Welcome Richard D. Wolff, (RDWolff.com) (DemocracyAtWork) (Twitter) and Host David Cay Johnston (TaxAnalysts.com) (Twitter)

Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism

Richard Wolff’s latest book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, makes provocative observations about our economic woes and proposes thoughtful solutions. His writing is concise and clear so even if you do not agree with his perspective on the world you come away with a clear understanding not only of what he thinks, but why your thinking doesn’t align with his.

You will read about such ideas only rarely in the news pages of mainstream magazines and newspapers – and then typically in a tone that is, at best, jaundiced. Wolff gets even less attention from radio, television and cable programs, with the lone exception of Bill Moyers who has been shunted off to a time slot guaranteed to minimize his audience.

Why the fear of an aging professor? Almost certainly it is because Wolff is widely regarded as America’s leading Marxist economist.

Every serious student of economics studies Marx, just as they study Aristotle, Plato, Smith, Bentham, Ricardo, Pareto, Marshall, Keynes, and Friedman. And yet the mere mention of Marx prompts revulsion because our society is infused with assumptions that support capitalism, not thoughtfully but thoughtlessly.

The genius of Marx, which even his fierce but informed critics recognize, is that not only did he perceptively analyze the problems of his time, but he also pointed to fundamental principles that are informing our time. It important to understand Marxian perspective to grasp what is going on on the world today even if you disagree with Marxian analysis.

Wolff, like me, is a critic of the Chicago School, which has so thoroughly dominated American economic thought in the four decades since I studied there that its teachings have become secular dogma.

In his new book, Wolff says that capitalism has gone off course, serving the needs of capitalists at the expense of everyone else. This problem has become so obvious that Wolff doesn’t need to work that hard to make his fundamental point. For several decades now we have seen those at the top of global capitalism become incredibly wealthy – far beyond the wildest imaginings of just a half-century ago – while wages in the United States and much of the rest of the modern world have stagnated for nearly all workers.

What Wolff is selling as a solution of ownership of enterprises by the workers. He calls these Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises or WSDEs.

Take notice of that apostrophe. It’s important. He is not promoting the kind of faux capitalism of the masses represented by 401(k) plans and mass stock option plans. Wolff is talking about actual control.

Control, of course, involves both opportunity and responsibility. It also involves risk. Would we do better overall if workers make decisions about the direction of a company, or at least play a role in those decisions, rather than CEOs who are hired hands? And make no mistake, that is exactly what most CEOs are – hired help. They generally are not significant others of the companies that employ them and they frequently sell the stock issued to them either directly or through options. This makes them economically different from the owners who have their entire fortune tied up in a business they personally run.

Wolff, born in 1942, taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he has emeritus status. He is now a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School. Wolff earned his doctoral degree at Yale in 1966 after earlier studies at Harvard (BA cum laude 1963) and Stanford (AM 1964). He also earned a masters in history at Yale in 1966.

I look forward to provocative – and thoughtful – questions about Wolff’s proposals in his modestly titled new book (not the indefinite article in the subtitle) — Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

176 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Richard D. Wolff, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism”

BevW April 7th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Richard, David, Welcome back to the Lake.

David, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Richard, Let me start things off with a basic question — do you think capitalism as we have seen it in the last third of a century is on self-destruct, or will it get rescued as FDR did or will it just vanquish other economic models or ____________ ?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Dear Everyone,

Richard here looking forward to speaking with you all.

dakine01 April 7th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Good afternoon Richard and David and welcome back to Firedoglake this afternoon.

Richard, I have not read your book but do have a question and please forgive me if you address this in the book. I believe in the ’30s, FDR had Huey Long and others to help push things to the left and save the Capitalists from themselves. Do you see anyone in the political world today capable of saving the Capitalists and Robber Barons of today?

And why is the “Chicago School” of economics given such credence when so many adherents are demonstrably, visibly, and outrageously wrong in everything they advocate? (I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago asking “Why are Economists Always “Surprised?”" – although it is actually mainly the economists who get invited on TV shows and into TradMedia publications who seem to make predictions based on what they want to see happen and massage their data to make their points rather than making their predictions based on accurate interpretation of data points)

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Yes, basically I think that capitalism today is driving itself forward with little counterweight (as it had during the last great depression of the 1930s). Thus it keeps making the gap between rich and poor, for example, worse and thereby undercuts its own support to an increasing extent.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:03 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

Good question, dakine1

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Welcome to the Lake Professor Wolff. Your writings and talks on Owner run businesses are know to many here.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Without a counterweight what do you anticipate will happen?

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

It’s an honor to have you here, professor Wolff.

If capitalism interferes with the realization of equality, liberty, and fraternity in society, how does democracy in he workplace in a market economy encourage those principles?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Great questions by the way. It was less Huey Long, although he mattered, than it was the alliance of the CIO, socialist and communist parties that mobilized millions of Americans into unions and forced a bottom up response to the great depression of the 1930s unlike today when we have only austerity. That is extremely dangerous for the system. So far inly the Occupy Movement began what was much bigger and better organized then. We will see.

Chicago economics dominates the academy and excludes keynesian mostly and marxists almost entirely….so it is very difficult for alternative perspectives to build audience….but the crisis is doing that nonetheless.

dakine01 April 7th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Thank you. As one of the long term un/underemployed, I have had to become far too conversant with and learn more about economics than I ever wanted. I have quoted and linked to you a few times sir in my posts.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

More of what is happening now…….deepening disenchantment with conditions and increasingly with the system that fosters and then worsens the conditions of so many…as I said, very socially divisive and dangerous.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

A well-framed question here — Professor Wolff?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I think the answer is straightforward. Democracy means having the right to participate in the decisions that affect our lives. At the workplace, those decisions concern what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits. Now those are made by a very few (major shareholders and the boards of directors they select). With workers self-directing democratically – one worker one vote – all the decisions impacting lives at the workplace would be made by those affected equally. They would not destroy their own jobs and they would divide the profits much less unequally than is now done by shareholders and directors that reward themselves at everyone else’s expense….mammoth steps forward, I think.

bearman April 7th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Hi Richard!

