Help Kick­start Min­sky

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As reg­u­lar read­ers would know, I have been devel­op­ing a com­puter pro­gram for build­ing strictly mon­e­tary dynamic macro­eco­nomic mod­els. New read­ers might have seen this arti­cle in The Econ­o­mist:

Reform­ing macro­eco­nom­ics: Clau­dio Borio on the finan­cial cycle

where my work received the fol­low­ing men­tion:

Steve Keen, an Aus­tralian econ­o­mist, has long argued that macro needs to incor­po­rate these ideas, and has devel­oped a pro­to­type of a com­puter pro­gram, called “Min­sky,” that can be used to model economies as mon­e­tary sys­tems. So while most econ­o­mists have not embraced Mr Borio’s agenda for the ref­or­ma­tion of macro, some have. That is encour­ag­ing news. (Click here for Clau­dio Borio’s paper)

The pro­gram is called Min­sky in honor of the late and great mon­e­tary econ­o­mist Hyman Min­sky. It is not a model of the econ­omy as such, but a visual tool by which mod­els can be devel­oped.

It has been under devel­op­ment for roughly a year now, thanks to a US$128,000 grant from the Insti­tute for New Eco­nomic Think­ing. That has enabled me to hire one bril­liant pro­gram­mer, Dr. Rus­sell Stan­dish, for about 10–20 hours a week–the most that a con­tract pro­gram­mer can afford to devote to a sin­gle project. Con­se­quently, the pro­gram as it cur­rently exists rep­re­sents about 3–4 months of pro­gram­ming time. That’s pro­duced a func­tional pro­gram, but it is still in its infancy. I want to take it to adult­hood, and for that I need seri­ous fund­ing that will enable me to hire sev­eral top-notch pro­gram­mers for sev­eral years.

That’s where you come in–if you are will­ing. Next Wednes­day I will launch a cam­paign on Kick­starter to raise devel­op­ment fund­ing for Min­sky.

Producing a combined model Keen and Krugman's visions of lending in Minsky

Pro­duc­ing a com­bined model Keen and Krugman’s visions of lend­ing in Min­sky

The amount I’m ask­ing for on Kickstarter–US$50,000–is quite mod­est. To push the anal­ogy, that’s enough to get the pro­gram from infant stage to tod­dler. But obvi­ously I’m hop­ing to raise a lot more–enough to get Min­sky to the end of high school, so to speak.

That would require hir­ing Rus­sell full-time for at least 3 years (oth­er­wise he’ll only be able to devote half or less of his time to Min­sky), as well as two bril­liant and ded­i­cated young pro­gram­mers Nathan Moses and Kevin Pereira, who have almost com­pleted the devel­op­ment of a ver­sion of Min­sky that can be run from a web­site and on tablets. That will take about US$1 mil­lion.

So if you agree that eco­nom­ics needs reform, if you’ve enjoyed my work to warn of the eco­nomic cri­sis over the last seven years, and if you’d like to help eco­nom­ics finally over­come its fear of money and dynam­ics, please make a con­tri­bu­tion to the devel­op­ment of Min­sky.

You can pre­view the cam­paign here:

Pre­view of Kick­starter Cam­paign

The cam­paign will go live on Wednes­day Decem­ber 19th. Please get ready to put some finance into build­ing Min­sky. To make a con­tri­bu­tion, all you need at your end is an account at Ama­zon.

About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
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  • ken

    To mod­ify an old proverb “The road to hell is paved with low inter­est rates”. I notice that Glenn Stevens hasn’t worked that out yet, or maybe he is just not telling any­one. Maybe the approx 1 mil­lion per year is for believ­ing in poli­cies that haven’t worked else­where.

  • OlegR

    Hi Steve,

    I am a pro­gram­mer, and poten­tially can help with devel­op­ment (in my spare time, for free).
    Do you have (or have you con­sid­ered set­ting up) some sort of source repos­i­tory for Min­sky (for exam­ple, on

  • OlegR

    In gen­eral, how open you are to the crowd-sourc­ing devel­op­ment (with some­body you know in leader/coordinator role)?
    How does devel­op­ment logis­tics for Min­sky look like?

