Ask Prof. Wolff

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Have a question for Professor Wolff? Want to suggest a topic or article? UPVOTE your favorite questions or submit your own. Top suggestions will be given a video answer on YouTube.
 
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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Chicago Automotive Technicians Strike

Professor Wolff, can you cover the topic of the Automotive Technicians strike happening in Chicago at the present time? It's been going on since August 1st, and shows no sign of being resolved after five weeks of striking. The technicians are striking over an outdated contract that gave concessions to dealerships during the 2008 crisis, including an eight year apprenticeship program (Doubled from four years), a guaranteed 40 hours of pay a week, and better wages and health care, among other things. Since most people are unaware of how the auto repair industry works, I think this would be a good topic to cover. Thanks!

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Jill Stein's plan to use quantitative easing for student debt

Could quantitative easing, as suggested by former Green Party candidate Jill Stein, be a solution to the student debt crisis? Would she, as president, be able to get the Federal Reserve to carry this policy out, and what repercussions, if any, would there be to this course of action? This is all assuming that a President Stein would be going the route of quantitative easing, instead of new tax policy, by appointing the head of the Federal Reserve due to an obstructive Congress. John Oliver's criticism of Jill Stein's plan: https://youtu.be/k3O01EfM5fU (From 4:30 to 6:27) Would the spending stimulus from a suddenly unhindered youth offset any inflationary consequences? Is it bad for our economy to have the Fed buy up too many toxic assets? (If this question even applies to this…) Isn't it conceivable that the president can appoint as head of the Federal Reserve someone who would carry out this quantitative easing? Is the president not allowed to appoint the Board of Governors? Jill Stein's simple response: https://youtu.be/oLoh-gnY36g This obviously stems from a severe lack of knowledge about how the Federal Reserve works. It’s devilishly complex.

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An article from the arch-capitalist magazine "Market Watch" for comment by Prof. Wolff.

The article in "Market Watch" discusses the size of US manufacturing and its key components: refined petroleum goods, pharmaceuticals, airplanes, automobiles. US manufacturing has doubled production since 1984 but with only 1/3 of the workers of that period. The last paragraphs of the article spell out the reality for workers: "American manufacturing isn’t dead by any means. But the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs has devastated the working class, and made reaching the American dream more difficult. Technological advancements and the rise of low-skilled manufacturing in China and other developing nations mean that fewer Americans work in factories, just as technological advancements 100 years ago meant that fewer Americans worked on farms. Most Americans now work in service-producing industries, where inequalities in opportunities, skills and incomes are more apparent. Recreating an economy that provides equitable growth won’t be easy, especially if we pine for the good old days when a third of us worked at the factory. Those days are gone for good, even if U.S. factories still churn out lots of items that are Made in the USA."

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high tax on 99% to deal with the great Depression and Recession.

any paper or books on the issue. I am concerned with the idea that the rich will leave the country to evade the higher tax for lower tax. how to stop or any better way to deal with that issue/?

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Are you capitalizing on your fame?

My understanding is that you have been making certain deals and collaborations with various radio/media organizations. My question to you is whether these deals are orchestrated under the view of a worker-co-op, or if you are the lead decision making entity. You have also mentioned in your episode the potential for a cooperative relationship between a business and its clients in decision making. You are effectively becoming

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What are some examples of early, failed capitalist experiments?

I've heard you mention in many of your segments and interviews that capitalism had a rough start much like socialism, and that many of the early capitalist countries collapsed, reverted to feudalism, or went in bad directions. What are some good historical examples of such failures, or even some books or articles discussing the early failures of capitalist societies?

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What else can I do to protect my 401k?

My secretarial position is becoming technologically obsolete. If I can work another 5 years, I will be 62. I think we're in a bubble or government meltdown and have reallocated my 401k money into international bonds and international stocks but also have a Target 2020 fund that have US stocks/bonds. What else can I do to protect the money I have? I am afraid of another 2008 when workers' 401k lost half their money and no time to recoup.

posted an official response

It is both unethical and illegal for me to offer investment advice without the requisite credentials and without knowing in detail what your financial goals and resources are. Hence, please understand that nothing here entails a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any partricular security or other investment vehicle. My comments here are about general economic conditions, events, trends and so on

 

That said, let me only remind you that capitalist economies have economic downturns, on average, every 4-7 years and that the last downturn in the US was in 2008-09. Do the math. This is therefore a dangerous time for the stock market and all whose economic wellbeing depends upon it.