I saw your interview with Bill Moyers were you mentioned having the govt give start up money/tech help for people who would like to work under the worker owned/run company. given the fact that the govt is bought by Mega Corporations do you think this would be possible? Also if worker runowned companies took off in this country do you think Mega Corpoations would play diry and try and undermine this movement? Are there other ways of getting funding for start up?

I work in Corporate America and know first hand how cut throat things can be..

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The ancient Athenians started out selecting people for public positions by lot (except strategoi — generals and admirals), but soon decided talent mattered. How would your WSDE work in terms of people with management talent being managers?

Moontouch April 7th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Mr. Wolff – I noticed you rarely, if ever, use the word “socialism.” Has the word become too tainted in the US that it’s better to drop it?

BevW April 7th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

David, Looking at comment #11 – what do you see happening to the un/underemployed workforce in the near future? Is there hope for jobs?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to bearman @ 15

What governments do is shaped by what the mega corporations want, but do keep in mind that there are divisions and conflicts among those corporations and contradictions in the economy they have to olve to survive. For example, Italy’s Marcora Law that grants governmenbt money to unemployed workers starting coop enterprises was a corporation backed effort to deal with unemployment. LIkewise, people’s movements (such as those in the n1930s) got the government to do what corporations did not want. There are obvious lessons there for us to get govt financing as well as private financing for worker coops.

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Dear Professor Wolff — thanks for coming back! (And thanks to David Cay Johnston for that grand slam of an intro.)

Professor Wolff, I was interested in your discussion of the importance of occasional job rotation in WSDEs, so everyone in the enterprise has at least an inkling of what the others are doing. I seem to recall Marx telling us in the first volume of Capital that the capitalists of his time discouraged this (and encouraged overspecialization) as a way to keep the workers ignorant of the big picture (and thus less able to organize a coherent and effective pushback against their exploitation). Do you see a similar dynamic at work today?

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Prof. Wolff,

Welcome! I am one of your biggest fans. I went through your online classes. I am very excited about your new adventure and hope to introduce many others to it.

I have a couple of questions to ask concerning our current Central Bank later on, but for now can you help us all to understand how all the long term unemployed that wish to work can work thru co-op start ups?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Rewarding talent is a good idea so long as it recognizes that variety of talents people offer and rewards them all within a range that respects human equality and freedom. What we have nostly instead is gross inequality that masquerades behind claims about talent that systeatically hide or deny all the various talents any enterprise needs and draws upon.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Yes, I see your point with that and see how democracy at work is much better than top down rule in the workplace. However, in one of your lectures, you discuss the evil of markets being that distribution of goods is dependent on who possesses money. If the market itself is left intact, even with democracy at work, how much closer are we to liberty equality and fraternity if the markets remain?

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Would not worker-coops also improve social interaction on a local level IE more toward those we know well. As apposed to now where it’s more toward mere acquaintances.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I come to this conversation with virtually no knowledge of economics or Marxism. However, I do have a logical mind and I did read your book.

I thought you defined the problem very well at the beginning of the book – “A global capitalist system that no longer meets most people’s needs…”

You then went on to say that the great majority of people (who did not create the current economic crisis) are being required to pay the costs.

In your discussion of FDR’s rescue of capitalism and ending of the crisis, you said, “When the opposition of business and the rich limited what FDR’s partnership could achieve after 1937, the US entry into WWII again split and weakened that opposition.”

I wonder if you could expand on how the entry into the war split and weakened the oppostion?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to Moontouch @ 17

Yup, its a term so loaded with associations that its hard to discuss without losing whatever you intended to say and lapsing instead into shouting matches or defenses of bad associations etc. So I mostly prefer to use straight-forward everyday language to explain what I see as an economist. That seems to work well and when some folks see connections to parts of classical socialism, I think that is what they understand and is OK with me so long as we are understanding each others concrete arguments and statements.

eCAHNomics April 7th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

What have been the prosperous Marxian economies?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to BevW @ 18

We are facing very serious unemployment problems as a nation. Mabnufacturing is still being exported after 40 years of it with under 10% of US workers now in that field. Services have begun to follow suit. The US capitalists wanbt the cheap workers of Asia and elsewhere to substitute for US workers. I see no end in sight so long as US workers do not fight back and change the syatem that fosters this process.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 27

Good question

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I think we need to remind people that paving our roads, public schools, Libraries, water and sewer works, fire and police are all SOCIALIST entities. We all pay for it and support it.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 20

Yes, capitalism is a specialization driver. Adam Smith loved the “efficiency” of dividing labor. His mistake was not to see that dividing the labor does NOT mean dividing the laborer. The antidote to the mind and body numbing repetition of the same work all your life is job rotation. A workplace geared to meet people’s needs would do that; capitalism has always failed to do that.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

With global trade — and ships that can move goods cheaply — are we seeing the reserve army Marx wrote about as the rural poor of China, Vietnam, India seek non-agricultural work?

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

What would you say would be a good way to fight back? To get jobs back in this country?

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:24 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 30

And the right wants to privatize them all.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

So long as people vote, I suppose I agree. But the wealth on the top is truly massive. That wealth dwarfs anything an average person can do and is controlling our world. How do we break through that?

Moontouch April 7th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the reply. I have one more question if it isn’t too much.

