Ask Prof. Wolff

rdw_speaking.png
 
Have a question for Professor Wolff? Want to suggest a topic or article? Post it here! Professor Wolff receives hundreds of questions per week covering a wide array of topics, from economics and socialism, to historical movements and current events. While Professor Wolff does his best to reply to some questions on Economic Updatewe receive more questions than we can handle! Ask Prof. Wolff allows his fans to ask questions publicly and also vote and respond to others questions.
 
Select "Most Recent" to view recently submitted questions. You must be logged in to submit your own.
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Re: Marxian Economics: An Intensive Introduction - Session 1

I have 2 questions....you mention a reading list that was on this site (rdwolff.com) but I can't find it. Can you point me to it? Also, it seems that you are oversimplifying the beginnings of the Soviet Union and workers control...I believe your point was the workers never had control of their factories from the beginning. From my reading, that is not correct...the soviets were started by workers and they actually ran the factories...it may be fair to say that the Bolsheviks took over and the workers lost control....it is also fair to say that the militant workers were brought into the party...it is also fair to say that many of the militant class conscious workers died defending the nascent workers state from the capitalist invaders. It also seems that they were having problems keeping the production up to get the supplies needed to the front for the fighters. They opted to use managers to run the factories to keep things going. Getting from "here" to "there" even if you have the best marxist analysis is not simple... I am looking forward to the other "episodes" in the lecture series. I am sure you cover this more in your book: Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR but it is about $40 ...looking forward to your comments.

6 comments Share

The Zappos Holacracy Fiasco

I have been doing some reading on several different versions of how to implement the concept of a worker coop in practice, namely Holacracy and Sociocracy. In particular, I came across the linked Forbes and Fortune articles describing the online shoe retailer Zappos' experiment with it over the past few years. I'm not sure if you've ever explicitly discussed this in your economic updates, but I figured I'd bring it to your attention in any case. In particular, it seems to demonstrate some of the issues with implementation of these ideas that many of us grapple with. While the company is still in business, it does not seem to be doing so well and many of its staff have left. The online blogging company Medium is also mentioned as having experiment with this form of organizational structure but recently abandoned it in favor of more traditional forms. My question is not very well defined here, but I'm just wondering whether you have an opinion on this particular form of worker coop, and whether that is to blame for its seeming failures, or whether this may prove to be a broader issue for all organizations with decentralized governance structures. http://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2015/05/11/what-is-happening-at-zappos/#23a9b1e931b3 http://fortune.com/zappos-tony-hsieh-holacracy/ http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/13/zappos-ceo-tony-hsieh-the-thing-i-regret-about-getting-rid-of-managers.html

1 comment Share

Worker Cooperative Conversions

I recently came to the rather depressing realisation that not only do the capitalist class own the capital, they also own the future profits of the working class. What I mean is this: the simplified "fair price" of a company would be the net asset value plus the present value of the expected future profit as extracted from labour. There is an analogy: A slave is told that he can buy his freedom. But what is a fair price for a slave? It's the present value of all the slave-labour he can perform in a lifetime. So the slave takes out a debt, buys his freedom, and then must work his lifetime as a slave to pay off the debt... Similarly, if the workers of a capitalist company wanted to buy it and convert it to a co-op, the fair price would be the net asset value plus the present value of (their own!) future profit. In effect, the capitalist can either extract the profit from the worker over the life of the company, or he can sell that profit to the workers up front! To me this is quite a conundrum. Is there a way out of this?

1 comment Share

A third of UK lives on inadequate income

Article from the BBC 15/022017 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38970227 Just in case the BBC places a timeout on this content here's the text A third of UK lives on inadequate income, says think tank Nearly a third of the population of Britain is living on an "inadequate" income, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). In 2014-15, it said that 19 million people were living on less than the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). It said the problem was that household costs have been rising, while incomes have stagnated. The government has already promised to tackle the issue after Theresa May identified those "just about managing". It said it was taking "targeted action" to raise incomes. The MIS is set by experts at Loughborough University and is based on what members of the public think is a reasonable income to live on. Although the precise level depends on individual circumstances, a single person renting a flat outside London is said to need to earn at least £17,300 a year to reach the MIS. For a working couple with two children, living in social housing, each of the individuals needs to earn £18,900 a year. Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