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Profit over people? More evidence...

http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/vaccine-company-tries-to-evade-fda-standards-by-holding-clinical-trial-on-caribbean-island/

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France's President's policies shine light on America

The article linked to below describes President Macron's corporate-friendly "centrist" policy in France. But there is a problem here. France gives us a perfect example of why political "centrism" fails, in different countries, and by doing so, paves the way for polltical extremism, especially from the fascistic right-wing. Just a few months ago, Macron, an avowed "centrist" (similar to America's Clintonian corporate-friendly centrist Democrats), defeated the ultra-rightist Marie LePen in a major election, and the world gave a sigh of relief as extremism was defeated. But typical centrist pro-corporate policies like the one described above (i.e. limiting labor rights to enable investor'$ profits) is right out of the centrists' playbook, and mirrors the policies of the "centrist"/Clintonian Democrats in America, which have helped enable Trump's election. Assuming Macron, who is rapidly losing popularity already with the masses, keeps up these worker-hurting/pro-corporate-elite policies, you can bet the ranch LePen will be elected in his place within several years or so, due to popular unhappiness, and out and out anger, with those policies. In this way, centrism can be seen as a huge enabler of rightwing fascism, which waits in the shadows, licking its fangs as public opinion turns away from the centrists, and prepares for its coronation. Keep your eyes on France! LINK: http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-france-labor-20170831-story.html

posted an official response

Agreed. Let me only add that the French are watching the Trump regime in the US partly to guage whether corporate interests might be better served with a right-winger like him in office compared to the centrist Clinton-type. If Trump can still deliver to them the corporate dereguation, corporate and wealthy peoples' tax cuts, and subsidized "infrastructure" program he promised, the business elite might well think, in France too, that a time with a Le Pen in power might help western capitalism more than reverting to the old establishment types.

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Class Privilege

I highly recommend to you the book "Class Privilege: How Law Shelters Shareholders and Coddles Capitalism" by Prof. Harry Glasbeek. The link to it is below. I think it is an important and trailblazing Marxist treatment of the use of the corporation as a vehicle to, among other things, hide the activities of capitalists, in the garb of law. https://btlbooks.com/book/class-privilege

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Is it possible to provide an icon for Linkedin to share information there?

I think because of the type of site it is, it would be a great place to share the very important information that you have.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1226&v=q2gO4DKVpa8

A great TED talk about how higher wages and investing in the middle class sustains a thriving capitalist economy.

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Socialist Currency War against Capitalism, can it work?

A few of the potential strategies I have been considering to create passive social-positive incentives (economic soft power), would be to create a form of currency (or several) to combine Social value with Economic value. This certainly must exist already, possibly in the form of virtual tokens, and definitely in the form of percentile contributions to social causes. What I am wondering about is the potential of weaponizing this as a deliberate socialist strategy, possibly to devalue the capitalist currency by overvaluing this "cause specific socially engaged currency" within a voluntarily associated group or community. I've heard about Bristol Pounds, for example, which is pretty much the same thing but only carries a localized economic bias (which is also important). When used in conjunction with credit cooperatives, which could either add "bonus miles" to the consumption of "cooperative based" products and services or may simply help to convert a portion of a coop worker's salary into a community-specific currency (or currencies), which would then have a greater value when acquiring goods from associated coops and similar institutions. The concern I have, however, is that parallel economies have a tendency to create shadow markets. Some individuals could perhaps game the system by acquiring goods at a lower cost and then selling them at a greater cost for capitalist currency. Is this a worthwhile strategy or is it doomed to fail?

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Is it possible to positively apply Economic principles to Social Capital?

Thank you for the answer to my previous question Prof. You helped me realize I had been momentarily trapped in regressive financial thinking. I was looking for an economically manipulatory solution based on classic liberal capitalist principles. (I wish there was a way to continue the discussion on the previous question without creating a new post) In my view, neoliberal capitalism is based upon selfish self-interest, built uniquely and exclusively to appeal to humanity's worst impulses, geared and engineered to appease, rely upon and enhance our individualistic tendencies to sociopathic levels. The institutions that arise out of this principle are artificially intelligent systems purposefully designed to alienate its human components from the socially predatory consequences of their actions (effectively a psychopathic hive mind), in the relentless pursuit of monopoly, and/or supremacy, oriented by the singular pursuit of maximal accumulation of wealth. I was thinking it could be possible to find an opposite economic principle to appeal to our "better" social nature instead. One that would guide our efforts and deeds for the "greater good", a similar imperative, an economic incentive that would lead people to maximize well-being instead of financial profit. However, as you reminded me, like Smith's delusion was to suppose an emergent well-being from economic self-interest it would also be a delusion to suppose the possibility of a purely economical alternative to achieve social justice. While studying post-anarchism I have recently discovered Pierre Bourdieu's concept of Social Capital (aka Cultural Capital) and this led me to think about the possibility of finding this capitalist antithesis. A spontaneously driving principle of accumulation of social well-being. In some ways Social Capital seems compatible with Aristotelian ethics and could (potentially) drive people towards an "accumulation of virtue" (knowledge and excellence), acting as an incentive to the increase of their Social Capital by conflating (or expanding) their "self-interest" with a better defined and localized sense of "social-interest" (a better defined version of public-interest, possibly). The sociological "holistic" approach, which considers social groups to be greater than the sum of their parts (something Marx proposed, apparently) if applied in conjunction with the study and measurement of the social capital in communities, organizations, and their individuals, could serve as a kind of metric to better assess the value of such collectives according to their particular social goals. The "Social stock" of a school would rise according to its effectiveness in educating students, while the "Social stock" of a hospital would rise according to the effectiveness of treating patients, and so on. Do you think this would be a valid and worthy avenue for measuring success in a free socialist society?

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Cryptocurrencies?

What are your thoughts about Fiat vs. Crytocurrencies? What role do you think Cryptocurrencies will play in the future of economics?

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