You have praised the Mondragon Corporation as an ideal alternative to the failure that is capitalism. Chomsky is more critical of it, accusing it of international exploitation and only being worker owned and not worker managed. Do you have a response to Chomsky’s argument? Is the Mondragon Corporation really an adequate model?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 21

Getting jobs for all via coop is a tall order. But lets start by seeing coops as an exciting way for the federal government today to do something like what FDR did in the 1930s. The fed government then created 12.5 million jobs (not bad, right?) but sadly did so in the usual capitalist way except the government was the boss. Now suppose the governmenbt said we want to give 12.5 million jobs but put the workers in charge, Not only would that really do something about unemployment it would also give all Americans a chance to see up close and personal how coops work. We would finall have real choice about where to work, coop democracy or old top-down capitlaism.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Prof. Wolff,

I watched a video clip of a World Banker speaking to a University group. He told them that our Economic/GDP used to be 80% in North American and UK economies, while the rest of the world took up the 20%. He states that the current percentage is something like 35% for us and 65% for them. He had no concrete solutions for the students that would be seeking meaningful work after graduation.

I think your Democracy at Work is extremely timely for all us, but especially for the younger and newly graduated students.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

In Israel, in the new kibbutz I was on in the Golan Heights in 1967, the “work boss” rotated every few months. He was the one who made the decisions of who worked where any given day, based on what the individual sector bosses conveyed to him about what was needed.

This job was looked upon much more as a headache and obligation to be fulfilled than as a source of power. People were glad when their time was up and they went back to jobs they preferred.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I try mostly to separate criticism of markets from criticism of how capitalism organizes production. Markets reinforce inequality….they produce what the rich want more than what the poor want for obvious reasons and thereby worsen the inequality. If you control for the inequality in production – say by coops that limit the gap between top paid and botrtom paid to say 6 to 1 (Spain’s model), then narkets would be limited in their tendency to worsen inequality. Markets have always had to be controlled…that’s why we have minimum wage laws and progressive taxation and why propnents of inequality hate thgose steps.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 34

Yes they do!

I also think the schools that are being privatized/chartered are for re-education of the old US versus them meme.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Given the threat co-ops are to big biz, how would you ever get our biz controlled government to agree to that? Do you see a way?

bearman April 7th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I think the work you are doing is great but there is only one Richard Wolff. Are there others out there who of the same ilk who could help start this movement? What type of responses do you get from the Unions? Do you get any positive responses from any members of the buisness world?

also David Cay you do great work too but remeber the Dems are are almost as bad as the GOP and in some cases worse lol

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 24

I am not clear about your meaning here….could you rephrase the question?

Thanks

eCAHNomics April 7th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Any answer to my Q at 27?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 25

Basically, FDR realized he could not get the Republicans and conservative Dems to go along with government spending to hep the masses vi social security, unemployment insurance and federal jobs. But he could force their hands if the issue was spending for war, defense, patriotism. Then they had to go along or risk political suicide in the face of Pearl Harbor and nazi agtrocities etc.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 45

That’s the one asking if there are any prosperous Marxian economies.

Maybe the underlying question needs to beaddressed first — whether there have ever been any Marxian economies.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Ok…what I mean is since worker-coops are generally locally owned and operated by those who work there, that this would consist more of those that who work there know as closer relationship wise. That the corporations we have now were those in charge do not know those underneath them and that the workers themselves know each other on a more superficial nature.

Or am I wrong in this ?

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:34 pm

He seemed to always be able to get the southerners to support most of his agenda so long as they got to write the bills—to keep the hate going.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 27

Good question, but like all good questions its answer depends a little on what you mean. If your measure of “prosperous” is rate of growth of GDP (total output of goods and services) then two of the fastest grwoing economies of gthe last century were the USSR from 1925-1975 and the People’s Re[public of China since 1990. In that sense these self-defined Marxist economies were prosperous. But if you define prosperous in other terms, then they were not.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to bearman @ 43

There are a couple more that I know of. Gar Alporitz/sp and David Harvey.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

So are you saying that the war created jobs or that he used some of the money for the programs for the suffering?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 30

Here again everything depends on what is meant by “socialist.” If you mean that society as a whiole does something collectively rather than having it done privatel, then this question is on the money. But of course, there are othe rmeanings of socialism where that would not be the case. Right now, for example, serous thinkers would have to question the wisdom of letting banks be private when their behavior has had such awful costly social consequences.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 27

All depending on your definition…and point of view.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I know I do. I question it a lot. :-)

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Absolutely, the irony of history is that a self-described socialist/communist country delivered to western and Japanese capitalisms a vast low-wage working class to substitute for their own working classes that had won rising wages for a century. That is now being reversed so long as the working classes of advanced capitalism permit it to continue….indeed a workers of the world scenario.

eCAHNomics April 7th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

How would you define prosperous? Why did U.S.S.R. and China not fit your definition?

On edit: Were those economies Marxian in the sense of workers in charge?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 33

Not difficult. First, Germany for example has tough rules on how, when, and at what costs copanies can leave for cheap workers elsewhere. The US has nothing like such laws. Make the corps that move pay for the social costs of the devastated families and communities left behind. They will think twice about leaving if its nbot just all profits for them and all costs for the societies left behind.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The social consequences of the banks continue in ways most people never imagined. One of my questions regarding the central bank is this:

With Bernanke still feeding banks about 85 billion a year to keep them afloat could we not just say that the public now owns the banks? I say that because we the taxpayers are on the hook for that money he is printing up for the banks, right?

Also, the Feds so-called buying the dirty assets off their books appears to be another shell game without the coin under a shell for us taxpayers.

SocialScholar April 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I explained to a few professors the other day that “alternatives” are possible in the context of capitalism and the way businesses are run and they told me that forces would act to squash my efforts. Have you run up against resistance from the top Richard?

CTuttle April 7th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Aloha, Richard and David…! Mahalo for being here today…!

