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Minsky: Latest News

Russell Standish has been working on Minsky thanks to the extra funds raised by the donate button below.

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He has produced a beta which is a substantial improvement over the release version currently on the Sourceforge home page. It adds:

  • an equation viewer–so you can design a model and instantly see the equations behind it from within Minsky (as well as export them to LaTeX);
  • A differential operator, so you can calculate rates of change (and in typical Russell style, this is no ordinary numerical approximation but a full symbolic differential system, so the approximation problems that apply with (to my knowledge) all other system dynamics program differential operators don’t apply to Minsky);
  • A large number of bug fixes.

With the caveat that beta versions almost always have bugs, this version is very close to a new release candidate and I would recommend using it rather than the stable release:

Minsky Beta Page

Keep Russell Standish on the Minsky Project

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Keep Russell Standish coding Minsky

Minsky has been developed thanks to two grants: an initial US$128,000 grant from INET, and crowdfunding of $78,000 from Kickstarter. With other amounts from individual donor, that has funded about 2500 hours of programming by the brilliant programmer behind Minsky, Professor Russell Standish. I will be applying for other grants now that I am based in the UK, but in the meantime more funding is needed to keep the development rolling and to reserve Russell’s skills for Minsky. So please donate via the Paypal link above: the funds go directly to Russell, and the money raised so far–about $8,000–has helped produce the latest beta, which

SourceForge Project of the Month for January 2014

We’re delighted that SourceForge has seen fit to make Minsky it’s Project of the Month. Minsky is both a general purpose system dynamics program, and the first such program specifically designed to support the building of monetary models of the economy.

Our design objective has been to make it as intuitive as possible to use, while supporting various advanced features–such as maintaining consistency between multiple monetary flow tables–in as seamless a way as possible. We hope that users will find it useful, and we would be delighted to get coding assistance from developers, user assistance in bug testing and building the help system, etc.

Dr. Russell Standish and I have been working on Minsky now for almost two years now–first using a $125K from INET’s Spring 2011 grant round and then another $80K from a successful Kickstarter campaign: Russell as builder (coding in C++ and Tcl/Tk) and me as architect (playing with each release, spotting bugs and suggesting features). It’s been a part-time endeavor: Russell, as a contract programmer, has to keep more than one iron in the fire, while I have a fair few balls in the air myself. Russell has put in about 2000 hours of coding over that time.

That amount of coding is chicken feed compared to the millions of hours that have gone into a standard commercial product like Microsoft Word or Excel, so Minsky is still rough at the edges, and lacks a number of features that you would expect in a commercial package. But there is enough core functionality and stability in place for a first major release–the “Mun” version which can now be downloaded from SourceForge (major iterations of Minsky are named after major thinkers in economics–we started with Aristotle).

Minsky Endogenous Money Simulation

There is still only a rudimentary and incomplete Help file (did I say I had too many balls in the air?), so to make up for it I’ve recorded the following set of 15 videos that cover most of the features of the program. They’re all up on YouTube (where the number is the series changes from 8 to 11 to 15…), but here they are for easy reference, with some notes about what each video covers. All the Minsky (mky) files used in the presentations are in this Zip file.

So if you’re into economic modeling and you’d like to develop dynamic monetary models, Minsky now has enough features to be worth using–and it won’t face the limitations that apply to more conventional system dynamics programs, like Stella, Vensim, Vissim, etc., that make it inherently challenging to model the financial system. With Minsky and its Godley Tables, monetary modeling is a cinch (and it will get easier as we add more capabilities to the program). So please, download the program, join our beta-testing group, and start building monetary macroeconomics.

If you’re a developer with time to devote to this project, immediate needs include:

  • Sprucing up plots;
  • Copy and paste support files;
  • Multiple files open at once;
  • Building a LaTeX viewer into Minsky;

Medium term needs include:

  • A direct LaTeX editor with seamless transfer between the equation pane and the canvas pane;
  • Adding Social Accounting Matrix support for equation consistency checking;

The long term objectives include:

  • Transform a “scalar” economic model into a “vector” with monetary and physical input-output dynamics with one click;
  • Multiple economy support with financial and physical flows between economies, currency conversion, etc.;
  • Data importing, manipulation and nonlinear parameter fitting

Minsky 1.0 Demo #1 Basics And Godley Table

Installing Minsky from a ZIP file, the canvas, wiring to build equations, installing a graph, graphing a basic function like sin(t), outputting the equations to LaTeX (which you can import into MathType in Word), and a basic “endogenous money” Godley Table.

