This post contains a story I wrote to introduce children to Modern Money Theory (MMT). It is roughly intended for young teenagers and I envision it being an illustrated storybook. This was inspired by a fourth grade boy I met who told me he got in trouble for stealing hundreds of dollars from his parents, by taking their credit cards and using them for “in app” game purchases. You can listen to me speak this entire story during the introduction of episode 25 of Activist #MMT with James Feal-Martinez. My eleven-year-old asks me to play it repeatedly. I presented this story (in a more interactive fashion) to an eighth-grade math class in February 2020 (you know, back when we were allowed outside).
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Disclaimer: I am a layperson who has studied MMT since February of 2018. I’m not an economist or academic and I don’t speak for MMT. The information in this post is my best understanding but I don’t assert it to be perfectly accurate. In order to ensure accuracy, you should rely on the expert sources linked throughout. If you have feedback to improve this post, please get in touch.
Here is an alternative story to introduce (I believe younger) kids to MMT, written by Phil Harvey, called One hundred dogs and 94 bones. Warren Mosler speaks the story in this 2015 video (original with a translator, an alternative version with the translator edited out). An alternative version of the story is by Fadhel Kaboub: 100 children and 94 Easter eggs. As Stephanie Kelton calls it, involuntary unemployment is simply a cruel game of musical chairs.
A Story To Introduce Modern Money Theory to kids.
When you play Monopoly, what’s the very first thing that happens? You choose a banker. And then what must that banker do? Does he have to go and find people that played the game months ago, in order to get enough money to play with now? Or does he just…give out the money?
Do movie theaters or sports stadiums give people newly created tickets? Or do they have to first collect old tickets from former patrons?
A theater could give every single patron five thousand tickets. They could. No problem. But there are only so many seats in the theater.
Imagine you have no money. I mean no money. Not in your bank account, not in your wallet, not in your piggy bank. Nothing. You and your entire family are totally broke.
How will your parents get more food?
Gas for their car?
Can you even stay in your house?!
Then one morning, you wake up and you are granted the power to create money, whenever you need it.
You go into a store, find something you want and it’s really expensive. You go to the cashier, stick out your hand, palm up, and – PSSSSHT!! Money appears in your hand. The exact amount you need.
The only rule is that you’re not allowed to keep it; you can only spend it. You can only give it.
The question is: if you had this power, does it really matter that you have no money? Of course not. Who cares? You can create it whenever you need it.
So what would you do with this power? Your first instinct is probably to spoil yourself. By yourself lots of cool toys, gadgets, and technology. Maybe take all of your friends on a trip to Disney World for a couple of years.
How would you use this power to help? Really help.
You could pay off your mom and dad‘s house and cars. Pay off the credit cards and loans for all your friends and their families. Maybe provide all the kids in your school free lunch and school supplies for a whole year.
But why stop there? Your teachers buy lots of school supplies with their own money, so why not help all of them? You could buy a home for every homeless person in the entire town if you wanted. There’s a lot of good things that you could do.
Now. How could you use this power to hurt people?
(What do you mean, hurt people? How could creating money hurt people???)
Well, how about finding the most awful, evil kid in school and giving them $1 billion and nothing to anybody else. How about, early in the morning, you go to the school cafeteria, buy all the food and then throw it in the dumpster? Or all the food at the entire grocery store?
How about going to a busy toy store and giving every customer $10 million at the very same time. They would all start fighting because there aren’t enough toys in the store to go around.
But here’s the worst thing you can do.
Take a trip to the city and find the most destitute, desperate homeless person you can. Someone who’s in really bad shape.
Talk to him.
He tells you he’s been homeless for a long time, living in his broken car with his wife, 10-year-old girl, and little baby boy. They’re always cold, always hungry, his kids have nowhere to play, and when they get sick, they can’t even go to the doctor.
You listen to their story and it’s really sad. You even cry a little bit and hug each other. Then you tell him,
“I really wish I could help you but I can’t.
I don’t have any money.
I’m so sorry.”
I mean, you’re not lying. You don’t have any money. But you sure are leaving out something important. Since he doesn’t know that you have this power (and how could he, since you’re the only one in the world who can do it) he’s not angry, just sad and disappointed.
He thinks you’re also just sad and disappointed.
How do you think he would feel if he realized that you did have this power?
The end. (For now.)
Top image by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com