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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Silicon Valley employees living in motorhomes

Dear Richard, The blow article in a Swiss tabloid could be an interesting topic in one of your talks. It is about Silicon Valley employees living in motorhomes or even their cars instead of an apartment since they cannot affor the apartment from their salary and the apartment prices have skyrocketed. The article hints at multiple issues from gap between rich and poor, top executive salaries, gentrification, gig-economy, the new "middle" class with a middle class income not being enough to afford an apartment. https://www.blick.ch/news/wirtschaft/digitalisierung/die-dunkle-seite-des-tech-rausches-im-silicon-valley-diese-professorin-muss-in-ihrem-volvo-wohnen-id7601814.html Although it's a tabloid article it might still be worth looking into the topic. When even the not-yet outsourced tech jobs don't pay enough and young people with degrees compete for them. To me this sounds like working nomads and looks more and more like in the 19th century (Germinale, Les Miserable)

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Do you agree that tax leaves our accounts as a debit

and never reappears at any treasury account meaning that tax should more accurately be described as an exhaust to our economy cooling spending in an overheated economy RATHER THAN a unit that buys welfare, health and other public services . Isn't it true that the treasury is instructed to pay for those things despite levels of taxation meaning that tax levels have nothing to do with what the country can afford? It is mainly at the whim, of top ministers. and what their prejudiced beliefs might be?

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What's your critique of the idea of money as 'just energy' & the 'money positivity' approach?

I see so many people hustled by this anti-intellectual & ahistorical scam, as advocated by texts like The Soul of Money. So many folks being told to just examine their personal feelings about money and their relationship with it like that's gonna get them free! See also: new age theories around 'abundance' that're totally devoid of context. How would you respond to these ideas?

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Is today's capitalism kept in power by repression or seduction?

I watched your interview tonight with Harriet Fraad. Although it was very interesting and well argued, I believe that the answer to the question on why people revolt or not that she presented might be somewhat outdated. It is important to share newer perspectives on this, such as the one presented by Byung-Chul Han in this influential article written several years ago. I would be very interested in a program that discusses this article and its implications for the development of strategies to overcome capitalism and create a more just economy and society. https://www.worldcrunch.com/opinion-analysis/why-revolution-is-impossible-on-the-seductive-power-of-neoliberalism Thank you, Luis G. Santiago New York City

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Please deconstruct this mindset and how it convinces us to hold on to destructive behaviour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-BQJ2zQlkg He IS advocating rape in a way, and he is encouraging social norms that are unacceptable. He preaches that everyone should be forcibly cheerful even if they feel otherwise so everyone should just be fake? Please have a listen, at least to the first minutes, and try to deconstruct why the public thinks he makes sense and what is actually wrong with his message? He has a huge following, a popular youtube channel with other short clips as well. I do think he identifies one or two real problems, but his response to them advocates the very attitudes people have in this capitalist society that causes all the grievances we face every day.

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which economic bubble do you think will burst next - the student loan bubble or the car loan bubble?

As of Sept. 13, 2017, the total outstanding college loan debt is $ 1.45 trillion (https://studentloanhero.com/student-loan-debt-statistics/). The total outstanding auto loan debt is $ 1.19 trillion (https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_auto_loan_debt). Which of these two will be the first to blow up? You should interview Richard Fossey who wrote "Student Loan Catastrophe: Postcards From The Rubble". He teaches at Louisiana State University at Lafayette. Other good interviews on the topic of college loans would be Alan Collinge of studentloanjustice.org (http://studentloanjustice.org/) or Matt Taibbi, author of "The Great College Loan Swindle" in Rolling Stone Magazine (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-the-great-college-loan-swindle-w510880). Surprisingly, at "only" $ 764 billion, total outstanding credit card debt lags behind college and auto loan debt.

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Thoughts on the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus project?

What are your thoughts on Peter Joseph (The Zeitgeist Movement) and Jacque Fresco's (The Venus Project) resource based economy?Both envision a world without money... and have a plan to implement this. Would love to see an upcoming interview with you and Peter as Mr. Fresco has passed on...you have much in common.

Here's an interview with Peter Joseph and Abbey Martin of RT News https://youtu.be/NVDLkL8Nvjw

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Pyramid_of_Capitalist_System and Pyramid of the Communist System

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Capitalist_System Please tell the world more about that. 100 years nothing change, only people.

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Do you support nuclear energy?