What are some of the potential ramifications of the TPP, in that Transnational Corporate Boards/Courts could overrule Local, State, and National decisions…?

And, one more international question; What are your thoughts on the BRICS…?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 35

Old rule: they have the money but we have the people – OK not yet, but more every day that passes. in the end – as all the old monarchies and empires discovered – having the people trumps the money.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Food preparation and childcare take a lot of time and labor, particularly in the lives of women. How does Mondragon handle women’s special needs in the workforce?

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 59

Ah…but the Federal Reserve is NOT..I repeat NOT a government agency.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Companies don’t really haven’t leave to affect employment. Look at all the imports we have from China and Japan?

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Especially if the people have no money and want some money.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to Moontouch @ 36

Mondragon is a great success, but has it problems, flaws, limits? Yes and Chomsky mentions some of them. But what is the standard here? Some absolutely pure enterprise freed – inside a still capitalist world – from all its problems? I dont think so. Tens of thousands of Mondragon employees are really directors as well as workers in their own firm, not mere owners. That is an enormous advance. Their growth fronm 6 workers in the mid1950s to over 100,000 today is a story of success competing against capitalst enteprrises while prizing job security above profits. Amazing to learn from but no need to idolize or fail to criticize.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Ok that much is true. But didn’t somebody say in the long run we are all dead? We seem always to be losing. Just now for example our President is on a mission to “reform” entitlements aka “screw you”.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 42

Well here is one possible scenario. If mounting unemployment (it just reached 12 % in Europe last month) becomes politically too dangerous, the corporations may have to fund coops as the only way to avoid the unemployed making scary demands on them. Capitalists, lik every dominant group before them, dont have full control, face unexpected events, stimnble against the products of their own unwise decisions. We are living through some of that now.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 68

Ok that much is true. But didn’t somebody say in the long run we are all dead?

We seem always to be losing. Just now for example our President is on a mission to “reform” entitlements aka “screw you Screw You !”.

There..fixed it for you.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 64

Your are right, but only technically.

Congress has outsourced its monopoly control of currency to the Fed, which while owned by member banks exists under the supervision of Congress as a creation of the government. And Congress could change that at any time.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 64

I am not sure about that. It is a creature of congress and can be reformed by congress.

SocialScholar April 7th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

So why is this model relatively unheard of in the US?

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 68

Keynes said that, meaning economic policy needs to be addressed here and now at all times.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 64

)laughing

Exactly! Yet they wish to tell our government how to operate, place burdens on us and refuse audits. Something is stinky in the Rothschild bucket there, right?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
In response to bearman @ 43

I am out there for many reasons. There are plenty like me. The trick is overcoming 50 years of feeling marginalized because tyou are critical of capitalism as a system and think we can do better….or you are the student or friend or relative of some who has felt that marginalization. It takes getting over….but my greatest organizer of likeminded folks getting ready to get out there and talk and mobilize is the system itself. Capitalist cannot deliver the good to most people who are slowly, hesitantly, painfully coming around to face and react to that.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 72

Even Kucinich has said the the Federal Reserve is Federal like Federal Express. But I digress. It is made up of private banks and bankers.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Professor, you seem to think some governments do a better job than others of channeling capitalism to get more benefits and fewer detriments than the US. Is that cultural? Or ____________ ?

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Too bad our neoliberal masters don’t get it.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Good question.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 48

Thanks for clarifying. You are quite right. Coops are local, decentralized units in most cases. This would be a plus for most Americans because if the decisions you make are close to your life, your decisions will be better for you even if not for profits. Example. A capitalist corporation sees a new technology that bossts profits but fouls the ai. If capitalist dewcide, they likewly go for the profits. If workers decide they weigh the air pollution and effects on their families. Different decisions because different factors. This includes knowing tyour fellow work and your decision maker as the same!r

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 77

The President nominates the Governors of the Fed, who are confirmed by the Senate. And not all are bankers. There are nonfinancial company executives, professors and others who have served on the Fed Board of Governors.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 77

He wants to kill the fed I can buy that.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

And might actually be your neighbor.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 79

I don’t have any masters and neither do you. See Constitution, Amendment XIII.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Capitalist cannot deliver the good to most people who are slowly, hesitantly, painfully coming around to face and react to that.

Agreed. Government dipping into personal bank accounts in Cyprus to pay off banksters was shocking. Things are changing.

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

And of course since, as you point out in this book and in your other writings and lectures (which I highly recommend to eCAHN and other intelligent observers), what they really were was actually state capitalism as opposed to private capitalism. (Prof. Wolff spends a good deal of the book describing the oscillations back and forth between private and state capitalist systems in various countries and societies.)

In both private and state capitalism, the workers don’t control who gets the fruits of their labor. The boyars and mandarins were exchanged for Party-assigned managers, but the workers themselves weren’t given direct control over how to work, what to produce, and how to distribute the proceeds therefrom.

So even though there was at first a huge boost to both nations just from taking the immense wealth of the noble classes in both nations and injecting it into their economies — boosts which sufficed to not only fund various social programs, but to enable both nations to pole-vault from backwater to superpower status in the space of a few decades — the fact that the control of the enterprises and their fruits was not given to the workers meant that the systems would eventually suffer typical capitalistic crises that would generate calls for abandoning these systems for private-oriented forms of capitalism.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 49

In US politics, given how it is organized, you cobble together coalitions by giving each group you need enough of what they want to keep their supporters happy in return for what you need. Not much principle left which why US politics has to make such lofty rhetoric about denocracy to cover the grubby horsetrading with a veneer of something better.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 83

I think Kennedy wanted to as well. And maybe Nixon.

