Ask Prof. Wolff

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Have a question for Professor Wolff? Want to suggest a topic or article? UPVOTE your favorite questions or submit your own. Top suggestions will be given a video answer on YouTube.
 
Professor Wolff receives hundreds of questions per week covering a wide array of topics, from economics and politics, to historical movements and current events. While Professor Wolff does his best to reply to some questions on Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff, he's received more questions than can be answered individually. Prof. Wolff will now provide video answers to his favorite questions on this page.
 
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Commentary on MMT (modern monetary theory)?

Could you please offer your opinions and/or commentary on MMT (modern monetary theory), Hyman Minsky, Warren Mosler, Stephanie Kelton, Randall Wray, Bill Mitchell, etc. and how this explanation of monetary systems might relate to economic democracy and socialism.

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MMT Modern Money Theory, its pros and cons. Why and/or why not?

https://youtu.be/Xac2a6jNQJU https://youtu.be/YEyb5A7GNzg For when you can, these videos are lengthy but fortunately not visually artistically, so you can enjoy listening to them while doing something else, if needed. Am I being too skeptical of this concept? Why is the left (as in the real left) falling in love with this, and why is even Trump himself toying with this concept (or perhaps a version of his own)? I feel, though it sounds good to a certain extent even in practice,(I really would rather be living in an economy using this theory than the one we're in); I feel that it seems to me it'd be like a very large Band-Aid, but still a Band-Aid nonetheless to the economy as it stands. I feel that while we are still in a system where surpluses are still having to be generated for the efficiency of profits, MMT or no MMT, collapse after collapse we will see. Is it too utopian to imagine an MMT transition into a Time Banking/Service Exchange Cooperative Economy? Thank you!

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WalMart anti-union "employee training video"

So much fodder here for you and your show. Sickening.... https://youtu.be/ONKkoiszVSs

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Are you capitalizing on your fame?

My understanding is that you have been making certain deals and collaborations with various radio/media organizations. My question to you is whether these deals are orchestrated under the view of a worker-co-op, or if you are the lead decision making entity. You have also mentioned in your episode the potential for a cooperative relationship between a business and its clients in decision making. You are effectively becoming

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Careers that can help spread socialism?

What careers are available that a realistic impact on promoting socialism? I've considered studying law so I could stand against the corporations, but I feel like that's not big enough. I want to go into something where I can make a real change and work with like-minded people for the same goal.

posted an official response

Prof. Wolff has answered your question in video format! Please view here: https://youtu.be/7L4HdNMgxSQ

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Can you do a story on the Georgian Democratic Republic?

There's a fascinating book out called "The Experiment Georgia's Forgotten Revolution 1918-1921" that details the short lived Marxist Georgian government that was ruled by Mensheviks, not Bolsheviks, and while Marxist, allowed for free multi-party elections, merged peasant and workers into a single bloc peacefully under their party (the Social Democratic Party) and were creating the groundwork to base their economy on worker cooperatives and labor union control. It was Lenin and Stalin who invaded and destroyed this experiment in democratic socialism. Was wondering if you could give some insight into this and if this could be a model to explore for future socialists?

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Many of us are interested in how stock markets work as well as history of their development.

... are stocks & stock markets beneficial or not & for whom, as well as history of development. Considering Peter Josephs thoughts/work I feel vindicated in my long held belief that stock markets, banks, wars, even gov't, etc., are primarily tools of the 1% etc. to promote the uphill flow of cash to the money-hoarders. I use the term money-hoarders now for several years since what many/most people have in community, family, friends, home, etc. is true wealth, we just have a lot less money then the "1%" who use they time to learn how to collect/hoard money... thus they are money-hoarders. https://youtu.be/xdEeqLt5Yl0 Likely you have already done a talk about how stock markets work... if so please post link to video, etc... ... as you know, to learn how to change or repair something, one needs to know how it works, so we can think about how to change it. In this case we think we need to subvert and end this capitalistic mayhem of making money without producing anything and without work. And... If/when the capitalistic system ends what happens to the stock market and all the investments of the average person will lose. How do we protect ourselves? Considering that the 1% own about 83% of the entire market they have more to lose, amount wise, but we have more to lose in that we have no reserves. They can "weather storms," we cannot. Does that really matter since we could, likely will, rebuild via worker-owned business & localized economies. In a more socialized economy based on local worker-owned business it there a place for stock markets, i.e. current workers moving current investment to local business? reasonable, irrelevant? Do you have investments in stocks? in general... perhaps as we learn to prepare for capitalism's collapse we should move 401k and other stock investments to local municipal bonds, local business, etc., invest in startup worker-owned business? What would you do? What are you doing? Where, in general, if any, are your investments? We very much appreciate your time and effort in teaching us!!! Keep up the good work!

