.5 In 1986, Minsky published his last book, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, in which he countered Ronald Reagan’s regressive counterrevolution defending a Keynesian position.6
This is of course the Minsky who, after having been mostly ignored during his life (he died in 1996), was rediscovered after the 2007 subprime crisis and the onset of the Great Recession. At the time, his financial Keynesianism—arguing that the problem was not, as the mainstream always argued, public debt, but private debt—seemed prophetic. Although, of course, the financial instability hypothesis has to be reframed to take into account that the debt that matters here is, in the first instance, household debt (and not the debt of nonfinancial businesses) and that the neoliberal economy has been driven by consumer demand (and not by firms’ investment demand). In this regard, Sweezy, who Minsky met at Harvard, was quite timely in spotting, in the pages of Monthly Review (working with Harry Magdoff), what was going on already in the late 1970s. In fact, in the 1980s, pupils of Minsky at St. Louis’s Washington University like Steve Fazzari (who was on faculty there) and Randy Wray (who was then Fazzari’s student) started to consider indebted consumption in financial instability, taking inspiration from Sweezy.
The financial instability hypothesis has been criticized by some post-Keynesian economists and circuitists. The individual firms may desire to increase their leverage to invest in fixed capital, but as soon as the investments are realized, deposits accrue to firms without any rise in actual leverage. But I think that Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis, as Marx’s view about the fall in the rate of profit, must be read as a tendential theory and, paradoxically, the countertendencies may in the end allow for instability.
The Stagist View of Capitalism
There is, however, something else that is at least as interesting as the financial instability hypothesis, if not more. It has to do with three problematics: a stagist view of capitalism, the socialization of investment, and the employer of last resort.
The stagist view of capitalism became more evident in Minsky in the early 1980s, during the 1983 centennial conferences for the centenary of Marx’s death and Schumpeter’s and Keynes’s births.7 For Minsky, Schumpeter and Keynes represented for the twentieth century what Marx represented for the nineteenth: great dissenters analyzing the monetary capitalist production economy. All three had monetary theories of capitalist production with macrofoundations, though Marx offered a monetary theory of credit that must be reconstructed in a way so as to make it coherent with credit theories of money like Schumpeter’s and Keynes’s. And all three introduced money as the very foundation of their analytic structure (what Schumpeter called a “monetary analysis”), maintained a monetary theory of the rate of interest, and (with some ambiguity in Marx, resolved by Rosa Luxemburg and especially Michał Kalecki) thought finance and investment were independent from saving. With the stress on innovation in finance, this long-term perspective on capitalist development is probably the most important influence of Schumpeter on Minsky.
The Marx-Schumpeter-Minsky vision is that any stage of capitalism is inherently driven to dissolve itself because of its internal contradictions, but also because it, in itself, plants and nurtures seeds of the next stage of capitalism. Minsky delineated five stages: commercial, industrial, financial, managerial, and money manager capitalism.
Commercial capitalism, beginning in the seventeenth century, was the first stage, progressively turning into industrial capitalism (the second stage), which became more and more relevant in the nineteenth century. Merchant and commercial banks financed, traded, or processed goods. Already in commercial capitalism, asymmetrical knowledge (of local bankers about distant bankers and local merchants) was present as a constituent element. In industrial capitalism, firms needed huge amounts of resources and funding, especially for machinery. Long-term investments in heavy infrastructure (railroads, mills, mines) required the involvement of the state or adventurous financing. All this created the market for the services produced by investment banks, which also financed the rise of trusts and cartels. During the nineteenth century, a third stage set in: financial capitalism. Corporations emerged as financial entities while banks combined the investment and commercial departments. In this stage, the financiers were mainly investment bankers and big corporations; large shareholders dominated firm managers. In Europe, and especially in Germany, this era was the background for Rudolf Hilferding’s Finanz-Kapital.
