Ask Prof. Wolff

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Capitalism vs. socialism

Is it fair and accurate to distinguish capitalism from socialism by saying capitalism is a system of economics, while socialism is a system of government?

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I would enjoy hearing your response to Mike Whitney's latest article in CounterPunch

MIKE WHITNEY Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas

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Help to reframe what a pension really is

The truth about pensions. Pensions are not a benefit granted by an employer to the employed. When actually a pension is delayed payment for work already done. As a condition for taking a job, a pension is part of your earned salary, withheld and invested by your employer, to be paid later, after retirement. So if an employer says "we just have the money to pay you for your pension" that means that he has either embezzled, stolen, or misspent your earnings, which by contract he is responsible for paying you. Your employer is a thief. By Professor Lakoff

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How come worker co-ops serve a blueprint for a 21st socialist economy?

How come worker co-ops serve a blueprint for a 21st socialist economy when we know that in the past many of them have degenerated (like Israeli agricultural coops 'Kibbutz' or firms in US plywood industry) as their members either sold their shares in the open market or hired workers that were non-members and hence they themselves turned into capitalists thereby making a coop revert back to a conventional firm?

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I found the most amazing documentary called "Beyond Elections" on youtube!

here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJkajOPgkhw&index=1&list=PLF08E81711A0D23B1

This documentary talks about all of the most amazing concepts with real world examples all condensed in a 16-part video. I highly recommend giving it a watch, I think it will inevitably give you some ideas to talk about at your next weekly update or monthly update.

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Could you go over the economics of the Fair Tax Act?

Good morning! I would like to see analysis on Thomas Maddie's Fair Tax proposal and what that kind of (sales/consumption) tax would do. No more income , payroll, capital gains, or corporate income tax. Rebates would be given to families based size to meet their "basic needs" via the Official poverty measure. I fear younger and older Americans and immigrants will feel this burden while established Americans (rich, upper-middle class) will not need to buy goods as much as the former group. The fair tax also assumes the neoclassical assumption that individuals are assumed to want more and more while constrained by budgeted incomes. While this is true in theory, reality means some people may not use the extra untaxed money, and the government is then stripped of its revenues. IRS agents are now without jobs and incomes. Thank you.

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Could you go over the economics of the Fair Tax Act?

Good morning! I would like to see analysis on Thomas Maddie's Fair Tax proposal and what that kind of (sales/consumption) tax would do. No more income , payroll, capital gains, or corporate income tax. Rebates would be given to families based size to meet their "basic needs" via the Official poverty measure. I fear younger and older Americans and immigrants will feel this burden while established Americans (rich, upper-middle class) will not need to buy goods as much as the former group. The fair tax also assumes the neoclassical assumption that individuals are assumed to want more and more while constrained by budgeted incomes. While this is true in theory, reality means some people may not use the extra untaxed money, and the government is then stripped of its revenues. IRS agents are now without jobs and incomes. Thank you.

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Could you please talk about consumerism and the ideology behind it,

why its beneficial for the business elite, etc? Thank you Richard!

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Prosperity Gospel writ large??

Professor Wolff, Three of the six faith leaders invited to pray at the most recent presidential inauguration are proponents of the Prosperity Gospel while none of the mainline Protestant denominations were represented. Some conspiracy alarmists posit that with Trump’s implicit endorsement of the Prosperity Gospel, Christian Dominionists are on their way towards a nationwide imposition of this philosophy. As you contend, the various economic systems manifest themselves in different relationships within each system. The Prosperity Gospel would appear to set up a divine right of wealth wherein those at the top are “blessed” by God and those at the bottom are encouraged to give as a means of elevating themselves out of poverty. Conspiracy rantings aside, as an intellectual exercise, I am interested in your take on what a large scale Prosperity Gospel economy might look like and how it would play out in the long term. Additionally, what would you see as the first indications that the conspiracy alarmists might be on to something? Enjoy the show, keep up the good work. Washington Post article re: Prosperity Gospel and Trump voters https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/07/15/how-the-prosperity-gospel-explains-donald-trumps-popularity-with-christian-voters/?utm_term=.1f6002f8699a

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SF Chronicle article --Pizzeria workers get a piece of the pie

I thought you might be interested in "Employee ownership may help businesses stay open as Boomers retire" from San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Employee-ownership-may-help-businesses-stay-open-10941974.php?t=c14be82dd1

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Shawn Wilbur as a Guest

I think it would be interesting to hear some discussion about different approaches to socialism. Shawn Wilbur might be a good person to discuss this sort of thing with. His approach to socialism is Proudhonian rather than Marxian, and his anarchist perspective can add something new to the discussion of the various forms of socialism that don't preclude markets. Some of his work: https://www.mutualism.info http://blog.libertarian-labyrinth.org

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Is Renewable Energy acually good for society?

