Global primary energy use associated with production, consumption and international trade

15% of the energy use embodied in trade turns out to be induced by final consumption, and 85% is attributed to intermediate production

Steve you say EROI is only relevant to extractive industries I think this paper shows that is not correct. I think you are correct that International Trade is relevant, the relevance economically is relevant at the EROI embodied energy level though. Money in International Trade is a Convenient Posit ( Quine)(*1) What is important regarding that is that the receipt of currency can be exchanged for something tangible, the money receive is not an end in itself. Looked at in EROEI and embodied energy terms it actually makes your point crystal clear. That said its pretty clear to those who are objectively considering the point.

(*1)P.41 para 2.


Thus it is undeniable (and I am surprised to read all those who are torturing themselves trying to deny it) – exports are a cost and imports are a benefit.

Giving some real thing away is a cost. Getting some real thing is a benefit.

That doesn’t equate, as I have been reading the last few weeks, in a conclusion that MMT’s preference is for a nation to have a current account deficit.

It just states the obvious fact that exports, by definition, involve sacrificing real resources and depriving a nation of their use.

Imports on the other hand clearly involve receiving final goods and services where the real resource sacrifice has been made by the exporting nation.

In a world where we produce to consume – not for its own sake – then receiving goods and services is better (real terms) than sending them elsewhere.

Since I was one of the ones denying Mitchell’s opening gambit—though there must have been other people “torturing themselves”, since all I noted in my post was that I disputed it as a premise—I had better reply now on this issue.
I do not deny the proposition that “Giving some real thing away is a cost. Getting some real thing is a benefit”: that’s obvious in a materialist world. What I do deny is that this proposition has any relevance to either macroeconomics or trade theory. And I am not the first one to deny this: that honour goes to Karl Marx.
This raises one of my major issues with MMT: advocates know their own economic logic very well, but they seem to have little knowledge of compatible precursors to their views (or even compatible contemporaries, like complexity theory). Consequently, whether they realise it or not, they often end up making arguments that would be right at home in a conventional Neoclassical textbook. These arguments are just as wrong in MMT hands as they are in Neoclassical ones.
This “exports=cost, imports=benefit” MMT analysis of international trade is a classic case in point. There are at least three ways in which this MMT perspective is a backward step in relation to preceding enlightened work in economics:
  • Standard Neoclassical work on the irrelevance of opportunity cost below full employment
  • Marx’s arguments on the irrelevance of the seller’s utility in trade
  • The extensive Post Keynesian research on declining marginal costs of production and economies of scale.

Inapplicability of opportunity cost except at full employment


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