Economic Update: We Can Do Better Than Capitalism


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On this week's episode of Economic Update, Prof. Wolff provides updates on mistreated homeless, keeping millions from voting, 'I, Daniel Blake,' 3000 water systems like,Trump's foreign employees, unequal retirement USA, Sen Whitehouse on anti-science. Major discussions of (1) economics of broken infrastructure, and (2) raising capital for worker coops.


Showing 14 comments

  • Helena Evans
    commented 2017-10-26 05:34:35 -0400
    I learned many things from the talk. Thank you for sharing.
  • Bruce Kline
    commented 2017-01-07 05:17:19 -0500
    > I use my photo as my “icon” so you can at least see who your writing to, yes, an old man. It feels more honest and I don’t like being represented as a mere shadow. I’m glad you noticed I was being condescending, so you at least know what it is and feels like which I assume you think is bad, … so why do you keep doing it?

    I signed up on this forum yesterday and the first post here was my first post.

    Who was I condescending to in that first post?

    I noticed your post and posted a thought about it which according to you
    was “continued condescension”.

    Is your first inclination is to try to punish someone you imagine has done
    you harm in words to improve them so they know what it feels like? ( to be
    you ) Honestly, I did not intend to harm you, insult you, or condescend to
    you or anyone else here by making a first comment or reacting to what
    comments have been made.

    I do think the economic system grows out of the political system, in the
    same way I believe the economic system ought to serve the people, not
    just exist as the framework of the rules of a game of monopoly to create
    winners and losers. At the risk or seeming condescending, which I have
    no conscious intention of doing, I think there is no economic system without
    a state or some analog of it, economic and military power center. That
    power center can and will react to protect itself and that seems to be a
    productive model to use in terms of analyzing the system to bring about

    To react to your comment about money, money like language. news,
    education, information, etc … seems to me to be tools the state uses to
    protect itself. Particularly fiat currency for example is a way to maintain
    control over an economic system that might be vulnerable to internal
    or external “attack”. In other words I put economics as a subset of
    sociology, not sociology as a subset of economics.
  • Howard Switzer
    commented 2017-01-07 00:05:22 -0500
    Bruce Kline LOL, I use my photo as my “icon” so you can at least see who your writing to, yes, an old man. It feels more honest and I don’t like being represented as a mere shadow. I’m glad you noticed I was being condescending, so you at least know what it is and feels like which I assume you think is bad, … so why do you keep doing it? What I want to share with you is just this: The history of power is not in the military and political and social histories, that is just looking at the surface, the history of power it is in the monetary history.
  • Bruce Kline
    commented 2017-01-06 23:58:54 -0500
    Hey Paula Rohrbaugh, don’t you think that the status quo people will always find a way to manipulate the election. Their whole lives and reality comes from being where they are, and further if they are taken down … what replaces it. To me the system seems more corruption than it is laws, and more people than it is roles, and the installation of Donald Trump bolsters my confidence in that.

    The challenge of the system these days seems to be to how to condescend and play dirty tricks on the people to make them blame themselves, to make them tired and ineffective, to set them at each others throats, and generally kick the anthill of any possible challenge to their power, any challenge to their real system that is inside our imaginary feel-good TV system.

    Like when I first began listening to Richard Wolff one of the themes he riffed on was that we can change the tax laws, as has been done many times before, but the people in power will always find a way around whatever constraints are put on them. They have the resources, the time, and can hire the expertise, and even corrupt the officers or rules of any system to get what they want, and if none of that works they can still always resort to violence, starvation and terror.

    I don’t mean to be arguing in favor of doing nothing to fix the electoral system, but I read the first edition of Greg Palast’s book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” way back somewhere around the time W. Bush’s first “win”. It is not like that information has been hidden. For some reason it just has never resulting in changes in the electoral system.

    And, his last movie, which was pretty good, came out at about the same time as the 2016 election … surely not early enough to inform and mobilize enough people to do anything about it. Palast also completely ignored the “shenanigans” within the Democratic Party which resulted in the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

    Even after that, I think anyway, that Hillary could have gotten that extra “umph” from putting Bernie on the ticket. There were/are a lot of ways to look at this situation.

