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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Your piece on "Global Capitalism 2017."

Dear Mr. Wolff, I was greatly surprised by having found you on YouTube last night. Thank you for your work! I do have on comment on the video above (the one where you begin speaking about the airline that offers 2 full beds) and if there was turbulence people would be thrown from their beds; equating it to a “mental institution.” Please don’t use this language. I’ve had 9 hospitalizations in my lifetime of 59 years. I still struggle with my own stigma and fears of instability. I’m only sticking around because I refuse to leave this planet without having achieved some semblance of autonomy. If you would have equated the owners of this airline, including bedrooms with 2 full beds to travel only from Singapore to Sydney, that would have been a better fit. I have found that it’s often the “un-diagnosed” who cause the most problems on this earth. Trust me, no one ever wants to go into a psychiatric unit; especially since the HMO’s decimated psychiatric care in this country. Thank you again for all your work. Respectfully, Pat Nicholson

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Marijuana = Profit

Hi Professor Wolff, I am an avid listener of Democracy @ Work and I thoroughly enjoy your program. I especially appreciated your coverage of the recent developments in Ontario (Canada) related to the minimum wage increase and the shady dealings of the Tim Horton's owners to undercut its frontline workers. I came across an article exposing the sheer hypocrisy of former Toronto chief-of-police (Juliano Fantino) who while in office saw it fit to criminalize pot use and possession to the highest extent of the law. And, now, suddenly grows a change of heart not for the benefits, but for the profits that legalization will bring forth. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/14/it-stinks-to-high-heaven-when-top-cops-are-shilling-pot-james.html Much appreciated, Justin R.

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What do you think of the design of this alternative economic "operating" system?

My systems design for a crash-proof economy that reduces inequality is here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Common-Economic-System-Architecture-Re-designing/dp/1493749048/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516629777&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Common+Economic+System+Architecture

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Will we have a celebration of the Marx Bicentennial on May 5?

From what I can see, most Marx bicentennial events are outside the US. We need one in NY and/or Washington.

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Can you address the inequalities that people with disabilities face in the workforce?

I have dealt with workplace discrimination in the past and continue to do so as a female with a disability. Can you speak to any concrete findings that this is a problem and how to address this problem through changing the workplace to a more democratic operating workplace?

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The future of the FED and the FIAT monetary system

Since quantitative easing in 2008 the currency supply (M1, etc) has increased about 500%, and this goes for all of the major economies of the world (Russia, China, India, Europe, etc). The currency was mostly handed to the major banks with the purpose to e.g. loan to people to buy homes, but instead the banks just accumulated assets, and the consequence is it has been an enormous transfer of wealth upwards. Historically governments often solve their problems by printing currency, leading to the fact that every single FIAT currency has gone to zero value. The FED says their plan for 2018 is to try to reduce the currency supply. I interpret all of this as a perfect example of the internal contradictions of Capitalism that Marx describes, the wealth is transferred to the top so there is no one left to buy and so markets collapse. Part of me thinks this time it will be different and I wanted to see your opinion on the topic, which I trust much more than my own speculations. Part of me thinks it will be different this time because the concentration of assets, such as housing and stock ownership has gotten to these obscene levels (the 8 richest people in the world own as much as the bottom 3.6 billion, i.e. 450 million per person, i.e. populations the sizes of continents per person), but also the currency inflation is undeniable. The massive transfer of wealth upwards means the general population can't afford anything and so profits for the billionaires will go down (interal contradiction of Capitalism), but at the same time the billionaires can't just pull their wealth out of the stock/housing market like in 2008 because currency is losing its value due to the FED printing (again currency supply is 500% higher since 2008). There seem to be 2 possibilites, a.) they continue printing and b.) they scale back printing. a.) the FED/Treasury keeps printing to infinity, continuing the transfer of wealth upwards, in which case it will lead to the collapse of the current monetary system as the FIAT currency goes to 0. b.) the FED/Treasury scales back the printing (as their stated plan for 2018). The demand side from the general population still isn't there because of the enormous concentration of wealth, but now the billionaires can pull their wealth out of the stock/housing market without worrying about inflation depcreciating their wealth, causing a market collapse as in 2008, and leading to a new round of quantitative easing as in 2008 and increasing the currency supply as in a.) and thus collapse of the current monetary system. Am I missing something? It seems either way the current FIAT monetary policy must collapse because ownership over resources is just so highly and irrepairably, at which point the only way out is to redistribute assets (people own their homes, their work etc.). This is a very long question, I just wanted to be as clear as possible, but thank you for your input, I very much appreciate it.