Just in case the BBC places a timeout on this content here's the text A third of UK lives on inadequate income, says think tank Nearly a third of the population of Britain is living on an "inadequate" income, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). In 2014-15, it said that 19 million people were living on less than the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). It said the problem was that household costs have been rising, while incomes have stagnated. The government has already promised to tackle the issue after Theresa May identified those "just about managing". It said it was taking "targeted action" to raise incomes. The MIS is set by experts at Loughborough University and is based on what members of the public think is a reasonable income to live on. Although the precise level depends on individual circumstances, a single person renting a flat outside London is said to need to earn at least £17,300 a year to reach the MIS. For a working couple with two children, living in social housing, each of the individuals needs to earn £18,900 a year. Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

A third of UK lives on inadequate income, says think tank Nearly a third of the population of Britain is living on an "inadequate" income, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). In 2014-15, it said that 19 million people were living on less than the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). It said the problem was that household costs have been rising, while incomes have stagnated. The government has already promised to tackle the issue after Theresa May identified those "just about managing". It said it was taking "targeted action" to raise incomes. The MIS is set by experts at Loughborough University and is based on what members of the public think is a reasonable income to live on. Although the precise level depends on individual circumstances, a single person renting a flat outside London is said to need to earn at least £17,300 a year to reach the MIS. For a working couple with two children, living in social housing, each of the individuals needs to earn £18,900 a year. Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

It said the problem was that household costs have been rising, while incomes have stagnated. The government has already promised to tackle the issue after Theresa May identified those "just about managing". It said it was taking "targeted action" to raise incomes. The MIS is set by experts at Loughborough University and is based on what members of the public think is a reasonable income to live on. Although the precise level depends on individual circumstances, a single person renting a flat outside London is said to need to earn at least £17,300 a year to reach the MIS. For a working couple with two children, living in social housing, each of the individuals needs to earn £18,900 a year. Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

Although the precise level depends on individual circumstances, a single person renting a flat outside London is said to need to earn at least £17,300 a year to reach the MIS. For a working couple with two children, living in social housing, each of the individuals needs to earn £18,900 a year. Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

Poverty Among the 19 million said to be below the MIS are six million children, representing 45% of all children in Britain. There are also 1.8 million pensioners, representing 14.6% of the age group. The figures are up from 15 million, or 25% of the population, six years previously. The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

The report warns that many of the families that are just about managing are in danger of falling into poverty. That is despite record levels of employment. 'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble

'Money is always in the background' Lynn Williams and her husband Derek live in Glasgow. They class themselves as "just about managing". They receive some disability benefits, a small income from a works pension and Lynn works part-time. But they only survive by dipping into savings. "We do worry about money constantly; it's always in the background," says Lynn. "There's only so often your savings can be dipped into. But we are lucky. Other people can't even afford to put their tumble driers on." The JRF said that the price of a minimum basket of goods had risen by up to 30% since 2008, while average earnings had risen by half that amount. However, more recent figures suggest that wages have been rising faster than inflation for more than two years. Average weekly earnings have risen faster than CPI inflation every month since October 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics. But many expect wages to fall below inflation again in the months ahead. "This could be a very difficult time for

The JRF said that the price of a minimum basket of goods had risen by up to 30% since 2008, while average earnings had risen by half that amount. However, more recent figures suggest that wages have been rising faster than inflation for more than two years. Average weekly earnings have risen faster than CPI inflation every month since October 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics. But many expect wages to fall below inflation again in the months ahead. "This could be a very difficult time for

Average weekly earnings have risen faster than CPI inflation every month since October 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics. But many expect wages to fall below inflation again in the months ahead. "This could be a very difficult time for

"This could be a very difficult time for just-managing families as rising inflation begins to bite into finely-balanced budgets," said Campbell Robb, the new chief executive of the JRF. "The high cost of living has already helped push four million more people below an adequate income, and if the cost of essentials such as food, energy and housing rise further, we need to take action to ease the strain," he said. Wage

