Replay Our Chat with Economist Richard Wolff

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Credit: Dale Robbins

Richard Wolff (Credit: Dale Robbins)

In Bill’s first interview with economist and professor Richard Wolff, he asked viewers to submit questions for Wolff to answer. We received hundreds, some of which the professor tackled on this week’s Moyers & Company. 

We invited Wolff back to our studios for a live chat with viewers on Tuesday, March 26, in which he answered more of your questions. Replay the chat by pressing play in the box below.

Wolff is known for his ability to explain the complex causes of America’s current economic challenges — most notably, runaway capitalism and our growing income inequality. He’s also known for championing democratically run cooperative businesses. His recent book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, is a self-described manifesto for the alternative business model.

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  • Candromeda33

    Hello Mr. Wolff & Mr. Moyers – Could you address regulations & healthcare taxes. I live in Tampa, FL and I have a friend who works in the heavy equipment industry. According to him he “constantly” hears from small business owners who are about to shut their doors due to “all the new Obama regulations & taxes.” He watches a lot of Fox News and is absolutely convinced that he will be out of a job in less than a year because of Obama & the Liberals. I don’t know enough about the subject to try to cheer him up and I don’t have a lot of confidence in the economy either, but I guess for different reasons. Thank you!

  • Herb Borner

    I’d like your thoughts on how Iceland handled this mess compared to the US.

  • yellowsnapdragon

    I’d like to ask Professor Wolff about what capitalism does well and what elements of capitalism, if any, could be incorporated in a successful socialist society.

  • Derek Tarbell

    Hello Professor Wolff. A lot of people I talk to still are not sure as to what the concrete differences are between Socialism and Communism, could you explain in the simplest terms you can? And how can we as a society get away from all of the false negativity surrounding those two systems, particularly socialism?

  • yellowsnapdragon

    Marx was interested in the principles of the French Revolution, equality, liberty and fraternity. How does capitalism interfere with the realization of these principles?

  • OmAli

    Professor Wolff, is there a model – present or past or imagined, of economic democracy and social justice that you could hold up as an example of what you hope we might achieve here one day?

  • don casey

    thank you bill for hosting professor Wolf. Professor wolf has come to my attention since 2008, and what he has to say has been very informative, and important to hear. The mainstream media has turned into horrible mediocrity, and you don’t hear voices such as Wolf’s there? Thank you Bill for being an outstanding person, and journalist all these years. Your dear to my heart, and I am sure the rest of America’s too.

  • Jon Tell

    …can you explain the influence of the rothschilds on american economics?

  • Franklee

    Hello, and thanks to both Bill Moyers and Richard Wolff for these very interesting series of conversations. My question for Mr. Wolff is in regards to all monetary based economies- capitalist, socialist, etc… Since they all seem to have a destructive level of corruption, is it time that we try to move beyond such systems, possibly employing a model such as Jacque Fresco’s resource based economy?

  • Vicente Roybal

    Thank you for taking my question. Is it the case that the attack on so called entitlements is part of a Republican scheme to gut social security and medicare/medicaid that essentially begun with the Reagan administration in the 80’s when the Social Security Trust fund was raided to pay down the national debt at the time and replaced with an IOU?

  • Dan Nowman Niswander

    In his (great) recent article in the Washington Post, ‘Moral Capitalism,’ Steven Pearlstein talks about how the subject of morality (or lack of) looks to be the real basis and the core of ‘understanding’ the deeper economic problems. It makes sense and is very clear to me that the deeper moral issue to address is the ongoing economic instability of the middle class which some people believe has already been completely eviscerated. We should have more ‘New Deal’ programs not less. Could you please address this? Also when are you coming to Pasadena? We are really looking forward to it. Thank you for taking my question.

  • bmiller

    Couldn’t many/most of our economic problems be solved if the Treasury issued money as credit rather than borrowing it as debt?

  • bmiller

    As a cause of inflation, how great a factor is interest on national debt?

  • Russell Spears

    Hello, Richard Wolff. I thank you so much for the work you have been doing “all your life.” and I think the poor are finally getting a good grasp on what your ideas can mean for them and their future. About which you had an interview with Victor Wallace where you said we need to hope we can avoid thinking about everything working in the present as it has in the past…
    Well traditional Universities consume a lot of our incomes and pack the streets with commuting students as well as prevents students from being productive during the years that attend full time. Can we do better and think differently with a Free Online University for all?

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Professor Wolff:

    What realistic basis is there for hope and activism?

