Talks at Google: "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism"

Professor Wolff presents current events and draws connections to the past to highlight the machinations of our global economy. He helps us to understand political and corporate policy, organization of labor, the distribution of goods and services, and challenges us to question some of the deepest foundations of our society.

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Showing 14 comments

  • commented 2017-07-24 03:26:55 -0400
    Crapitalism is the villain and it has 2 right wings: republican and democrat.
  • commented 2017-07-24 02:00:03 -0400
    The non-cyclic democracy is a permanent, constant election process which has its point of commencement but is infinite in terms of time perspective. It enables people to vote at any time they wish with no limitation on the number of votes.
    Open vote means the right of people, in case they wish, to step out of their anonymity as voters in the continuous election process of the non-cyclic democracy.
    Vote of correction means an open vote of confirmation or rejection at any, desired by people time from the continuous election process with the non-cyclic democracy.
    With the non-cyclic democracy, the number of mandates is changeable. It is defined by the sum from the number of anonymous cyclic votes, combined with the number of open and correction votes at any time from the continuous election process.
    Threshold of trust of an elected via voting candidate in elective office means half of the number of people who have voted for them minus one vote.
    With the non-cyclic democracy, the duration of the mandate of an elected via voting candidate is discontinued with the expiry of the allotted for the mandate time or with the reaching of the threshold of trust.
    The list of candidates in elective office is bulk of information of free public access with data about each candidate in elective office. There, at any time from the election process, each voter and each public organization can add candidates or withdraw their trust from the proposed by them candidates in elective office.
    The open-type voters have the right of a correction vote at any time from the continuous election process of the non-cyclic democracy.
    The vote of correction is as follows:
    1. Open vote against one’s own choice, leading the elected one closer to the threshold of trust at any time from the continuous election process.
    2. Open vote in favour of another candidate from the list of names, leading the elected one closer to the threshold of trust at any time from the continuous election process of the non-cyclic democracy.
    3. Open vote in favour of a chosen by other voters candidate, leading the elected one closer to the threshold of trust, distancing the newly-elected from the threshold of trust at any time from the continuous election process.
    With the non-cyclic democracy, the current updated rating of a candidate in elective office for the purpose of their positioning towards the threshold of trust must be freely and publicly accessible in the list of candidates at any time from the continuous election process…
  • commented 2017-07-16 09:42:18 -0400
    A restrained, sincere and factually irrefutable presentation by Prof. Richard Wolff. I would further comment that he is humble enough not to pretend he has all the answers. What he does do extremely well is point to the necessity of re-examining our assumptions and launch a global movement to do so. Then be brave enough to test alternatives fairly and scientifically. Mondragon co-op in Spain and others prove that alternative organisations of production profiting society as a whole are possible. Why stop there?
  • commented 2017-07-13 22:36:10 -0400
    I AM OVERWHELMED. I am not an economist, but I, too, had to learn the little I know outside of school. I was able to get some books at a communist bookstore in Los Angeles and others in Cuba, Buenos Aires, Caracas and Mexico City. It has taken me years, but I was able to anticipate your every point. The media pretend to be left, but it is always the same capitalism warmed over. — "liberals “progressives” are just more of the same.The only real hope for the West is Richard Wolff and associates. Than you, thank you, for your clarity and for the balls to get up and fearlessly say the shibboleths and break the taboos that have kept us in chains all these decades.
  • commented 2017-07-13 10:50:17 -0400
    Yes, a great presentation. In Western Europe, the masses have co-profited from large scale slavery in the East and Africa (Every empire has been built on slavery) and set a pretty high living standard for the European population. The real capital was in the hands of the real professional thieves and murderers (kings, popes and governments), and has been handed down over generations in forms of shares or capital. A modern equivalent of slavery in the USA is in the form of prison population which has quadrupled since the ’90’s, while the crime rate went down by about 20 to 30%. By paying a prisoner $2 a day, you’re on a par with Bangladeshi workers. This is one of the ways of how the sick capitalist system tries to survive the race to the bottom.
    I agree with Prof Wolff that a worker coop will provide stability and responsibility, though not so much wealth, as a means to bridge the gap to basic income since computers and robots are taking over much of the job market; something that the Indians and Chinese will also have to cope with. They are enjoying a booming business now, but they also will start to feel the pinch.
  • commented 2017-07-13 09:48:13 -0400
    D@W is an enterprise that uses labor to create a product, and while there may be no profits, there are certainly decisions to be made about what to produce, where, what to do with the things produced, etc. Is D@W organized democratically? If not, why not?
  • commented 2017-07-13 04:55:25 -0400
    “A documentary about Henry George, The Single Tax, and the village of Arden Delaware.” (26:36)
  • commented 2017-07-13 04:48:01 -0400
    Crapitalism according to Dylan Ratigan (2:22)
  • commented 2017-07-12 21:32:23 -0400
    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” — Sun Tzu (544-496 BCE)
    Professor Rick Wolff is a master teacher.
  • commented 2017-07-12 20:38:12 -0400
    I have “taken in” many of Professor Wolff’s lectures. His criticisms of the system of socio-political arrangements and institutions generally referred to as “capitalism” are certainly valid. So are his criticisms of economics as a discipline. His analysis of the problems come from his study of the works of Karl Marx, and Marx was an astute critic of the system as it existed in the mid-19th century. What Marx (and Engels) came to appreciate and record in the third volume of Das Kapital was the fundamental power of rentier interests. Yet, Marx and Engels saw the evil as one of class interests. A contemporary of Marx and Engels who challenged not only the status quo but the Marxian analysis was the American Henry George.

