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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24 Responses to Help Kickstart Minsky

  1. ken says:

    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.

  2. OlegR says:

    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

  3. OlegR says:

    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?

  4. Nebbiolo71 says:

    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?

  5. Steve Keen says:

    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.

  6. Steve Keen says:

    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.

  7. Nebbiolo71 says:

    Perfect, i didn’t know…

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

    Good luck with the funding!

  8. Denis says:

    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…)

  9. Denis says:

    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.

  10. peterjb says:

    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.

  11. koonyeow says:

    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.

  12. Steve Keen says:

    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.

  13. Denis says:

    @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.

  14. Lyonwiss says:

    @ 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.

  15. peterjb says:

    @ 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

  16. koonyeow says:

    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.

  17. Lyonwiss says:

    @ 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.

  18. peterjb says:

    @ 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

  19. koonyeow says:

    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.

  20. ceviche says:

    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.

  21. Pragmatist says:

    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.

  22. Steve Keen says:

    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.

  23. Pragmatist says:

    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.

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