Minsky Files: sine.mky (using Minsky to plot a sine wave); Godley.mky (a basic purely monetary model, with no simulation–just the double-entry bookkeeping table).

Minsky 1.0 Demo #2 Godley Simulation

Using a Godley Table to define a numerical simulation: right-click to copy flows and variables (“stocks”), defining monetary equations, and running a simulation.

Minsky file: GodleySim01.mky (the same model as in the previous video with definitions of flows added so that it can be numerically simulated).

Minsky 1.0 Demo #3 Godley-Goodwin Integration

Using time lags, entering Greek characters and subscripts, building a dynamic model using the flowchart part of the program, using integration blocks in dynamic models, making x-y graphs as well as graphs of variables against time.

Minsky file: GodleySim02.mky (the same model as in the previous video, but using time constants rather than arbitrary numbers for system parameters); GodleyGoodwin01 and GodleyGoodwinSim01 (adding a Goodwin model of production using the flowchart aspects of the program, and adding XY charts, slowing down the simulation speed)

Minsky 1.0 Demo #4 Godley-Goodwin Integration

Starting to integrate a monetary and a physical model, using sliders to vary parameters during a simulation.

Minsky files: GodleyGoodwinSimInt01 (beginning to integrate the two models: making the wage a monetary phenomenon)

Minsky 1.0 Demo #5 Godley Goodwin Integration #2

Doing it right: starting by modifying the real cyclical model to include monetary variables.

Minsky files: GodleyGoodwinSimInt01C (adding Price to the Goodwin model before attempting the integration).

Minsky 1.0 Demo #6 Godley-Goodwin Integration

Continuing the process.

Minsky files: GodleyGoodwinSimInt01D (completing the integration)

Minsky 1.0 Demo #7 Godley-Goodwin Integration #4

Continuing the process.

Minsky files include GodleyGoodwinSimInt03, where I add a linear investment function to the linear wage change function that is the core of the Goodwin model.

Minsky 1.0 Demo #8 Godley-Goodwin Integration #5

Getting cycles in the monetary economy as well as the physical. Introducing an investment function as well as a wage change function. Showing the debt-deflation model.

Minsky files include DebtDeflation02, which is the monetary version of my 1995 debt-crisis model in “Finance and Economic Breakdown

Minsky 1.0 Demo #09 Multiple Godley Tables

Combining MMT and MCT with two Godley Tables, one for the Central Bank, the other for Private Banks. Minsky’s built-in logic to maintain consistency between assets and liabilities across multiple Godley Tables. A potentially surprising result about the relationship between the change in private debt and the change in public debt.

Minsky files: MinskyOnePointZeroDemo09MultipleGodleyTables (combines MMT and MCT and shows that the change in private debt and the change in public debt are not of equal and opposite magnitudes in a closed economy).

Minsky 1.0 Demo #10 Zooming

Grouping entities, zooming in to see a group, editing a group, using the Lorenz Strange Attractor as first example, and my model of debt-deflation as the second.

Minsky 1.0 Demo #11 Bugs

Bugs and how to cope with them.

Minsky 1.0 Demo #12 Lorenz model

Using the flowchart side of the program to build the famous Lorenz model. Changing the Runge-Kutta parameters to get a smoother simulation. Setting ranges on a graph.

Minsky 1.0 Demo13 # Lorenz model with Sliders

Using sliders to vary parameters in a model while it runs.

Minsky files: Variations on Lorenz, especially LorenzWithSliders02.

Minsky 1.0 Demo #14 Competitors

How does Minsky stack up as a system dynamics program compared to the established players Simulink, Vensim, and Vissim? It doesn’t have the power of these established programs of course–matching the feature set of even Vensim would require tens thousands more hours of programming time, let alone that of Vissim or the market leader Simulink. But on a user-friendliness scale, I think it’s easy to see that Minsky is much easier to use than Vensim, significantly easier than Simulink, and within reach of Vissim–though it lacks some basic editing features.

Minsky 1.0 Demo #15 Why Godley Tables?

This is the clincher. If you want to model monetary dynamics, there is no other program that offers anything like the Godley Table for modeling the double-entry flows that characterize the financial system. A flowchart is an inherently weak tool for building a monetary model..

36 Responses to Minsky

  1. Steve Keen says:

    That feature has been superceded. To move an element now, simply click on it and drag. To wire one to another, click on the input or output ports. This bit is kludgy right now, but as you move the mouse over an object you will see circles appear on them. Clicking in a circle drags an arrow which you can then attach to another object.