SocialScholar April 7th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I will say that I think Veblen has increasing importance in how we understand Capitalism. I think whats missing in critical theory is the notion of desire that is at the heart of what sustains Capitalism. Marx comes close when he speaks about commodity fetishism but Veblen lays out a symbolic framework through his notion of “obtaining ones good name” through opulence in evidence i.e. “conspicuous consumption”. I think your text “knowledge and class” speaks to this notion of the dialectical desire, Wolff.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Can these historically local coops raise the capital needed for huge ventures — auto plants? Jet engine research? Oil drilling in deep water? Biologicals research?
In the British-America Colonial era we had a handful of corporations in the North because there were no large fortunes of the kind in the South where oligarchs (alone or in a small knot) could finance public improvements like waterworks, wharves, etc.
Can coops engage in capital intensive global scale projects?

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

That has to be the most tactful way I have heard it put yet.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 52

FDR created many jobs without war but not enough to grow out of the depression, so he went to war knowing that the war would end unemployment. Half the unemployed remaining put obn uniforms and the other half got jobs making those uniforms and guns and ships, etc. war solved capitalism’s dysfucntionality….sonmething all defenders of capitalism ought to think long and hard about

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

Great question. In my view, they were not Marxist/socialist because they did not put the workers in charge of the enterprises. The put the state in charge, which is quite different. With the state in charge they got rapid economic growth (as China does today), but they did not get socialism. That remains a task their working classes will need to see and undertake.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

And did not this continue after WWII with the military spending of The Cold War of which the space program was a part ?

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I wonder if the fact that much of the moneys subject to seizure comes from Russian organized crime figures and oligarchs who moved their money to Cyprus should be seen as mitigating. Cyrous is by a factor of two or three the largest source of Foreign Direct investment in Russia and Cyprus gets about 90-% as much in “deposits” from Russia — which tells you this is corrupt round-tripping.
The threshold on seizures will not affect most Cypriots.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi Prof. Wolff, your book trailer says if workers made the decisions and not tiny corporate boards, the world would change (quote below). But I wonder, would it, or might not the 99% become just as corrupted as the 1%? Maybe the systemic problem starts with the requirement to seek profits, instead of community happiness? I think you said something like that on Bill Moyers.

From the book trailer: “If workers directed as well as performed the work, would we pay some workers millions while leaving others homeless? Would we cut families’ healthcare for huge bonuses to a few, move jobs overseas for extra profits for a few? If workers decided how to use profits, then it would be us, and not tiny corporate boards, that would pay the taxes and fund the politicians, and we would finally end unemployment once and for all, making jobs a basic right.”

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:02 pm
In response to SocialScholar @ 90

I should have included Veblen in my list (in the piece atop this discussion) of theoreticians who all serious student of economics study. Thanks for the reminder.

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Yes, indeed. Mondragon’s a good start, not the end result, and should be viewed in that context.

Too many people are stuck in either/or mode: Either a system is perfect from the get-go or it’s horrible and to be avoided. Mondragon has its flaws, but a) it’s very much a work in progress, and b) its organization allows for the flaws to be addressed much more readily than, say, the flaws in pretty much any traditionally-run private capitalist setup.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 59

In most economists’ views – at least many that I read or talk to – they know and admit that the government now effectively backstops the major banks and the banking system with loans, difrect investments, guarantees, and so on. We just leave them to make private profits on government life support. Our politicians cannot face the fact so pretend it is not there. Bernanke says all that over and over again. They all hope and pray this can stop sometime soon and revert back to when the government was less backstopping than now making the charade of “private” banking less absurd.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Also, are there coop incubators, where people with skills and ideas or who just want to work can go to collaborate with others? Just show up and start something?

eCAHNomics April 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Since there have been no Marxian economies by your definition of workers in charge, what should we infer from that? IOW, if it’s such a great idea, why has it never been tried?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to SocialScholar @ 60

Actually, no, or at least not yet. My audiences keep growing in size and in enthusiasm for an alternative that is real, possible and attractive. I suppose if and when a real social movement catches on to this, opposition will come. To expect less strikes me as naive.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Do you mean to say that WW2 was to create jobs — rather than stop the expansionist and vicious Japanese empire with their East Asia Co-prosperity Plan imposed through mass murder and torture and the Germans, who in addition to seizing land eliminated 12 million Jews, homosexuals, leftists, Down’s syndrome children and others they considered unworthy of life?

Really, is that what you think? Or just poor word choice?

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

But the money that was taken out of accounts in Cyprus was second choice. The first choice was to take money from everyone’s account. I’m frankly very surprised that the plan was changed.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

From what I understand he was doing fine until 1937 and then decided to balance the budget. Bad move. His efforts at putting people to work until then was quite successful. I want to find another one like him. Five years in we still have over twenty million looking for work. In our horse trading and crony capitalism, not much chance.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 102

May I encourage you to engage in some serious and scholarly research into that, which means removing any blinders and seeking truth (small t) by giving as much credence to ideas you dislike as those that appeal to you. Human knowledge advances when we challenge our assumptions, not when we seek to reinforce them.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I think that is also happening in Belgium. re: organized crime, drug money, and round-tripping.

Well, here too for that matter.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

That is an important observation. Top down management never works.

Knox April 7th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

What we have nostly instead is gross inequality that masquerades behind claims about talent that systeatically hide or deny all the various talents any enterprise needs and draws upon.

Isn’t this what all institutions inevitably become as those in positions of power do everything to protect their gains?

I’m not sure how your WSDEs would be different from things that were tried, for example, during the tech boom in the 1990s, but I can tell you that those organizations that promised to give people a share in the companies they were helping to build didn’t work out too well for them, i.e. the people who were giving their time and talent to those ventures.

Besides, even if a WSDE were to become successful, whoever’s profits were being stepped on by the WSDE would just step on and crush the WSDE.