Since production required expensive equipment, strong competition and excess capacity could lead to prices of the output not generating sufficient cash inflows to repay debt commitments. Financial capitalism collapsed in the crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression. The fourth stage, an outcome of the Second World War, was managerial capitalism. In the world of Marx and Schumpeter, of Knut Wicksell and the Keynes before The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, profits depended (mainly) on investment financed by commercial and investment banks. But in the world of Kalecki and the Keynes of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, government deficits may also add to the surplus. It is the world depicted, respectively, by the old and the new theory of the monetary circuit, stressing finance in production, and in which the role of money as store of value, external finance, and the management of debts should also be included. It is this financial perspective on the Golden Age that Minsky adopts, adding that debt-financed housing expenditures are another means to support profits.
After the Second World War, household and business debts were low; external financing ultimately involved big government. Managerial capitalism could be typified as a high-profit, high-investment, and massive (ex ante) fiscal deficit economy. Thanks to the profits originated by big government deficits and debt-financed housing construction, firms’ internal cash flows could finance their investment. Power shifted from large shareholders to corporate managers, and firms rather than bankers became the masters of the economy. However, according to Minsky, capitalism transformed into a rigidly bureaucratic system of government-supported (unproductive) consumption and armaments rather than resource creation.
Money Manager Capitalism
Since the 1960s, we have increasingly witnessed a capitalism of big corporations, large banks, and financial institutions. New intermediaries like mutual funds and pension funds have entered the equation. Inside managerial capitalism, employers offered pension plans to workers and financial institutions started aggressively to manage retirement funds and other assets of organizations and households. Wealth holdings became embedded in the ownership of the liabilities of managed funds and no longer of individual business. Now, the economic process was dominated by money managers who had as a target the “valorization of capital” (the appreciation of investments of the holders of their liabilities).
Institutional investors grew into the masters of the money manager economy. In the market for financial instruments (speculative and ultraspeculative), position-taking by financial intermediaries was financed by banks within a process of continuous refinancing. Funds bought equity and debt from highly leveraged buyouts of nonfinancial businesses. As always, but more forcefully than ever, innovation in finance was revealed to be a factor eroding stability and leading to fragility. It is these funds’ behavior that made business management highly sensitive to stock market evaluations and transformed U.S. capitalism into a predatory social formation. These changes affected corporate governance, favoring the institution of a network productive system, very different from the vertically integrated big factory as well as the usual small-medium firm. The new configuration pushed forward a policy of downsizing and variable costs compression, jeopardizing employment and working conditions, and corresponds to what I call centralization without concentration.
There was a ballooning of private debt, not only for financial firms, but also for households. In this world, the traumatization of workers may seem compensated by the escalation of asset prices, leading to what I have called elsewhere the real subsumption of labor to finance and to what Jan Toporowski calls the sedated middle class. Manic savers, enthusiasts about the supposed rise in the value of their past savings, drastically reduce their current saving (the share of income which is not consumed collapses) and become indebted consumers.8 In the meantime, markets were more liquid and the supposed quality of collateral assets was thought to be regularly improving. This led to a perceived ex post increase in the cushions of safety. If it is true that the desired increase in the nonfinancial business leverage ratio predicted by the canonical Minsky model was frustrated, an increasing leverage had to materialize elsewhere. It is not strange that the increasing indebtedness emerged mostly from financial businesses and households rather than from the physical investment of nonfinancial firms.
Though this may partially be in contrast to Minsky’s model, it is consistent with his description of money manager capitalism.9 The Great Moderation’s semblance of stability—and, paradoxically, a stability reproduced through ever growing imbalances—nurtured fragility and turbulence, making again this capitalist formation unsustainable. And, indeed, it collapsed.
The Socialization of Investment
In a stagist view like Minsky’s, it is of course unlikely to imagine that the way out can be reduced to a supposed return to the so-called Golden Age of Keynesianism with some push to effective demand, a cap to the earnings of managers, or the monitoring of financial asset prices. The point to consider is more radical and, to understand it, we have to go back to the last two chapters of John Maynard Keynes to read Minsky’s sustained critique of the socialization of investment as put forward in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
According to Minsky, Keynes in the 1920s was a man of the left flirting with decentralized socialism, but in the 1930s his aim became helping capitalism reach full employment. Keynes himself presented The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money as moderately conservative in its implications. Yes, it is imperative to establish certain central controls, the state must have a guiding influence on consumption through taxation and the rate of interest. And, yes, it is unlikely that monetary policy would be able to fix a rate of interest such as to determine an optimum rate of investment. That is why Keynes thought that a somewhat comprehensive socialization of investment was essential to secure full employment. But, after warning that all manner of compromises to cooperate with private initiative must not be excluded and that the socialization of investment must be introduced gradually without a break in the general traditions of society, the Cambridge economist insisted that there was no reason to suppose that the existing system seriously misemployed the factors of production in use. It is in determining the volume, not the direction, of actual employment that capitalism fails.
