Ask Prof. Wolff

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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.
 
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What is your position on a flat tax?

I am curious as to your position on an annual 10% flat tax on wealth for all households and businesses. Understanding that it would never happen in a capitalist environment, would it not generate enough revenue to equitably fund our government?

posted an official response

In the US today, only certain forms of wealth are subject to a property tax (chiefly land, homes, buildings etc..."real property"). Other forms (e.g. stocks, bonds) have no tax on their property value but only on the income they generate, if any. So if you mean that adding a 10% tax to those latter forms of property (often called "intangible" property) would generate a vast revenue for the federal government with which to solve all sorts of social problems, that is correct. Would the wealth owning businesses and individuals seek and likely find ways to evade and then overturn such a tax? Likely as that has been the history of so many tax initiatives over the history of capitalism. The problem, in short, is the system. Reforming capitalism has been a long running way to delay confrontation with the needs and possibilities to go beyond capitalism, to do better than capitalism.

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What book have you (co)authored on Capital Vol 2 and 3?

It's not your book "Contending Economic Theories" It seems I remember a book that focuses more on Capital Volumes 2 and 3 that would be a nice companion with the actual texts.. Am I crazy? If I'm not, what is it? Thank you, Professor Wolff.

posted an official response

You may be thinking of a book jointly co-authored by Stephen Resnick and myself entitled New Departures in Marxian Theory. It was published in New York and London by Routledge in 2006. Parts III, IV and V contain essays that make use of and build upon Marx's analyses in Volumes 2 and 3 of Capital. The ISBN of this book is 0-415-77026-2

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How do you feel about Goldmoney.com or gold in general.

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Is the Resource Based economy possible or not and why, whether on smaller or grander scale?

https://www.thevenusproject.com/

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Is there a place like Judson Memorial Church, with someone like Prof. Wolff in Los Angeles?

I live in Los Angeles and would like to attend similar lectures here. Are Prof. Wolff's ideas only availabe live in NYC?

posted an official response

Thank you for your question, Steven. While we can't point you to a regular live program currently available in Los Angeles, Prof. Wolff does travel to often. Please keep an eye out on our calendar for future events near you.

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Amazing paper from Oxfam, can you use this in Economic Update?

Oxfam, mostly known from the inequality reports like "Eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world", have published this paper with analysis of the causes of inequality. Very similar to your analysis. Also covering "The false assumptions driving the economy of the 1%" and "A human economy designed for the 99%". Unusual clear analysis pointing to the richest people/corporations and their anti-social ideology and use of power to maximizing their profits at the expense of the welfare for everybody else. Full text and summary available as pdf here: https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/economy-99 Perhaps you could also contact the author of the paper, Deputy Head of Research, Deborah Hardoon?

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Fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie economics

Hello Professor Wolff, I love your work & podcasts (although I am certainly not particularly educated in the area of economics). I often get into discussions with people during my daily life, and let them know that I’ve always felt that the "Master issue" (the issue controlling all of its sub-issues, representation of the populace in gov't, legislation, never-ending war, climate change, healthcare, unemployment, incarceration, immigration, civil rights, mental health issues / depression, etc, etc, etc... the list goes on forever) in this country is wealth/income inequality and distribution… generally letting others know that most of our populace are getting poorer, while only a very small percentage are getting fabulously wealthier. A couple people responded to me with this... "everyone is getting wealthier, but a small percentage are getting a lot wealthier, while most are getting only a little bit wealthier, or maintaining status quo". Well, I've researched that notion, and apparently it is part of the "fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie" debate (whether there is actually debate about this, I do not know). While researching this, I ran across an article, by Chelsea German, which seemed to me VERY UN-convincing, with respect to this supposed "debate", at this link: http://humanprogress.org/blog/senator-sanders-fixed-pie-fallacy So, two questions... one, what is your view of "fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie"?, and two, where can I find definitive research/documentation proving, what I’ve always figured MUST be true, that most people are getting poorer (some of the recent research of Gabriel Zucman seems to indicate this, of which I've read only tiny bits, and his work is so voluminous that finding specific data proving would be quite difficult, and time-consuming). I suspect that the answers to my questions are probably more difficult than I was hoping, as it probably involves some type of economic/financial comparison of different time periods, involving various ratios/multipliers/dividers/equations to try to account for inflation and other variables… but I’m hoping not, and that you can provide some definitive data/charts/etc (I also suspect that as one rises on the income/wealth scale, their ability to accept/believe that most people are getting poorer drops off precipitously… and it would not surprise me to find that there have been studies, psych research, etc on this.) Thanks very much for your time, and consideration. Bob

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How do you respond to Stephanie McMillan's criticism of Mondrogon?

Stephanie McMillan points out that Dr. Wolff is not giving up the full skinny on Mondrogon. The Fagor group went bankrupt and was sold in 2013 after it could not respond financially to the eurocrisis. In addition, parts of Mondrogon cooperative were accused of hiring low-wage foreign workers in order to compete. McMillan claims that the cooperative model cannot successfully function imbedded in the larger global capitalist context without the added addition of armed struggle. I would like to see a debate between Professor Wolff and author Stephanie McMillan on this issue, one that will welcome new, young voices into the movement so long championed by Dr. Wolff.

