Ask Prof. Wolff

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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.
 
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Could a basic income displace the damage to the labor force anticipated by automation and robotics?

Hi Professor Wolff, On your program a few weeks ago, you were pointing to the perilous road ahead for labor, specifically as the rapid growth of automation and robotics threaten to create a jobless economy within the next decade or so. It occurred to me that along with worker cooperatives, (which you have so marvelously explained and championed on a number of shows) another strategy to explore might be the implementation of a basic income. Two potential guests come to mind. Steve Shafarman (Basic Income Action) who has written several books on the subject, and has been a proponent of the idea for decades. His plan is fixed amount for every person in the country, with no means test for income, as a way to completely eradicate dire poverty and provide an economic base for every person in the country. He outlines how it is economically possible, and given your expertise, you would be able to further amplify his concepts and lend support to its feasibility. The other potential guest is Robert Ashford, who has a plan that does not give money to people in the form of a monthly check, but instead provides every citizen with a capital investment. His plan is a little less direct, but here again, your command of economics and ability to teach, could really help educate us as to how this idea works and how it might look in practice. The idea of a basic income is virtually unknown in our society, but would have majority support were people to know and understand the concept, making it politically possible. The time is now for this discussion, as a way to offer people a strategy to displace some of the damage that is anticipated with the further evaporation of the labor force. It’s a potential left/right issue too, as the right might embrace it as a way to reduce social services. After all, Nixon supported the idea (at the urging of Milton Freidman) in the early 70’s for this reason. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to let me share my thoughts and for considering using your show as a way to explore this idea and potentially move it forward. Lee Metcalf

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The feasibility of worker co-ops, nation to nation.

My question is simple. Worker co-ops require all the people who work to keep a corporation going, to work...cooperatively, and to decide on what to do to keep that company going (profit distribution, work organization, production methods, etc), and in so doing they function as both owner and employee. Every, single, time, that humans gather and clump into a large group to organize *anything* they organize into hierarchies based on following the alpha male, which in our theoretical worker co-op would be the original founder. Now, can someone tell me, please, how do we get past the DNA driven, tribal behavior, that can cause people to essentially step on the next guy, to get to the top of the worker co-op heap? So to speak. I've lived in a small community that functioned as a farming co-op, and people still formed cliques, and whether by intention or not, socially *excluded* those who came along after them. So, it didn't feel like a successful social experiment at all. The only thing I can think of to rectify this, is rules. Staunch, in place, bold in legal contract language, which keeps people in check. I watched the entire PBS special on Mondragon, and not ONCE did anyone mention this as a problem, and I suspect that's because Spain is heavily influenced by the church, so people there are/were just used to following direction and staying in line - and only have to worry about conflicting messaging when they go home and turn on the TV.

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What is the purpose of university endowment funds?

One of the things emerging out of the Paradise Papers is that a number of universities are sheltering profits in off shore accounts from investing endowment funds. First, do not most universities have non-profit status? If I am correct, then why is it necessary to shelter "profits" off shore? Second, why are universities hoarding billions in endowment funds in the first place? On one of your Economic Update shows you mentioned that Harvard has the largest endowment. At the time I believe you said it was around 47 billion.dollars. The obvious question is, with this much money in reserve, why do students have to pay tuition at Harvard? Surely they could afford to enable students to attend tuition free. What is the purpose of endowment funds if it is not to support the student learning experience? It seems like many are managed much like venture capital funds.

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Difference between Marxist Leninist & Maoist

Through your work & others in particular David Harvey I've came to understand the difference of communism socialism and anarchism could you explain the difference between Marx Lenin and Mao ideals & if you'd favour a particular style or a combination?

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Is free market and capitalism are same?

Dear Sir I am from India. Currently pursuing masters in Economics after graduating in Computer Science. This is my first year of Economics studies. I am completely convinced with your points on the free market yet I am convinced with this guy[Video Link at the bottom]. I have no standpoint what is right and wrong. Will you please clarify duality. Thankful Your follower Nimit Video Link: https://www.facebook.com/PierrePoilievreMP/videos/10155129268787379/?hc_ref=ARR99w_m5RyHI9W486tg_KeriREqYi_FTTsQG5NQMLsmgAYCoJDBglJctWRfY3WrlnQ

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Race to the bottom?

As multinational corporate headquarters are moved to Ireland, the Cayman Islands, wherever, why should a nation think holding corporate taxes firm, won't result in the largest business simply moving abroad? The only answer I can imagine, is (God help us), a global government of some kind. Please, tell me how I'm wrong. Please!

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A Beautiful Example of the Psychological Result of Equality at Work

The positive psychology of equality presented in this short video is explained by a famous college basketball coach concerning his working encounter with a world famous athlete: https://youtu.be/bCpJBdIlAzo

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Is there a way to invest in worker-owned cooperatives?

Professor Wolff, For years I have sought ways ro pursue green investing but have achieved only limited success, Green investing is still dubious at best. Can you suggest ways to invest in worker-owned cooperatives? I am self-employed and mostly retired anyway so starting a cooperative is not really part of my future but I would invest in them if I knew how. Regards, Tim Reed Healdsburg, CA

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Capitalism vs. Socialism in Israel

In Israel, there were cooperative living organizations, namely the Kibutz and the Moshav, where people shared resources and profits, and participated equally in decision making. Today, most of them privatized, and are considered by the right-wing government as socialist failures. How would you counter this argument in an atmosphere where leftists/socialists are considered traitors?

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Have you debated Robert Reich?

Robert Reich has been a very vocal advocate for reforming capitalism. As both of you are very talented speakers and very passionate about your views; I would love to see a direct conversation between you and him and see what shakes out of that debate.

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What is your view on Marx's Dialectical Materilism and Historical Materilism?

What is your view on Marx's Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism?

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Newsworthy piece on economic deprivation in the FT today

Hi Richard, there is an interesting long piece by Sarah O'Connor in the FT today about Blackpool, which I think warrants a mention in your "capitalism update". Apparently, doctors in this region now regularly use the term "Shit life syndrome" to describe and explain the anxiety and depression they observe among their patients. It's a tragic read for such a wealthy first-world country. I don't have a link but the title of the article is "Left Behind: can anyone save the towns the economy forgot?"

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Silicon Valley employees living in motorhomes

Dear Richard, The blow article in a Swiss tabloid could be an interesting topic in one of your talks. It is about Silicon Valley employees living in motorhomes or even their cars instead of an apartment since they cannot affor the apartment from their salary and the apartment prices have skyrocketed. The article hints at multiple issues from gap between rich and poor, top executive salaries, gentrification, gig-economy, the new "middle" class with a middle class income not being enough to afford an apartment. https://www.blick.ch/news/wirtschaft/digitalisierung/die-dunkle-seite-des-tech-rausches-im-silicon-valley-diese-professorin-muss-in-ihrem-volvo-wohnen-id7601814.html Although it's a tabloid article it might still be worth looking into the topic. When even the not-yet outsourced tech jobs don't pay enough and young people with degrees compete for them. To me this sounds like working nomads and looks more and more like in the 19th century (Germinale, Les Miserable)

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Do you agree that tax leaves our accounts as a debit

and never reappears at any treasury account meaning that tax should more accurately be described as an exhaust to our economy cooling spending in an overheated economy RATHER THAN a unit that buys welfare, health and other public services . Isn't it true that the treasury is instructed to pay for those things despite levels of taxation meaning that tax levels have nothing to do with what the country can afford? It is mainly at the whim, of top ministers. and what their prejudiced beliefs might be?

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