TWO weeks ago, Kairin and I interviewed Dundee-born economist Mark Blyth for our opening night keynote presentation at our Festival of Economics. We are both avid consumers of Mark’s books, articles and podcasts.

Being so familiar with Mark, we know his views on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Mark knew our position, too. So much so that he asked me: “Are you ok with me shitting in your soup?”

Aye, I said. I want you to come and be our keynote.

We had a very wide-ranging conversation (and you can watch the 40-minute video here). During our interview, Mark strongly opposed MMT's prescriptive elements. He said little about MMT's descriptive parts, which are its cornerstone. But nevertheless, he is clearly anti-MMT.

Mark was the ideal guest from the mainstream because he is a dissenter of some neoclassical assumptions, and his economic worldview is within reach of heterodox schools. We did not expect Mark to support our overall vision for a post-independence Scotland.

READ MORE: Top US professor condemns Unionists 'taking words on independence out of context'

With this in mind, it is hard to see this as some kind of “gotcha”. Mark's opposing view of how we construct a prosperous, independent Scotland was exactly what we wanted to hear.

It is worth pointing out that this was a pre-recorded session. There is a cut function for those unaware of the video production process, and we could have removed every MMT-critical word that Mark spoke. But then, what would have been the point?

In his wonderful book, Contending Perspectives in Economics: A Guide to Contemporary Schools of Thought, economist John T Harvey writes: “The development of reliable explanations of economic phenomena requires a pluralistic approach to the development of theory, one in which schools of thought debate openly and vigorously in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

We created this atmosphere at our festival.

The National:

After our knock about 40-minute chat, despite much of what he said directly conflicting with our different worldviews, the interview received a round of applause from our audience. Mark’s role was to present the counterargument to what we would cover across our three-day festival, and he did a cracking job.

Such is the nature of our “science” that economists have only opinions when looking into the future. Despite his sizeable brain and vast experience, Mark does not speak God's word. As someone influenced by heterodox economists, I disagree with much of it.

We believe an MMT lens is essential to create a wellbeing economy in Scotland. However, many people, including most economists who all share Mark’s worldview, do not agree. Our job is to construct a winning argument. You do that by listening and engaging with those who disagree with you.

It must be stressed that Mark clearly supports the same end destination as everyone in our audience and those reading this newsletter. He wants to see a fairer, more prosperous Scotland. However, he does not think that the prescriptive side of MMT applies to Scotland – or any nation apart from the USA. We think he is wrong.

READ MORE: Scotonomics: Explaining why Scotland's economy is a colonial economy

Mark has an orthodox understanding of the economy, while I have different assumptions guiding my worldview. But one thing is sure: I would be a fool not to engage, listen, and learn from him. Unfortunately, the toxic reaction to his statements will likely make his interest turn away from Scotland – a shameful outcome for those on this side of the pond.

For many people with an ideological view rather than one arrived at via discourse and reflection, airing an alternative view would seem like madness! This is especially true in the world of internet bubbles, where the idea of engaging with sensible people you disagree with seems like a weakness.

We wanted our audience to be entertained and challenged. Mark is exceptionally good value on both counts. We also wanted to hear his opinion. As I said in the interview: "You have given us much food for thought and will be very useful for us to consider throughout the weekend."

Things became toxic rather than constructive when someone stole part of his interview from our live feed and edited out all the stuff where he slammed the mainstream’s approach to austerity, his history and background, his view of the UK’s hopeless economic model, and the UK government’s lack of interest in Scotland.

For instance, Mark tweeted today: “The UK has convinced itself over the past 15 years it cannot afford anything, with the result public and private investment has collapsed leading to general economic stagnation.”

Certain groups and people are not interested in creating an atmosphere where “schools of thought debate openly and vigorously”. Instead, it is all “mic drop”, “completely destroy”, etc.

MMT is a solidly heterodox idea. It is based on assumptions with which Mark just does not agree. Mark's economic worldview is totally different from ours (he's not “real world”, and according to him, we are “fantasists”). However, we have much in common with Mark.

  • We despise austerity and think there is an alternative.
  • We want to see progressive policies adopted across the globe.
  • We believe that climate change is an existential threat.
  • We know that Scotland has never and will never be a priority in this Union.
  • And we support independence for Scotland, owing mainly to how poorly we have done within the Union.

Typically, the external focus is on disagreement and casting doubts about Scotland's future rather than discussing its past and current position as a colonial economy.

In addition to criticising MMT, Mark made some other remarks that we would have challenged – had that been an objective for the interview. Instead, we used his words as fuel for our fire. That said, owing to the coverage of his remarks, we will detail our response in next week’s newsletter.

Many of the sessions, including Mark’s wonderful keynote, will be available on demand this week. You can purchase a ticket for £30 here.