    What made Henry George different? His analysis of history and of societal arrangements and institutions identified the fundamental ill as monopoly privilege. Monopoly privilege in the control of land and natural resources had survived every introduction of new forms of production and the ownership of business enterprise.

    The settlement of people into one place required rules for allocating access to what nature provided. Early on, the rules were more or less made by consensus. Over time, however, every society succumbed to hierarchy. The laws were codified to benefit hereditary privilege and an elite that extracted as rent a significant portion of what others produced (without producing anything in exchange). This system of landlordism lasted until the expansion of trade between peoples and the technologies (e.g., shipping) that facilitated this trade. Peasants were displaced from the land to permit the raising of cattle and sheep. Thus, agrarian landlordism was expanded to include commercial landlordism. Other innovations followed. Added to agrarian-commercial landlordism came industrial, financial and corporate landlordism. The entire system secured and protected monopoly privilege, rewarding rentier elites over those who actually produce goods or provide services.

    The solution Henry George came to was to use the system of public revenue to eliminate the potential to profit from monopoly by taxing rents. Every parcel or tract of land has some potential annual rental value. This value is societally-created and rightfully belongs to society to pay for public goods and services. Patents and copyrights also yield unearned rents to the owners. Others sources of unearned rents include the licenses to control frequencies of the broadcast spectrum, licenses to extract fish and other resources from the seas, and take-off and landing slots at airports. Capital goods and the income generated from the use of capitals goods, on the other hand, are individually-created and should be exempt from taxation. Make these changes to the system of public revenue, George argued, and we are on our way to a full employment society, a fair distribution of income and wealth and the end to generational poverty.

    Economists who have specialized in the study of economic cycles have discovered a strong causal relation between credit-fueled, speculation-driven land markets and an 18-year cycle of boom-to-bust. Read Mason Gaffney (emeritus professor of economics at the University of California) for the details.

    There are, as Professor Wolff explains, a long list of arguments against corporate privileges under law. Cooperative enterprises serve the interests of members as well as the community in which the enterprise operates. A real problem for cooperatives is how to raise the funds necessary to create the capital goods required to efficiently produce what the enterprise is formed to produce. The current banking system has not served either cooperatives or small businesses very well. Monetary reforms such as Ellen Brown are calling for every state to establish a public bank to serve the needs of the non-corporate players. Ellen Brown has taken a page from the mutualist program of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who sought to organize workers into cooperatives to counter the rentier elite dominating France in the early 19th century.

    Getting from where we are to where we need to be has proven to be almost impossible. Professor Wolff is a voice in the wilderness challenging the status quo. He is not alone. Joseph Stiglitz, former economist at the World Bank is another. Too few of our politicians are paying attention. Their ability to run for office and get elected depends on money, and the money comes from those who most benefit by maintenance of the status quo.

