Ask Prof. Wolff

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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.
 
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How does the private employer-provided healthcare effect career choice?

As a man in my mid-20s, I've found that the need for healthcare benefits is one of the most important factors in where people seek to work, often leading to jobs that prove abusive or unfulfilling.r I've also found that obtaining quality healthcare deters people from self-employment/starting small businesses. Are there any studies of how career paths are effected by government vs. employer/private healthcare?

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Can you please explain who, and why, is waging the "economic war" in Venezuela?

There is an interesting video piece that Abby Martin made on Venezuela (link below). Can you please give an explanation on what is going on in Venezuela and how socialist policies play into the "economic war". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUYWrPiUeWY Thank you, I am a huge fan and a patreon subscriber.

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What are your thoughts on affordable housing?

I came across this interesting piece concerning NIMBY and YIMBY positions on San Francisco housing. Just curious to hear your opinion on the matter. https://juliagalef.com/2017/07/13/should-we-build-lots-more-housing-in-san-francisco-three-reasons-people-disagree/

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Is it possible to stop globalization and at what cost? Would we even want to?

Hi I understand that you are a busy man and I apologize in advance for not being able to keep my letter short. I also apologize if some of the terminology is lacking since I don’t live in the US and English is only my second language. I’ve been thinking about globalization and how it effects workers, especially when outsourcing. President Trump talked about bringing the jobs back to America. Is that even possible? It seems to me that this is next to impossible unless workers in the western world are willing to accept a lower standard of living (if by high standard of living you mean being able to consume). If America (or the western world) decides to make it harder or impossible for companies to leave, the jobs may stay in America. However, the companies will still look to increase profits and if they can’t do that by lowering employment costs (by moving production abroad where the wages are cheaper and safety regulations and labour legislations are weaker), they have to make up for it by rising the price of the product they are selling. This will lead to American workers no longer being able to afford the product they are producing. As an example, a smart phone being made in some Asian countries is cheaper than a phone being made in America with American wages. Another example would be clothes. The big companies in the clothing industry using child workers and exploiting them terribly just to keep the prices down and the profits up. Now, would American workers accept this? Everything becomes more expensive and yes, while you may have a job you still can’t buy anything anyway. Another possible result could be that while the production stays in America, most of it will be automized and the workers will lose their jobs to machines rather than foreign labour force. Is it possible that we will see the economy and welfare decline in the western world and eventually Asia and South America will take ”our place”. That the tables will turn? And how will we handle that? If the west stop outsourcing, what will happen in the countries where the jobs are now? What will happen there when the factories close down and move back? Will that alone effect us? I'm sure those jobs helps those economies and if weakened, they would not be able to trade with us in other areas. Is the solution to somehow introduce a limit to how much profit a company can make? In that case it wouldn’t benefit the cooperations to move abroad. On the other hand, I guess they could just register as a foreign company and somehow by-pass it. Or is part of the solution to find new markets, creating different kind of jobs and spend more time and money on education and innovation? How do we handle people that struggle in school and won’t be able to qualify for these new jobs? Another dimension of globalization is the environment. Trade agreements like TTIP and Ceta makes it easier to send goods across the world in planes and trucks, and yet most of us agree that we need to do something about how humans effect the environment. Doesn’t these international trading deals add to the problem? Have you addressed these questions in depth earlier or is it something you are willing to talk about in the future? Thank you for doing what you do and thank you for your time. Regards, Daniel from Sweden

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Transforming political dialogue

I was just invited via a phone call to take part in a one-hour discussion with Senator Bernie Sanders. 15000 people apparently dialed-in from in and around the country to listen and ask questions. I wish that I had been chosen to ask a question because the first thing I wanted to ask was how do we transform the political dialogue in this country so that we can actually talk about the true source of all of the issues on the table as far as politics are concerned, that being the issues relating to capitalism. Everyone wanted to call in and ask about a different topic, Healthcare, the judicial system, Trump, the health-care bill. No one asked specifically about what was causing all of these ills or questioned whether the system under which we all live could be causing them. There was vague talk about all Americans coming together and fighting the rich upper class and the Republicans and the Koch brothers but again the system was never questioned. Dr. Wolf after listening to your lectures and televised appearances for over a month now I think this is ongoing proof that the politicians are also responsible for keeping us separated as far as understanding what is causing the pain under which we suffer. How do we change this? Who will be the one to change it? Even Bernie Sanders didn't seem to want to come near that topic. The closest I heard him mention was that we need to transform politics and remove the influence of big money. But that still wasn't close enough for me. I would like to hear your thoughts on this sir. Thank you.