    For the past 35 years in the U.S., most of the trends for the most important aspects of our lives have gotten steadily worse. For example, the ongoing transfer of wealth to the richest 1% and the inhumane inequality of wealth and power; the corporate takeover of our supposed “representatives” in government (who mostly do the opposite of what the common people need and want); the gargantuan increase in military spending and the surveillance state; numerous laws that outrageously violate the Bill of Rights and other human rights (without even amending the constitution); wars based on lies, wars that last for over a decade, drones that kill thousands of innocents, kill lists and executions without charges, evidence, trials, or juries; indefinite detention, torture, and murder; the betrayal of the American people by both Republican and Democratic parties; the gutting of the U.S. economy and the looting of the U.S. treasury; the severe, steady reduction of the middle class and the extreme increase of the poverty class; neither party doing anything significant to create enough good paying jobs or even to provide adequately for 15 to 20 million longterm unemployed citizens; the skyrocketing cost of college and nearly $1 trillion in student loan debt; millions of citizens without health care coverage and both parties’ failure to establish nationalized, universal health care, like every other affluent democracy has; the willful neglect of, and severe deterioration of, the U.S. infrastructure…The list of examples runs into the hundreds! Worst of all, for 35 years (and even now, after so much climate-caused destruction) both Republicans and Democrats have failed unforgivably to do anything sufficient to slow (much less stop) the man-made, fossil-fuel-caused climate changes that will increasingly kill most life on earth and destroy human civilization within a relatively short amount of time (some say 50 to 200 years).

    I’m not saying we should passively surrender to the forces of evil and destruction — but when you look at the truly horrible trends in the U.S. (and in many other nations) over the past 35 years, what is the realistic basis for hope and activism? Do you honestly think people in the U.S. (and in other nations) can and will save democracy and civil liberties, create economic justice and social equality, and stop climate destruction before it’s too late?

    I want so badly to believe that the common people of the U.S. and the world will have a good and humane future — but for the past 35 years I have not seen (and I do not currently see) a progressive, humanistic, or environmental movement that has achieved many fundamental changes or major victories in reversing the decline and destruction caused by the capitalist, imperialist, and militarist corporate-states around the world.

    So what hope do you honestly think humanity has in such dire circumstances?

  • HueLong123

    Given that capitalism has gone global and “American” corporations can incorporate in the Dubai and stash their earnings in the Cayman Islands, what tools does the US government have to collect taxes from these global tax evaders? In other words, if the US government suddenly decided to go FDR 2.0, would it even have the power to do so?

  • Russell Spears

    Two words…. Eminent Domain & we can also revoke their Business Charters

  • Gunnar Berg

    I think everyone can agree that capitalism has run amok. But I also have a feeling that your main criticism will be that you are advocating Marxism without just coming out and saying it. So my question would be, how do your recommendations for a sustainable and equitable economic system differ from classic Marxism?

  • Eugene Quock

    Thank you Dr. Wolf for your interesting debate at Bill’s table tonight. Answering a viewer’s questions about what you would do as President, you mentioned 3 programs to create millions of jobs, invest in an environmentally sound future and profile seed funding for employee-owned enterprises. These are great but very expensive ideas at a time when our debt is already gigantic. Why do you not seem to worry about the currency devaluation and increased interest on the debt that the cost of these programs would likely result in ?

  • Don Eichelberger

    Thank you both for this opportunity. I want to ask if you feel there is such a thing as a “moral” economics possible, where people would look at ALL the costs involved, social and environmental, and choose in favor of the larger community good and refuse to make profit in certain ways?

    Somewhat related, could the annual, ceremonial burning of Care’s effigy at the elite Bohemian Grove gathering be having a deleterious effect on the men who weave so much of the political and economic power of this country?

  • Claire

    What did the Occupy movement achieve, if anything? Do you think it should be resurrected in some form? Also, why do you think it was crushed? Is this form or style of movement outdated? It seems as if peaceful protest/speech is becoming more difficult to perform in public. Just ask Amy Goodman. Ultimately, is democracy dead?

  • Bill B

    How do you see us being able to start an enterprise program funded in part by the government when the strongest opposition will come from the government, specifically the Congress. As soon as the power structure realizes there is a threat to their hegemony, the lobbies begin, the faces of political leaders begin to appear making pronouncements that this is a socialist (or communist) plot that threatens American freedom, and that the very fabric of American life will be torn asunder by non-capitalistic business ideas. There will be a few enterprises formed. Frank Luntz will start a college to train people to formulate rhetorical negatives, to frame ideas so they sound horrible whatever their true worth might be, and promote the idea that big business should be the only business. After all, we know best. They have been pretty successful selling the idea that big business is the only business worth having since the ’70’s.

  • James Tennier

    Nixon took us off the gold standard!
    Since our “money” is backed only by the full faith and credit of the U.S.A. and The Fed injects “debt based money” into the economy, why is Obama, a Constitutional lawyer, not availing himself of the right to tell the House to shut the bank up and explain to the public that 16 One Trillion dollar coins would retire our national debt with a key stroke? Why doesn’t he explain that the SS solvency is actually moot. Eliminate the cap and it’s good forever.
    Medicare for all. Affordable Care Act will take care of Medicaid problem in time. Eliminate private (middlemen) insurers.
    Stop kissing the arse of the elites and try to return this battled nation to it’s former glory…

  • G. E. Wright

    Professor Wolff, capital for the cooperative business model you suggest is the critical issue. Considering the Washington gridlock over deficit reduction and the current sequestration, what arguments could be made that might convince the GOP to consider government funding to develop such cooperative businesses?

