Ask Prof. Wolff

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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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Where can I find information about investing in worker cooperatives?

I am going to retire in the near future and I would like to move my savings and qualified plans into less volatile and income producing investments. Worker cooperatives may be attractive as part of my investment plans. Where can I find information about investing in individual worker cooperatives or mutual funds that primary invest in cooperatives? My investment broker, Fidelity Investments does not have research or information about worker cooperatives.

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Would a cap on total individual wealth be advisable?

Superwealthy have 2 mandates: 1) keep and increase one's wealth 2) do everything one can to achieve 1). 2) includes lying, cheating, stealing, and if possible even killing others and destroying the environment and controlling politicians. My impression is that this is largely what is happening presently and the root cause of most of the 10,000 social injustices. The last tax bill is a clear instance of doing simply what the mandate calls for. I cannot see the insanity ending without a cap on total individual wealth.

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Is America's global military dominance related to the world's reserve currency?

I'm a professor in California and have asked this question to numerous specialists in international finance with no genuine, substantive reply. Would the dollar collapse, would the markets implode, if America decided to retreat from its perpetual wars? What if the U.S. decided to leave South Korea, Europe, and close 800 of its 1000 overseas bases and mothball 9 of its 11 aircraft carries. Would this peaceful move ruin the American economy or can we think peace without thinking economic annihilation? I believe the two are connected; I wish they weren't. No one with competence talks about this issue. Let us know your opinions. Jerry Kroth, Ph.D., Associate Professor Emeritus, Santa Clara University

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Surplus Value in Modern Capitalism?

In Post-Industrial America Marx's categorization of productive labor vs unproductive labor is difficult to picture. As is how we should define the most common form of labor Customer Service. Industrial capitalism/manufacturing capitalism and lending capitalism do not quite seem to cover the spectrum of labor that exists in the domestic labor market. Obviously this becomes less of an issue when presented with the figures behind a global economy where one could argue that Customer Service is the distribution, and therefore the unproductive labor supported by the surplus production of foreign industrial capitalism. However, this explanation fails to address that many customer service jobs (such as the hospitality field) are in the business of marketing the commodity of leisure. Do these jobs distribute their use-value to their product just as manufacturing does? If we view the economy strictly through the lens of the domestic sphere are these jobs generating a surplus-value to be appropriated by the capitalist class? If this is not the case, what are the implications behind the massive growth in unproductive labor rather than actual productive labor?

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Program on Community Choice energy

In California, Community Choice energy is a stealth revolution, sweeping away monopoly utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric and democratizing the generation and sale of electricity. Like public banks, Community Choice energy programs are operated by public agencies accountable to the people, not to shareholders. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases by procuring a higher proportion of renewable energy, Community Choice energy programs stimulate the local economy through the creation of renewable energy jobs and by keeping energy dollars circulating in the local economy. Please invite the California Alliance for Community Energy on your program--we have an exciting but little-known success story to share with the rest of the country (

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Mondragon coop in the end of this article

Great article about the West/ Coates issue..from popular resistance And then, Particularly the end about Jackson, Miss. and the Mondragon corporation cooperative of Spain. I am telling you, moving to Jackson, Miss. Is it!!! Erica Understanding Coates-West Conflict Clarifies Many Issues When the emails started coming in, I ignored them. By day’s end, my voicemail and email inboxes were filling up with links to the Guardian, followed by links to Facebook pages and blogposts devoted to Cornel West’s takedown of Ta-Nehisi Coates. I felt like I was being summoned to see a schoolyard brawl, and, now that I no longer use social media, I was already late. By the time I read West’s piece, “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle,” it had become the center of international controversy. Perhaps because West named me as an ally, the New York Times requested a comment, followed by Le Monde, and then a slew of publications all trying to get the scoop on the latest battle royale among the titans of the black intelligentsia. -more-

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Does Okishio's Theorem disprove the falling rate of profit?

Do you think that Okishio's Theorem disproves the tendency of the rate of profit to fall? If not, why? Do you reject the Sraffa-model framework?

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What if a cryptocurrency where to be tight up to an energy resource?

Energy-currency as in "petro-dollar" there could be an "energy-cryptocurrency". Cryptocurrencies are decentralized forms of banking thus a threat to central and private banks. Today there are many examples of this type of cryptocurrencies, e.x.., The use of cryptocurrencies wouldn't be gambling anymore as it is today. Additionally, cryptocurrencies would have a very nice fit into the idea of worker coops. Why? Having a decentralized banking infrastructure underneath this new way of organizing society is a must.

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Willful ignorance of the "mainstream left"

So it was just revealed that Obama deported 100,000 more Mexican immigrants in 2016 than Trump has in 2017, yet on all of the articles about that, the VAST majority of the commentary is mocking of Trump (most certainly by people self identifying as "liberal") for not fulfilling his campaign promise to deport a lot more people, while entirely ignoring the fact that Obama deported 100,000 more Mexicans in his last year than DONALD "We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before" TRUMP! There is literally no outrage at all about what Obama has done from the "mainstream left", and I think this speaks to a broader issue. The same group of people fail to criticise Obama for things such as bailing out Wall Street, instituting a right-wing devised healthcare plan, expanding the number of conflicts the US was involved in from 2 to 7, etc. What's your take on this issue of willful ignorance, and what do you think are the most jarring examples of it in modern politics? (Here's a news article about the deportations:

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Where do you suggest workers with stagnating wages get capital without capitalists or predatory lenders?

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employee owned co-op corporation

How can a large corporation like Walmart, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft be forced to organize as an employee owned co-op? Could Walmart be as effective, efficient, and competitive if employee owned?

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What do you think of the redistribution of working in time keeping the same or better wages?

there is no chance to fight unemployment without a strong reduction of the working hours

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Bookshelf Video

If that bookshelf in the AskProfWolff videos is yours, could you make a video going through a selection of them?

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Transitions post-feudalism

What other economic systems besides capitalism were considered towards the end of feudalism or was capitalism the only major alternative thought of at the time?

Do you believe capitalism was a necessary evil in order for society to progress away from slavery and feudalism or can you imagine us having skipped over capitalism and gone right into a more egalitarian socialist society without the Lord:Serf, Master:Slave or Employer:Employee dichotomy?

Thank you so much for everything you do, Professor. I love the Economic Update and I am forever indebted to you for all of the content you have made and continue to make available to the public.

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Video on taxes: Stealing From the Poor.

You did a video for Terra Times regarding the tax structure in the U.S. around 7/29/2017. It outlined all taxes paid including local, state and federal. I would very much like to see it again, and share a link to the video, but it's nowhere to be found (hmmm). Will you be doing the topic again on an upcoming video? Is there at least a blog post that has the same information? Thank You.

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