Wage growth However, the government said it was taking "targeted action" to raise incomes. It said that last year the lowest paid saw wages rise by 5.6% in real terms, the biggest increase since records began in 1997. And it pointed out that the National Living Wage would go up to £7.50 an hour from April. "We're determined to build an economy that works for everyone and we are taking decisive action to help with the cost of living," said a government spokesperson. "A million workers have had a pay rise thanks to our National Living Wage, and we have delivered the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years, taken millions of people out of tax altogether and frozen fuel duty for seven years in a row." Comment If an economic system results in a third of the UK population having inadequate income, even after a raft of measures taken by

"We're determined to build an economy that works for everyone and we are taking decisive action to help with the cost of living," said a government spokesperson. "A million workers have had a pay rise thanks to our National Living Wage, and we have delivered the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years, taken millions of people out of tax altogether and frozen fuel duty for seven years in a row." Comment If an economic system results in a third of the UK population having inadequate income, even after a raft of measures taken by

My Comment

If an economic system results in a third of the UK population having inadequate income, even after a raft of measures taken by government, then the system is broken.

Andy Yerrell UK

 

1 comment Share

Could this happen Professor ? Is it possible to be done by the government ?

Basic Income Bank based on blockchain! The essence of the project is to create an Internet based bank that emits its own crypto currency for basic income. The banks miners will receive percentage remuneration from the fiat profit of the bank in each block. The bank will pay the miners with the emitted crypto currency while at the same time it will accrue its fiat equivalent in the form of a monetary board for the crypto currency. Thus its entry and exit to and from crypto currencies ecosystem can also be done using the fiat currency, not only through Bitcoin. The crypto currency that will be emitted by the bank will be an incorporated(demurrage) tax equal to inflation and that tax will be redistributed equally among all customers/ users of the bank. The purpose is to achieve a basic income for consumers, thanks to which the bank will begin to acquire a larger market share. The idea behind is that the bank can operate freely in both the crypto and the fiat world. It should be compatible to install on any site that uses a payment system and enter the market as a competitor to PayPal. The crypto currency should also be subject to “mining” through the hosting. There should be a p2p crediting system with the respective stock exchange embedded in the bank that should also be linked to Forex and crypto exchanges. The bank will be able to give interest-free credits in crypto currency and accept payments for fiat credits in crypto currency. Faithfully yours, Lyubomir Stankov. allximika@gmail.com

1 comment Share

Neuroscience vindicates Marx? I think many of us suspected this all along...

I'm wondering if you are familiar with this study by a neuroscientist at Arizona State. His EEG research indicates that one's economic class impacts one's ability to empathize. Short version: well-off folks do not empathize as well as the rest of us. It struck me as interesting and I thought it might be worthwhile to mention it during one of your updates. I've included a link to the academic paper as well as a more accessible summary of the research in New York Magazine below. Best! https://asumaclab.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/social-class-affects-neural-empathic-responses.pdf http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/02/how-rich-people-see-the-world-differently.html

2 comments Share

I'm

6 comments Share

Capitalism is not feudalism

You are correct both Republicans and Democrats believe in feudalism. That is, success means accumulating the most capital and power and is clearly enunciated by Reaganomics. Capitalism, as described by Adam Smith, means the business owner is able to invest in any scheme without affecting the quality of life of their society. Capitalists should be the owners and care morally for their workers while feudalism has no concern for any part of society they do not live within. It's funny that the democrats feel feudalism is fine; but then, Reaganomics spent a major amount of propaganda making feudalism the uncontested norm. Hegel is ok with capitalism and, certainly, not with feudalism. Richard Pearlman www.PlanUSA.com

1 comment Share

But what about the man with the gun? (Interview David Graeber?)

Listened to your recent discussion on Hegel's dialectic of the master and the slave, and agreed with much of your analysis. That said, how come most of us would rather be the master in that situation? You touched on it: the master has the man with the gun (a policeman or soldier) on his side. So two points: (1) How, really, can one fight that (ultimate) thread? (2) What might David Graeber's (author of Debt: The First 5000 Years) thoughts be in context of your work? Actually, really only one point: why not discuss these issues with David? (Also see his other book: The Democracy Project.) Just a suggestion, of course.

posted an official response

No problem about discussing issues with Graeber. Just a matter of organizing and scheduling.

