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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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Cashless Society

Hi, Professor Wolf. Where do you stand on cashless society? Are we ready for it today, or we have to experience a dreadful economic collapse first? Would society embrace it? What would be the implications of dropping the paper?

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Hi Professor Wolff. I recently obtained an MS in Mathematics and have found that it has afforded me few opportunities. Upon graduation I took a position as an "Adjunct Instructor" at a local community college. The pay is shockingly low and the work is very precarious, requiring me to send inquiries months in advance trying to manage to get the maximum 12 credit hours per semester. Even when given classes every semester, I go unpaid during the months of January and August, as there are no classes scheduled for these months. This past month I was unable to afford groceries and had to rely on family. I was hoping you might say something about the preponderance of Adjuncts teaching at universities and colleges (I believe the statistic is well above 50% now), or perhaps even do a story on economic update (I am a $5 dollar subscriber). I find most students have no idea what an adjunct really is. Indeed, even when I was a student, I simply assumed the part time faculty were well-compensated given their level of expertise. You're a real hero of mine and do a heck of a lot of good. Thanks for that. Hope you can answer this question.

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Why hasn't Dr. Harriet Fraad been interviewed about Irma and Harvey?

In the wake of cataclysmic physical and natural destruction and human displacement and suffering, I think her wise and caring perspective is urgently needed now. I'm sure she has had trauma training and worked with traumatized clients as a psychotherapist. I'm sure she can inform the general public on how trauma appears behaviorally and emotionally in individuals, what to do for and say to trauma survivors, and what social and psychological services are needed. I'm also sure she can give us an historical perspective on how trauma survivors have traditionally come together in communities to push beyond the wreckage of their lives and what is needed now legislatively and morally. I personally am tired of listening to the howling winds of Irma, the rushing waters of Harvey and the sympathetic but endless news reportage of weather conditions with no detailed discussions of longterm recovery plans. I want to hear what this gifted healer Dr. Harriet Fraad has to say.

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“Money generating", i.e. in the context of "e-money" and the role of private banks?

Dear Prof. Wolff,

First of all, thank you very much for the insightful and important talks about the principles and institutions governing our lives.

I'm from Switzerland and, as you may know, we have a political system which also includes direct democracy -- a couple of time a year, we vote on a few "Initiatives" (federal and/or local) created by the people (I spare you the details). Of course, it's beautiful in principle, but considering the context we live in, it's sometimes used by "far-right" or "business-class" partisans to promote their agendas, using fear and (designed/maintained) ignorance to manipulate the people.

This time, I just noticed that there's an interesting and promising Initiative in development, about monetary control. It's about "e-money making/generating" by private banks and by the State: towards the end of the 19th century, the Swiss people decided to include in the Federal Constitution a provision which says that only the (federal) State can print money. Today, the provision still exists (art. 99 Fed. Cst. of 1999).

But of course, today, printed money is only a small portion of the money (in the Initiative website [link bellow], they say about 10% of Swiss money is printed, while 90% is e-money). Although new technologies were created, the principle adopted by the people in the end of the 19th century only applies to printed money, and not to e-money. So private banks can, and do create money -- the vast majority of it actually. The Initiative's goal is to adapt the old constitutional provision to the present reality of money, that is, to take into consideration e-money too.

I was wondering if you could talk a bit about money-making, and the effects of the shift from State-printed-money-making to private-(e-)money-making (credits, bubbles, speculations, etc...). There are already some nice arguments and answer of criticism in the Initiative site, but I was interested in hearing from you. Of course, you don't have to focus on the case of Switzerland -- it would be just as insightful to hear about this process in overall.

Here's a link to the Initiative development, if you're interested (available in German and English):

Kind regards,

Adrien Folly

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What is "Economic Nationalism?"

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adical political economy texts such as you might assign

Dr Wolff would yo please send a syllabus of introductory radical political economy texts such as you might assign to those with no awareness or a shaky understanding of the subject. Also, please ask Dr Fraad if she can do the same to help me understand mental health issues from a radical point of view as well. If the listeners or contributors to your show can help that's fine also thank you Larry Buchalter Berkeley California

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What if money went backwards?

Please excuse my weak understanding of money, but as I understand it money is created by the Government issuing a bond to have money printed by the Reserve and then that is distributed by the banks with interest. What I would like to know is would it be possible for money to go backwards? Instead of new dollars going to banks it would be given to all citizens equally as a type of universal income. The money would then be spent at the businesses that people shop. The businesses would put the profits into the bank. Other than the outrage of the top financiers, is my concept flawed?

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What did Marx think on specialization and division of labor?

Was Marx totally against the division of labor in society?

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What are your views regarding Washington Post article, titled "U.S. middle-class incomes..."?

What are your views regarding the data, about this country's economy, in today's (9/13/17) Washington Post article, titled "U.S. middle-class incomes reached highest-ever level in 2016, Census Bureau says"? This article seems like a hyped up "feel-good" piece about how everything is improving in the country. I just get the feeling that the data is somehow being used to distort reality, like using the "median household" income instead of what I would think would be more important like "median individual" income, just to name one way. I'd be interested to know your take. Thanks.