SocialScholar April 7th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

You’re welcome Johnston. I am currently a graduate student in Sociology but I am always trying to find ways to improve my understanding of Capitalism. I think one of the most disappointing things I have realized is the lack of social forums around the U.S. for someone interested in radical politics. Most people I encounter still cite the news as their most trusted source.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 61

The first question is about a largely secret negotiation among a large group of nations about easing the way for capitalist corporations to have free access within and among them….something that we should all follow closely for it has serious implications/

BRICS are a group of large nations that want to break the monopoly of the world economy long wielded by the US, Western Europe and Japan. They want to develop alternative poles of economic and political and military power, to move to a more multipolar world. They are increasingly able, especially working together, to add a new dimension to the world economy. The dominant role fo the US forever shrinks.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Or markets are the underlying problem? Are markets a necessary evil?

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

One of the things that would serve as a barrier to corruption would be that the workers would not be able to do what the elite 1% (or rather, the .001 percent) are able to do now, which is to pile up enough wealth to utterly insulate themselves from the consequences of their own actions. It’s a lot harder to justify dumping toxic crud over an aquifer if you can’t simply pack up to a remote location where there aren’t any people dumping crud above aquifers.

eCAHNomics April 7th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Prof Wolf is the expert. He could answer my q and direct me to further reading.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

And what is meant by markets ?

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

How will you make them pay? The corporations own the government. I don’t see the way to accomplish it. Do you?

CTuttle April 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Mahalo for replying…! Do you think the BRICS could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back…?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Its cultural, political, historical….everything. US capitalism took over from pre-capitalist native American societies. Capitalism in Europe took over from a long developed feudalism. Those different beginnings say a lot and have consequences. European capitalism cannot these days avoid giving its people national health care, free universities, subsidized bread and much else that US citizens cannot dream of. The law in France requires 5 weeks of paid vacation for all workers, and so on. Capoitalist dare not assault these benefitrs as fast or as harshly as they can in the US. Cultural differences over a long history and political power in mass unions, left parties, and social movements there make a huge difference.

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 102

In China and Russia, the revolutionaries feared that the masses were by and large not educated or otherwise prepared enough to be able to understand all of the workings of the enterprises in which they toiled, much less be able to make truly informed decisions. This turned out to be a fatal mistake, but an understandable one given the times and situations.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I think that workers self-directing enterprises is the best next step we can take. I dont see it as solving all problems, guaranteeing all the good things, etc. Life will always present problems and we will struggle as people to find solutions. But if workers ahres and rotate among jobs they will not pay a few millions whil most of the others cannot pay for the kinds to go to college. They will not allow a leader (a job they will themselves rotate into and out of) to arrogate dangerous social power to himself. They will do socially useful things out of self-protection anbd thereby build the solidarity and culture that will soon tire of the profit-driven society we take for granted as “normal.”

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 115

But you’re not the only person asking him questions. There are other people in this thread who are asking him questions, and he’s doing his best to answer as many as he can.

CTuttle April 7th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 114

Or, buy off a Senator or two to insert a Rider, indemnifying yourself from any legal liabilities, like Monsanto just did…!

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 120

That sort of excuse might be used anytime. Politics will control if and when this gets done.

SocialScholar April 7th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Again my question becomes how do we promote this idea of self directed enterprises? Its as if we are continuously in a state of a “failed search for revolution”.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 116

The exchange of goods and services with the use of money so that people with money have access to goods and services not available to those without.

Knox April 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

That remains a task their working classes will need to see and undertake.

How exactly do the working classes take charge and lead a society and a complex economy?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Mondragon is very careful about limiting itself to a collective, democratic WORKPLACE and shies away from suggesting it has designs on how families or households are organized. This may have something to do with Mondragon’s origins as a project of a Roman Catholic Priest (Father Arrizmendi). So there is no direct answer to your good question. But I would say this, as we noved through several faactories of Mondragon in Spain last May, we saw and spoke with the many women workers. My wife asked all sorts of questions like yours and got the distinct impression that the equality of positions, powers, respoinsibilities and authorities enjoyed by women at work in Mondragon definitelt altered their positions at home fron the older Spanish traditions in the Basque region of the country where Mondragon is centered.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I don’t know that I’m talking about markets, or markets primarily. I’m talking about why we do what we do. If your corporation is required to profit seek, and legally can’t pay attention to the environment or long-term health and wisdom, just… more money, more profits, there’s never enough – you see what I mean?

Another way to think about this is, I’ve been underemployed for a long time, yet I’m actually doing more work that I think is valuable than I ever did before. Not enough time in the day. I would call it right livelihood if there was a livelihood in it. I’d be happy to join a coop. I think you could multiply me by millions. I think we are contributing already.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

That reminds me of a job offer I once had.

I had worked at an awful place for a while and was offered a job at a new place and said I would only take it if I could interview random workers without supervision. They agreed and one of the workers asked where I’d worked before and when I told her, she said, “Oh them, they’re our best recruiters!” I took the job.

bluedot12 April 7th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Professor, I’ve read some of the MMT blogs and about the employer of last resort. Do you think any of that is useful? Or is it all a bridge too far?