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  3. Steve, would you be willing to endorse a much simpler version of Minsky that could serve as a program supporting a “community currency. What you have accomplished so far would occupy a social space where people concerned about the effects of stupid/neo-classical and even lower forms of fiscal and economic assumptions. Part of the point, is to have available a relatively well informed fiscal/economic model, tat would would replace the nonsense of the LETS and TIME BANK models, which are just debt based, and tend to be promoted as a “community” centered alternative to the neo-classical ideology though absent measureable fiscal or economic literacy value.

    In practice the distribution and uncritical adoption of all sorts of blather, besides simply occupying and diverting energy and occupying communal interest in effect diverting economic literacy. The modified “Minsky” would serve as a pre-collegiate economic literacy process, to teach by doing toward higher levels of fiscal/economic literacy. Now that you are at Kingston U. you are possibly aware of the “Transition Town” movement in England and on the continent to which this would immediately appeal.

    I have been promoting and presenting related to public fiscal and economic literacy for a number of years, and this sort of learning by doing would be a great resource. The UMKC contingent generally has ignored the value of public education other than through an academic context, which is at least limiting if not also very shortsighted.

    Although the Buckaroos system has been used for possibly two decades now, and the Denison Unv., and the DVD/Denison Volunteer Dollars program (thanks to Dr. Fadhel Kaboub{Phd from UMKC) both are operating based upon a spread sheet utility. Also there is a small revenue stream that would be available through hosting such a utility.

    The level of communal/community discourse needs to be raised beyond the ivied ramparts as well. The present Senator Sanders presidential campaign is a measure of people wanting social and economic change, though Sanders is so far addressing the possible against the adversely self serving ideology of neo-liberalism. Stephanie Kelton seving in Washington as the advising economist to the minority portion of the US Senate Budget Cmte is a positive, but not one that will engage as a substantive alternative except in Washington DC as the theoretical affirmation of pro-community fiscal policies and proposals and some fiscal and economic literacy at that level. ideasinc@ee.net Tadit

  4. arijan says:

    As is, program barely works and is as such completely unusable. I could not keep it up running for more than 5 minutes. After an hour of trying I finally uninstalled it even though I would desperately like to get my hands on a decent tool to model financial flows.

    All I can say is you could have spent €100k more wisely, but that’s my opinion.

    Functionality wise I would find it useful if the program would come with some basic economic templates which would be explained in more detail. Zip file contains no examples, and the ones on github have no documentation. If this tool is to be of any use for beginners, extensive help file is probably more needed than an elaborate list of modules for data processing.

    Which brings me to the second point. I’m sorry it’s slightly off topic, but the above is such a perfect example it’s impossible for me to resist.

    Namely, it is my contention that you’ve massively overpaid a project that ultimately does not work. Now if you have had paid for it out of your own pocket you would probably be upset as you could not market and or sell it properly. As it was paid for by the grant your first instinct is to apply for another grant. It’s not a lot of money involved, but it’s an illustration.

    You see where I’m getting at? It this was a business, it would fail.

    That seems to be the case with most government financed projects. Just a recent example from the country I come from: government overpaid a coal fired power plant 3 times over only to find that now it is finally finished it will start to loose money every day it operates. (about €4M/month) Sure it was a huge stimulus for local economy, but it came at a huge cost and loans acquired.

    This type of behavior is what I believe got my country into trouble and imho got Greece and a host of other countries into trouble as well. So your contention that more government spending should be in order in times of crisis rather that austerity is probably going to make the situation worse as this spending is never rational spending. To this extent Peter Schiff, as much as you seem to dislike him, is right.

    As long as the sums are small, such as €100k in the example above, this is non issue. However €1.5B was spent on a power plant I wrote about. And this is not the only example, hence the problem facing these countries: falling GDP, huge external deficit, tax hikes and political instability.

    More loans to boost spending will not solve the underlying problem, nor will debt jubilee, nor will pennies from the sky (or rather Eurocopter if only we had a Fed equivalent here). What needs to change is a social contract between people to form new kind of state, “new deal” so to speak, but that’s just to plain difficult as people are unwilling to change and are unwilling to face reality and are unwilling to learn. And btw “new deal” from US was not the example of what’s needed, but the name is too good not to be reused.

    Anyway this is what I wanted to comment on, and I would appreciate a reply if you would be so kind to indulge me with one.


  5. Steve Keen says:

    Part of what you say here is justified: I’m the first to admit that Minsky is incomplete and has bugs, and your comment about needing sample files has motivated a new ticket on Sourceforge that I hope will be completed in the next couple of weeks: we’ll embed a large number of sample files in the program to guide new users.