  • Neb­bi­olo71

    Hi Steve,

    Have you ever con­sid­ered to make this SW open­source? I mean, I’m quite con­fi­dent that there are many engi­neers out there will­ing to for free develop tools that makes us bet­ter under­stand the econ­omy and also be an extremely valu­able tool in edu­ca­tion. I see many appli­ca­tions for this SW — why not try this path?

  • Very. The devel­op­ment logis­tics are pretty easy because (a) I’ve already done the ulti­mate ambi­tion for Min­sky in math­e­mat­i­cal pro­gram­ming lan­guages, so we know where we’re going and (b) I have 3 local pro­gram­mers who are ded­i­cated to the con­cept itself and who work briliantly as a team. Plus we have one vol­un­teer in the USA who is as ded­i­cated as the ones I would hire using the Kick­starter fun­nd­ing.

  • Check out Oleg. Rus­sell Stan­dish is the main pro­gram­mer, and we have one very active devel­oper in the USA as well. There is plenty of work to be done, as you will see from the list of tick­ets.

  • Neb­bi­olo71

    Per­fect, i didn’t know…

    I’ll see if I can involve some Swedish pro­gram­mers in this impor­tant project.

    Good luck with the fund­ing!

  • Methinks a cou­ple of things aren’t right on the Kick­starter pre­view, if I may.

    The very first video does the project lit­tle good, as it seems to be addressed to some­one who knows absolutely noth­ing of the econ­omy or mod­el­ing. In con­trast, your most likely fun­der is going to be some­one read­ing Slash­dot or sim­i­lar sites, aka engi­neers and rea­son­ably sophisticated/scientifically lit­er­ate peo­ple.

    Along the same lines, I’d wager the Min­sky project would find a bet­ter home over at github, rather than source­forge. This would make the repos­i­tory dis­trib­uted. Most open source soft­ware con­trib­u­tors have switched to git since Tor­vald intro­duced it a half dozen years ago. Git is faster than svn, and allows for eas­ier fork­ing and merg­ing. And github has very neat tools to mon­i­tor the plethora of poten­tial forks and branches.

    I’d also sug­gest rephras­ing parts of the Kick­starter in a more pos­i­tive man­ner. I’ve admit­tedly only scanned through it, but the pitch felt a bit cocky: “They got it all wrong, we didn’t, and we need your fund­ing to extend this model.” The sale would, I think, be eas­ier if it read more like: “Here’s what they got wrong and why, here’s a model that gets those things right, we need your fund­ing to extend it.” The sec­ond video, in that sense, is bet­ter than the intro­duc­tion video.

    That sec­ond video, as an aside, could use a tiny bit of sound engi­neer­ing. If you pop it into a video edit­ing tool, you should be able to fil­ter most if not all of the back­ground noise. 🙂

    Any­way, the sug­ges­tion I’d make is basi­cally this:

    1. Short intro­duc­tion

    A short inter­view of Steve Keen, explain­ing in a few min­utes why exist­ing mod­els are a fail­ure, how the Min­sky model improves over them, its cur­rent sta­tus, where you’d like to take it, and how it might be use­ful to Joe Schmoe on the street.

    2. Debunk­ing eco­nom­ics

    A 10 minute video that briefly goes through what econ­o­mists got wrong in the past cen­tury. Don’t be too hard on main­stream econ­o­mists, even know you think no less. Just a to-the-point “here’s what they say, but here are the facts.”

    Peo­ple fre­quently have strong opin­ions on eco­nom­ics, and hate it when they’re told in-their-face that they’re not just wrong, but dead wrong. The video should gen­tly cast doubts, while rub­bing them in the right way.

