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Comment on news regards to Sanders townhall

Hello Prof. Wolff, I would like you to comment on events happened on Sanders Townhall. One is a clash between Sanders and a small biz guy from Pennsylvania. http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/313447-sanders-trump-supporter-spar-over-obama The "small business" guy basically arguing with Sanders with ROP rhetoric, he thinks regulation is catching onto them, is bad, (funny enough, I know a lot of small business owners' main income source is tax invasion). They know 1% is getting the biggest tax cut, but as long as they (small business) can get a cut, fuck working class people (aka everyone else). So my question is, could you share some comments on this, I feel that small biz class (I know today's small biz is very different from Marx's old definition) are naturally alienated from the left movement. Thank you.

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Why doesn't the AEA get it about pubic's rejection of their policies?

Dear Prof. Wolff Here is the link and the article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 CHICAGO—The nation’s leading economists are suffering an identity crisis as many of the institutions they helped build and causes they advanced have come in for public scorn and rejection at the ballot box. The angst was on display this weekend at the annual conference of the American Economic Association, the profession’s largest gathering. The conference is a showcase for agenda-setting research, a giant job fair for the nation’s most promising young economists and, this year, the site of endless discussion about how to rebuild trust in the discipline. Many academic economists have been champions of free trade and globalization, ideas under assault among rising populist movements in advanced economies around the world. The rise of President-elect Donald Trump, with his fierce rhetoric against elites, in particular, left many at this conference questioning their place in the world. “The economic elite did many things to undermine their credibility while people’s economic fortunes were taking a turn for the worse,” said Steven Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago. But a road map for regaining trust is elusive. “I used to think facts and analysis will ultimately carry the day but now I’m not quite sure.” In November a group of 370 economists, including eight Nobel laureates in economics, signed a letter warning against the election of Mr. Trump. The conference took place in the shadow of the 1,400-foot Trump International Hotel and Tower, with its giant embossed letters glistening above the Chicago River: TRUMP. Chicago’s single-digit temperatures meant anxious discussions took place among economists quite literally shivering in black or gray overcoats. “Economics has done a poor job integrating political concerns,” said Athanasios Orphanides, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus. Surveys from the Pew Research Center have documented dwindling support for free trade. In 2014, 60% of Democratic voters and 55% of Republican voters supported such trade agreements. In an October survey, however, support among Democrats had fallen to 56% and support among Republicans had nose-dived to 24%. Over a billion people moved out of poverty in developing countries in the last 25 years, lifted in part by global trade and other economic prescriptions, but those same policies created winners and losers in the West. Another Pew study last year compared views of whether it was good for the U.S. to be so involved in the global economy: 86% of scholars said it was good, and just 2% bad. Among the general public, 49% thought it was bad, and just 44% good. A separate survey from Marketplace-Edison Research, conducted in READ MORE Economics Conference Tests Job Seekers’ Mettle http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 2 of 4 October, asked U.S. adults how much they trusted data about the economy that is reported by the federal government. A quarter of respondents said they “do not trust it at all” while another 19% said they somewhat distrust it. That is difficult to comprehend at a conference like this, where 13,000 attendees assembled for more than 500 presentations, many of which are built around findings that heavily use that government data. The profession sees its successes as overlooked—the U.S. is wealthier than ever. The unemployment rate is below 5%. Challenges facing those who enjoyed little economic gain in recent years are among the topics economists are trying to diagnose and the subject of dozens of papers at this year’s conference. Presentations throughout the weekend had an exasperated tone— Princeton University economist and Nobel laureate Angus Deaton gave one titled “Where In The World Is The World Headed?” Another Nobel Laureate, Columbia University’s Edmund Phelps, delivered a presentation titled “How the Left and Right Are Failing the West.” Mr. Phelps said that neither the economic policies of Mr. Trump nor the left “can be expected to revitalize the West since neither serves to stimulate the business innovation that is essential for rapid economic growth.” Stanford University’s John Taylor and Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard said Mr. Trump’s plans to simplify the tax and regulatory codes could indeed boost the economy’s growth. Both economists served in the past in the White House Council of Economic Advisers, long populated by academics who present at the AEA conference every January. This year, academics are out in the cold. During the election The Wall Street Journal contacted every former member of the CEA, including those going back to President Richard Nixon. None had been tapped as an adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, nor did any publicly endorse him. The president-elect is “not particularly interested in hearing from the academic economist club,” Mr. Davis said. That could leave him missing needed advice. Still, the profession may have brought this on itself, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia professor and Nobel winner. Anger among voters was to be expected, because globalization in particular was sold in part with broken promises. “The promise was that globalization, together with liberalization, lowering tax rates, and advances in technology, would make everyone better off,” said Mr. Stiglitz. It was economists, not the economics, that over-promised, he said. http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 3 of 4 “In many ways, economic science was more honest,” he said, referring to the fact that some would win but others could lose from free trade. “It only said that under certain conditions winners could compensate losers, not that they would.” Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com Copyright ©2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers visit http://www.djreprints.com. http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 4 of 4