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to SocialScholar @ 73

The notion of cooperatives in general and workers cooperatives in particular are as old as the US here (and older in Europe and elsewhere). So it is interesting that an old, established institution – and millions of Americans today are involved in one or another type of cooperative from Credit Unions to granges and so on. I think it is ideological. We celebrate capitalism in a dogmatic way as the be all and end all and literally drown out of consciusness the coopsall around us. Maybe out of fear that the idea migfht really catch on and suggest itself as a new way to organize enterprises altogether.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

You misdescribe the law of corporate governance. The entity must be a managed for ITS welfare. If that means paying workers more so it is more productive than they should, for example. Nothing prohibits considering the environmental consequences, for example, nor the laws that impose duties on companies to internalize their pollution costs.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Thanks, I appreciate the response.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to SocialScholar @ 90

I am honored by your reference to one of my (and my co-author’s) books. Veblen is a giant of US economics albeit too little acknowledged. He grasped the central role of consumption in and for US capitalism. This system was so successful until the 1970s changed everything as the book for this salon explains. Before 1970 it focused everyone on consumption even before advertising. That was because it did not want there to be questions about the organization of production. You were to work hard and tyour reward was consumption….not the idea that work shgould be organized differently, that happiness depended on more than consumption, on relationships at home and at work. TRhe consumption fetish was functional to US capitalism in profound ways. It helped keep the system going. Today it endangers the system because thew trajectory for US workers’ consumption is ever downward….hence my earlier stress on the dangerou s times ahead.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 117

I am not an expert, but I think the fissures between the Corporations and our very own War economy is going to do them in. Pretty soon it will be over for them. They are hunting up gold now because they already know the fiat money is one step from the edge of the cliff.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Was thinking of this, one of Prof. Wolff’s answers to audience question on Bill Moyers:

RICHARD WOLFF: Capitalism is a system geared up to doing three things on the part of business: get more profits, grow your company and get a larger market share. Those are the driving bottom line issues. Corporations are successful or not if they succeed in getting these objectives met. That’s what their boards of directors are chosen to do, that’s what their shareholders expect. That’s the way the system works.

If along the way they have to sacrifice either the well-being of their workers or the well-being of the planet or the environmental conditions, they may feel very bad about it, and I know plenty of them who do. But they have no choice. And they will explain if they’re honest that that’s the way this system works. So we have despoiled our environment in a classic way. That’s why we have huge cleanup funds, that why we have so many problems. That’s why we have to impose all kinds of costs on companies now to deal with this problem.

So I’m not very hopeful. I don’t think this is a system that has a place in it for us to seriously deal with the limits to growth, with the need to preserve our environment, to take care of our health as a people because we have a system that pushes forward with a kind of intensity that pushes those issues to the side.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

The simplest anser is yes and Mondragon has proven all that. A fuller answer might be this: capitalist enterprises emerged from feudalism as overwhelmingly small. They had troubles getting larger and amassing diverse assets and creating far=flung prodution linkages. Coopes will have to reproduce that growth. Mondragon shows they can just as capitalistically prganized enterprises had to do.

CTuttle April 7th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 120

That’s brings up the fact that Marx had indeed intended it for the better educated Proletariat of Germany/Europe, and, it wasn’t implemented properly by Lenin and Mao…!

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Prof. Wolff, what do you think of Bitcoin? Can that be a game changer?

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Professor Wolff accurately described what corporations do, but not the law. Read Lynn Stout’s brief book The myth of Shareholder value or watch the video I did with her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jJxGDM9mBg

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:33 pm
In response to Knox @ 110

Just such concerns prompt the notion of rotation of position inside WSDEs. If all decide then all need to walk in the shoes of everyone for a while. No one will want to arrigate power to one role if they will soon be in another role, etc. The benefit of WSDEs lies precisely in their easier way to get at the problems you identify relative to what capitalist enterprises are likely to do.

Will the system try to kill off rsising alternatives? Probably. But remeber with me that the feudal lords tried to squash the capitalists, and failed edvenbtually. The proponents of slavery tried to crush the opponents. So too it is the lesson of history to suppose that the ennemies of cooperative work organization will oppose as long as they can. There is no hostorical reason to presume they will succeed given the failures of all previous syetms to alst forever.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

In Austin our coops meet with each other, including the credit unions and a cleaning service and beer manufacturers and a natural foods grocery and more. I’m a member of the food coop and I know they’ve helped along other coops. It’s not worker run however. The food coop is owned by its members who elect a board. The working structure is classic capitalism. And they do promote lots of things that would be equated with community values.

A national coop group just had a meeting here in Austin. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet interested enough to attend.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Thanks. If I’ve got an urban myth in my head, I’ll be the first to cheer when I find out it’s wrong.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Ooooh. Good question. I second that!!

Can bitcoin change the world, or is that hyperbole?

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

That too is a good question!

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

It appears that it changed because people were out in the streets.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 143

I truly want to go to an incubator and start something from the ground up. I do think of it as a sandbox, a place to go play with others and ask and offer and be cooperative and creative and exercise everything. I’m helpless but also helpful. Think we all are. We need a starting place.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

That sort of thing is just beginning. If you go to democracyatwork.info you can find resources about coops of all sorts. that website is beginning a kind of Craig;s list of people looking to find others interested in stafrting coops, etc.

But mnostly it is capitalism’s failures now that organize coops. Let me explain. Millions of our young people are graduating college with unsustainable debts and poor job prospects. Employment in capitalist enterprises is a grim future, so they are turning to self employment and increasaingly to collaborations with one another in building coops. As I said, systems in decline usually end jup recruiting their own ennemies.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 147

Yeah, for sure. And after the peeps complained, the government took money from big depositholders as David Explained above. I’m amazed that the little people prevailed.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 102

Oh it has been tried – in enterprises like Mondrago and many other coops, in regions like parts of the collective farms that succeeded for decades in Eastern Europe, anbd so on – but it was never tried anywhere on a nationwide basis. As we discussed in earlier exchanges today, state capitalism was the system that replace private capitalism in the name of socialism. But socialism – as tjhe collective, democratic self-direction of workers on the job – that remains to be tried on a broad sacale. Whatever we call what collapsed in Russia and eastern Europe in 1989, socialism it was not in the sense Marx applied to the term.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

How about those in the upper financial strata – the managers and doctors and lawyers and what not who are still doing just fine under the current system, albeit not for much longer.

You did speak of dangerous times ahead. Do you believe that the current capitalistic system is going to eventually collapse as quite a few do.
Like Dmitri Orlov and others ?