Minsky was crystal clear that he detected an inconsistency between asserting the necessity to socialize investment as a means to achieve full employment and the proposition that the market does an acceptable job of allocating resources. This critique of Keynes extended into a much harsher criticism of Keynesianism that we read in these chapters. Big government plus big bank are successful in achieving full employment, but with a conservative connotation, through a combination of induced private investment and artificial stimulation of (private) consumption. Keynes’s readiness to compromise with private initiative, together with his acceptance of the neoclassical view that the market does a good job on a micro allocative level, aborted the socialization of investments. Governments have sustained full employment with expenditures that were claims on productive capacity and with a welfare policy that consisted mainly in money transfers.
Rather than the euthanasia of the rentier, the outcome was a high-profit and high-investment economy. The rise of capital’s quasi rents, that is, of rentier and entrepreneurial income, was another factor favoring speculation. Minsky’s Keynesian economy assumed traits not unlike those presented in Paul Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital: waste, military expenditure, and the degradation of the biological and social environment. Sweezy’s review on the revolutionary nature of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money is quoted favorably by Minsky in his 1975 book: there were the seeds of a deep intellectual revolution in economics and in economists’ view of society, but those seeds never germinated and Keynes was turned into an apostle of conservatism. The embryonic scientific revolution was abandoned and must be rescued. It supported an institutional setting with giant ﬁrms and giant ﬁnancial institutions heading to stagnation and inefficiency.
The dependence of the economy on high profits, high investments, and military spending should be broken. We are forced back, he wrote, to the basic question of “for whom” should the game be fixed and “what kind” of output should be produced. The envisaged alternative—a high consumption and egalitarian regime, as he labels it—required the “socialization of the towering heights” and “communal consumption.” The aim was not to solicit a higher propensity for private consumption through artificial stimulation via advertising. Public investment and public consumption had to become the core of a new economic model, where not only speculation in liability structures was constrained, but also leading sectors were socialized, communal consumption satisfied private needs, and taxation alleviated inequality.
This is clearly a model explicitly framed against the really existing Keynesianism dominant in the so-called Golden Age, marked by perpetual waste, want, minimal net increment to useful capital, perennial war preparations, and consumption fads. Minsky thought that Keynesianism was a policy leading everybody—“the affluent, the poor, and those in between”—not only to a fruitless inflationary treadmill, but also to a deterioration in the biological and social environment.
The critique of Keynes did not go unnoticed by Magdoff and Sweezy, who in 1977, in “Keynesianism: Illusions and Delusions,” observed that Keynes’s grand vision of a different kind of capitalism was twisted and contorted by bourgeois economists to suit the interests of the capitalist class. They wrote that, despite his disregard of some long-term factors and conditions accounting for prosperity, and afterward the reappearance of the stagnation tendency, what was of real interest in Minsky’s book on Keynes, focusing on capitalist finance within a cyclical and speculative context, was that he introduced a new and more realistic analysis. According to them, Minsky goes a long way in exposing how illusory the faith in a scientific control and regulation of capitalism was and showing that Keynesians cannot solve financial instability and the contradictions of the system.10
The New Deal
For Minsky, to go back to the basic questions of for whom the game should be fixed and what kind of output should be produced meant going back to the 1930s: to the fundamental debate on the relative merits of capitalism and socialism, raising for him a kind of personal Bildungsroman (of educational development). Though Minsky did not endorse what he called thoroughgoing socialism, he saw Keynes’s theory and policy as compatible with some kind of socialism. After all, the objective was to achieve the goals of socialists, without the statism and homogeneity that Keynes attributed to socialists. So much so that—Minsky argues—Keynes himself can be perhaps taken as a guide to a practical socialist-interventionist capitalism.