    3. Mod­el­ing the GFC

    Your paper describ­ing the GFC in under 1000 words would go here, along with a 10–15 minute video that walks the viewer through endoge­nous money cre­ation and the result­ing cor­re­la­tions between change in debt and eco­nomic activ­ity, while intro­duc­ing a small model based on account­ing iden­ti­ties that matches the obser­va­tions. Con­clude it on a note that the sim­pler model can go hay­wire, as well as cycle in a benign and pros­per­ous pat­tern.

    4. The Min­sky project

    This is where you should explain the cur­rent sta­tus and its recent devel­op­ments, and where you’d like to take it. It might be a good idea to intro­duce this by expand­ing on your recent work on what hap­pens when a gov­ern­ment entity kicks in. As in, look, the model can be made more com­plex and real­is­tic, here’s an exam­ple of how, and here’s a whole slew of things we’d like to add; we need your money to make it hap­pen.

    Any­way, my $0.02 worth. 🙂

    Oh, and don’t for­get to high­light the Kick­starter to a few big play­ers in the finance, tech and gad­get press (e.g. Zero­hedge, Barry Ritholz, Mish Shed­lock, Busi­ness Insider, Cap­i­tal Account, but also Slash­dot, Red­dit, Hacker News, Dar­ing Fire­ball, even Boing Boing…)

  • Denis

    There’s a last point I for­got: A learn more sec­tion…

    The Kick­starter should include a link some­where that goes to your lec­tures, in the event a reader might want to learn more. I’m think­ing about the lec­tures than spanned a dozen or so classes, wherein the first half was mostly ded­i­cated to why and how econ­o­mists were wrong, and the sec­ond half was mostly on mod­el­ing and play­ing with Min­sky. (They made me wish I returned to school. Thanks for that.)

    And, of course, another link should lead to your book.

  • I really can’t believe half the stuff that you write about your­self Steve but this really takes the cake: 

    The devel­op­ment logis­tics are pretty easy because (a) I’ve already done the ulti­mate ambi­tion for Min­sky in math­e­mat­i­cal pro­gram­ming lan­guages, so we know where we’re going and… ”

    You ought to be embar­rassed, but I am devel­op­ing a real image of the lengths that you will go to, to pro­mote your fool­ish eco­nom­ics non­sense (and per­haps attract a Nobel Prize — after all, the gave one to that moron Krug­man) aka snake oil, 

    I believe that it was the orig­i­nal soft­ware, that you pur­chased, that eas­ily dealt with your ulti­mate math­e­mat­i­cal solu­tion (sic) and not vice versa.

  • koonyeow

    Title: koonyeow — An Athen­ian When Fac­ing Ladies, A Spar­tan When Fac­ing Char­la­tans

    Fool­ish eco­nom­ics non­sense is

    1. Not fal­si­fi­able;
    2. Unable to stand the test of time.

    Steve’s Mon­e­tary Cir­cuit The­ory is very unlikely a non­sense because it is

    1. Fal­si­fi­able (and I am not aware of any real world exam­ple that has fal­si­fied Mon­e­tary Cir­cuit The­ory);
    2. Only time will tell if Mon­e­tary Cir­cuit The­ory is robust to the test of time (Galileo, Boltz­mann and Ein­stein are robust to the test of time).

    One should know who Alan Sokal is before one dis­guises post-mod­ernism as sci­ence.

  • Those are excel­lent com­ments Denis–I agree with all of them. Now that the cam­paign is about to go live, and I prob­a­bly have some time to work on it, I’ll try to address all those points. I’d like your feed­back once I’ve done so.

  • Denis

    @Steve: Don’t hes­i­tate to ping me by email, I’ll be happy to help out with feed­back, and pos­si­bly more.

    A last point I for­got to men­tion, since the Kick­starter isn’t live yet. Peo­ple like to invest in a win­ner, mean­ing it’s bet­ter to secure the ini­tial fund­ing quickly. Kick­starters that gather traf­fic halfway through while lack­ing ini­tial trac­tion (i.e. still not lean­ing towards the goal) report­edly tend to fail.