    But your interpretation of why it has problems is completely false. For starters, not a cent of government money has gone into Minsky. It has been entirely funded (a) by a too-small grant from INET (www.ineteconomics.org) and secondly by public donations. I asked for $250K from INET to fund a ground-up development of Minsky in C++ or the like; they have me $128K but specified the C++ implementation (as opposed to the Mathematica add-on that I said I could get done for $125K) and required it to be Open Source. The latter was of course fine by me, but it means it’s been released far ahead of when a commercial product would be released–and hence many of the problems for first time users.

    Government funding used to exist for “blue sky projects” like Minsky, but the relentless cutbacks to government spending over the years have virtually eliminated that source of funding, and robbed governments of the expertise needed to do such things properly–which may be an issue in the example you give of your own economy. Five decades ago, government departments had engineers, scientists, etc., in them who could evaluate projects properly. Now at best they’ve got accountants, and worst economists, who couldn’t read an engineering specification if it mugged them in a dark alleyway.

    Consequently the kind of intelligent blue sky stuff that governments used to fund–like NASA in its heyday–don’t get funding any more, or are done incompetently as you’ve identified with your own country. Then projects like Minsky fall between the stools of what governments would once have funded, and what commercial ventures might fund if they could see a potential profit.

    The real weaknesses in Minsky come from a lack of funding compared to what a commercial enterprise (startup or otherwise) would have put into it. You wouldn’t attempt a commercial product without at least 3 developers–one lead, two support, and alternating development and bug-catching roles between them. We’ve just had one, with me being a part-time design leader since I am so busy with numerous other tasks.

    Would Minsky have been developed by a commercial enterprise? Unlikely, since there are numerous functional competitors in the product space already (Simulink, Vissim, Vensim, etc.). As it happens Minsky improves on all of them in a number of ways, some of which I detailed here (https://sourceforge.net/blog/january-2014-potm/) when it won SourceForge’s Product of the Month award in January 2014. But these improvements alone wouldn’t have been enough to persuade a profit-oriented enterprise to give developing it a crack.

    What it does that no other program does is enable monetary flows to be modelled easily. We’ve only just developed the start of that functionality, but I demonstrate it in numerous videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM1ubsbE-tG9ru61mc3zX8A). Now once it’s up and running, I am getting approaches from groups that want to commercialise this. But not before.

    On usability, yes there are many issues–which if I had more funding I would have had solved ages ago. But since I haven’t, I’ve continued to work with the program with my own obviously very complete knowledge of what it can do and how to work around its problems. Given that knowledge, it does things easily that no other program enables me to do–and I have every commercial program you can think of for such jobs. But what Minsky doesn’t have is the help systems and support files to let a neophyte user get up to speed with it.

    I also don’t know the extent to which your difficulties arose from Minsky’s own weaknesses, or your own level of knowledge of the system dynamics family of software to which it belongs. A lot of the “why is Minsky so hard to use?” feedback that I get, when I track it down, comes from people’s lack of knowledge of the very established flowchart equation development paradigm that has dominated engineering for 3 decades now. But economics students often don’t even know that this paradigm exists. So I face a double challenge in teaching them how to use Minsky.

  6. Bill K. says:

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to plunk Minsky into some University as a course. I am a little biased but the University
    of Waterloo, On. would be a good choice. You could lend your persona to the economics dept. as Mr. Hawking has to the physics
    dept. I can’t guarantee you will have a building named in your
    honour, or some funding from out Blackberry creators. However,
    you may get a very capable group that can put in some brute force.

  7. Reto says:

    First of all, thank you very much for this great tool. I wrote about Marx/Keynes/Kalecki in my diploma thesis in 1998. Then, I could only do some simple simulations in Excel. With Minsky I can finally do it much easier and more sophisticated and that makes fun.

    I recognized that the stability of the system depends a lot on the difference between the interest rates on loans and deposits, say the yield curve. If it is less than 4% the system gets very stable.

    Because I´m not sure if the capital coefficient is really that stable, I wanted to replace it by a Keynesian/Kaleckian multiplier.
    The only change is that I cut the wire from K real to Y real and put in a wire from I real to Y real including the multiplier. Unfortunately, it gives me the following error: maximum order recursion reached. Can you help me?

  8. Steve Keen says:

    You have a circular definition: X determines other things which then determine X, with no time lags or integrals in the determination chain.

    It’s almost certainly a logical error in your model’s causal structure. You may just have to work harder on developing an output relation.

    I’d be interested to see what you ultimately create.

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