Ask Prof. Wolff

rdw_speaking.png
 
Have a question for Professor Wolff? Want to suggest a topic or article? Post it here! Professor Wolff receives hundreds of questions per week covering a wide array of topics, from economics and socialism, to historical movements and current events. While Professor Wolff does his best to reply to some questions on Economic Updatewe receive more questions than we can handle! Ask Prof. Wolff allows his fans to ask questions publicly and also vote and respond to others questions.
 
Select "Most Recent" to view recently submitted questions. You must be logged in to submit your own.
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Thoughts on Housing Cooperatives?

Professor Wolff, I thought you'd be interested to hear about or read this NPR story about a Mobile Home Community which, in order to prevent their land from being sold off, created a cooperative and bought ownership of the land. By running the community democratically, the residents have improved their standard of living. Part One is about the poor management and conditions faced by many Mobile Home Communities. http://www.npr.org/2016/12/26/502590161/mobile-home-park-owners-can-spoil-an-affordable-american-dream Part Two is about the community in Minnesota which created the co-op discussed earlier. http://www.npr.org/2016/12/27/503052538/when-residents-take-ownership-a-mobile-home-community-thrives

3 comments Share

RBE | Technological Unemployment and Worker Co-cops

Dear Professor Wolff, I very much appreciate your videos. I have watched many hours of your presentations since The Zeitgeist Movement shared your October 2016 Update via Facebook. Forgive me if this question has been asked before. How can Worker Co-ops mitigate the problems arising from the growing trend of Technological Unemployment? What are your thoughts on a Resource-based Economy (RBE)? Description of RBE linked here: https://youtu.be/K9FDIne7M9o?t=1h11m < This link will take you to the 1hr 11min mark of an almost three-hour-long presentation by Peter Joseph. This is the part of the presentation where Peter describes the economic calculation of an RBE. To elaborate on the second question, do you agree with the logic presented in the video? Happy new year! Andrew

posted an official response

For hundreds of years, capitalism has been a system that rapidly transforms technology in the interest of higher profits. Across that time, almost every technological change has been celebrated and justified on the grounds that it freed human beings from difficult, dirty, arduous labor. Yet the reality today is that most capitalist employees work harder - and often longer - than they ever did. The problem is not that the technology was bad; technology is not the problem, Rather, the problem is the subordination of technical change to capitalist profitability. An example can show this: imagine a technical innovation that enables workers to produce the same output with the same inputs in half the time. A capitalist enterprise takes advantage of the innovation to fire half its employees and use the savings in wages to boost profits. A worker coop takes advantage quite differently: it cuts all employees' labor time in half thereby producing the same output with the same inputs (hence the same profits assuming stable prices). Workers wages remain the same but for half the work time freeing half worker's time for leisure activities. The technology in one case serves profits; in the other it serves labor reduction. The former helps those dependent on profit (always a small minority in capitalist societies); the latter helps workers (the majority). The economic problem lies not with technical change but with the economic system into which technical changes are installed.

3 comments Share

Defining Socialism

Hi Prof. Wolff, I hear, quite often, how socialism embodies a state ownership of business and appropriation of surplus, with Cuba and the USSR as poster children for this line of reasoning. But with an understanding, after reading your work of course, that state capitalism is not synonymous with socialism, how do we reconcile this fact with the popular belief that dictatorships or other governmental problems are associated with socialism? Please see this 2-minute clip with Thomas Sowell explaining what socialism is (it’s frustrating to say the least). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnJEUR0gkZo

1 comment Share

The history of Israeli Kibbutzim, Aaron David Gordon, etc.

Dear Professor Wollf, Thank you so much for your energy, commitment and efforts to educate and enlighten everyone out there! Your contribution is priceless. I came across your podcasts on youtube by absolute chance, and I am very glad I did. Have been listening to and watching all your videos I could possibly find. Have ordered a few of your books to get acquainted more closely with your teaching. As for my question, I would really appreciate it if you could speak a little a bit about social movements of the past taking place in Israel; in particular, the history of Israeli Kibbutzim, Aaron David Gordon, etc. would be very interesting. Yours sincerely, Alexander Mundrian P,S. I am a Russian-Jewish Israeli, 31 years old, currently living and working in Germany (Essen, NRW).

1 comment Share

I got 2 very good talks about Dieselgate from the CCC meetings 32C3 and 33C3

33C3 Dieselgate – A year later 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kTd4PWFAGU The exhaust emissions scandal („Dieselgate“) [32c3] 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZSU1FPDiao I just found one more: Software Defined Emissions [33c3] #Dieselgate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCu8XIHjKwc https://fahrplan.events.ccc.de/congress/2016/Fahrplan/schedule/0.html

2 comments Share

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.

12 comments Share

Please consider for Economic Update

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/12/23/the-5-most-worrying-technology-trends-for-2017-and-beyond/#2c434ef26a5e These technology trends are already having a big impact on working people's lives. I think you'll find points 1 and 4 of particular interest. Bear in mind that this is Forbes.com

posted an official response

Thanks for sending; will read with interest.