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Careers that can help spread socialism?

What careers are available that a realistic impact on promoting socialism? I've considered studying law so I could stand against the corporations, but I feel like that's not big enough. I want to go into something where I can make a real change and work with like-minded people for the same goal.

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TED talk "When workers own companies, the economy is more resilient"

A TED talk about creating a cooperative getting a majority of down votes. But whilst we could just dismiss the negative downvoting bias and the comments about Cuba, Venezuela, Communism etc as merely 'trolls’ they are obviously frustrating, at the same time perhaps this is in fact a sign that the cooperative movement is having an impact? As I believe M. Gahndi said "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win"

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Can you please discuss the history of Social Democracy in the other Industrialized countries?

The history of social policies, e.g, minimum wage, social security, weekends, vacations, et al, are quite easy to research as an English speaker for the US and UK. FDR, Churchill and labor/labour unions and the roles they played are quite evident. One can find, e.g., the German vacation law, Bundesurlaubsgesetz, online, but there is little history to its evolution. The higher functioning Social Democracies have commonalities in regards to minimum wage, paid vacation, social welfare, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave et al, that the US does not. In many countries, there are very few people that work more than 35-40 hours a week as well. I was wondering how and when these and other high living standard laws became implemented.

I really feel that, aside from some kind of post economic society, the unpeeling of the disinfo propaganda of Social Democracy needs to play a crucial role in saving our planet or is at least a step toward a post economic society. I would encourage you to associate the first world living standard with Social Democracy. The word didn't exist, nor did a middle class society sans a plague or other disaster, prior to New Deal politics. It's so frustratingly ironic that there is so much anti-Social Democracy propaganda, yet the time when people think America was at its greatest was its time of strong Social Democratic policies and as they have been dismantled, we are slowly but surely returning to pre-New Deal disparity and a third world living standard again, like America was prior to the New Deal.

I wrote to Sanders at the beginning of his primary urging him not to reference Denmark or Scandinavia to illustrate his policies. Most America can't find Scandinavia on a map, let alone know what life is like there. Even Hillary doesn't seem to know what the rest of the world is like.

I encouraged him, rather, to be the make America Great candidate, before Trump started saying it. After all, America used to have non-profit health care (like Germany), free or affordable university and four weeks paid vacation per year like most the rest of the world. Why not appeal to and inform people that America used to be great not because of minorities, but because of social policy?

Please go into detail about countries in Europe, Canada, Australia, NZ, Japan, et al and how and when they all seemed to adopt these policies. What movements occurred, what organizing factors played a role, which parties enabled these laws, and how these policies became popular and thus demanded. Aside from examples like healthcare under Bismark and 19 century minimum wage in NZ, it seems the really strong social laws in Europe didn't really start taking off until the 60s. It's as if as they started to adopt America and England's social policies, America and the UK started dismantling theirs. How did Denmark end up with 90% + union membership and thus a world high 80% middle class society? In America, thanks largely to you, it is easy to see the history of organizing, the Haymarket affair, CLU and Knights of Labor parade in NY, and the pressure of the CIO, Socialist and Communist parties. Ironically, the rest of the world seemed to surpass America in social legislation, yet there is little information to be found on how they organized and succeeded in passing said policy.  Is there anything that can be learned from their victories in these and other areas?

Best Regards

P.S. Since the rest of the world seems to be such an abstract to Americans, I'm starting a Youtube channel. I live in Germany as a US expat. I'm attempting to de-spin the deep seated propaganda of Americans and help warn others not to go the same path. As soon as I get a descent camera, I will start interviewing and showing everyday life here. It seems, for the most part, all you get is tourism videos from abroad, but not a look at the ordinary living experience of the people.

I will be going on a journey of discovery to find out questions like I have just asked and find out how these policies began and why they are not eroded like they were in America. I am also starting documentary type educational videos to show what live was like before and after the New Deal, and it's unfortunate demise, in order to correct the mass amnesia America seems to be suffering. I am not going for a "singing to the choir" approach as most youtubers and alternative media do, rather a, reach the uninitiated, more emotional approach. As Chris Hedges has explained, people aren't politically motivated by intellect, rather emotion. We've been informing for decades, it's time to reach people, not just the wonks, emotionally. We need to redirect the dissatisfaction to it's real cause and that is the fact that America no longer invests in it's society and thus has lost its middle class.

There is also little knowledge of the schism of the left in America. MLK focused equally on social and labor issues, but the hippy left seemed to throw out the baby of organized labor of their parents with the bathwater of conformity, materialism and lack of social justice. I'll be addressing tactics that haven't been working yet are still tried over and over and offering alternative ways of organizing and reaching not just other wonks, but the politically uninitiated. 

The one video that I completed used a clip from one of your speeches. Please let me know if you would rather I not use it.

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Please discuss blockchain and bitcoin

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What would you scream?

If you, Thom Hartmann, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Lee Camp and Donald Trump were all seated at a demented dinner table where only the person who screamed the loudest could be heard, what would you scream?

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