    One thing is for sure, if it does not get covered by the main network news, it doesn’t exist. That much is pretty certain. Look at the placing of Donald Trump in the public’s mind in the least election … and the deliberate dismissal of Bernie, and the odd more or less negative tone they covered Hillary Clinton with. There are a lot of ways the system can employ to maintain and protect itself.
  • Howard Switzer
    commented 2017-01-06 23:55:59 -0500
    Paula Rohrbaugh I too find him informative and very entertaining as well. I don’t disagree with any of Richard’s findings or anything he’s said, I think, but I’m pointing to the stuff he doesn’t talk about (the global monetary system) which is an important part of the same picture but hidden to most. Because the monetary history is the history of power and reveals monetary science it has been repressed but in this information age it is out of the can and spreading. MMT represents a fluttering of it in Academia.
  • Bruce Kline
    commented 2017-01-06 23:20:33 -0500
    [HS] … Having an old man as an icon does not indicate wisdom, or knowledge.
    Why must conversations on the Internet always be this way? You are really
    acting the condescending know-it-all.

    The military hierarchy was around and financing itself long before there was
    capitalism or even economics for that matter … before Marx even coined the
    term. Are you aware of any of Michael Hudson’s work on the evolution of
    socio-economic systems? We have seen the rise of Western civilization
    and its acceptance of the simplified model of capitalism because it serves
    the military state by leveraging more individuals and rewarding them
    better than other systems. It doesn’t change because it doesn’t need
    to because:

    1. There is no competition from other systems. The competition is
    between states … like sports teams, they all play the same game.
    2. There is no demand for change from the disenfranchised because
    they do not feel enough pain.
    3. There is no demand for change from the disenfranchised because
    they do not perceive enough benefit.
    4. There is no demand for change from the disenfranchised because
    they are also monitored, dominated and controlled.
    5. Finally, they do not offer enough advantage within the current system
    to warrant being more than “prolls”.

    Are you someone whose job is to take up time and space on the chat
    boards and ensure there are no real discussions or exchanges of
    information by trying own the conversation? I would request, at least
    if you are going to address me that you take a more humble tone,
    befitting our actual understanding. You had basically two sentences
    of exchange with me before you start putting on airs of superiority. Even
    if you did have something to teach, that kind of arrogance precludes it.

    You said:
    – The big problem for us is they saw how to get control of governments
    — through debt by promoting wars.

    It is the wars that allows capitalism, the more efficient version of
    mercantilism, and before that feudal and tribal barter and trade deals
    to rise to the top – and the corollary to that is if “WE” ever hope to do
    better than capitalism …

    1. We had better have something that makes socio-economic
    systems better and more efficient – a reason to change.
    2. We had better realize the place that militarism has in its success.

    To that end, it may be that things move/evolve as fast as they can and
    that what we have now is efficient and we are stuck at this level because
    we have no idea what improvements we can offer to the system.

    Think about this, what the internet wise-guys offer is always some way
    to make their own lives better, to assuage their own pains and deficits,
    never a global grasping of the whole system and the economies of
    scale that can come about by utilizing the value of the mutations of
    ideas that occurs when you have more and more educated people with
    more and more diverse combinations of skills and disciplines.

    One problem is how you make that known and understood to people
    who believe there is already enough change and improvement in their
    lives and see progress as part of the problem instead of taking hold of
    it in terms of systems analysis.

    I can tell you one thing, and that is when you waste your time trying
    to talk Marxism – anywhere – you might reach a small number of people
    who have almost mull influence and power, and you can piss them off
    and spend the rest of your lives bickering at each other, or you can
    learn how to rationally discuss and collaborate to build a more objective
    model of the problem, outside of and bigger than their pathetic egos.

