Ask Prof. Wolff

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.
Select "upvote" or "downvote" to promote certain questions. You must be logged in to vote or submit your own.
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Productive investment opportunities

Dear Professor Wolff, I enjoyed your July monthly update's discussion of productive capital on strike in the U.S. You said that investors with low risk appetite are so desperate that they will accept negative interest rates to invest in the debt of countries like Germany. I've also seen in the natural gas industry investors "chasing yield" - overlooking some of the risks of investing in shale gas expansion out of desperation for relatively high-yield investment opportunities. Both points suggest a lack of productive investment opportunities in the U.S. I have two questions: (1) Why is more of that money not being invested into foreign corporations, e.g. in China, which appears to have come out of the recession faster than many other countries? Why do the banks seemingly prefer to hoard it?, and (2) If the financial sector would be doing better if there were more outlets for productive domestic investment, why is there not more support for Keynesian policies? Is it just ideology, or are there other reasons that finance is not pushing in this direction? Thanks!

1 comment Share

Can You Elaborate On Your Linkage of Turkey Coup Attempt With Smedley Butler on KBOO?

Dear Prof. Wolff, Thank you for appearing for the full hour on Po'town, Ore's community radio station KBOO this morning, with interview conducted by Per Fagereng. In the phone-in caller section about the social forces leading to the creation of Social Security and Unemployment Insurance by FDR in the wake of the NOT-SO-GREAT-DEPRESSION when the U.S. Treasury was broke and not one but 2 Socialist Parties were pressuring the 2-Party Duopoly a caller asked your opinion about General Smedley Butler's revelations of a plot to overthrow FDR's administration. You implied without elaborating that the events in Turkey last week, the attempted military coup to topple the Erdogan regime had some economic causes like the pressures FDR brought to bear on the Robber Barons and their LLC's to accept a new tax burden to pay for the federal government's planned Social Security and Unemployment Insurance programs. Can you elaborate or clarify since even in the non-advertiser driven journalism I followed last weekend and since of the events in Turkey, no such economic factor was cited. Thanks, Mitch Ritter Lay-Low Studios Media Discussion List, Ore-Wa

1 comment Share

Nice terrorist attack

Professor, can you please comment on the attack in Nice? It seems this is a major historical fact since the French government wants to " destroy the ISIS" and Obama our president agreed to help them. It's sounds to me like a world war has already happened but we just don't give its name to it. In South America, violence has become just so unbearable that going out of the house is very much indeed going to war. In my native country, Brazil the number of kidnapping is tremendous. It is a civil war- but we call it urban violence.

2 comments Share

Bringing aKnife to a Gunfight

Dear prof. Wolff, Do you agree on my point that if you compare the power of voting with the power of lobbying groups it's unequal? (we're bringing a knife to a gun fight) In other words that's where the main inbalance in the current 'system' is? If you agree on this point, could it maybe be possible to lobby back politicians by voters (ordinary people) by giving politicians financial bonusses for making promises really happen? So for example force politicians to make: Specific, Measerable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time Bound targets before there are elections. And give them a bonus if they achieve a target. It's in its essence the same as large corporations do with politicians, and it seems to works for them. Stefan

1 comment Share

What about an eminate currency reset?

Karen Hudes, a wold bank whistle blower, talks about the tons of stored gold with agreements after WW2, then switching to fiat currency. The world gold belonging to the populace needs to be released now to back the new currency. The fed is bankrupt but that announcement will be made after the election. I heard of a people in Africa have started using the cell phone to transfer money to each other for goods and services costing a fraction of a penny each time. Please give us your take on this possibility. - KPFK listener

2 comments Share

Who is the opposite of Milton Friedman?

If Milton Friedman is the far right's economist, from the Chicago School of Thought, which influenced politics into the 21st century... Who is the far left's version of him? Is there a Marxist-Leninism's version of Milton Friedman? I would be interested in reading their work. Thanks for everything!

1 comment Share

Is concentrated wealth a bigger problem than poverty?

We always talk as if poverty is the problem, but the problem is concentrated wealth. Instead of raising the minimum wage, maybe we should install a Maximum Wage. No One is worth $10,000 an hour. That's obscene. Would love to hear a discussion and see a movement on imposing a Maximum Wage. Not in terms of taxing the wealthy, but simply a cap on income.

4 comments Share

Is it possible for socialists to run a parallel economy of theirs within the capitalist dominance?

Can collective cooperatives run globally, trading only among themselves? This way, it can be shown that a global network of socialist organizations can work - and with improved working conditions, others can be naturally drawn towards the network? Cooperatives world wise will only trade among themselves. And we can have globally recognized socialist symbol which all cooperatives can wear / display, so we would know where to trade from? This way, in addition to intellectual activism, a economical proof will also emerge globally. Is this feasible?