Minsky’s own political project was to try to reconnect his own reading of Keynes with the New Deal, in an innovative new combination. This is what is spelled out in an important paper he presented at a 1981 conference in Turin and that was published in Telos that same year under the title “The Breakdown of the 1960s Policy Synthesis.”11 The article prolongs the argument of the last two chapters of John Maynard Keynes.
Minsky well knew that the historical New Deal was in partial discontinuity with Keynes. For the New Deal, the problems with the capitalism that collapsed in 1929 were downside price flexibility, imperfections, and fraud in the financial system. The New Deal reformed finance, increased resource utilization, erected a social safety net for personal income, acted as direct employer, and installed barriers against price deflation. But Franklin Roosevelt was not Keynesian, nor was Keynes a Rooseveltian. During the New Deal, work relief was preferred to transfer payments, the latter being of secondary importance. And Minsky agreed: his opinion was that the welfare state as we know it had been good for capitalists (a socialism for the rich), but not so good for the recipients. Roosevelt imputed mass unemployment (only) to institutional rigidities rather than to insufficient effective demand leading to involuntary unemployment equilibrium. For Roosevelt, reform rather than recovery was center stage, while Keynes pressed the president to reverse the priorities. That is why, in fact, the true exit from the Great Crash only actually came with the Second World War.
If the New Deal missed the essential Keynesian dimension of effective demand failures and investment’s financial determinants, it held on to another essential dimension that needs to be preserved: the emphasis on structural reforms. It is only by putting this latter dimension back into Keynes’s vision that his socialization of accumulation may not be lost. The state should manage markets and create institutions so that all receive income from work. Minsky insists that, to reach a full employment configuration, which is less liable to instability and is capable of truly ending poverty, what are needed are innovative production and employment schemes that exist outside the market and the private enterprise setting. He even goes as far as writing that control over the “finance committee” of giant corporations is the path to a decentralized socialism, or alternatively to a guided interventionist capitalism, and concludes that the label is of no importance.
For this Minsky, expenditure must be targeted, consumption must be communal, full employment must be tight (that is, in the economy as a whole, employers would prefer to hire more workers than they do), and policy must control not only the level but also the composition of output. In his new synthesis, the socialization of investment goes hand in hand with a socialization of employment. The New Deal inspiration is clear in Minsky’s (published and unpublished) contributions collected in Ending Poverty: Jobs, Not Welfare, in which the policy of the state as employer of last resort is put forward.12
My personal view is that the same radicalization of Keynes by Minsky should itself be radicalized. It is quite clear that, in Minsky’s vision, there can be no desire to go back to Keynesianism, but the evolution of capitalism has shown the need for a socialization in the use of productive capacity. What matters is a command over the utilization of resources. In this respect, Minsky’s goal seems very similar to Marx’s socialist production and distribution of “immediately social” use values. After all, Minsky himself wrote in “Beginnings”: “The important thing is not whether property is private and incomes are derived from owning property, what is important is for society to be democratic and humane.”
Was Minsky a communist? Definitely not. Was Minsky a socialist? Definitely yes. His daughter Diana remembers that, “in eighth grade, the Social Studies teacher, Mr. Snodgrass, was engaging the students in conversation about political parties and dialogue in the United States, so we were all asked to bring home a list of questions. One was our family’s political allegiance, not answering was an option—plus Democratic or Republican or Independent. Daddy had me write in ‘Radicals.’”13 Though he did not specify socialist on that occasion, he always portrayed himself in this way. For somebody like me, whose Bildungsroman was Luxemburg and her libertarian and democratic socialism, which included founding a communist party and criticizing V. I. Lenin, the distinction does not have the same import that it did for Minsky. But it is more interesting to look positively at his views going beyond not only Keynesianism but also Keynes.