    In this light, con­sider that poten­tial donors (includ­ing this blog’s read­ers) might be on vaca­tion in the next two weeks, or might already have overex­tended their Christ­mas bud­get. Espe­cially if you haven’t com­piled (and more ide­ally, pinged) a list of press con­tacts to pro­mote it yet. Imho, you should aim to start the Kick­starter a week or two into Jan­u­ary rather than this WE — with the added bonus of you being bet­ter pre­pared to pro­mote it to the press.

  • Lyon­wiss

    @ Peterjb Decem­ber 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    To a ham­mer every­thing is a nail. A bet­ter ham­mer is use­ful only if the prob­lem is a nail.

  • @ Koonyeow Decem­ber 23, 2012 at 5:13 am | #

    … sci­ence”
    Are you sug­gest­ing that “Eco­nomic Theory(s)” is “sci­ence”? LOL 

    Life, FYI, thrives in a non-equi­lib­rium state; it can­not be oth­er­wise. There­fore, con­sen­sual opine, man­i­fests itself as just more garbage being added to the pile. Don’t like that? But that is what the 2nd. Law of Ther­mo­dy­nam­ics is all about.

    We” con­sume resources and cre­ate pol­lu­tion; we are Entropic. This is what we (homo sapi­ens) are; our nature is self destruc­tive; we are unsta­ble and can­not thrive in an envi­ron­ment of equi­lib­rium: Love­lock — Crick — Cohen & Stew­art, et al.

    Does Keen’s Eco­nomic The­ory, or any other “Econ­o­mists” ET take this as a fun­da­men­tal? No?

    Well then, out­side the Aus­trian Schools, all Eco­nomic The­o­ries (opin­ions) rep­re­sent, ana­log­i­cally, mas­tur­ba­tion, and this includes Keen’s stuff.

    But to bull­shit your pur­chased ener­gies, so as to detract from the intel­lec­tual ener­gies of oth­ers, upon whom you claim as your plat­form of intel­lec­tual sta­tus, must rep­re­sent the great­est sin known to mor­tal man. It seems that the Nobel Com­mit­tee demands such as its fun­da­men­tal­ist input, these days.

    FYI Lyon­wiss Decem­ber 30, 2012 at 9:19 pm | #

    The prob­lem is not the nail — it’s the ham­mer!

    Happy New Year to all,

    Ho hum

  • koonyeow

    Title: I’m Sorry That My Com­ment Is Mis-under­stood (And I’m Sorry, Steve, of That Old Grudge)

    I’m not sug­gest­ing that eco­nomic the­ory is sci­ence. Any the­ory can be sci­en­tific as long as it is con­fined within the sci­en­tific method. A physi­cist treats the word ‘the­ory’ very dif­fer­ently than a neo-clas­si­cal econ­o­mist.

    My com­ment ‘One should know who Alan Sokal is before one dis­guises post-mod­ernism as sci­ence.’ is actu­ally an unfriendly warn­ing against you, Peterjb, espe­cially your blog ‘Ver­be­warp’.

    Are you a physi­cist, or a ther­mo­dy­nam­i­cist, or a mechan­i­cal engi­neer, Peterjb? If not, please use the words ‘entropy’ and ‘2nd Law’ very care­fully.

    Dear read­ers,

    When­ever you see or hear some­one men­tions the words ‘entropy’, ‘2nd Law’, ‘quan­tum’ or any words that appeared in physics, chem­istry and biol­ogy, it is strongly advised that you know the dif­fer­ence between sci­ence and pseudo-sci­ence.

    I’m sorry that I started the new year in an unfriendly tone.

