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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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Can we have a marxist analysis of the American civil war?

In honor of black history month it would be fantastic if you could delve into the underlying economic conflict between northern and southern enterprises before, during and immediately after the civil war. The south embodies a very obvious and deplorable evil in slavery, but history muddies the waters on the exploitative behavior of northern corporations and the economic tension between the industrial north and the agrarian south. Wage-slaves in the north being variable capital and actual slaves in the south representing constant capital offered a unique comparative advantage for the agrarian south. The moral argument against slavery seems to mask an attempt to eliminate this comparative advantage first and to protect the sanctity of "all men are created equal" second. In "Das Kapital" Marx declares that there is a natural tendency of industrialized nations to engage in an Imperialist relationship with agricultural societies in order to sustain themselves. Is this a historic parallel where the south was under socioeconomic pressure to become a satellite rather than an independent economic entity? Was the the Emancipation Proclamation a heartfelt rallying cry? Or was it merely a propaganda piece designed to inspire free African Americans to join the war effort? How did the abolition of slavery effect the labor market? It is well documented that racial tensions increased in cities due the perception that African Americans were taking all the jobs away for less pay(an apparent shift from blaming immigrants). What were the investment opportunities for predatory capitalists following the collapse of the slave market and the economic structure of the south? In short how did the capitalist class benefit from the transfer of African American slave labor to wage-slavery and were any of these outcomes motivators for the war? Additionally can we talk about the feudal relationship of sharecropping that predominated during the reconstruction period? Bonus question, do you think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message was restricted to improving race relations? His later speeches speak of equality for all and for a unified labor movement. Was his message simplified after his death by followers with the more immediate vision of the struggle for race equality or is there a more systemic effort to simplify the scope of his efforts?

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Corporations as they are structured now should be illegal. Do you agree? I happen to think so.

Cooperatives and increased democracy at the work place are definitely the correct and moral solutions. However, like everything, morality is no match to top-down unaccountable corruption. Congress must outlaw the current structure of corporate tyrannies. Without such a law, I fear the public and workers are doomed.

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Is it possible to create a co-operative healthcare network that can offer access to healthcare?

Health insurance companies are interested in profits. They obviously want to minimize paying sick people's medical bills. It is easier for a healthy individual to pay less for insurance premiums than for a chronically ill person. There is a lot of opposition to expanding Medicare and Medicaid too. A Single Payer system would be good, but difficult to pass laws for it.

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What to Do About "Smart" Robots?

Perhaps I've simply missed it, but I haven't seen you address the subject of robots and artificial intelligence, and what these may portend for the future of human labor. According to a couple recent articles by the activist Jim Hightower (published in his newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown"), robots and AI have progressed to the point where "smart" robots are not only usurping blue-collar jobs, but more and more white-collar ones as well. This will have huge repercussions on the future of workers' lives, and would even destroy the prospect of worker co-ops once a certain "tipping point" is reached. While it's also true that such developments might lead to a full-time leisure society, that would only happen if the capitalists in power want that kind of a world. From what I have seen of them, they would rather keep people enslaved than to liberate them by way of advanced technology. In any case, I would like to know how you respond to this issue, whether positively or negatively. I believe it's crucial to address this subject at some point in the near future, though that is of course your own decision. Thank you.

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How much influence do advertisers have american news media outlets?

For the better part of 10yrs Fox News actively protected, and in many cases covered up, sexual harassment allegations toward their #1 anchor Bill Oriely. It wasn't until advertisers started to pull add$$$ from his show that Fox finally let him go. Does this speak to how much influence that advertisers have over American News outlets? Or is this simply a product of Fox News company culture? Or is this a symptom of a larger problem that extends to other News media outlets? CNN, MSNBC are likely coulperets. For instance I'm dumfounded Everytime I see a Haliburton or lockheed martin advertising on these news channels - these companies don't sell consumer products, why are they advertising on consumer news channels???... Are they buying advertising time on these channels as a PR move? Or are they buying influence over the channel? Both? Further, if advertisers carry weight over the major news media outlets, what about smaller outlets such as NPR that accept a lot of small dollar donations from listeners but also actively take millions from advertisers? I struggle as a GenX'r to find reliable news sources partly because I feel I've been conditioned my hole life not to trust advertising... And If there is no truth in advertising, then does truth exist in advertiser funded news? How does a learned man such as Rich-the-Wolff go about separating facts from opinions in the modern age of information?

