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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1917 Bolshevik Revolution

To what extent was the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution financed / orchestrated by American bankers? Was this revolution more of a revolt of serfs against feudal landlords or alternatively, the use of brutality, terrorism, and mass murder in order to forcefully subjugate a population to a system of rule against their own will?

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Topic suggestion: Scarcity and Inequality

Is scarcity inevitable? How is it related to ineqality?

posted an official response

Scarcity is a relative term: it depicts a situation where supply is less than demand. Such a situation is, by definition, overdetermined by the infinity of social processes that together (over)determine both supply and demand. So, for example, it is easy to show that inequality of wealth and income plays its roles in shaping supply, demand and thus the "scarcity" of everything.

 

Historically, scarcity has been used ideologically as if it were some sort of neutral or independent condition, rather than being shaped by society and history. In such ideologies, if scarcity exists (usually presumed), then some who want will get and others who want will not since supply is less than demand. Inequality then follows from scarcity and is not to be blamed on anyone nor attributed to changeable social conditions.

Logically, scarcity can lead to an infinity of possible distributions of the scarce objects. For example, those who get today do not get tomorrow; those with larger families get more than those with small families, and so on endlessly. No necessity for inequalities as we normally define and discuss them is entailed logically by scarcity.

However, apologetic ideology is often disconnected from logical considerations.

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How do stock buybacks work?

It appears that corporations are spending profits on stock buybacks at the expense of pension funds. Could you explain how these stock buybacks work and how they benefit those involved?

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To what degree is money submitted for investment actually put to productive use?

Ideally the money we give to the financial industry for investment would all flow to productive non-financial companies, to be used for building their businesses. But people in the financial industry seem to make so much money, it seems quite a bit of money just bounces around in the financial world. Is there a way to quantify the degree to which invested money is put to productive use?

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What are your thoughts on the notion of the Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

Elon Musk has mentioned the idea of having a UBI as technology begins to take over the tasks that can be done by machines. Hawaii has also been working on passing a law that introduces a UBI for the state. Already we see bank tellers being replaced by the ATM and cashiers replaced by self check-out lines. Do you see the UBI as something we must do in the future? Is it sustainable? Will it create a huge tax burden? Can you think of any real world examples where this works? Thank you.

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Hello Mr. Wolff,

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Why....can't we say no?

Why must we keep expanding into foreign markets/increasing export production (increasing scale of production, increasing debt financial and ecological)? Why is it that if a new market is identified (e.g. cherries in China) that production must expand or be developed to serve that market? Regardless of environmental capacity, that is to say water availability, soil fertility, biodiversity and the engineering of the environment for export production displacing and denaturing the given area. Australia is fed this good news story again and again... yet corporations win out in these deals mine our environmental values & cream financial support from the govt. and sue for compensation for loss of profits meanwhile restructuring our workforce/wages from a position of power, privatising land (impounding land). Are Ag markets really so precarious that we must fulfill all requests? Proposition: Who is the farmer today? I'm asking this from an Agriculture/primary industry position taking into consideration the environmental metrics (P,C,NO2 etc land degradation and water aka the anthroposcene)... Food sustains a population (think Carolyn Steel's Hungry City, and the work of Raj Patel and Michael Pollan amongst others) but I believe the Ag industry (primary production) is being mismanaged. New markets increase the value of the land or farming operation and now succession means local to global instead of one generation in the family to another... What can't we say No?

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wage crisis

Professor Wolff, Could you please address this issue that came to my attention via The Real News Network. Here is link regarding the study by the Nation Low Income Housing Coalition. I believe this is the beginning of the end of The American Dream. Thank you. Sincerely, Demian http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2017.pdf

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What factors determine the strength of a currency?

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Roland Bernard interview - who 'owns' the world

Worth a look, if you have not already seen it. It's in Dutch with subtitles, so I watched with the sound off. https://youtu.be/L0q2VdSx7u4

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News content for EU

Here is an article that details how capitalism killed a 62 year old woman 8 days before retirement: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/business/article155735589.html

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What would a worker-owned coal mine look like in 2017?

I live and work in China for a local company providing startup services. Long-time student of environmental sciences. I also have been providing consulting as a co-founder of a CSA program here (so far pro-bono). I am enthralled with Prof. Wolff's news updates and in-depth analysis of the current economic paradigm. I have a few questions and another topic suggestion. 1. The good professor has gone through some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how worker-owned cooperatives would make decisions that are better for workers, better for the sustainability of the company, and better for the communities in which they operate. If (hypothetically) a coal mining company was worker owned and operated, what decisions would they make in terms of operation, and what executive decisions would they make in 2017 - the economic outlook for coal being what it is. 2. What resources are there for companies that have decided to either convert, or initially found a company as worker-owned cooperatives? How can we find advisors/allies to help kick-start such an effort. Comment: I would really like to hear a segment focusing on local food, CSAs and/or agricultural cooperatives. I would like to suggest reaching out to Joel Salitan of Polyface Farms (as seen on Food Inc. and What's With Wheat) for such a segment (or Michael Pollan as an alternative that would be equally illuminating but perhaps less charming than the "nudist buddhist farmer"). I've read his (Joel's) books and think it would be great for listeners to know more about how FDA regulations (as they are skewed to favor big business and industrialized food systems) are onerous for small farmers, and the misalignment of agricultural subsidies in the U.S. of A. Many thanks to Prof. Wolff for his timeless insights and timely updates!

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How can we avoid the pitfalls of past experiments in "industrial socialism"?

I was listening to a NPR Planet Money podcast all about the Oneida Commune in upstate New York. During the program, the NPR reporters comment on the Oneida Commune representing "responsible" or "conscious" capitalism. I believe the Oneida Commune's experience is a very telling one about the pitfalls of "communal / cooperative" capitalism. Given your understanding of the cultural / historical / political contexts Oneida found itself in over the course of its 150+ year run, what should the take away be for those of us interested in developing and enhancing communal / cooperative relations in the enterprise? What do you think we can learn from the Oneida Company's communal / cooperative experience (and others in this country, I'm sure)? What is the proper perspective to take on the demoralizing, dispiriting downfall that beset the Oneida Company? Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this post... http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/06/09/532303452/episode-777-free-love-free-market

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UK politics

I'm eager to hear your next Monthly Update.... I hope you can give mention to the phenomenon that has happened in the UK - Bernie Sanders comments about the Labour leader and the movement and the parallels he draws to his efforts in the US and the internal conflicts that attempt to hold back and vilify the labour leader.

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Will you please discuss the debt held by the public in the next economic update?

Its composition, its history, its plausibility of default and what the consequences would be... https://psagh.xyz/what-is-progressive/project-interest/

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