    You said:
    — Ignorance has been elevated to the level of the divine

    So, instead of taking some kind of above it all posture, think about your
    own contribution to that problem – and do not bother replying to me if
    you are going to argue from authority – I do not recognize it and I see
    no evidence of it.
  • Paula Rohrbaugh
    commented 2017-01-06 23:15:41 -0500
    The various forms of voter suppression are documented by investigative reporter Greg Palast in his book “Billionaires and Ballot Bandits”, brought up to date in the recent edition titled “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” (plus DVD by the same name). The unfairness to felons is equaled by exclusion of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and the poor in general. It is worth all of us knowing. Jill Stein (Jill2016.com) shows support for his findings. And I very much appreciate the work of Prof Wolff and also of the Democracy Collaborative.
  • Howard Switzer
    commented 2017-01-06 21:33:48 -0500
    Bruce Kline, I’m glad to hear you’re starting to think, you may have a long way to go if you think “its not capitalism” but I believe that is becasue you are not aware of all the history. Capitalism developed as a result of the capitalists pursuing their interests, which is basically profit above all else. The big problem for us is they saw how to get control of governments through debt by promoting wars. Then they devised a system that as long as it was in place they would not have to do anything but set back and get rich as those governments would be serving and protecting their interests. “We” do not have government do anything, as the Princeton Study showed, “we” have no influence what-so-ever, it is not “our” government, it is theirs. The industries are controlled by the financiers who hold their notes, corporate debt is even greater than the $12 trillion in household debt. Debt is the problem and debt is the capitalist’s system. The military is their enforcer as well as chess pieces on their global profit game board. They fund both sides, it is an illusion to think there are other sources of credit for war. All money is created as debt in the private global monetary system. I recommend you read more about monetary systems and how they work and don’t stay within the academic corral in doing so. Discussion of capitalism may or not be of value depending on who is in the discussion. I expect you are right about this one. As H. Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
  • Bruce Kline
    commented 2017-01-06 19:00:45 -0500
    Howard Switzer … I am starting to think that it is not capitalism per se, but the militaristic system that developed around the whole political system, and capitalism developed because it allowed, all other things being equal, the most freedom and innovation. I started working this out when I would listen to Noam Chomsky talk about how the US economy works. We subsidize with the government certain industries, all with hegemonic strategy value, we use the federal system to funnel tax money to these industries, and everything else is kind of a facade underneath all of that, that basically works because the government and these industries can use their political, economic and industrial power to control things. It is a step up from the monarchical system of old because the population base is larger and more diverse, but the idea that we have or ever had a democracy is pure fantasy. We have a socialist/militarist/fascist blend, and people are used basically as more or less benevolently treated slaves that as little investment is given to as possible, and the smallest amount of rights – as a function of their understanding and importance to the “military junta”.

    The whole discussion about capitalism is worthless. First, discussions never lead to change, and discussions about capitalism are too abstract – they are a waste of time. Politically what can make a difference is demanding specific rights, and if you notice that has been decoyed into a discussion about immigrants, minorities, gays, muslims, etc to put everyone at odds with each other so they do not really look at universal human rights.

    That is the key … teach people to think abstractly and globally.
  • Howard Switzer
    commented 2017-01-06 15:05:54 -0500
    The problem with Richard’s and any Marxist analysis I’ve ever seen is that they ignore THE key feature of Capitalism, the feature that allowed them to gain world-around financial hegemony, the feature that gives them such undue influence over public policy, in other words he ignores the root and source of their power. That is the global monetary system which they monopolize issuing all money as interest bearing debt. Of course we’re not supposed to know that, I suppose becasue Marx didn’t. Marx, however had a good excuse to not know how the system of money creation worked as it was kept secret but one cannot use that excuse today, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Why does a Marxist eschew money? Marx didn’t understand it, thus it is not in any of his writings, thus it is not part of the Marxist religion. Yet the system had been in place by then for over 200 years. I believe the way Marxism is taught it is part of the social management system’s effort to keep us ignorant of the money system. Most Marxists don’t even know it exists much less how it gives Capitalists such awesome power. It has been exposed by people throughout history but their work always managed to be buried under a mountain of academic incredulity. The American Monetary Institute in the U.S. and Positive Money in the U.K. are two orgs educating about this important feature of Capitalism and why it is now time to change it and leave Capitalism behind. The 1st step in the solution is basically The Chicago Plan which would have ended the Great Depression in 3 months had he allowed it. It would have ended in 3 weeks had FDR allowed the 300 cities who wanted to issue their own currency modeled on Silvio Gessel’s ideas, promoted by Yale economist Edwin Fisher and as demonstrated in Worgl Austria, 1930-31. Unfortunately both the left and right are ignorant of the system and so are easily manipulated into being ineffective agents of change. My hope is that this is just the darkness before the light…. but then there are people today who believe the earth is flat… so maybe we are doomed after all. Ignorance has been elevated to the level of the divine….and science strapped down and eviscerated….for “profit.”
  • David Myron
    commented 2017-01-06 09:09:25 -0500
    The Oligarchs only fear 3 things:
    1) Taxation…but they own the govt so they can lower their taxes or get a subsidy

    2) Inflation…if you do no work; and therefore live off interest/dividends, then inflation is a threat. They control the bankers who run the Fed.