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Does a bank bail-in really exist?

Meaning where banks in trouble can seize depositors' money to cover their losses for poor or risky investment decisions they have taken?

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Is there room for a "Georgist" critique in contemporary socialism?

I enjoyed very much the recent interview with Michael Hudson- so great to hear two extremely intelligent and articulate people in dialogue. From my reading of Mr. Hudson's work, I find a lot of citation of Henry George. Mr. Hudson has done a great deal of research into early Mesopotamian cultures, specifically the periodic elimination of debt in regards to land tenure- this work seems to support some of the conclusions of George as well, in terms of identifying monopolization of land value as a prime driver of inequality. I know that in their day, George and Marx were highly critical of each other and even though George was extraordinarily influential in his time, the ascendancy of Marx has drowned out the Georgist perspective as an alternate-alternative to finance capitalism. Is Georgism still relevant? Is there room under the "socialist tent" for alternative forms of socialism other than Marx? Was Marx correct in labeling "Land" as just another form of Capital? Or is it still useful to view "Land" as a unique factor of production? Many thanks!

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Mark Blyth

Hi Professor Wolff. I'm wondering if you're familiar with Mark Blyth (my guess is that you are). I think he would be a great guest for your podcast.

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Entire college faculty given pink slips by University before sale of college

Is there any precedent for non-profit universities giving pink slips to the entire faculty of a college in anticipation of selling that college to a for-profit educational institution? This is what just happened at Westminster Choir College, an arm of Rider University in New Jersey. http://www.rideraaup.net/dellomo-lays-off-entire-wcc-faculty.html For background information: http://www.centraljersey.com/news/professor-prospective-westminster-buyer-has-no-higher-education-experience/article_07b79dca-adec-11e7-bf92-e3d49234601a.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share I would also like to hear Prof. Wolff's thoughts about the larger issue of education becoming a for-profit and often predatory venture.

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Would you say that economic growth is driven by scientific research and technological growth?

If science and technology are the driving forces of growth. The result is that the best economic policies encourage science and technology. So is that the argument we should have when we discuss Capitalism and Socialism, especially since socialists are more likely to supports universal tertiary education?

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How do worker co-ops scale into larger non-capitalist systems?

Like you, I am very interested in worker owned and worker run co-ops as a growing movement, a somewhat more ethical approach to the inherently unethical capitalism. I would love to hear on your podcast how- looking out to the future, how co-op culture could pave the way to larger systems and structures like syndicalism and what the nuances of are of that and what it could look like. There are many alternative systems that co-ops could be the seeds of and what those systems are seems to be a huge pandroa's box to explore.

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Can capital be used as a tool to create a new, worker-controlled economy?

I work for an impact investing firm, and we recently interviewed one of our investors who says that he is interested in "investing for a systemic alternative to capitalism." We profiled him on the Huffington Post here - he is familiar with your work. His point was that by investing in worker co-ops, where the capitalist (himself) receives dividends but no voting rights - capital can be utilized as a "tool" instead of a "master." I wonder if you see such strategies as useful, ineffectual, a distraction from more revolutionary methods, or actually harmful. Thank you for all the work you do! https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5a0331e7e4b0b422a3c5ce32

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Labour Theory of Value

I want to take Marxian ideas about exploitation seriously but I'm having trouble understanding the labour theory of value. Is it true that all of Marxian theory falls apart if his theory of value is wrong? Personally, I have trouble buying the notion that a commodities value is determined by the labour time necessary to produce that commodity. Imagine this scenario: a concentration camp wherein cigarettes are used as currency. Let's say the supply of cigarettes is cut off abruptly one day. 2 weeks go by and everybody has smoked all of their cigarettes. One lucky prisoner find a single cigarettes underneath his bed. This is the only smoke in the entire camp, but our lucky prisoner is not a smoker, and he looks to exchange this cigarette for some food. The other prisoners try to outbid each other, offering more and more, until our prisoner is able to trade his cigarette for triple the amount of food normally traded for a single smoke. In other words, the value of the cigarette triples. But how is this value created by his labour? He didn't work at all to find it; he found it by accident?

posted an official response

Dear Noah,

Prof. Wolff has posted a video answer to your question.  Please visit the RichardDWolff channel on YouTube and be sure to subscribe for more great content.  I have posted the link to the video response below for your convenience.  Subscribe to the channel for more great content and be sure to share it with friends and family. 

https://youtu.be/flFyaguUqIo

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