  • Russell Poley

    I would like to posit to Richard Wolf that one of the fundamental problems is a culture of “Scarcity Thinking”. This is the unspoken belief that we live in a finite world of ever diminishing resources. That in order to provide for you and your family you must take resources away from someone else and their family. In this kind of culture competition is king and can lead to all kinds of social and mental ills, like racism on a social level and hoarding on a psychological level.

    I am of course quite prepared to show that nothing could be further from the truth. That except for a few rare minerals and Helium mankind has enough resources to last for the next thousand years. It is simply a matter of our ability to exploit them efficiently.
    Once we replace Scarcity thinking with Abundance Thinking we can begin begin to realize our true potential.

  • Jeff Rapport

    Like many of Bill Moyer’s buddies, you make it all sound simple, Professor Wolff (a compliment). Trouble is – those of us who are listening are already on your side.
    Those in power do not seem to be able to understand you.
    After seeing Wolfie, Rummy, and Bushy (have to maintain the cartoonish metaphor for the sake of irony) lie us into a war and not go to jail for it, watching helplessly while our Congress does absolutely nothing and gets away with it, I am thinking tar, feathers and pitchforks.
    It seems to me that without Revolution, real change will only be a dream that fades into the ashes of our 2-century experiment. Is there some way to get had and fast attention of elected leaders without being a Wall Street executive or NRA/Viagra Lobbyist? Or should we just stop paying taxes, force the nation to default on our overwhelming debt, and grab our semi-automatics for the ensuing fight? From all accounts, the public is already well armed and ready to go.
    How can we help our leaders hear the warning messages from thoughtful intellectuals?

  • Jason Stone

    I actually had a lot to say, but to get to the crux of the
    matter… gentlemen we live in a Logic Free Zone.
    Rational answers and logic do not prevail among the masses… as a
    society we pander to our base desires – greed is good. Thank you for the program tonight… I applaud
    your purpose in life.

  • Igor Bosiljcic

    How is what Richard Wolf proposes different from the Selfgovernance (“Samoupravljanje”) experiment done in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s?

  • Igor Bosiljcic

    Since I am from Yugoslavia, I know that “Samoupravljanje” failed

  • Jim McCulloh

    A Broken Government:

    Our government is broken, perhaps beyond repair. We are no longer able to govern ourselves. We can’t even protect our children from weapons of mass destruction or poisonous food. Policy is for sale to the highest bidder. It is no longer a government “by the people, for the people and of the people.” It is a government by, for and of big gas, oil, agriculture, insurance, pharmaceuticals, banks, finance and billionaires. At the root of this existential crisis is the corruption of our government by the bribes and payoffs known as “campaign finance.” This corruption cannot be remedied unless campaign costs are made manageable by barring political advertising from TV and financing campaigns totally from the public treasury.


    Do you agree that campaign finance corruption is our existential crisis? And do you believe that significant change is possible without it?

  • Anonymous

    Dear Dr. Wolff,

    While talking about how capitalism runs into problems because corporate directors are concerned with making profits for the ‘owners’, you never brought incentives into the discussion. Couldn’t a restructuring the of the tax codes, changing the incentives in ways that would promote your ideas about ‘democratic’ enterprise, be a start toward solving those problems?

  • Carl Landsness

    While I sense much sense in what he shares,
    I also feel a need for more…
    e.g. an inner shift in consciousness (e.g.,, or

  • Rishicash

    My thoughts too. We can go on and on about this system and that but to what end? Dr. Wolff stated on Bill’s show what it will take for change to take place; a non-violent revolution. Until we get off our asses and onto the streets, nothing is going to change! And I don’t mean some futile and ill-conceived Occupy movement. I’m talking about something massive across our country like Tahrir Square in Egypt where thousands turn out with specific demands like getting money out of our government, student loans, and implementing some of the suggestions Dr. Wolff made re co-ops, etc.

    We have the tools now via Social Media to make this happen, we just have to want it bad enough. The Vietnam War didn’t end with endless discussions nor even all of the violent protesting. It came about when Arthur Average had had enough and demanded and end.

    Organize and mobilize in groups…students, teachers, small business owners…you know, the 99.9% of America. This is the only way to overcome the noise that will come from the Right media how this is all a Communist take-over of America.

    We act NOW with all the symptoms indicating that a massive heart attack is imminent or we can continue to wait for the inevitable and hope we survive it. We know the odds of survival with the latter.