    Would term limits help? Perhaps. Another, far more radical solution, is to eliminate campaigns for legislatures and elections altogether. Instead, anyone who is willing to serve in a legislative body would take what amounts to a civil service examination to demonstrate competency to serve. Their name would then go into a lottery. When a seat in the legislative body becomes available, someone is chosen to fill the seat for a single term of office (say, four years). After his or her term is completed, the person returns to private life. Delegated democracy and privilege is replaced by actual participatory democracy.
  • commented 2017-07-12 20:16:21 -0400
    A very good presentation indeed. I have always admired Professor Wolff. But I see an issue in this particular presentation. Here, once again, Professor Wolff tells the audience that the only reason they are hired by their employer, is because they are being exploited. This proposition is taken from Marx, as noted by Professor Wolff. It holds true in the abstract framework that Marx defines in order to conduct his study. But it is not necessarily true in real-world, especial today’s world and most especially in case of Google’s highly skilled employees. We should never forget that we are living in the age of monopoly capitalism, which is drastically different from the picture Marx drew in his vol I of Capital. There, he assumed perfect competition and a free market (i.e. a market free from all forms of rent). What we have today is domination of monopolies and a market loaded with all forms of rent! In summary:

    1- Some employees in a given firm may possess unique skills and capabilities that may not be easily available to others. This may allow them to be employed and paid more than the value they really generate for their employer (we are talking about value in labour-theory of value, not the neoclassical notion of marginal utility). In this case, the firm that employs these workers will continue to be profitable, as long as the aggregate value generated by all employees is more than the aggregate wages paid back to them. Therefore, the aforementioned employees will enjoy a free-lunch from the rent that flows from other employees to them.
    2- In monopoly markets, a monopoly rent will flow from the rest of society into the firm that monopolizes the market. In this case, it is quite plausible that employees of that firm may receive a cut of that monopoly rent, and therefore, may be paid more than the real value they generate. Google is a giant firm and I think it is enjoying super-profits in this way.
    3- Skilled labour is different from unskilled labour. The quality of life and conditions of unskilled labour has indeed deteriorated in extreme ways. But skilled labour has different dynamics, similar to any other monopolies. This is due to difficulties in democratizing education and training, both naturally, as well as conditions imposed by the system, such as exorbitant tuition fees, classified information, etc.

    For a more details account of this, see my article here:
  • commented 2017-07-12 18:01:35 -0400
    Great presentation. As a teacher myself on the issues of money, its history, and the real-time concept called ‘value’, I would like to ask a couple of questions. 1. The Co-op concept is a great concept in theory but I would argue that it can not work given the money system which is evolving. Digital money is ‘invented’ money. In fact, it is not even money. Digital creations reveal that these currencies are virtual and/or imaginary in nature. Virtual currencies (created from the consciousness of bankers…mostly central bankers) produce a price system which is distorted, manipulated, fraudulent. Are you aware of the role of money, currency, value, price discovery under a digital monetary system? 2. Capitalism is soon going to crash due to the past inefficiencies, distortions, debt, manipulations, etc. Assume this happens today (or tomorrow), could a new system like you propose emerge under a new monetary regime where ‘invented’ currencies (digital units) are prevalent? Today, bankers create deposits merely with the stroke of a computer key. Central bankers create QE with the stroke of a computer key. Some 95% of all monetary transactions are now digital. The trend is towards increased speed of these transactions now that algorithms, robots, and AI are growing exponentially. Are you aware of these trends and how would all these emerging money issues affect your scenario of a new Co-op system? Contact me if you like. D
  • commented 2017-07-12 16:57:23 -0400
    Richard Wolff’s command of history and political economy never ceases to astonish me. This talk was another superb presentation not only for its clarity, but because Professor Wolff didn’t shy away from taking issue with corporations particular (including Google), and capitalism in general, despite the fact that he was addressing a Google audience in a venue sponsored by one of the world’s largest corporations. Furthermore, he was able to address the questions and comments deftly and in a way that helped to further educate everyone listening (including me).
  • commented 2017-07-11 16:24:58 -0400
    Hands down, for me, the best Wolff video I’ve seen from among the dozens I’ve studied. A polished presentation. (My folks could have suggested I attend UMassAmherst right around the time Richard Wolff began teaching there.
    But they didn’t. Neither did my relatives who reside in Massachusetts.
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