Adair Turner has written a somewhat provocative article for Project Syndicate: "Japan’s Accounting Problem". As a scientist I'm indebted to Turner in many ways. For instance, his "Stockholm Speech" provided me with a very clear overview of the "big picture" around our global debt overhang and helped me forward with my theoretical work.
When it comes to this new article, and "overt money financing" (OMF -- Turner's name for "helicopter money") in general, I strongly disagree with him. As "money" itself is just an IOU, government debt cannot be monetized in the way Turner seems to suggest.
Quantitative Easing replaces government bonds (IOUs) in the hands of the public with reserves/deposits (IOUs). The total nominal value of government IOUs in the hands of the public remains more or less intact. Whereas the repayment of bonds held by the public (Case 1) leads to deposit transfers from taxpayers to bondholders, the repayment of bonds held by central bank (Case 2) -- as those bonds fall due -- leads to deposit transfers from taxpayers to the government/central bank.
In Case 1 (see above), the consequence of this government debt repayment is reduced aggregate nominal value of all government bonds held by the public, while the aggregate nominal value, or amount, of deposits held by the public remains intact.
In Case 2, the consequence of repayment is reduced aggregate nominal value, or amount, of deposits in the hands of the public. This reduction is equal to the reduction of aggregate nominal value of all bonds held by the public in Case 1.
Thus, what is important is not the type of IOUs in the hands of public, but the overall budget deficits and their eventual effect on agents' inflation expectations -- which are affected by agents' trust in the government's "promises to pay" (IOUs) -- promises to pay via taxation. Whether these deficits lead to an increasing amount of bonds in the hands of the public, or to an increasing amount of deposits in the hands of the public, is close to irrelevant. This is especially true now that government bond yields are close to zero -- as has been the case in Japan more or less since 1998 when 10-year JGB yield fell below 2 %.
OMF offers, unfortunately, no easy solution to our global (government) debt problems.
I have criticized "helicopter money" advocates for their implicit assumption that inflation can be micromanaged (by "micro-" I mean something like "within 5 percentage points") in a previous post:
For more information on deposits being IOUs, see, for instance, these two posts (I elaborate my "postulates" in the comment sections of the posts):