  • Carl Landsness

    I also feel a need for better ways to transcend or transmute our differences (e.g.,

  • Nancy

    Where could a New York City multi-family, residential, rent-regulated development being gutted by the mortgage-backed security fiasco look for help to stave off total displacement? As Paul Krugman has suggested that home ownership may not work for everyone. My sense this is true of our situation. Is there other critical economics analysis that might serve us to craft alternative ownership models?

  • Rishicash

    If two unfunded wars, the unfunded Prescription Drug Act and taxcuts for the wealthy can be sold, so can this.

  • Rishicash

    It failed for a number of reasons: It had no cohesive message and the timing was bad just before winter. There was no counter punching to Fox News. Drum circles, finger wiggling, and repeating speakers verbatim undermined the credibility and created a flaky image the Right seized upon. There was no follow-through.

    Real change is going to require a prolonged A Game effort by millions of Americans. When we hurt enough, long enough, we get off of our fat asses and do something.

  • Guest

    My understanding is that Germany has a kind of intermediate corporate model. My understanding is that Germany requires a corporation’s board of directions to include at least one representative of the workers as part of the stakeholders in the corporation. In other words, in Germany they recognize the employees as being stakeholders in the corporation.

    Although this only gives the workers one vote on the board, it is more power than it seems on the surface. First, it also gives workers a voice on the board. It prevents the board from being completely oblivious to the fact that there are real human beings doing the work of the corporation. Second, it makes it difficult for the board to scheme behind the backs of the workers.

  • Jim Hartley

    Hi Dr. Wolff, I was wondering what your take on MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) is. I have read some things about it and it seems to make a good deal of sense to me. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Wolff, what do you know of German corporate structure. My understanding is that German corporations are required to have a representative of the workers on the Board of Directors. The recognizes the workers as being stakeholders in the corporation. It might seem that one vote on the Board is not all that powerful, but I believe the concept creates power in two other ways. First, the voice of this board member prevents the Board from simply ignoring the fact that the corporation is made up of workers who are producing the corporation’s wealth. Second, it makes it very difficult for the Board to scheme behind the backs of the workers.

  • Richard Domke

    I appreciate the perspectives presented about the economic concepts regarding multlple money systems; however, I am interested to hear more about considerations that deal with the human factors of greed, avarice and corruption. The predilection for people to “do the wrong thing for the right reason,” whether by necessity or coercion, is a matter that bears address for the sake of protection against the eventual erosion of sound human values.

    I think it is fair to say that history attests to numerous occasions where social interests were constrained and abused by the misguided agendas of a few well-intended leaders. I don’t have the confidence that the best interests of a sustainable and harmonious society can be focused upon while the society, at large, is left in the plight of survival.

    The “heirarchy of needs” would seem to indicate to me that a base-line of subsistence would be a prudent starting point upon which to build a system of creativity and social consciousness. Such a framework would seem to need have established, an accounting of all available resources by which to discharge and administer a foundation level of existence as well as a progressive structure of resources from which to allow growth (with safeguards against creating excess and waste) according to every individual’s aspirations and ambitions. These aspects of prosperity and social evolution would seemingly need to be considered within the framework of acknowledgement for what’s available, necessary and in the best interests of all concerned.

    And herein lies the imperative requirement for wisdom, discipline, honesty and integrity; conditions regarding the state of humanity that leaves the whole system most vulnerable. As I see it, any system that involves people is subject to psychological, emotional and spiritual pitfalls.

    I think it is important to learn how to foster and implement principles of conduct and patterns of commerce that minimize incentives for people to do evil onto one another. It would, seemingly, be most prudent to protect the interests of an harmonious society from the dynamics of “predatory competition” and “subversive capitalism”. Mechanisms of constraint might be the only viable long-range safe-guards to deal with the human weaknesses of vanity and greed. They would most effectively be engendered and promoted by providing incentives and rewards for such things as: education, discipline, honor and integrity (to name a few).

    If successful, such measures of altering the “value” system in people’s consciousness would probably be the only way to move toward elimination of current mechanisms of incentives that lead people to rob, steal and kill in order to take from one another what they have no hope (in their minds) of acquiring any other way.

    The biggest other issue to be considered, as I look at it, and addressed by some “system of final resolve” (capital punishment), is the matter of dealing with blatant evil, whether genetically or socially founded. I don’t have a lot to say about that as yet but it stands as an issue to be looked at more effectively than we have done so far with our criminal justice system that, to me, represents little more than a corporate entity that generates a significant portion of income to the GNP and falls short, in my opinion, of serving the interests of either justice or ethics

    In conclusion, it is my opinion that far too much waste and mismanagement occurs through the mechanisms of: energy, natural resources, human labor and the administrations of government, economics, commerce, industry, religion, politics, sports, and entertainment for the sole purpose of stimulating the contrived flow of currency among the spreadsheets of a (relatively) few privileged power brokers at the world table of control. I think most of the waste is a cover-up related to the dynamics of fractional reserve banking and fiat money. In my estimation, political and social unrest are mechanisms used for the agendas of governments and corporatacracy to justify growing demand for printing more money to cover the rising interest that can never be addressed because there is just not enough currency in existence to cover the excess amount of debt generated through its creation and “fractional” loaning using fiat money. Until this slate is “made clean” we stand on the precipice of calamity at the foundation level of our economy.