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surplus value

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A recommendation

I have a great song you can play during breaks or a break, that can be downloaded from ITunes. Title is: "Capitalism Gone Mad", sung by The Mighty Sparrow. It's a very catchy tune in a Calypso style, from the album "Quintessential". The Mighty Sparrow is perhaps the most famous and prolific singer from Trinidad and is very well known in the U.S. as well.

posted an official response

Well, thank you. I will gladly use this for the music interlude on my radio show. I had not known of this work and so am doubly glad you sent this in. I gather it was recorded first in 2002 but it sure sounds like it could have been written yesterday. For others who may see this exchange, I extend this recommendation to me also to you.

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If workers produce surplus, how do long-term incompetent employees fit into the picture?

Dr. Wolff, There seems to be an assumption that a worker produces a surplus. However, there are commonly employees, by no means owners or management, in a firm that objectively only produce more work for others, effectively diminishing total production, yet keep their jobs in perpetuity. Given most of the world is already in capitalism overdrive, how can this be?

posted an official response

Economic theories usually aim at typical, "normal" arrangements in the production and distribution of goods and services as their objects. If they are honest and self-aware (unfortunately a small minority of them these days), they know that all sorts of atypical and abnormal arrangements exist and last. There are, to take your example, all sorts of circumstances in which a person is kept employed who adds little or nothing to output and even decreases it by his/her interferences in others' efforts, etc. The pressures of family, kinship, romantic, religious, and other relationships within workplaces produce that sort of outcome all the time. In some ways, capitalism as a system reduces such atypical relationships, but simultaneously, in other ways, capitalism fosters them. A better economics would acknowledge all this and take those other circumstances into account and into the cores of the theories.

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Are the products of the household labor not the common property of the husband and wife?

Dear professor Wolff, let's suppose that the only household task is cooking. The husband provides the raw material and the tools necessary for cooking and the wife adds her living labor to transform them into the meal. The total value of the meal equals the embodied labor provided by the husband plus the living labor provided by the wife, so the meal is the common property of the husband and wife. It is hard to determine the share of each, but on any ground, not all of the meal is for the wife. Given this, I do not think that any major economic exploitation by any party occurs if they consume the meal together. Moreover, if we were to find the exploiter, it would be very hard to find out which party is consuming more than his/her share. Is there anything wrong with my thought? (For those who may read my question; I do not think that traditional family structure is a good thing, I have other reasons to oppose it)

posted an official response

This is a question of how one understands and uses Marx's value theory. First off, no "value" attaches to the homecooked meal because it is not a commodity since it does not pass from producer to consumer via a market exchange. Value is a category Marx applies to commodities alone. Second, you can, of course, compute labor hours - both those embodied in raw materials and tools used up in producing a homecooked meal and those hours of living labor applied by the housewife in the cooking. The final output, the meal, then has the sum of both types of labor hours. Third, the portion of the meal output consumed by the wife is her necessary labor's product, while the portion consumed by the husband is the surplus: the labor hours performed by the wife  but appropriated by her husband. Lastly, only if husband and wife together cooked the meal and together decided what portion of their conjoint output would be a surplus (a quantity of output that neither of them consumed) would there be no exploitation in Marx's strict definition of a surplus produced by one person and appropriated by another. In traditional households of the sort you describe the husband does exploit the wife whether or not either of them is conscious of that aspect of their relationship. Let me urge you to read full explanations of all this in (1) R. Wolff and S. Resnick, Contending Economic Theories (MIT Press 2012) and (2) Class Struggle on the Home Front, edited by Graham Cassano (Palgrave 2009).