Professor Wolff; Thank you for the information you impart each week. On the 02Feb2017 podcast I learned more about the Vermont brewery and the thoughts of Hegel. The latter is important as he seems to be a favorite of my son's, who is currently in grad school studying philosophy. I understand very little of what my boy says these days. As with many who write you, I do disagree in one area. Renewable Energy. While climate change is certainly a serious issue, and I'm glad that many of the aspects of climate change are entering popular discussions, the proposed solutions are invariably non-solutions designed merely to make the populace feel good about doing something. If I might explain. RE is mostly large hydro power with some geothermal, wind, solar, and maybe tidal. Most people focus on wind & solar, and there is lots of installed capacity, but W&S tend to greatly under-produce energy capacity. This is not mentioned often enough. Wind produces about 30% of potential capacity and solar even less. Yes there is lots of wind and sun energy available, but we shouldn't have to eliminate most of the natural environment for the sake of using lots of W&S – that's backwards thinking! I would also mention that many of the best spots for wind are already taken (or protected), so future builds will be in less efficient locations. W&S can be useful, but not as a primary energy source. The major issue with W&S as currently used is that it supports the top 1% more than it assists the general population. This is your area of expertise, Prof. Wolff. Federal subsidies for RE takes many forms. There's the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires utilities to take energy from W&S – regardless of whether the grid can actually use that power. Then there are more subsidies for manufacturing or installation. Every few years I have heard that “we must pass legislation to support solar/wind or the industry will grind to a standstill”. Good riddance to welfare industries is my response, but the legislation invariably passes. One other type of subsidy is the Production Tax Credit (PTC) – this is perhaps the most heinous. W&S producers connect to the grid and get paid directly by the govt for what they produce, then the grid also pays them for what it must take from the producer (remember the RPS?), ...and so it goes. Do you know many who are both rate-payers & tax-payers? However when there is an abundance of sun and wind, things get interesting! The grid doesn't need the energy, but W&S producers want that PTC payment... so they begin to pay the grid to take the energy is doesn't need – like a bribe! This invariably leads to negative wholesale prices (there are 5 minute auctions between utilities and power producers throughout the day & night). Yes, the owners of wind and solar farms get so much in subsidies that they pay the utilities to take energy that isn't needed! Otherwise they would have to curtail production and the govt would not pay out the lucrative PTC. Now if these installations were owned by common people this would be a slightly different story. But these are generally owned by the richest in our society – so this whole issue of RE energy (IMHO) has become a smokescreen for welfare to the wealthy. And the common people, led by green environmental groups (who do take money from fossil-fuel interests), cheer on. “Intermittent renewables get much of their money from subsidies of various types, not from the grid. Therefore, they can bid into the grid at artificially low costs for their power, even bid in at negative numbers (we will PAY you to take our power!).   This lowers the power price on the grid, and particularly hurts plants that make a lot of power, like base load plants.  As base load plants retire because they can't make enough money to keep operating, the amount of capacity available diminishes, capacity payments go up, and peaker plants get proportionately more money.  Peaker plants always get a higher percentage of their money from capacity payments, but when base load plants retire, they get even more money from capacity payments.” http://yesvy.blogspot.com/search?q=negative+grid+payments If you wish to pursue this further you might contact a fellow Stanford alum, Dr. Alex Cannara. He has left his office address & phone number littered around the internet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUVq81kBKyk One other talk given at an energy conference was by Andrew Dodson, www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU6izpryqqw&t=171s I do realize that RE is something pushed by your partner-in-media, Truth-Out. Many of their articles are quite good on social issues. The same can be said for most media outlets. A phrase I've used in the past couple years is “Truth-Out is out of truth”, at least for STEM issues. I'm merely asking you to look a little further into the issue, and perhaps be a bit more cautious about hyping RE in the future. Yes it has it's place, but connecting large-scale RE to the grid is proving disastrous for our society. I hope you can understand my concerns. Please, have yourself a wonderful week – in spite of headlines and such! Respectfully; Christopher Bergan Iowa City

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Could you share some light on the worrying rise of fascism in U.S. please?

Including both online and offline activities.

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The revoultion via Paypal?

I was listening to an old CD of Utah Phillips. I was inspired to become a member in the I.W.W. I go online and membership is processd with PAYPAL. I look at books to educate myself and AMAZON is the leading resource for many. " The revolution will not be televised" but at this rate I fear who will be catering.

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Article: The robot that takes your job should pay taxes, says Bill Gates

https://qz.com/911968/bill-gates-the-robot-that-takes-your-job-should-pay-taxes/ A friend posted this article at my work and I replied: "Bill Gates is seeking a way to soften the inequities of Capitalism. A robot tax is a way of redistributing profits of a capitalist enterprise for shutting workers out of the economic system. If the workers owned the means of production - the factory - instead of a handful of shareholders, then the workers wouldn't be replacing their jobs with robots to begin with." Hope I got that right. Anyway, thought maybe you'd enjoy seeing this article (and/or possibly comment on it). Cheers! Chad

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