  • Lyon­wiss

    @ Peterjb Jan­u­ary 1, 2013 at 1:34 am

    The prob­lem is nei­ther a nail nor a ham­mer. A ham­mer is a tool, which only causes prob­lems in the wrong hands. A ham­mer, in and of itself, is not the prob­lem. Using lan­guage in a fast and loose way (par­tic­u­larly in eco­nom­ics) is the ori­gin of many prob­lems, includ­ing mud­dled-headed think­ing and con­fu­sion.

  • @ Lyon­wiss Jan­u­ary 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm | #

    Thanks for the con­fir­ma­tion:
    ’In the begin­ning was the word, and the word was with God; and the word was God’ (para­phrased).

    My inter­pre­ta­tion: Ham­mer is anal­o­gous to word.

    Expla­na­tion: We humans can only sur­vive and adapt in our milieu — this is what we do; we are not sci­en­tists and at the nor­mal level of exis­tence, do not have the innate cog­ni­tive skills nec­es­sary for the pur­suit of the sci­ences; we are tech­ni­cians and dis­cover in the same man­ner as seals learn to open coconuts by smash­ing them against rocks. Pre­cisely the same process and skill set.

    And, as the rule insti­tu­tional sci­ence, per se, like the play­ground for “eco­nom­ics” does not fol­low sci­en­tific pro­ce­dures that have been estab­lished; what we have is polit­i­cal expe­di­ency, opin­ion and group grat­i­fi­ca­tion for the “col­lec­tive”. It is this “col­lec­tive” that cre­ates its own milieu and imposes its own polit­i­cally cor­rect rules of behav­ior. That is to say, he (or she) that has the innate poten­tial for reach­ing for indi­vid­ual / self func­tion, is seri­ously lim­ited /constrained or best, destroyed, as @Koonyeow would appear to favour.

    There are excep­tions, but few; there are good men but not as the rule, as it is our self imposed milieu that demands oth­er­wise; we demand dogma; we demand “money” (while hav­ing no idea what it is); we must have cer­tainty. There is no cer­tainty! Oh dear.

    So, my posi­tion is: Beware of the bull­shit aka the snake oil of the the­ory that will bring ‘risk-free’ rewards and life, for we are, life is, entrenched in risk; I say, enjoy the risk by learn­ing what it is and why it is as the nec­es­sary state of exis­tence. You can­not extract from the Laws of Risk; they are Uni­ver­sal; the answer is to seek the higher Laws.

    How many of our own kind did we proudly mur­der in the 20th Cen­tury? ~500 mil­lions? And how many will we geno­cide in this 21st. Cen­tury? All because of super­sti­tion, dogma, igno­rance, eco­nomic theory(s); our fears and our cow­ardice and our refusal to leave Plato’s Cave (the col­lec­tive) and stand alone as indi­vid­u­als. Our sci­en­tific insti­tu­tions don’t even know what water is, nor that which com­prises our atmos­phere, what is can­cer, what causes dia­betes? Oh, those gov­ern­ment grants and how attrac­tive the pub­lic purse really is in the Land of the Wiz­ards of OZ.

    Thank you @Lyonwiss.

    @Koonyeow Jan­u­ary 1, 2013 at 3:19 am | # 

    LOL I see that you would enjoy see­ing me burn at the stake for heresy — thank you, as I am proud that I have attained the hum­bled state of the Heretic.

    How­ever, like those gone before me, I walk on the shoul­ders of many giants; those who have had the integrity and deter­mi­na­tion to san­i­tize the con­sen­sual pol­lu­tion and sewage in order to see beyond, towards the Uni­ver­sal Prin­ci­ples and into the realm of func­tional con­scious­ness.

    Maybe 2013 may be a bet­ter year for you, h’mmm?

    Ho hum

  • koonyeow

    Title: A Per­sonal (And Final) Appeal


    Please don’t waste your life drown­ing in post-mod­ernism. Start walk­ing like a Roman stoic before walk­ing on shoul­ders of giants.

    I have no desire to burn you at the stake (my desire is reserved for ladies only). I will only burn those peo­ple who put Galileo under house arrest, if I can go back in time.