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Non-profit education and capitalist greed...how is it beign corrected or further corrupted?

Dr. Wolff...Thank you for your enlightening economic perspectives! I am a follower of education policy as part of what I do as a professor of product design in the university system over here in Korea. I regularly study and compare policy initiatives related to the business of education between both the US and Korea. I recently have been following closely what is going on in the non-profit sector of US higher education, and cannot help to see how it is being over run by capitalist models of greed that parallels my observations of it over here in Seoul. The following link is to the ECMC umbrella of organizations which is just one example of business executive top heavy groups that organize student loan programs, grant foundations, collection agencies and other related associated legal entities that are aimed at 'improving adult education' and 'job skill upgrading'. http://www.ecmcgroup.org/about-us.html There are a growing number of organizations similar to ECMC both in the USA as well as South Korea. I myself am exposed to the very competitive higher education market over here in Seoul and see similar efforts to evolve education into a competitive business with an endless source of unending profits for the board of directors of the private college I work with. (there are executives sitting in jail currently as a result) I am observing the increasing challenges that the market is placing on educating those students who pay increasingly outrageous tuition (though federal loan guarantee programs) for credentials that are continually being compromised, cut, shrunk, under funded and overly measured with new (very time consuming and very expensive!) IT software programs from university and government administrations that have nothing to do with increasing the value of education. Where do you see education going under this current capitalist model that increasingly insulates the board of directors members and pits students against their teachers, instructors and professors??? How is all of this data about student performance, satisfaction rates, professor competency rates, job placement and a host of other metrics good for the future of education? Cheers from Seoul...

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Resources on starting a worker co-op?

Dr. Wolff, I am considering starting a company and I would of course like my company to reflect my economic and political beliefs. Can you share any resources for starting a company in the vein of a worker co-op? Are there, e.g., lawyers who specialize in drafting the regulations of such an organization, and other documents? Is there any community of business service providers, e.g. legal, accounting, etc., that believe in worker co-ops and so offer their services at a reduced price to co-ops? More abstractly, do you have any advice for structuring the organization? In my case, it would be tech company. With only founders and no investors or employees it would be structured like a worker co-op in a sense. Maintaining the structure as a co-op as we gain employees seems relatively straightforward. But what about investors --- does status as a co-op mean we cannot really have investors in the traditional sense? Can you speak about the lifecycle of a technology startup and how it might be different for a worker co-op? I realize this was a barrage of questions. But the general thrust is: can you speak about, or offer resources regarding, the actual practical issues of founding and growing a worker co-op? Thank you for your time and all that you do. Best, Henry

posted an official response

The simple answer to your question is "yes." There are such resources (lawyers, accountants, etc.) who are committed in principle to helping either convert existing, traditional businesses into worker coops or else starting worker coops. Some have had long experience with ESOPs where workers buy ownership of the enterprise in which they work. They then sometimes go on to take the next step, namely transitioning from worker ownership to worker directorship, i.e. making the enterprise worker-run as well as worker-owned. Our organization, democracy@work has a working partnership with some of these resources and more are available both in the US and even more in Europe.

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What does it mean to say that the husband appropriates the surplus in the traditional familis?

Dear professor Wolff, can you please elaborate on this Marxian analysis. I am not sure I have understood it.

posted an official response

Inside the traditional household (traditional=husband goes out to work at a paid job, wife stays home to be housewife, mother, home-maker, etc.) women do more work than necessary to provide for their own needs (what Marx called "necessary labor"). That is, they dont cook and clean only their own meals; they also cook and clean meals for their husband's consumption. They dont make only their side of the bed; they make both sides. And so on. In short they do both "necessary labor" - whose products they consume - but also "surplus labor" whose products are consumed by the husband and/or by others (eg children or elderly grandparents, etc.) that he or the social context designates. In short, the traditional husband "appropriates the surplus produced by the wife at home." The direct parallel is with the proletarian worker in an office, factory, etc. H/she works producing value that the employer realizes when he sells the worker's output embodying that value. One portion of that realized value is paid by the employer to the worker as his/her wage/salary. That portion of the value of the output corresponds to the worker's necessary labor for which he/she is paid. Another portion of the worker's value output is used to replace the used-up means of production (tools, equipment, raw materials). And the third part of the value of output is kept by - appropriated - by the employer. Inside traditional households, it is the husband who thusly appropriates the surplus produced by his wife. This argument is developed in great detail and with interesting applications in a book I strongly recommend: Class Struggle on the Home Front, Edited by Graham Cassano (2009).

