Ask Prof. Wolff

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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

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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:

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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:

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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.” 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. One other talk given at an energy conference was by Andrew Dodson, 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 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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Fight Trump's minions with a BDS Approach?

Can maniacs like Scott Pruitt and his backers be thwarted by boycotts and divestment? I would be very eager to alter my purchasing habits in support of such a cause. Maybe groups such as Our Revolution, Indivisible, and Public Citizen could kick-start such a movement.

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Best books on Co-ops

I am trying to get a better understanding of how co-ops works. Can anyone recommend any reading material?

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here is an article discussing the continued growth of worker-cooperatives in NYC I don't know if you've talked about this recently, but its always worth updating these developments every once in a while.

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How would you best serve us--as Treasurer, or Sec. of Labor?

If I wanted to radically transform our economy, creating coops and a Public Bank, how would you best serve us--as Treasurer, or Sec. of Labor? If in an alternative universe, one was elected as President, (of an Eco-socialist, Green Party nature), and wanted to transform American policies, by radically stimulating and subsidizing cooperatives, and creating a green workers program (‘A green new deal’) –not bailing out corporations too big to fail— and creating a strong public credit union (even making the Federal Reserve a pubic credit union), a progressive tax on the rich, earth resource taxes, pollution taxes, etc. and wanted to pick you (with advice and consent) as a member of cabinet and special counsel, would you best serve as the Treasurer, the Secretary of Labor, or even Secretary of Commerce? Would you serve comfortably with Joseph Stiglitz? And what advice would you give such a president--tactical plan? I have drawn up a whole book of my dream team, though I am afraid if in some fantastic world I reached this dizzying height, with eco-socialists, Greens, and progressives in Congress, you might be of an age...and if so, whom would you recommend to replace you on my dream team? I am currently 40 years old and never ran for office. But I hope to. And I have worked out radical and appealing polices and tactics to get elected. Please Humor me. Thank you very much. Joshua Bigley.

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Today in Belgian politics. Not sure if there is a real question in this.

Dear Richard, Did you hear what's going on in Belgium these days? I know we are small, but you might like this. (It just happened, I could get better sources, translated, if requested) Peter Mertens, the head of the workers party (PVDA/PTB; these guys, when elected, only keep 1700 to 2000 euro/month to themselves, like normal people earn), wrote a book: Graailand (Grab Land) Here is his Tweet (there are a few versions): "I never thought there would be a TV show of my book so soon, every day at 19:00h in the News" The Tweet (rephrased) was repeated in Parliament, by a party member. The president of the parliament* (ex journalist of the public tv (Belgian version of BBC), now the best payed politician in Belgium because of his function as president, he is being paid "for advice" by the private big TV company "Telenet", 1000 euro/month, just because the month chages name + 2000 euro per meeting if he actually shows up... ) is the leading subject of the current scandal (I bet he will resign very soon). (*notice, The president of the parliament is the person who puts up and announces the agenda... ; this agenda item was called "Grabbing culture in Belgian politics") The scandal being: top politicians being in dozens of well payed boards of big comapanies, and also specifically "InterCommunales", they group electricity/water/garbage... distribution/collection for cities, and these entities have lots of jobs for politicians (1 of them has almost 400 manager jobs for a total of 700 people)) ---- And Now for Something Completely Different :) So, a few weeks ago, Louis Michel, an old politician, and the father of the current Pirme Minister (PM is the third guy in the video, sitting behind the president) explained to us why politicians ought to be paid well. Basically two reasons (I'm paraphrasing, but not much): 1) If you don't pay us enough, we might be forced to spend more time on side jobs (being a lawyer or economist, giving advice to boards of directors, ...) 2) Let's say you pay politicians only 4800 euro/month netto or less, you will not attrackt elite geniouses: CEO's, top lawyers, top economists, ... You might only attrackt teachers and bakers (he really used these two examples). a teacher replys Another old politician, also father of a young politician, explained in 2011 that "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys". He was explaining why it's fair to receive 300000 euro as a "I'm not in parliament anymore" exit bonus. The way I see it: Reason 1 should suggest some corelation, saying that well payed politicians are less likely to be corrupt or having side activities. Well, reason 1 is exploding in their faces right now. Reason 2 ... That might actually be true, I kind of like where this argument is pointing to. Greetings from Brussels

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I think one of the best option we masses of people have against big corporations is a boycott.

I advocate a boycott against Exxon, BP and Chevron gas stations. Use independent stations instead. Have people with placards on the public sidewalks near the gas stations to remind them of the BP oil spill in the Gulf, the Exxon oil spill in Alaska, and the Chevron explosion in Richmond, CA. This would mostly be symbolic, like divesting, but would remind the public that we want to get away from dirty fossil fuels. U.S. Transportation fuel consumption accounts for over 70 percent of total U.S. oil consumption, and more than 65 percent of that amount is for personal vehicles. I think if we boycotted gas stations of Chevron, BP and Exxon, it would send a big message that "we the people" control where we spend our money. Why is this not a good idea?

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What did Marx think of nature vs nurture/human nature and do you agree/disagree?

I don't really see the need for the debate, I think its obviously both, but it is still interesting to hear others' thoughts. Thanks Prof Wolff.

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