    3) Unions…organized mass movements get them VERY worried.
    Therefore all unions must die.
    Notice most states that enact Right to Starve (Right to Work…barf legislation) exempt police and fire unions. Imagine their surprise if the cops won’t shoot the teachers and the fireman won’t save their vacation home (of course if you are black/brown/poor you are already in grave danger or jail).
    I’ve met Flint Sit-downers and I thanked every one of them for their courage. I believe the last one passed away this year.

    My suggestion for mass protest…Every person with an even numbered address does not pay their rent/mortgage in even numbered months. Same goes for the odds…think they might notice? How do you foreclose and evict that many people? There is a reason they have to silence labor leaders…

    “As long as he owns your tools he owns your job, and if he owns your job he is the master of your fate. You are in no sense a free man. You are subject to his interest and to his will. He decides whether you shall work or not. Therefore, he decides whether you shall live or die. And in that humiliating position any one who tries to persuade you that you are a free man is guilty of insulting your intelligence.”
    ― Eugene V. Debs, Works of Eugene Victor Debs
  • Bruce Kline
    commented 2017-01-06 08:34:04 -0500
    I have just been listening to what I think was the latest podcast that is not listed here yet, but I just want to express that there were two things that really stood out to me.

    One was the discussion about Jomo Kwame Sundaram, one of RD Wolff’s friends and students, and the other was the discussion about Emotional Labor. My late mother, a divorced women with a lot of consciousness had an understanding of these issues and the male domination of the economy and used to talk about this, but could never do anything about it, and sadly nothing has happened about it while she was alive.

    It was a travesty, nothing short of the genocide of the Native Americans or African Slavery the theft of so many people’s lives lived and labored in support of a system that pretends to value these people, but as we see society change in response to what is really valued, we can see that emotional labor, and women’s labor is not valued at all.

    The discussion on this subject is rich and barely tapped or understood, but it was very encouraging to hear Wolff talking about these subjects.

    This is my first post here. I am thankful for the podcasts and the ideas. Our world is long past something being done, at least some experiments and open discussions on these issues … billions of people’s lives and the meaning of their lies hang in the balance on these barely perceived economic issues.

  • Kim Goins
    commented 2017-01-03 16:26:30 -0500
    A Government Scam in Three Easy Steps

    Step 1) The Rich are exempt from paying taxes.
    Euphemisms: “job creators” “small business owners”

    Step 2) Allow the Rich to lend money to the government for a handsome profit. Euphemisms: “treasury bill” “treasury bonds” “fiscal cliff”

    Step 3) After the Rich avoid paying taxes and collecting interest on treasury bills, hire a scam artist called Trump. Trumps job is to initiate a “Public Private Partnership,” where the Rich lend money directly to the contractors themselves, cutting out the government as middleman.
  • Dan Va
    commented 2017-01-03 10:28:46 -0500
    Once “Money is Speech” as in that Supreme Court Case Citizens United, there is no way individuals will be able to amass the legal political will to develop the co-ops Dr. Wolff advocates. Just as he explains the fossil fuel industry uses tobacco marketing tactics to debilitate alternative energy initiatives, so will the labor-short big companies attack co-ops. Co-ops I think, must be totally private ventures and essentially be capitalistic to survive. Otherwise the fox is in the henhouse with co-ops reporting success to the gov’t. politicians.
    The circumstances that existed at the inception of economic society is long gone forever. China now knows how and why Art.1 Clause 8 of the US Constitution (copyright and patents temporary monopolies) is necessary and valuable. The shipping containers re-purposing which Dr. Wolff hates may be valuable and useful in China or some rodent infested area where the mice eat and live in wood frame houses but cannot do so in a steel box.
    Co-ops are a great idea but Dr. Wolff needs to actually make one work in order to acquire the knowledge and insight into the reality of human nature, so as to evaluate their viability.
    20 co-operating college educated adults are not the same as 20 recently released felony inmates.
    Dr. Wolff would better serve the general population by developing a legal strategy to checkmate the government and the unfair corporations. Developing co-ops would draw big bulls eyes on them. The bulls eye needs to be on the withheld wages that are being transferred to the vastly over-compensated CEOs and the corporations they run.

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