  • Carl Landsness
  • Atom O’Chang

    A question I’ve heard from folks is since so many have their pensions tied to for-profit corporations, how would it work in a cooperative economy?

  • Nelson Betancourt

    Professor Wolff: During your live chat on Tuesday, would you talk about the connection of worker-owned cooperatives and the growing movement to establish public banking at the county and state levels in the US? How about worker-owned cooperatives as a way to employ our returning vets from the wars? Thank you.

  • Mark

    Thank you, Mr. Wolff, for the very compelling discussion of democracy in the workplace. I have a question about the implications of this idea if it were to become the norm rather than the exception:

    If, one day, democratically run companies became the norm rather than the exception then I expect that everyone would demand a higher salary. Would it in turn become impossible for any individual to become extremely wealthy in comparison to others? And does that mean that it is only possible, in our current system, for certain people to become very wealthy if other people are extremely poor? In other words, is our economy a zero-sum game?

    I’ve thought a lot about this question, because the argument in favor of a constantly growing economy never quite made sense to me. The easiest counterargument is that we have environmental constraints that limit our growth, but I’m wondering if there’s an even more basic economic constraint: If you keep all other factors the same, but you only raise one person’s income then that means that other people make relatively less money; they have less buying power.

    I would be very interested to hear your response to this question, or at least clarify the idea of a “no-growth economy” and how worker-ownership or democracy in the workplace might play a role.

  • Benjamin Burchall

    He gave the large example – Mondragon. If you missed it, watch the video again. There is a lot written about it online and you can watch videos about Mondragon on Youtube. Check it out. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just need to copy it.

  • Dan Shafer

    Professor Wolff:

    Have you taken a look at the sociocratic model of governance and cooperative decision-making as a practical, proven mechanism for achieving the kind of worker-controlled companies you advocate? Do you agree that such models may be a great hope for moving that cause forward particularly in the face of dwindling labor union presence.

  • Dan Shafer

    Over the next decades, one of our best hopes is to transition to a gift-based economy. I’m helping to start one of the nation’s first serious efforts at such an undertaking at All are welcome to check it out and join!

  • Dan Shafer

    It seems to me it would be perhaps easier to adapt the existing Small Business Administration — which already has much of the needed infrastructure in place — to deal with this important idea, perhaps at first experimentally, than to run into the GOP buzz saw of “increasing government bureaucracy.”

  • James Maiewski

    I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I’m fairly sure that it will be one of the first objections raised by the right, and needs to be addressed even if I’m not understanding your ideas correctly.

    In the scenario where a group–either as part of a lump sum unemployment payment or as the result of a worker takeover of a pre-existing facility–you state that the workers’ self interests are more in line with the sustainability of their venture, and I believe this would be true. It does not, it seems to me, increase the odds of the venture being viable in the long term enough to say that the groups attempting this will not find themselves in essentially the same position in a period of time which makes the total expenditure from government more than it might otherwise be simply paying the unemployment. Now I personally would think that this would not be a deal breaker, but could it get to the point where a lot of these co-ops were simply producing subsidized output (which might or might not be viable otherwise) with subsidized labor?

    In other words, what is the penalty for failure; or, what are the checks on the possible unfeasibility of any given proposed venture? Again, there are many things which I personally would consider it worthwhile for the state to support, which might not, strictly speaking, be a sustainable business. Plus, there is the fact that the quality of life of the workers would be increased, making it worth some losses of efficiency for society to support this as a base level of employment (as long as truly successful [or societally beneficial] operations are more highly rewarded). The issue of political decisions deciding the viability of proposals (or supporting any hare-brained idea) and the somewhat competing issue of truly innovative ideas not being supported, which are all at least rhetorical objections of the pro-oligachs to ‘socialism’ need to be addressed (with the caveat that you only had five minutes on TV to present them, and that my understanding of this limited exposition isn’t flawed).

  • Gary

    Mr. Wolff, could you please comment on how much you think the global economy realities where other countries’ low wages, that we now compete with, are eroding our middle class. And how does the U.S. deal with the reality?

