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In this episode, Prof. Wolff presents updates on the economic aspects of the Covid pandemic: lockdowns vs vaccines, scientific debate vs corporate advertising, long-term vs short term costs, the billionaires made by profiting from vaccines, and false claims of vaccine profiteers. In the second half of the show, Prof. Wolff is joined by former NY Times food-critic Mark Bittman to discuss his new book "Animal, Vegetable, Junk."
Wolff: "We are... confronted with a capitalist health care system, which says solve your medical problems this way because it's profitable- not that way which isn't. That's not because they're mean or nasty people; it's because that's the way the system works. They're rewarded when the company makes profits, and they're punished when it doesn't. That's a very dangerous way to set up your medical system."
In this episode of CHH, Dr. Fraad defines what class is and explores where it has hit in America. America has included 4 class formations: slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and communism. Except for the brief period of the New Deal, we have not experienced socialism, where a strong state regulates capitalism to provide crucial public support for its citizens. Dr. Fraad argues that, surprisingly, we have practiced feudalism in the household for most of our history.
Fraad: "Feudalism is still alive in our country. It's alive in the taught subordination of women in the household because even though our country was supposedly started as a country independent of feudalism, and it was politically independent of feudalism, and it did not have feudal lords and serfs; women were economically in the position of being feudal serfs in the household, when they married a man."
In this episode, the ATC guys talk about the idea of the hostile takeover - workers organizing for the purposes of taking over a factory, usually when the owners are abandoning it. Reviewing and highlighting experiences in Argentina and in Chicago, they discuss the situations where these kinds of takeovers are possible, what pre-conditions are necessary, and how this related to union and other labor organizing efforts.
Kevin: "If we know that there is going to be another crisis down the road, this option [of worker takeover] has to be kind of on the table. It has to be understood and has to be (as you said, Larry, perfectly) one of the arrows in our quiver that we can pull out when the crisis happens... This is where co-ops and unions really can meet in terms of tapping into what unions are really good at, which is taking workers who are on the verge of radicalization and urging them to coordinate together, increase the solidarity, and really fight for justice in some ways."
A patron of Economic Update asks: "Dear Prof. Wolff, I would like to begin by saying that I am 15 years old and only educated on a surface level on these topics but I have been engaging in many talks on capitalism with people around me and they often tend to say that the problem is that capitalism has been too monopolized and turned to corporatism but I believe they are misusing the word and it is simply just a problem of natural monopolization of capitalistic economy, so I would love if you could do something talking about whether I'm right or if capitalism has evolved in America at least into corporatism and what corporatism is compared to capitalism." This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.
Wolff: “Many companies become few. The successful competitor absorbs the less successful, the unsuccessful. What emerges in the end are big mega-corporations, a few or one that does it all. And all the others have been absorbed. So, the irony here, the problem intellectually, is that to juxtapose corporatism and small business capitalism misunderstands that they are different forms of capitalism, and that typically the history of capitalism, industry by industry, is that the many become the few.”
A patron of Economic Update asks: "Dear Prof. Wolff, could you please comment on intellectual property in capitalism. How did it come to be? Is it a driving or rather a gating mechanism for a progress of ideas? What do you think about the currently growing movement called copyleft?" This is Professor Richard Wolff's video response.
Wolff: “We have to balance the community's need to know as soon as possible with the incentive we want to give to people to come up with [the idea/invention] ...There's hundreds of things we can do without slowing human progress by making it the private property of an individual. That's the issue. To simply say “we must do it or else there won't be inventions” is silly. Long before there were any copyrights, people invented things, and the alternatives to copyrights are obvious and are probably much more valuable.”
Prof. Wolff asserts there is NO shortage of labor. He argues that what we have instead right now in the US is a shortage of decent and adequate jobs.
Wolff: “In other countries, this is called forced labor. It's now the law in 25 out of the 50 states of the United States, and it will become true across the board in September. Don't be fooled. There's no labor shortage. The shortage we have is decent jobs for our people."
In this Wolff Responds, Prof. Wolff comments on the recent building collapse in Miami, Florida. Although we do not yet know what caused the accident, Wolff argues that the capitalist system imposes enormous negative incentives on the people that make decisions, often forcing building companies, engineers and maintenance corporations to cut corners and make choices and that have had deadly consequences.
Wolff: “Absolutely, among the things that might make you do something that you might not have otherwise done, making financial gain would be part of the story. I have no objection to that, but capitalism also incentivizes bad things. So even if you want to credit it for incentivizing some degree of the good things that happen then you better be balanced by facing up to the bad ones, and the collapse in Miami is a stunning example.”
Learn more about Prof Wolff's latest book, The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself.
Now also available as an eBook!