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Why the feminist confuses inherent biological differences,abilities with Economicof Emotional Labor?

Prof of economy got a hardcore feminist on his panel. I got one thing to that sexist feminist guest of his, BIOLOGY. IF women had as much testosterone as in men , their voice and muscle mass would be that of men, ( and female guest is clearly on her menopause from the sound of her vice ..) and IF men had that ample estrogen supply of of women they could clearly do much better on emotional intelligence. IF women wants muscle they get a worker and when men need emotional giving being they get female front office. AND IF THE PROFESSOR GET IT ALL CONFUSED WITH THE MENOPAUSAL FEMINIST THERE'S A LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND.HOT SHOT FILTHY RICH SINGLE MEN LOVE THEIR CARS OF COURSE TAKING OF THEIR TOYS PAY MORE THAN AN AVERAGE CHILD CARE. well this is most stupid discussion I have heard from prof, thanks to that nuts feminist with all her complexity of menopausal age and loneliness. FOR Christ's sake BAN bringing feminist to any discussion. and for my fellow brothers and sister I ask you watch " The Red Pill"

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What do you think of REI? Co-op or Faux-op?

Recently REI began advertising the word Co-op on its clothing and in its ad campaigns much more than in previous years. It appears to be driving home the point that it's a Co-op, but how it can legitimately label itself as so is certainly a point worth exploring. As far as I can tell, the extent of their co-op reach is the membership they sell granting the customer/member a lifetime of 10% dividends on full priced items, along with some other minor discounts on outdoor classes and company organized adventure travel. There is no voting in the actual workplace, but they're fond of reminding their employees that manager doors are always open. They pay their workers (the ones who are chiefly responsible for selling their merchandise) a little over 12 dollars an hour (the same rate as Dominos Pizza), yet their CEO hauls in multiple millions as his base salary (2+ mil. along with bonuses). The previous CEO, Sally Jewel, got her start in the oil industry, and then moved into banking. After being REI's CEO for a number of years she landed a job as the secretary of the interior under the Obama administration. In 2016 REI then partnered with the National Parks service while Jewel was Secretary. The current CEO (as well as previous ones) have stated that REI is first and foremost a retail company. It now sells master cards, and asks their employees to promote them to the customers/members. I recently took a job with this company, as I was curious how it worked on the inside, and its been a total let down from a democracy in the workplace standpoint. It's not much different than working for a normal retail company as far as I can tell (other than being given a discount on gear that you may or may not be able to afford) , and the membership seems roughly the same as the standard member card you get from most retail outlets. Personally, I have a CVS card that gives me a discount off their shelf price immediately, and an AMC card that lets me see movies for five dollars less on Tuesdays. Neither are co-ops, and I didn't have to pay for either of those cards. Granted, I can't cast a vote once a year to elect a member of the board of those companies, which I can do with REI. The jury is still out on how meaningful this activity actually is. The long and short of it is I feel that REI is simply masquerading as a co-op. Maybe once upon a time it had that in its DNA, but I just don't see how anyone could truthfully classify it in this fashion now. Moreover, I find that broadcasting itself as a cooperative when it clearly is not, only ends up harming the idea of a democratically structured company/economy, and plants a false idea in the minds of its employees, and members/customers. If you have time, I'd certainly appreciate your thoughts on the matter. Warm regards