  • boscoepertwee

    the basque experience is condition dependent in several ways – you mentioned both the terrors of the civil war and the following privations of the the 2nd world war – but one must include the historical isolation and suppression of the basques anyway, over centuries, that may be significantly contributive to their willingness to take a fundamentally different economic route to democratic socialism without revolution or political imposition; now to the point – speaking from several years experience bargaining for workers, i think we have to recognize that some people believe that they should have authority over, and take responsibility for, their own lives in ways that always included economic enterprise, and that their economic ends are best achieved in cooperation with others; yet there are many who seem to believe that, one way or another (so that we don’t automatically hold god responsible) some people are to be leaders, and the rest of us are to be followers, and that the leaders get more rights and prerogatives than do those who are led, who are always dependent on the leaders for whatever they have; the resistance to change that an american worker group, union or not, would face would be strengthened by a well entrenched animus toward any infringement of the ‘right’ of this leader (‘owner’, ‘capitalist’, ‘job creator’) to act in any way the leader pleased, even if those actions were inimical to the well being of their own enterprise or their workers; what may have been at play in the basque example is that the majority governance authority in spain had abandoned them anyway; will it perhaps take a catastrophic failure for some group of american workers to feel the same way, to not only start small, but start committed for the long haul? we see that each time some large business enterprise gets itself into deep trouble, it turns to its friends in local, state, or national government to find a politically based economic solution that save the existing order from the consequences of its own behaviour at the expense of someone else, of the workers or the surrounding community or the general treasury; wouldn’t that have to be resisted also? detroit could have been just such a place for over a generation, but even at the point of near total collapse, another political authority seizes control to impose its version of satisfactory order; those who now have this political and economic power will not accept change they cannot control, and many of the great mass of our countrymen may accept that this is as it should be – that their ‘leadership’ entitles them to continue as they have, while we slide into the abyss holding our power-ball tickets

  • Anonymous

    I like all the discussion about collectives replacing businesses tha leave for China or elsewhere. However, I’d like to hear a potential solution to the problem of “customers”…. like Walmart, like the major film studios who actually demand that their suppliers outsource to China or who simply drop the US based companies and hire work done in India. For example, a digital effects company, located in El Segundo, CA, that recently won an Oscar for their work on “the Life of Pi” declared bankruptcy 2 weeks prior to the Oscars and is now letting people go. Digital Domain, co-founded by director James Cameron, went under last year. The pioneers of the industry are being left high and dry as film producers and major studios outsource high-tech digital work to India and companies in NZ, Canada, London receive hefty governmental subsidies. Less and less of our work now requires a “local” physical presence. Transportation costs have no effect on anything done in the “virtual” world. Everyone has touted those “high-tech” jobs as the high paying jobs of the future, but now we see that they are in a race to the bottom as well. Hospitals outsource consultations on tests, radiology, etc to doctors in India. There are no longer enough jobs in the physical day-to-day world to keep a society functioning. Thanks to technology, jobs are being merged or becoming extinct. If fewer and fewer people have reliable incomes, it ultimately means that even fewer will have jobs with reliable incomes. I’m not sure I see a way that collectives can help this… people still need to make a living adequate to where they live. Ultimately, we know that costs in India, etc will rise. I’m not sure that government subsidies to keep work is the way to go – ultimately, that is a reverse taxation…. tax people … not for infrastructure, education, a safety net, or other public services…but to pay for the retention of their own jobs. In other words, global corporations are now basically demanding a sort of pass-through wage…. people are taxed by the government, so that the government can pay the company, so that the company can pay their workers, with the workers own taxes… and the rest acrues to the top.

  • Anonymous

    Professor Wolff….thank you for your insight and taking our questions….

    ….I share your enthusiasm for cooperatives and hope our economic future is in the direction you suggest and outline, but I see a problem….if and when the cooperative movement should gain wide spread support, the capitalists are not going to be sitting idly by….

    ….history shows they are a brutal group capable of anything in the pursuit of profit and power….how would you restrain the 1%, who now possess virtually unlimited power and resources, from crushing by any means necessary, a fledgling cooperative movement that would be cutting into their power and economic interests?

    ….the 1% doesn’t play by the rules now, why would we expect them to play by any rules in the future?

  • Ron Sanecki

    How is money added to the economy to increase the monitory base? Very few people understand this. Please explain. We all know that the number of dollars has to be increased to keep up with the population. Too few gives deflation, too many gives inflation. Very few know how this is done. We all seem to sense the effect of the Wall Street money vacuum cleaner that sucks up dollars that are added to the monitory base. I seems like inflating the dollar simply taxes anyone with cash. Gee, maybe that would help.

  • pmcaplan

    Dr. Wolff, it seems to me that if your employee owned or democratic ally strucutre business were inplace, there should not be a need for a union as employees vote their best self interests directly to managment since they are the owners and get to vote, why would a union be necessary?
    Under your co-op model, can you have public shareholders in a company or are the employee/owner/customers the only shareholders in a company and, does the one person/one vote concept, where the floor worker has the same one vote as the president, the standard managment model amd if so, and at what level do you engage (require a vote) the workforce in a decision?