Comment Share

What are the Marxian implications of such a guaranteed-job program?

Hi Richard. I've been reading a lot lately from Stephanie Kelton, Warren Mossler, Randal Wray, Bill Mitchell, etc, about Modern Monetary Theory, and I think it's fascinating. However, one policy they advocate for consistently is a "Job Guarantee," whereby the government would offer a job to anybody who was ready, willing, and able to work, at a basic living wage. Macroeconomic claims that this would create full employment and price stability aside, I'm wondering: what are the Marxian implications of such a program? Can a program like that be structured in a way consistent with workers distributing their own surplus? (Also, do you have any other thoughts about MMT?) Thank you!

1 comment Share

Could you please respond to this Michael Parenti lecture?

It's "Reflection On the Overthrow of Communism." It goes from 12.23-20.19 in the audio, although I agree with your logic, Dr. Wolff, what you argue validates what I also have advocated for years. creating and new economic system from the ground up by democratizing the enterprise , "co-ops etc. but Dr. Parenti argues, as do many on the left that a "pure socialism" cannot exist without a strong state etc. Top Down hierarchical centralize state power . maybe you could respond before I die which may be very soon since I have bile duct cancer "incurable" thank you

5 comments Share

What is the role of a "manager" in a WSDE?

After having read a bit of Voltaire's Bastards and hearing a few of his speeches, I've become insterested in John Ralston Saul's thoughts on managers and managerial schools. What is the optimal role of a "manager" in a WSDE, should they exist, and what are your thoughts on the move towards university programs dedicated to different kinds of "management"?

1 comment Share

Can you view this article on GM production?

I love Economic Update, and I'm a dedicated listener. I just wanted to bring this article to Dr. Wolff's attention: ( It's a perfect example of what happens when a monopsonistic purchaser controls the other firms that feed its supply chain. In this case, GM wouldn't let a company go into bankruptcy because it was under an obligation to sell GM the parts that GM needs to produce their vehicles. That sounds reasonable, but what comes next shows how truly ridiculous our economy is and has become. The reason why the company is facing bankruptcy is that GM had demanded the supplier sell the products at an unfair price that didn't allow them to function as an enterprise. So now GM has basically turned this firm into a colony that feeds their corporate empire. The smaller firm can no longer cover their costs, make their profits, and succeed as a capitalist enterprise because the larger firms won't pay them enough, but they must continue production despite all that because the larger firm demands that they do so. Love the show! Thanks to Dr. Wolff and all the folks at Democracy at work for their efforts.

1 comment Share

Please discuss the money-supply effects of loan defaults?

As professor Keen observes, banks create money into the economy which has the effect of raising demand and driving GDP growth through turnover of money stocks. The money supply will depend on the leverage level defined by new loans minus repayments of principal and interest. It follows that defaults prevent the destruction of money through repayments (less liquidation of collateral). In this way, defaults contribute a large part of the real economy. To date I have seen no analysis to measure this affect, I suspect that many people are being sacrificed through foreclosures (etc) in order to balance the money supply when this role should be undertaken by government printing presses. I would appreciate your thoughts?

Comment Share

Counter fog-bots on your YouTube channel?

Are you aware that your youtube presence is under systemic attack by "fog-bots"? I have noticed this activity against the youtube presence of all major progressive speakers - it is clearly a well organised and funded tactic used to contain and limit the narratives of important progressive players. It works by flooding the youtube search with random posts of your work excluding your latest contributions: thus obscuring your overall narrative and most cogent contributions. I would suggest you look at installing a counter-bot to neutralize this attack and keep your current contributions at the top of the search list.

posted an official response

Thank you for your suggestion, Mitch, we will look into this issue for Prof. Wolff's channel.

Comment Share

[Article submission] US aircraft sales to Iran blocked by House

Dear Professor Wolff, I'm not sure if you have seen this amazing story from last Saturday's Guardian, so I thought I would send it on to you to consider for future updates. My first thought after reading the story was "holy cow", could this portend a coming re-alignment of lobbying forces in the US. Is it possible that, for the first time we could witness a battle of the titans, with the Israeli lobby coming face to face with corporate America, not to mention the possible implications for EU-Israel relations. Imagine this question being asked to the candidates in the upcomming presidential debates: "Do you support the recent House of Representatives legislation blocking Boeing's $25bn passenger aircraft sale to Iran and it's consequesces for Airbus's deal to sell Iran 118 aircraft?" Keep up the great work. Tim Bolger

posted an official response

Thanks for the submission, Tim!

Comment Share


get updates