posted an official response

There are quite a few companies across the world that are or call themselves cooperatives. It is an interesting acknowledgement that the notion of a cooperative enterprise has a long historical appeal that can be useful to enterprises now as well. And to be fair here, there really are various, multiple meanings for the word "cooperative." Or, to say the same thing in other words, there are different types of cooperative enterprise. To address your specific comments on REI, there is a kind of cooperative called a "consumer cooperative." In that kind, it is the consumers who cooperate as buyers of the enterprise in question often getting, as a result of the cooperative organization of consumption, discounts on purchases, a vote on various aspects of the enterprise's policies, and also sometimes ownership rights or shares. Another kind of coop is an "ownership cooperative" in which rather than having ownership achieved say through shares sold to individuals via stock markets, ownership is instead vested in consumers of the enterprise's products or its employees or still other groupings of people. What I want to stress here is that consumer coops and/or ownership coops (or coops that combine both of these kinds into a composite) are not the same things as "worker coops" or "producer coops." It is only in the latter that the organization of the workplace, of the work itself, is made cooperative: it is only in them that the enterprise becomes democratic in terms of the basic enterprise decisions (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits) being made in a one person, one vote electoral manner. Consumer and owner coops may choose to also organize their respective workplaces in a democratic manner and thereby become also worker coops, but most have so far not done that. Some have. REWI seems, from your description, to be one of the many who take cooperation only so far and believe that they must or should NOT democratic the workplace, the work process itself. In any case, the project of our group - Democracy at Work - is precisely focused on worker coops as the priority socially now. By that I mean a transition from the undemocratic, top-down, hierarchical organization of work typical of capitalist enterprises to the alternative system based on worker coops as the basis of enterprise organization.

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Co-op Banks?

Dr. Wolff, I recently spent an afternoon helping my college-student son fill out applications for student loans with Sallie Mae. Coincidentally, that evening I received an email from Sallie Mae asking if I wanted to 'receive a better interest rate for my savings.' I'm already contributing $80k from my own pocket to my son's college education, and the fact that he must borrow a further $40k is galling. But the email highlighted a troubling situation: people with money can expect a guaranteed return while my son, whether he's able to or not, must repay the money he's borrowed plus interest. I suppose theoretically the lender's interest rate has a direct relationship to the aggregate ability of borrowers to pay, but this is a future ability to pay and impossible to predict. Is there some way (co-op banks?) that a lender's eventual return could be directly linked to the borrower's eventual ability to repay?

posted an official response

There already exist plenty of precedents and models that link a lender's rate of return to a borrower's rate of return using the borrowed money. This is an old idea of shared risk that often accompanies shared gain as when a nominal interest rate attached to a loan can be raised or lowered depending on the results of the borrower's investments made with the borrowed money. Of course, a certain sharing of risk has always been part of most loans since a borrower's possible default on a loan would impose shared risk on the lender.

A coop bank could work out various shared-risk-shared reward arrangement - and likely would do that much more readily than atypical capitalist bank. That's because the cooperation between borrower and lender follows from the cooperation in a worker coop among the different types of workers contributing to the final output.

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What are some universities with extensive Marxian economics programs?

I'm guessing not many, but thanks any way.

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Your comments on Social Credit.

I would like to get your thoughts on Social Credit, the idea created by C. H. Douglas. Nobody I know has even heard of Social Credit, let alone been able to speak intelligently about it.

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Non producing economies, limits to development, transitions

1. All economic discussions are centered on organisation of production, but it seems that for the poor half of the world production is out of question: they cant produce anything, so they live off natural resources. For example in some poorest countries some people own land and others dont, so the latter have to pay to the former, but since there's no economy and no money they can't do it, which leaves them "suspended in the air". Another problem is that technological advancements make more and more labor force redundant: even in the poorest countries capitalists are putting money generously in the most efficient equipment, trying to reach the model with minimal use of labor, basically transforming inputs into goods. How and according to which system should products of non human labor (land, water, energy) be managed? 2. Do you believe that there's a limit to technological development? Since the beginning of mankind there was practically no development until the burst of the last couple of centuries, but it cannot continue forever, so there must be a time when it all would get stuck at a certain level. Since there's no development, no competition, equilibrium in everything would be reached and there would be certain constant need for human labor, so we are back to the system from the 1st question with only difference being the equipment that facilitates life. In such a monotonous system isn't it all about the right of an individual to a certain share in the economy? 3. Could it be the reason why capitalism is not working in the poor half of the world? For example when communist (state capitalist) USSR made transition to private capitalism, it in essence became again state capitalism (because capitalists were the same state officials) but this time less socialistic (with many reforms concerning land, housing, healthcare, human rights that worked in one direction taking from one group adding to another; capitalists were just sitting on the money, resources and the means of production not knowing what to do with it, causing destruction of producing sectors of economy), which resulted in satisfaction of those who got more and dissatisfaction of those who - less or nothing, but again isn't it just cutting of a pie? Of course implementing wde system in sectors where human labor is used would make society more equal, but since haves control the police force they would never allow that to happen.

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