  • Bobby Harper

    Mr. Wolff, First, thanks for the refreshing thought provoking concepts. The idea of Americans buying products over those made elsewhere is somewhat true until you get to the price of these same products, especially if you are on a very limited budget. I feel these kind of sacrifices should be made by individuals because it is the American consumer that has the power to transform our destiny. The Italian co-op idea sounds so innovative. It is the type of ideas to bring out the best in us all. It really depends on unity and communication amongst all of us. We have been so divided and thus conquered by our own government (the corporate states of earth).

  • Charles Ivy

    Democracy….. touted as the panacea of civilization. A republic protects the minority and individual from mob rule. Capitalism was perverted long ago and is now nothing like a free market…. Government is a huge part of the problem and so is fractional banking and until those are addressed, no equitable solution can be derived. PBS and those spouting “impractical” and “untenable” socialist communal solutions. Working for themselves will only work without government control. You guys are so off target….. it is the core problem that has to be addressed. Stop condemning capitalism and take on the bankers that created the entire problem…. ICELAND…. Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson – iconic heroes of the dems totally would be against these banksters. If you don’t address this issue, you are obviously complicit and part of the problem….

  • borninthesouth

    Professor Wolff: If you promote cooperatives, how do you expect the “cooperation” to work among individuals from divergent groups? As I understand it, the Mandragon example you cite began with a group of Spanish Catholics from the same parish lead by a priest. Was part of their success perhaps due to the fact that they began with a like mind and a natural non-economic sense of having something in common from the beginning? Contrast this with Lyndon Johnson’s failed Great Society which tried to force very different people to get along – supposedly for the good of all. Wouldn’t your model work best if the cooperatives confined themselves to working only within groups who truly want to be together, rather than trying to apply it to falsely thrown together ecclectic groups created only so that the so-called “dis-advantaged” or “under-privileged” aren’t left out?

  • Charles Ivy

    They are both govt control…… each of us loose our liberty. I will gladly work with others to create a business where we all benefit but too often the elite in govt are the real benefactor of such a system. Loosing one’s freedom is the beginning of the meltdown…. benevolence is a basic human trait but each sharing in the workload will never happen….. some feel they are more deserving than others. Free markets is the only solution – communism and socialism has never worked as a sustainable system. Don’t be fooled by these “collective work and sharing” promoters, Collective efforts can work but if the government is out of the way…

  • Peter Grumbles

    Dr. Wolff,

    As a labor organizer & activist in the south. I’ve personally dealt with the choice of a Factory moving overseas & negotiation on behalf of Employees. I’m both intrigued & excited to hear you discuss Worker Co-ops as well as worker ownership of factories. To my knowledge only Michigan has gone after Corporations who borrow tax dollars for failure to repay & hired. What do you think of legislation that allows states to seize equipment & repatriate factories to workers when companies have borrowed tax dollars they have either not paid back or have failed to mean promises? Do you know of an organization working to pass legislation similar to this?

  • Kn Black

    The United States solved the problem of offshore job erosion in 1783.

    Article. I. Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; US Constitution.

    Lay a duty on the products produced by companies that gained from offshore job exports. This would encourage reducing job transfers and increase income for our government. Hold fast, because the powers that be, I.E. the business owners and politicians that are in their control will whine like mad. We need to decide is this a government for the general person or by the elite.

  • Peter Grumbles

    “Communism can be summed up in one sentence… Abolition of private property” -Marx. Socialism is to Communism what the Episcopal Church is to the Catholic Church. Only taking provisions that are wanted or desired & leaving the rest.

  • Dave Nelson

    How could you attract talented CEOs for a co-op when they would be limited to 6x the salary of the lowest paid worker when they could get 300x the salary of the lowest paid worker at other companies

  • Anonymous

    As near as I can tell, everything Mr. Wolff wants to see accomplished is possible right now. We have had co-operatives in this country since the days of the Amana Community all the way up to Lincoln Electric. There is nothing now, as far as I know, to prevent a group of workmen from forming a co-operative, getting an SBA loan, setting up a business, hiring more of their number, and growing as large as their skills and acumen can take them. Mr. Wolff is simply detached from reality; nowhere else but in academe could he survive. He would have learned more from running a small restaurant for six months than he did during all his years in graduate school.

    It is, admittedly, more difficult to start any kind of a business now than it once was; those who try must endure an enormous amount of licensing, regulation, and general govt. intrusion before they even open their doors. In fact, what we now have is much more a kind of corporatism or fascism than free enterprise. Nevertheless, it should be as easy for a co-operative to set up shop as for a single private business; the major problem seems to be that most people simply do not want to organize themselves that way. All that is lacking for Prof. Wolff’s utopian scheme is govt. force, and the history of govt. administrated economies has not been very good.

    As for democracy in the workplace, the problem is that it takes the control of the enterprise away from those who had the vision, made the sacrifices, and ventured the capital to set the business up, and gives it to those who did not. Most of us see this as highly unfair. And we should not forget that the worker always has the single vote that counts, the vote of his feet; he can pick up and leave tomorrow if he finds something better, and this the owners cannot do.