3 comments Share

How do we keep one Worker Co-op from exploiting another Worker Co-op?

I keep thinking of a "Gig Economy" as a way to undermine Worker Co-operatives. You are now an independent worker-owner contractor not an employee.

posted an official response

I suspect this is a matter of how one understands terms like "Independent worker-owner" or "Worker Coop." If the latter is just a gathering of the former (more than 1 of them) then there is little difference. The individual self-employed person who produces a good or service under contract to its purchaser is, in effect, both the producer of a surplus (more total value produced than is kept by the producer for his own consumption) and the appropriator of that surplus and thus the person who decides how that surplus will be distributed and used to reproduce this economic system/structure. A worker coop is simply a collection of individuals who organize work collectively among themselves (rather than individually) the produce an output that they divide into (1) the part they sell and use the revenue for their own consumption, and (2) the surplus part that, as a worker coop, they collectively appropriate from themselves and then decide how to use, distribute etc. Whats gone in both the individual and collective versions here is the basic opposition of employer and employee as different persons with correspondingly opposed interests. These two version need not exist or function as competitors, enemies, mutual "underminers." They could simply co-exist as options for each individual to consider and decide for himself/herself as to their own workplace choice.

7 comments Share

Love This Page! Possible Improvement?

Hello Mr Wolff! I enjoy reading this page and view it a couple times a day. I find the questions to be very insightful and reply to a few of them now and then with my own thoughts and opinions. I am hoping it will start a conversation beyond, or in addition to, what Richard Wolff provides and I hope that is ok. I am wondering if it would be possible to show everyones replies on the main website instead of having to click through to other responses? I understand that this is a forum to hear Richards ideas and I enjoy that his replies show up in grey to distinguish them from other jibberish. However I am also aware that Richard is in high demand and cannot be expected to answer every inquiry in a timely manner due to his busy schedule. Given that I was hoping we members could share our own experiences and thoughts on the main page. It is a small thing but I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever view my comments buried in a question from last week if they have to dig for it. I am not even certain the author of the post gets notified when someone replies to their question so, perhaps, nobody ever sees our comments on each others posts. It may not be technically feasible and I accept that. It may also be beyond the scope of what you are trying to accomplish here, and I accept that as well. But if you are looking to create a place for conversation involving the larger community then this small change might go a long way towards helping us members connect to each other and learn from each other as well as Richard Wolff. From a technical perspective I am thinking of a simple notification on the main page that this thread has 3 replies with a nifty click here to drop down that content, similar to facebooks format Id say, but keeping you on the main page instead of navigating away. In any event I hope this went to the right place, Im not sure if you have technical people to contact directly, and understand if this is not implemented but had to share the idea. Thank you for your time.

4 comments Share

Where will you be at in Missouri?

I don't see any events on the D@W Calendar for MO. You mentioned the event in your latest EU. Just wondering because hopefully I live nearby. Thank you.

1 comment Share

The Most Signed White House Petition in History

I'd like you to consider a piece on this White House Petition. It has gather about twice the number of the previously most signed petition and has a chance of breaking the never before approached number of one million signatures within thirty days. This is my own article on the Daily Kos>>> http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/2/13/1633207/--The-Only-Ones-that-Care-about-My-Tax-Returns-are-the-Reporters-D-J-T-January-11-2017?_=2017-02-13T08:57:45.568-08:00 SIGN HERE>>> https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-release-donald-trumps-full-tax-returns-all-information-needed-verify-emoluments-clause-compliance

2 comments Share

Capitalists & Risk??

Capitalists exploit labor. Does Marx address whether capitalists merit a larger share of profits because they submit resources to the rigors of market "risk"? As such, are capitalists and management shielding workers from risk to any appreciable extent?

2 comments Share

Is China and USA conflict a high possibility considering the level of their interdependence?

If China and USA go to war i can only see the chinese losing lots of money(USA market) and same for USA's big companies(factories in china) ... Is there anyone who would gain anything out of it?

3 comments Share

connect

get updates