The University of Chicago where Minsky was introduced to economics, though not yet the University of Chicago of Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas, was certainly not full of radicals. I had the chance to be the Head of the Department of Economics at my university, the University of Bergamo, exactly when the department took the name Hyman P. Minsky. Minsky was a mentor and friend to some of us, as he decided to live in our city part of the year beginning in the late 1970s, with his wife Esther, his son Alan, and his daughter Diana. The homage to Minsky disappeared in the 2010s when a new department was created. What is more important is that Minsky’s tradition, as well as the other heretic political-economy traditions, was increasingly deserted by economists, except, Minsky would have probably said, by the usual suspects. The homage may well reappear in the future, but the substance of the research and teaching is going elsewhere, gravitating toward the mainstream with some imperfections. I am convinced that this is unfortunately true almost everywhere in Italy. In this light, Minsky’s remembrance of his university is especially important:
Economics was quite properly part of a social science sequence. As I think about introducing students to economics, the Chicago program, where economics was first introduced to the students as part of the study of society, where economic history, political science, sociology, anthropology and economics were part of an integrated sequence aimed at understanding modern society, is vastly superior to the usual practice of teaching economics in isolation as a specialized course. If I had my way, the standard American course in economics would be eliminated and economics would be introduced in the context of social sciences and history. The current American way of teaching economics leads to American economists who are well trained but poorly educated.14
The quotation shows us what lies behind the formation of an economist like Minsky. But it also points, at least for those of us who hope heresy in economics has a future, to the current battlefield: the interdisciplinary teaching of plural economic theories and an approach to political economy as part of the social sciences, from the undergraduate level up.
- ↩ Alessandro Dafano, “Re-Founding a Think Tank: The Research Department of the Italian Industrial Association and Its Findings (1976–1980),” History of Economic Thought and Policy 2 (2017): 53; Paolo Savona, “Guido Carli in Confindustria: Maestro di Pensiero e Statista,” in Guido Carli Presidente di Confindustria (1976–1980) (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2008), xxxiii; Jan Kregel, ed., Recollections of Eminent Economists (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988), 169–79.
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, “Beginnings,” BNL Quarterly Review 38, no. 154 (1985): 211–21.
- ↩ Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer, eds., Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists, s.v. “Hyman P. Minsky” (Northampton: Edward Elgar, 1992).
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, John Maynard Keynes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975).
- ↩ Paul M. Sweezy, “Why Stagnation?,” Monthly Review 34, no. 2 (June 1982).
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, Can “It” Happen Again? (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1982); Hyman P. Minsky, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).
- ↩ See, by way of comparison, Hyman P. Minsky, “Schumpeter and Keynes: Dissimilar Twin Revolutionists,” Hyman P. Minsky Archive. Paper 322, 1982; Hyman P. Minsky, “Money and Crisis in Schumpeter and Keynes,” in The Economic Law of Motion of Modern Society: A Marx-Keynes-Schumpeter Centennial, ed. Hans-Jürgen Wagener and J. W. Drukker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 112–22; Hyman P. Minsky, “Schumpeter and Keynes: Finance and Evolution,” in Evolving Technology and Market Structure: Studies in Schumpeterian Economics, ed. Arnold Heertje and Mark Perlman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 51–74; Hyman P. Minsky, “Schumpeter and Finance,” in Market and Institutions in Economic Development: Essays in Honor of Paolo Sylos Labini, ed. Salvatore Biasco, Alessandro Roncaglia, and Michele Salvati (London: Macmillan, 1993).
- ↩ Saving (singular) here follows a convention inaugurated by Jan Toporowski. Savings refers to the saving invested in the past, such as in securities, while saving refers to the nonconsumption in this period.
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, “Uncertainty and the Institutional Structure of Capitalist Economies,” Journal of Economic Issues 2 (1996): 357–68; Hyman P. Minsky, “Financial Crises and the Evolution of Capitalism: The Crash of ’87—What Does It Mean?,” in Capitalist Development and Crisis Theory, ed. M. Gottdiener and Nicos Komninos (London: Macmillan, 1989), 391–403.
- ↩ Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, The End of Prosperity (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), 131–36.
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, “The Breakdown of the 1960s Policy Synthesis,” Telos 50 (1981–82): 49–58.
- ↩ Hyman P. Minsky, Ending Poverty: Jobs, Not Welfare (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, 2013).
- ↩ Diana Minsky, e-mail message to author, January 2, 2020. Minsky’s son Alan also said that his father never voted for Roosevelt but always for Norman Thomas.
- ↩ Minsky, “Beginnings.”