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Can Humanity actually live without the Ideology/Love of Currency?"

Hello, Professor Wolff. My name is Timothy Sams. I'm developing a new Marxist Communal system of government that is based around the elimination and absence of any and all Ideologies concerning the materialistic object of Currency and the love that comes with. "Project New Jerusalem" gets its name and main inspirations from the concepts described of it within The Bible's book of Revelations. It challenges and questions Humanity's Love and Ideologies behind the existence of Currencies and the justifications that support them. "Project New Jerusalem" will be a modernized/furutized Reformation of Marxist Communal way of life where Humanity no longer operates on the fundamentals of business and profit, but instead will be founded in Knowledge, Resources, Strength, Technology, Morals, Principles, Simplicity, Efficiency, and Common Sense. My question is, "Can Humanity actually live without the Ideology/Love of Currency?" "Project New Jerusalem will not just prove Humanity can live without it, but also show how and why we should.

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My question is regarding trade negotiations and brexit.

Why can't the United kingdom negotiate trade deals with the countries of Europe instead of negotiating trade deals with the European union? If they establish deals with individual countries, how will it effect the economy compared to having trade deals with the European union? Thank you.

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My question to you therefore is, will you talk to me about what i believe to be a viable solution?

Hi Richard Firstly, and I don't say this to be obsequious, I truly believe you to be sincere in your perspicuous presentations and therefore would like very much to discuss a solution with you. I am in the process of starting, structure to be decided, the ROC (revolution of conscience) with regards to ameliorating financial inequality in the UK, (and of course globally) caused by the nature of rapacious (crony) capitalism.

posted an official response

The current predictions of increasing inequality in the already very unequal UK must be terrifying. It is a picture of headlong descent into self-destruction. Not capitalism with an adjective but capitalism per se is the problem. That is what I discuss with all our work.

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Are WSDE's different from worker coops? if so how ?

Are WSDE's different from worker coops? your book, a cure for capitalism's, promotes WSDEs and D@W promotes Worker Coops?

posted an official response

You are quite right; we use the terms as synonyms. "Worker coops" have a longer and wider use in the US. We ourselves invented and use WSDEs chiefly in order to stress the need for workers collectively to function as their own board of directors within each enterprise (office, factory or store). Worker coops sometimes get confused with or mixed into other sorts of coops (buyers or owners or sellers coops) so we often use the WSDE to keep them separate in people's minds.

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Is China attempting to destroy capitalism by taking it to its logical extreme?

Is China using a long term economic strategy with the goal of undermining and eventually destroying capitalism by taking the system to its absolute and logical extremes in terms of economies of scale and extreme low cost pricing and production? In the book “Rare: A high States Race to Satisfy our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth” author and PhD of Chemistry Keith Veronese had this to say; “The government of China made a decision to play the “long” game in 1970- sell large quantities of rare earth metals at very low prices, prices low enough that the rest of the world would flock to this new and inexpensive supplier. Years of allowing outsiders to purchase at below-market value devastated the rare earth mining industry in other parts of the world, and by the turn of the millennium China’s mines were the only ones left standing.” “China beat the United States because its mines and processors could sell at a lower cost due to economies of scale and a government willing to set low prices to gain market share. This drove suppliers in other parts of the world out of business through a decreasing profit margin, much the same way the arrival of a large chain store closes the door of “mom and pop” specialty shops. When profits drop due to a changing market place, decreased demand, increased upkeep costs, or a number of other factors, it is often cost effective to cease mining operations at a location. It is not the place of these private corporations to mine any metal with the hopes of maintaining a healthy domestic supply and the best interests of the country if the monetary reward is not present”. -pages 40-41. “Rare: A high States Race to Satisfy our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth” by Keith Veronese While this is a general analysis of the rare earths market and how China has effectively cornered it….it seems you could replace the word “rare earths” in these snippets from his book with basically any product from electronics to chairs. What is the future outcome of the world economy if taken to its logical conclusion?

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Hi professor can you speach about "Special Drawing Right SDR"

what's behind issues Special Drawing Right SDR and china join last October.

posted an official response

SDR are simply an accounting mechanism to organize the use of currencies by countries when they need to dip into reserves to manage their short term fluctations in balances of payments.

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Earning vs. "Receiving"

I notice you sometimes talk about mega-millionaire CEOs with a description of "Mr. X earns so many million dollars per year" etc. I hear MANY people make comments like this. I feel we should say "Mr. X RECEIVES $$$" rather than EARNS. It is not at all clear to me that these individuals truly earn the obscene amounts of money they receive. I've been reading George Lakoff...and I think this word matters! You don't have to agree, but I feel that if more prominent commentators used "receives" or some other word rather than "earns" it would help to change the perception that the all-knowing market determines the "worth" of participants by their salary with razor-sharp accuracy. I think the accuracy of the market is more in the range of the meat-axe! And, of course, markets can be manipulated by the powerful. Especially those who can pick friends to sit on the Board of Directors that grants their salary increase.

posted an official response

Agreed. The word "earns" carries associations that the word "receives" need not, so it would be more accurate and precise to use receives than earns. I will try to do that more consistently from now on.

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