  • ceviche

    Good that there is some inter­est in Min­sky devel­op­ment, but as i wrote else­where (debunk­ing site), Min­sky would be bet­ter and more likely to be suc­cess­ful if it was more ori­ented to be easy to under­stand for those who are new to it.
    I agree in gen­eral with Den­nis’ com­ments of Dec 20.
    I would add that Yamaguchi’s book which uses Ven­sim shows that good mod­el­ling can be done with avail­able tools.
    What Min­sky needs to do is to deter­mine where to sit­u­ate itself in the field of mod­el­ling tools, eg be stand-alone or become a model add-on to Ven­sim or.…
    Is it in the dynamic sys­tems field or the sys­tem dynam­ics field (they are dif­fer­ent):
    or should it extend these to agent based
    or should it allow for­mu­la­tion as dif­fer­ence equa­tions, which are eas­ier to teach than (ordi­nary) dif­fer­en­tial equa­tions?
    Since most (all eco­nomic?) dynamic sys­tems are unsta­ble and likely to give results which have wide out­come ranges, what pre­ci­sion is there in an ODE basis that is likely to out­per­form a sim­pler God­ley table and dif­fer­ence equa­tion basis with short period com­pu­ta­tions (weekly) that are hid­den back­ground to pre­dic­tions (quar­terly or annual)? 

    Hav­ing said that the value of Min­sky is that it directly allows the ODEs which Steve has already devel­oped to demon­strate that changes in the level of debt financ­ing are crit­i­cal com­po­nents of effec­tive demand that can­not be over­looked.

  • Prag­ma­tist

    Hi Steve,

    Your mul­ti­sec­to­r­ial eco­nomic analy­sis appears to be approx­i­mately anal­o­gous to finite-ele­ment mod­el­ling, as used in engi­neer­ing to “solve” dynamic or inde­ter­mi­nant sta­tic prob­lems. There is con­sid­er­able exper­tise within engi­neer­ing (par­tic­u­larly mechan­i­cal and aero­nau­ti­cal engi­neer­ing) for devel­op­ment, cal­i­bra­tion and com­pu­ta­tional opti­mi­sa­tion of these soft­ware tools.

    As many oth­ers have already pointed out, a major chal­lenge that you face with this task is to get the required inter­ested and under­stand­ing from the non-eco­nom­ics types out there. To help with this, have you con­sid­ered encour­ag­ing a side devel­op­ment group to use your sim­u­la­tion soft­ware as the engine for an eco­nom­ics sim­u­la­tion game? I’ve just sent you an email with this idea.

  • Hi Prag­ma­tist

    It’s a good idea, but like so many such things it takes time that I alone don’t have.

    We’re try­ing to estab­lish a user com­mu­nity around Min­sky, so I hope that at some point some­one decides to do that.

    Thanks for the tip re finite ele­ment mod­el­ing. I have heard of it and did see some exam­ples years ago.

  • Prag­ma­tist

    It’s not time I’m sug­gest­ing you or your team devote to it. My expec­ta­tion is that the com­mu­nity that would build around an open-source game would be very dif­fer­ent to the team that will build around Min­sky. While there would cer­tainly be cross-pol­li­na­tion, it’s unlikely that one would “steal” peo­ple or effort from the other. For exam­ple, I can see my stu­dents being inter­ested in get­ting involved with devel­op­ing a game (even a nerdy eco­nomic sim game) but not a pure research tool like Min­sky. If you give the nod, I’ll put it to them as an idea that they may take up (with no detri­ment to your core project).

    Up to you of course — it’s your baby. 

    I have some per­sonal expe­ri­ence (admit­edly, a while ago) in finite ele­ment mod­el­ing, espe­cially in com­pu­ta­tional fluid dynam­ics (CFD). Please let me know if I can lend a hand, even if just a dis­cus­sion for you to deter­mine if it’s worth your explor­ing any fur­ther.