It's no secret that many folks on the left share a common negative perception about nuclear fission power. In other words, these people on the left hold similar anti-nuclear (energy) views. As someone who subscribes to the values of Social Democracy and Atomic Humanism (http://environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2017/6/12/atomic-humanism-as-radical-innovation-2017-keynote-address-to-the-american-nuclear-society). I personally view nuclear energy as a crucial tool to solve many human problems and environmental issues we face today. As do many climate and conservation scientists who also share the same pro-nuclear vision (http://environmentalprogress.org/climate-scientists-for-nuclear/) (http://environmentalprogress.org/conservation-scientists-for-nuclear/) for the environment and humanity. My position on politics and energy policy can be best summarized with Mathijs Beckers YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGI2-HTCRXE) and the ecomodernist podcast guest Lee Phillips (http://ecomodernistpodcast.org/carousel-category/interviews/) (Episode 7: “Austerity, Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts”). I find it very unfortunate that many of my fellow progressives are against nuclear power. Sen. Sanders for example is against nuclear in favor for 100% Wind, Water, & Solar energy system based on an a (refuted) academic study (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpgOBBWA1OI). In addition, popular youtube alternative progressive news outlets such as TYT, DemocracyNow, etc are stubbornly anti-nuclear irregardless of the overwhelming evidence that nuclear energy is safe and is our best chance to stave off runaway climate change (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_Jc1X0VcBw) as recommended by IPCC, UNSCEAR, and AAAS. So as someone who consumes your youtube content as part of my weekly media consumption. I am honestly curious as to where you stand on the subject of nuclear energy. In my opinion, more progressives and socialists should carefully reconsider nuclear fission power as part of the solution to transition from a hydrocarbon economy to a clean energy economy. As progressives, we ought to talk more about all our clean energy technologies (including nuclear energy) to bring about a great Anthropocene (http://www.ecomodernism.org/). That’s just my opinion of course. I really like to hear yours. Thanks for your time, Ambrose B.

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Hav you heard of a german TV show called "Die Anstalt" (The Asylum)?

Since you speak German i thought the latest episode (November, 2017) of "Die Anstalt" would be very interesting. It very clearly shows that the Mont Pelerin Societies "Statement of Aims" is actually a prohepcy about what they were actually trying to do in the last 70 years: the rule of a minority over the rest of the world. And i would say they have so far succeeded. Staement of Aims: "Over large stretches of the Earth’s surface the essential conditions of human dignity and freedom have already disappeared. In others they are under constant menace from the development of current tendencies of policy. The position of the individual and the voluntary group are progressively undermined by extensions of arbitrary power. Even that most precious possession of Western Man, freedom of thought and expression, is threatened by the spread of creeds which, claiming the privilege of tolerance when in the position of a minority, seek only to establish a position of power in which they can suppress and obliterate all views but their own."(Wikipedia)

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Newly elected Virginia Delegate advocate of worker owned businesses:

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/46764-socialist-who-won-pivotal-swing-district-says-democrats-must-confront-corporate-interests

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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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Older Educated Americans Stuck in Shelters

Dr Wolff, I am one of older Americans, in my case age 58 and typically age 45 to 65 let go due to "economic reasons" and at this age the last to be hired. This despite an advanced degree and years of experience. In our current capitalistic model older workers are discriminated against and proving discrimination in hiring as it stands now is all but impossible. Many of us without the income of a spouse or a family to fall back on end up in the shelter system, such as me. Sadly I'm not alone. I am meeting other primarily men in the shelter system with pedigree degrees and years of experience. Conversations turn to how could we be here at this age and better days when we enjoyed a comfortable home, nice vacations, gym and country club memberships and the like. Today we struggle to survive and wonder if our future includes suicide, like so many men our age. I would very much like an organization such as yours to investigate this troubling trend, brought to us by a dysfunctional capitalism.

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Why do companies consider sold stocks an asset?

Why are they anything to the company but a liability because if they are sold again the company gets nothing. About the only thing I can see is that it means is that people think the company is doing well and so buy the stocks but the company gets none of that really except to satisfy the confidence fairy. So really all this stock market business just seems to be to me pretty much a financial scam except for those companies that pay dividends which is a cost to the company. So other than an initial infusion of cash what good are stocks to a company that they consider them an asset?? I have worked in finance and analysis for over 30 years and still cannot get corporate accounting. It all sounds like smoke and mirrors.

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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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