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Neoliberalism's Poison on Higher Education and How Co-Ops Could Help

Definity right up your alley, Mondragon is used as a guiding light as a possible solution to this very real problem. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/07/12/author-discusses-ideas-his-new-book-toxic-university

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Which Marxian economists colleagues do you like? Why?

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Have you ever heard about the Resource Based Economy?

Have you ever heard about the Resource Based Economy and The Venus Project? If yes, which thoughts do you have on it?

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Recent Economic & Public Policy successes in Ecuador & Worker Committees/Worker Co-ops: 1930s Spain

Topics for your consideration. If at all possible, I would be very interested in a longer discussion of the above on Economic Update!

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Dr. Wolff,

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You need to interview Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of "An American Sickness"

Dr. Rosenthal is now Editor-In-Chief of Kaiser Health News. She was a correspondent for the New York Times for 22 years. She wrote the series entitled "Paying Till It Hurts", a multi-part examination of our dysfunctional healthcare system published in the Times in 2013-14. “American Sickness” is a critical examination of the four pillars of the U.S. healthcare system, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and equipment manufacturers and insurance companies. As just one example of the many outrages described in her book, one stands out in my mind. Pharmaceutical companies have increased the price of their drugs so much that even people who actually have insurance coverage can’t afford the deductible. Apparently, it’s illegal for a doctor to waive the deductible for his patients. The industry has come up with a clever and cynical strategy to keep this growing fraction of their market. The drug makers have created non-profit, charitable programs to give financial aid to these people enabling them to pay their deductible. In turn, the patients can now put in a claim to their insurance companies. For a relatively small charitable donation, the drug makers are able to increase their sales.

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OK, I shall try.

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Shouldn't co-ops corporation be held responsible for their impact on the community ?

Don't you think that coop corporation should be held responsible for the impact of their decision on the community (in terms of social, environmental's... cost) and so governement and coop should work togetehe

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Absolutely yes. In my writings I try always to include - despite their primary focus on democratizing the workplace itself - some attention to how democratized workplaces and democratized residential communities would be con-determiners (and have veto-power) over one-another's decisions. That's precisely because the decisions taken in each community - workplace and residential - impact the other in multiple ways.

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Some worker co-ops aren't any better than regular ownership

Not all worker co-ops work out well. I worked at one, Westat, and it treated people absolutely as badly as other places I (and coworkers) have worked.

posted an official response

I agree. There will be worker coops that fail and go out of business (just as happens to capitalist enterprises) although I would expect that a worker-coop based economy would have cooperative ways to support coop-workers who lose jobs and need help in relocating to other coop jobs etc. Nor are worker coops guaranteed to behave as we want in all cases. Indeed, all sorts of bad habits etc will survive for a while in an economy transitioning from capitalist to worker-coop enterprises; these can and will show up again inside the new worker coop enterprises. Those of us who favor worker coops as a better economic foundation for a democratic society will always need to be vigilant that worker coops do in fact contribute to the larger good society that motivates our support for worker coops in the first place.

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Why did you say capitalism didn't decrease poverty? What do you think reduced poverty?

https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty/

posted an official response

My point was focused on poverty understood relatively. Yes, the improvement in human technology/productivity has, across many centuries, increased the total output per person-hour of labor. Some of that improvement has trickled down to the mass of people. They lived better with settled agriculture than as nomads, with feudalism rather than slavery, with capitalism rather than slavery or feudalism, and so on. But there were exceptions and occasional reversals.

Marx's insight was to see how capitalism not only stimulated rapid technological/productivity increases but also reproduced the social dichotomy between rich and poor. It was, as he said, as good at reproducing poverty as at reproducing wealth; it reproduced unequal divisions of wealth and income.

That is why, despite countless anti-poverty programs across the history of capitalism, poverty always returns to characterize the system. Capitalism reproduces relative poverty by its nature, its functioning, its system.

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Dr. Wolff,

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