 

RDW

2 comments Share

Effect of Dow Jones increases

Hello Professor Woff, Just recently discovered Economic Update and have found it immensely informative. Thank you for your work. As Obama is exiting office I am seeing metrics along the lines of the Dow Jones industrial average has increased by approximately 10k points and is getting close to this perceived “magical” milestone of 20k. I am curious as I have been for some time how this metric affects or doesn’t really affect the average American. It seems to be some sort of barometer as to the economic health of the nation but it seems that whether it rises or falls by 1,000s of points it doesn’t seem to impact for instance my standard of living or really anyone else I know who seems to exist in the middle to lower classes. Is this something you could speak about or if you already have could you point me in the direction of a previous episode or possible a good book on the subject of the correlation between the Dow Jones and for lack of a better term the “average” American worker?

posted an official response

Your instinct is quite right; there is no direct connection, no necessary linkage between movement in the Dow Jones industrial average (DJ) and the economic conditions of average Americans. The DJ is just the average price of a group of major industrial companies' stocks. These can and often move in one direction while most stocks move in the other. Endless possible combinations of movements have and continue to characterize the price movements of companies, industries, etc. These movements can happen with improving or deteriorating conditions for average Americans. One has no necessary linkage to the other. In particular, dont be fooled by the ideology that seeks to get you to believe that a rising DJ (a sign the stock-owners are making money as the values of their stock holdings rise) is somehow a good sign for average Americans. It is not. The goal of saying something patently untrue is to line up average Americans behind the old idea that what;s good for Wall Street is good for the rest of us. Not so;never was.

6 comments Share

Thoughts?

http://www.salon.com/2016/12/27/taxpayer-funded-capitalism-here-are-the-biggest-corporate-subsidy-deals-of-2016/#.WGKJVMOfYYI.twitter

1 comment Share

Please come here to galvanise action.

Please come to Australia to save us. A possible sponsor may be: http://www.tai.org.au/content/about

posted an official response

Would love to come if TAI or anyone else wanted to explore the whole world of worker coops as a way out of and beyond a capitalism that no longer works for most people. Thanks for your interest!

4 comments Share

What is the role of bond primary dealers? How are they chosen?

Prof. Wolff, what is the role of bond "primary dealers" in the western economies and how are these primary dealers chosen? From what I read here in Brazil, they are pretty much chosen from central bank unilateral decisions outside any democratic criteria. Is that the same in the US? And, for instance, Goldman Sachs is a primary dealer both in the US and Brazil. What is behind all this? Why central banks must use these few financial institutions chosen by who knows what criteria, to "develop the bond market"?

posted an official response

The primary dealers are the handful of major firms given the privilege by the government to deal directly with the government. So, for example, when the US Treasury issues bonds, it sells them to the primary dealers who then resell them to the "public." Not all countries use the system of primary dealers. The US and Brazil do. In the US these days there are about 25 primary dealers who do bond trades directly with the US Treasury and with the Federal Reserve System. This is very profitable for the primary dealers and represent a cozy relationship of top financiers with the top government financial officers....a way of managing capitalism for the benefit of capitalists. Central banks could, of course, trade directly with the public without the use of primary dealers as intermediaries....as some central banks do. Goldman Sachs seeks to be and often is a primary dealer because of the power, profits, and prestige it entails.

3 comments Share

What does the financial industry believe they have to gain from austerity policy?

Professor Wolff, In the light of our new political reality in the United States I think it may be safe to say that austerity in forms many of us could not have imagined is coming in the very near future. I am aware that such policies do not have any real effect on relieving national debt and that they drastically damage the quality of services that the working class can afford lowering the standard of living across the board. However I do not understand what the financial industry views as the overall market benefit to these measures. Could you please explain what they believe they have to gain from cutting spending on critical government services?

posted an official response

The financial industry organizes, manages and itself invests in government debt; that is the industry depends on income from the loans it makes to governments (local, state and federal). It thus is vitally interested in the capacity of governments to pay interest on and retire the principal amounts of their debts. Austerity is a set of government policies aimed to save the government from spending on hiring public employees, providing government services to the public, etc. so that the money thereby saved becomes available to the government to pay interest upon and pay back previous loans to the government. The fear lying behind this is the risk that if austerity is not practiced now, government debts will ratchet up so high that the mass of the people will eventually refuse to forego mass public services in order to service the government's debts: in other words, mass political pressure could force the government to default and not pay the financial industry and its other creditors.

3 comments Share

What Builds a Strong Economy?

2 comments Share

myth about the "tragedy of the common"

We all know what the prevailing ideology tells us about the question of "tragedy of the common". I think it is an important question and I would like to ask you to tell us about it.

1 comment Share

There is an article in the Intercept, that talks about freelance workers in the television industry

These workers have no benefits and no job security. They are part of the "reality tv" industry that took hold during the writer's strike in Hollywood. The article asserts that no outtakes from "The Apprentice," which may've contained inappropriate comments from Donald Trump, were leaked because these workers feared for their jobs. Freelance and contract work seems good for employers, but not for workers. The tie-in with the president-elect is nor surprising, but still creepy.

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/23/the-apprentice-employees-feared-professional-reprisal-over-leaks/

posted an official response

Freelance, "gig", contract work arrangements were mostly imposed on workers so employers could escape the obligations built up to their workers over two generations of employment contracts sought and won by labor unions for their regular, full-time members. Pensions, sick-days, medical care insurance and countless other "job benefits" could be reduced or eliminated by converting workers from regular, wage- or salary earners into contract, temp or other types of work arrangements. In short, it is a profit-driven "labor market reform" - to use the Orwellian language of modern spin masters. Of course, some workers (e,g, those who have children or elderly to take care of or who need regular medical attention) can benefit from "flexible" working hours but giving those neither requires nor warrants depriving workers of the benefits they had so long to struggle and sacrifice to obtain from an employer class relentlessly working to withdraw what it had earlier to give.

2 comments Share

connect

get updates