Ask Prof. Wolff

rdw_speaking.png
 
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.
 
Select "upvote" or "downvote" to promote certain questions. You must be logged in to vote or submit your own.
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Is the so called "enlightenment" really working, like the WSJ would have us believe?

Every year I see an article like this one in the WSJ, where the argument goes: "the world is so much better now than it was before--so don't believe all the negativity in the headlines." I know this is hogwash, living in a country where half the people are poor and a world with increasing austerity. Would love to hear Dr. Wolff 's economic take on this: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-enlightenment-is-working-1518191343

1 comment Share

How should undergraduate economics students study Marx?

I am an undergraduate economics student from Montreal who listens to Economic Update and to Professor Wolff's lectures. I am interested in studying Marxism more intensely, as Professor Wolff has mentioned he did as a student. Where should I begin to understand Marxism from an academic perspective? Where did you begin, Dr. Wolff? Merci beaucoup, vive la revolution! Mitchell H.

1 comment Share

How do we bring change?

Everybody talks - how do we bring change? How do we get down to Brass Tacks? How about a Coop to compete with Walmart? Everybody hates Walmart. A crowd fund campaign could start the first store. First store would be in Hawaii, where Walmart has no national distribution chain competitive advantage. From there it would spread to California. People aren't given an option to bring change to the world. An alternative to the poster child most hated company is an easy way for common people to be GIVEN a choice to vote with their dollars. Right now we don't have a choice. Would you possibly support (with commentary) such an endeavor? Or how do you help bring change? Everybody talks! Where is action? Change is easy if we work together.

1 comment Share

'surplus' belongs to the capitalist for putting money at risk.

Please respond to the argument that the 'surplus' belongs to the capitalist to compensate him for putting his money at risk. If company folds, they all lose their jobs but the capitalist also loses his capital. Maybe he doesn't deserve all the surplus. Of course the degree of wealth concentration has been a ripoff. but in theory, if A works harder than B and has capital, it's A's right to decide the amount of surplus he keeps. If B doesn't like it then B can go work somewhere else. This is in theory of course. 2nd question: It capitalism ultimately unstable, like an avalanche? Once A has capital, he earns passive income. Both A and B work hard and pay their bills with income. But now A has passive income that builds up to buy yet another house to rent or factory etc. So B goes nowhere and A gets richer and richer?

1 comment Share

Can you explain the economics behind fracking?

My name is Barbara Mills-Bria and I am the President of Be The Change, a progressive group in Colorado. We have been seeing articles about the the economics behind the fracking industry and it seems like they can't really afford to do this - especially if one takes into account the external costs, which are rarely taken into account. Even without considering those costs there seems to be a disconnect. I am including links to various articles and I hope you can shed some light on this subject. We are especially interested in the economics of fracking. Thanks for your consideration. Barbara Mills-Bria President, Be The Change https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/10/carillion-links-north-yorkshire-fracking-third-energy https://finance.yahoo.com/news/extraction-oil-gas-inc-schedules-130000377.html https://www.reuters.com/article/us-anadarko-petrol-results/anadarko-petroleum-third-quarter-loss-misses-expectations-shares-dip-idUSKBN1D02UX https://seekingalpha.com/article/4145306-can-anadarko-petroleum-really-afford-massive-dividend-increase-buybacks https://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/The-Oil-Bubble-Has-Burst-What-Now.html

1 comment Share

Total wealth and resources in the world

Hello Professor Wolff, I would like to attempt a rough calculation of the total amount of wealth and resources in the world, as well as how they are currently distributed. Then I would compare this to levels of consumption around the world. I would like to see if the idea that-given modern technological advancements in production and distribution-it would be physically possible to provide housing, education, healthcare, and a generally good standard of living for every single person on the planet; and whether or not capitalist wealth concentration is the major barrier to the realization of such a system. If we have the physical capabilities of making this happen, I feel like that would be a very strong argument for some sort of socialist socitey. However, I don't know where to start so I was wondering if you could perhaps suggest any academic works or specific authors that have dealt with this subject. I am currently an undergrad but feel like this might make a good dissertation in the future. Thank you.

1 comment Share

Came across some data and wondering if a more educated person can help critique it

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2017/12/19/leftleaning-scorekeeper-so-the-gop-tax-bill-cuts-taxes-for80-percent-of-americans-n2424201

1 comment Share

Article in UK's The Independent

FYI An article entitled 'John McDonnell (UK Shadow Chancellor) to pledge...worker-run public services...' dated Feb. 10.

1 comment Share

Dr. Fraad's analysis on isolation.

This entire conversation reminded me of the concept of "Commodity Fetishism" coined by Marx. The social alienation facilitated by the exchange of commodities has developed beyond I think even Marx's worst nightmares. We have replaced social interaction and social labor with monetary transactions masking our relationships not just with those in our immediate vicinity, but also with the labor that produces the commodities we consume. The trust in fellow man replaced with the corporate face. How would worker owned and operated coops challenge this fetishism? Is there a different equation to represent circulation in a cooperative environment than P...P?

1 comment Share

Dear Prof. Wolff, I would love to hear your thoughts on this article.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/22/behind-the-money-curtain-a-left-take-on-taxes-spending-and-modern-monetary-theory/

1 comment Share

Dear prof. Wolff, are you familiar with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's work?

In "The logic of Political survival" and its popular scientific counterpart "The dictator's handbook", Bueno de Mesquita and coworkers develop a theory of government based on game theory. They aim to show the differences between autocracies and democracies based on rigid mathematical arguments. They also investigate the governing structure of corporations, which they conclude is akin to a dictatorship head by the board of directors. Finally, they argue that democratically run companies should be much more successful and they give some real-world examples.

1 comment Share

Coop tip: Rock City Roasters & Cafe to become worker-owned (Rockland, ME)

from the Vimeo blurb I received: To preserve a community institution and a great place to work, business owner Susanne Ward is selling Rock City Roasters and Cafe to the people who helped build it -- the employees -- with the help of the Cooperative Development Institute.

1 comment Share

What is the endgame of the few?

I'm watching you on Democracy Now. You said currently the "few are grabbing it all before it disappears". What do you believe is the grand scheme of the few, how could it disappear? I agree with you on your opinions I just haven't figured out what their end game is. USA bankruptcy, getting out before the nukes fall over the USA, getting out before the US dollar is replaced by Chinese currency...what is the end?

1 comment Share

Would this issue amongst wait and non-wait staff be better resolved within a worker coop?

Please see https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/business/economy/tips-rule.html?referer=http://m.facebook.com/ Are cooks in a restaurant as well as bartenders behind a bar considered productive workers, those who produce commodities exchanged through a market? Are the wait staff, bus workers, hostesses, and managers unproductive workers, those who receive portions of surplus produced by the cooks and bartenders? For me, you go to a restaurant for the food. The service is secondary, in my opinion. I still tip! But as I have read your works on surplus theory, I analyze a restaurant's situation differently than those who haven't read your works. Technically, you could place your order to the kitchen, wait, pick up your food, walk back to your table, eat, and put your dirty dishes in a dirty dishes bin. The wait staff and other unproductive workers are the beneficiaries of the food production and/or the mixed drink production. To summarize, wouldn't this regulation that "the restaurant industry, which has fought [this] Barack Obama administration regulation for years, argues that the change would allow employers to share the tips of waiters and waitresses with so-called back-of-the-house workers like cooks and dishwashers, be a way to address worker ownership and control?

1 comment Share

https://nyti.ms/2sd086K

’Nuff said.

3 comments Share

connect