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Historical DJIA 1966-1983

Dear Dr. Wolff: Looking at a chart of the DJIA for this period, in early 1966 it was close to 1,000 and after a 17-year period of declines and recoveries, it hit 1,000 again in early 1983 at which point it has taken off to 26,000 and still climbing. This seems counter-intuitive as the 1966-1983 period in the U.S. had strong manufacturing at home, decent employment, FT jobs with good benefits, etc. Is there an inverse relationship between company profitability and good jobs at home? Could you please address this topic on one of your shows or via a video response? Thank you.

 

 

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How will worker co-ops compete with companies that move overseas?

If the state forces a private enterprise to sell their company to the employees as a co-operative, how will the new co-operative enterprise compete with the original company after it moves overseas and takes advantage of cheaper labor?

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WHY has China's economy grown so much?

On today's Economic Update, you gave a great summary of how China's economy has grown, and what US corporations will do in response to China's growth, but you didn't explain why the Chinese economy has grown so much in the past 10 years. What policies did they pursue and how do these policies contrast with those followed in other countries? I'd love to have you devote a program (i.e., the second half hour) to explaining how China has achieved their growth even as most other economies have struggled to recover. (A related question is, what about inequality in China? Has China's growth been accompanied by growing inequality there? What if anything is the Chinese government doing to address this?) I think this would make a great program on a topic a lot of people, me included, know very little about.

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What if Americans adopted Germany's "cash only ethos" for consumers?

Winners and Losers-effects on US economy-your thoughts re poor and lower middle class Americans paying cash only- and or a barter system. As a working class person I avoid credit like cancer. I see credit like fire-you need to heat your house in the winter or cook your food but otherwise its good to avoid-rich morgan brookhaven NY 40 year and still active union member and a listener to "Economic Update" WPKN fm Bridgeport CT

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Surplus: Why only the productive workers, but not also the enablers?

In your book Democracy At Work, you describe at length why the surplus should be controlled by the workers and not a capitalist individual or board of directors. I agree completely, but I was left confused by your insistence that surpluses be handled directly by the productive workers specifically. All other decisions could include the enabler workers, except specifically the surplus. This is confusing because 1) the reason is not explicitly spelled out as to why this discernment should even be made and 2) where the line should be drawn. I'll provide an example. I will soon establish a farm (a WSDE, per your book's description), whose workers will compose an intentional community. The farmer and his assistants will certainly be productive workers. The salesman who will go to restaurants and grocery stores to vend the crops will be an enabler, by your description in the book. However, the sale would not be made at all without the salesman. Ergo, no monetary surplus would be achieved, and the uneaten product will rot. How is it fair, or even necessary, to discern between the farmer and the salesman as to who deserves to handle the surplus? It appears that we are all in this together, and we all deserve a vote on how the money is handled. Could you elaborate why a company would want to make this discernment? Thank you, Patrick R.

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How should I save my money?

Currently I am putting my savings away in passive index funds. Approximately my savings is in approximately 80% stock and 20% bonds. I am 24 years old and only have about $5,000 stashed away in this brokerage account. This account is not insured by the FDIC. I also have a significant amount of money saved in my retirement account that is affiliated with my employer? In truth, I am unsure that I am doing the right thing. I feel another crash looming and am worried about losing my money. What is the safest and most effective way of stashing away money in this jungle?

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Looking for a text(s) describing the economic history of the Great Depression.

I would like to have a basis for understanding the economic history of the Great Depression, what lead to the Great Depression and what influenced the recovery. Dr. Wolff outlines this history in several of his presentation and I would like to understand the references he makes.

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What will happen when the global rate of profit drops to 0?

I understand that the global rate of profit is dropping over time. There is a chance that climate change, nuclear war, and other things can end the system as we know it. But it the system moves along from India and China to Africa and South America, and exhausts all available cheap labor pools, what will happen? What will happen to the global economy if it manages to reach that point?

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