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Prof. Wolff has one of those at his new site:

Democracyatworkinfo.com

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Maybe it was word choice….writing at a furious oace to respond to as many kind folk as are writing in is not the best way to choose words carefully. Nothing is ever done for one reason. And for sure WW2 was undertaken for many reasons. All those you mention and more. My point was this: FDR’s economic advisers were smart folks who knew how hard his administration had worked to get 12.5 million fed jobs by 1941 and they knew it was not enough to overcome the depression and they knew that the republicans could and would block the money for more federal jobs…………unless those were for a great patriotic war. To believe that played no role in the decision stretched credulity.

cmaukonen April 7th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 153

We have at least one here in Cleveland. One in Shaker Heights I pass by on my way to the store.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Thank you and yes haste makes not just waste, but often misunderstanding.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 153
Knox April 7th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Feudal lords lost out to bankers and merchants, but at the same time the guilds of those bankers and merchants successfully reduced the political influence of the dozens of other guilds to nothing.

There are reasons why capitalism has become a cultural force, but those who have benefitted most in this country have found the way over the last two decades or so to ensure their continued dominance and how to expand it.

In the generation after WWII, workers were given enough of a piece of the pie to feel like they were successful.

But the children of those workers who can now be called successful had to become lawyers, accountants, and/or lobbyists defending the system that made the masters what they are. The capitalists have a system to control institutions and an army of lawyers, accountants, and/or lobbyists who help them maintain it. The workers today need more than assertions about how the working classes need to take charge and allow members of their ranks to take turns in the drivers’ seats.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 152

I dont believe I or anyone can predict the future……doing so is an amusement park phenomenon. However, the headlong rush of those at the top to imagine they can keep widening the gap between the 1% and the 99% is historically absurd and hence very scary to watch. I do develop this idea at length in my work that is gathered at rdwolff.com

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 155

My local rural electric is a co-op, but it is not a worker owned. It is a client owned and has out grown the small biz it started as to encompass rural areas in the entire state. We have no idea who the current President is or what his connections to big oil are.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to Knox @ 158

They sure do need more. But analyses of what is happening and why, analyses that dont shy away fro naming the system that lies at the root of the problem, and analyses that point to alternatives to inspire hope are key ingredients to get that more you call for. And what real choice have we if we dare face where we are and where we are headed?

BevW April 7th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Richard, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book.

David, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Richard’s website and book

David’s website

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:50 pm
In response to Knox @ 158

Ha! I read an article just yesterday where the wealthy homeowners in their gated conclaves are having to hire private security to protect them because local cities are laying off police forces.

Richard D. Wolff April 7th, 2013 at 3:51 pm
In response to BevW @ 162

Thank you all. This is been an intense but excitingly engaged 2 hours. Wow. I am exhausted but elated by how you all engaged the basic ideas. What a solid basis for hope. Thanks especially to David my host and Beverly my guide in making this work. Do please take a look at rdwolff.com for more of what we discussed today.

greenwarrior April 7th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Well, they were rowdy about it.

David Cay Johnston April 7th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Likewise, thank you all and like Richard I need to rest my fingers and my brain. Enjoy the rest of the day.

PeasantParty April 7th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Thank you so much for being with us today.

We often talk about your work here at FDL and also discuss many ideas to help us through the transformation of our crumbling society.

CTuttle April 7th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Mahalo, Richard, David, and Bev, for another excellent Book Salon…!

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
In response to Knox @ 158

The workers today need more than assertions about how the working classes need to take charge and allow members of their ranks to take turns in the drivers’ seats.

One of the reasons I’m so interested in liberty, equality, and fraternity is that we’ve been duped into believing that capitalism champions them when it actively prevents each one. I believe that talking about alternatives to capitalism using the language of the French and American revolutions makes the alternatives more, er, American.

yellowsnapdragon April 7th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Three cheers for Prof Wolff! Thank you for answering our questions.

thatvisionthing April 7th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Maybe another way to ask this — what about the trillion dollar coin? The one that was supposed to pay for jobs for everyone? When Randy Wray had a book salon here, I asked him how could you guarantee that the money would go to jobs and not to TBTF, again? And he screamed.

Q @104: Is there a way to mint working, reality-based dollars as opposed to speculative/rentier dollars? If you’re going to invent coins, why not invent a working coin?

Answer:

L. Randall Wray January 5th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to thatvisionthing @ 104 (show text)

Well we DON’T WANT TO USE THE TRILLION $ COIN TO BAIL OUT MORE BANKSTERS!

Same question maybe to Prof. Wolff.

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Indeed!

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 4:46 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 124

The thing is that, in addition to having such extremes of poverty and wealth that the vast majority of the people couldn’t even read or write, both cultures had long traditions of authoritarianism that was used to maintain these extremes — a millenium’s worth in the case of Russia, two millenias’ worth in the case of China — and it was hard for both the masses and the revolutionaries to break free mentally from this, especially when most of them had little to no experience of anything else.

One of the problems that Mondragon is having is in fact getting persons from historically top-down authoritarian cultures to actually feel free enough to speak up and participate in the decision-making process. Historically in these cultures, people who called attention to themselves got singled out for less than pleasant treatment.

defogger April 7th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Too late ,as usual .I love Richard Wolff .Besides being a great economist,and the best educator bar none ,he is truly a kind man .His weekly KPFA show ,Economic Update ,is essential for rookies and seasoned vets .

defogger April 7th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

His small-scale collectivism is the only answer .General FDL denial speaks of authoritarianism as if we live in something other than such tyranny .Anyone who hasn’t learned you can’t change a nation over which the people have no power ,is a person who either cannot learn or or cannot handle the painful truth .

Phoenix Woman April 7th, 2013 at 6:13 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 139

Exactly.

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