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Can workers do the job of the boss?

I mean, can workers to collectively buy a company and run/mange it like the boss does, even if they don't know anything about administration and businesses ?

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Prof. Wolff, a cooperative democratic workplace may be a cure for chronic depression!

Please read this article in The Guardian: " Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. " https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections?CMP=share_btn_fb

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city council not for profit company

Thought this might be of interest to you Mr Wolff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RemWo2cJbC8&feature=youtu.be

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How much is a lack of leisure time a factor in mass retail store closings?

The abrupt closing recently of 63 Sam's Club stores by Walmart is just one of many examples of the rapid decline of physical retail stores in the United States. In your discussions of the thousands of annuals closings of retails stores, you rightly point to the declining purchasing power of Americans. But to what degree is a lack of leisure time for Americans fortunate enough to have full time work a factor in the decline of the physical store retail sector? You've pointed out the trend of workers in the U.S. not taking vacation time that they are entitled to as part of their compensation. People on vacation tend to shop while doing so. Going to shop at stores is a time consuming task. Especially in the U.S. with its lack of public transportation. Then there is the time spent finding items to purchase and time spent waiting in line at the store check out. Given that most Americans have to work multiple jobs just to get by, where is the time to go to a mall and patronize the stores? It's so much easier to get on your computer or mobile device and use your Amazon or Ebay app and make purchases in minutes. One could argue that the retail sector is committing a slow suicide. This industry, along with restaurants, has always been in the lead in arguing that employers simply can't afford to pay their workers more. They helped to create an underpaid, over worked labor force that has little or no leisure time anymore. Now they are paying for it with the closure of their businesses. One can argue that they killed the goose that lays the golden egg, namely, the mass of people with the means and time to shop in physical retail stores.

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How long will the US put up with the degradation of social services in favor of tax cuts?

The answer to the question is, as long as people are afraid or unable to act. Many simply are either too afraid, or too hemmed in by their lives to do anything but 9-5, take care of their families, and get depressed by listening to the news. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent, well educated person, and I feel powerless to do anything about any of this. I, like many, am literally fenced in by my life each day. I am responsible for looking after 3 young kids, myself, and my elderly mother. When do people like myself find time to march?! And the spirit of the American worker for mass protest is largely broken, from what I can see. Especially since the current administration thumbs their noses at such displays. They simply don't care. So, people are scared, and they don't want to lose what they have, and they want someone else to step up and take care of it. I've even heard people intimating that, if we organize, Trump will declare martial law, which will them give him his final reason to blame the immigrants and start setting up confinement camps, and knowing his crazy ass, he'd do it - and the Republicans, stoking fear of rioting (read peaceful demonstrations) would support him, while the Democrats stick one thumb up their ass, and wave the other one lamely in the air and say they're against it. And then, yes, go out for a beer, with Republicans. To celebrate the successful on-going, fiction. So, under these circumstances, how do the American People...organize, with any hope of having any effect to change the government that was originally founded to be, "for the people" and "by the people?" It certainly doesn't represent "The People" now.

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How can a Socialist State pay public services without taking a surplus from the workers?

In one of your lectures you said that one of the economic failures of the USSR was that it didn't implement socialism as they took a surplus from the workers. But, how can a socialist State pay the public services if it doesn't take a surplus from the workers. Moreover, the surplus taken from the workers is reinvested on them so it isn't a theft, contrary to what the bourgeois does.

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How can a Socialist State pay public services without taking a surplus from the workers?

In one of your lectures you said that one of the economic failures of the USSR was that it didn't implement socialism as they took a surplus from the workers. But, how can a socialist State pay the public services if it doesn't take a surplus from the workers. Moreover,

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Im interested in understanding how to convert a business to a worker cooperative.

I'm planning an oyster farm start-up, and would like to convert it into a worker cooperative after approximately 5 years.

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Im interested in understanding how to convert a business to a worker cooperative.

I'm planning an oyster farm start-up, and would like to convert it into a worker cooperative after approximately 5 years.

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You did not mention that UEBER got a slap on theyr hands in Europe.

They say that Uber is a taxi/transportation Service and have to work finally under the same rules then all the other taxi companys. Finally someone who wakes up Chris

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