  • Echo

    Is not the real question that a worldwide dystopian is meticulously being implemented in society, education, economics, nature, even caste systems – amidst the gallant chatter?

    In other words, as machination chokes the life out of truth, privacy, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are we not just shortsightedly pitching tar into the gaping holes of a mutinied and swiftly sinking ship?

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Wolff,

    Do you think that removing private money from all elections – local, state, and federal – would fix many of the problems in the workplace you advocate fixing? After all, very powerful special interests would no longer be able to use their financial advantage to weaken or prevent legislation that benefits the average worker. Thank you.

    Newport, KY

  • Bob Rashkin

    Dr. Wolff speaks thoughtfully and cogently about the problems associated with the failures of capitalism and some creative solutions to those problems. Those solutions are naturally enough alternative forms of employment. I worry more about the problems associated with the SUCCESS of capitalism. At its heart, the power of capitalism is to produce, through a kind of economic evolution, efficiencies and innovations that make it possible to supply all the goods and services that the society needs with ultimately very few workers. The problem isn’t then unemployment so much as it is disemployment. How can a society function when it doesn’t need for more than, say 60% of its population to work?

  • Facebook User

    Less than a year ago I started a small coffee roasting pushcart called Nomadic Ground with a goal towards collectivizing. Where should I look to find the most succinct and relevant information for instruction? Are there funders out there to provide seed/grant money? I’m in twenty stores in San Francisco but yet to be sustainable.

  • Ferde Grofe

    Okay, sounds Utopian and everyone’s opinion is part of the solution, now please apply Prof. Wolff’s concept to the practical needs of the battlefield and conducting war in general….allowing, of course, we just can’t do without a little blood letting once in a while.
    Ferde Grofe’

  • p.cerbone

    Someone in this forum mentioned attracting “talented” CEOs. I do not equate decimating a company’s workforce as a particular “talent” that should be attracted or rewarded. But that is aside from my intended statement and question that follows.

    I have been in limited positions to implement concepts from the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, but one particular standout from my first reading around 1980 is for companies to “stay in business and to provide jobs.” The “provide jobs” concept appears to be an ignored and dirty phrase to corporate capitalism. Since capitalism will go ‘kicking and screaming’ toward the economic changes that you teach and encourage, is there an interim step to convince the corporate nabobs that to provide jobs is in the best interests of all? And, I thank you Mr Wolff for being an enlightening economic resource that I can turn to; with thanks also to Mr Moyers for using his resources to produce this forum.

  • Anonymous

    Professor Wolff, I am a big fan of yours. I made a donation to Democracy at Work a few months ago, and received a (signed, thank you) copy of your book, which I am reading now. By the way, I am a clinical psychologist & psychotherapist, and I have enjoyed many of your wife’s articles as well.

    I consider myself a socialist, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I find your ideas to be quite pragmatic and creative spins on the basic Marxist approach. Obviously, any fundamental change in the system is going to have to begin at the bottom. My question is how do we educate and motivate the masses, so that they can take control and stop relying on politicians? And how do we achieve this, in the face of seemingly insurmountable impediments? Finally, what can I do as an individual?

    Thank you so much. I hope that someday you are an advisor to a President, if not President yourself.
    Timothy Post, Psy.D.
    Kansas City, MO

  • Rich T

    I’m confused, with the increasing disparity in wealth and the shrinking of middle-class perching potential which appears to be caused by the pressure being placed on workers byby corporate leaders. It appears to me that they are shrinking their customers, who are their workers,ability to purchase their products. The customer is the golden goose and they are cutting off their heads to gain immediate wealth at the cost of long-term growth. I must have this all wrong could you please explain. Thank you, Rich T

  • Elaine

    I believe the lack of universal health care in this county is the biggest detriment to our economy. I think most people can learn to live poor, but living without health care can distroys lives with one serious illness. The example of cooperative industries in Spain presented Sunday are exactly what is needed in the U.S. to get our economy going. However, Spain does have a universal health care system in place. How would you propose a cooperative cover its employees?

  • Arthur Langved in ND

    Did you vote for Ron Paul, as I did? I didn’t think so!

  • Johan from Sweden

    What do you see as the best way to implement democrazy at work? I see two general ways, step by step via democratized alternatives growing along side capitalist businesses and slowly replacing that form of production, or democratization of the enterprises as they stand. What are your thoughts on this?

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Arthur, your words come across as unjustifiably aggressive and uncivil. What exactly in my comment did you feel to be so provocative as to excuse your belligerence and rudeness?

    Also, your question is impertinent. Who I voted for is none of your business. The “secret ballot” is a fundamental principle in America and a basic right of every voter.

  • Ilan Israely

    I have few questions to Dr. Wolf:
    1- I invested $ 2.0 mil ( my money) to start a technology co. that employs about 100 persons . why would I make the employees the owners of my company ?
    they invested zero money in it, and with the exception of a hand full of the technical
    leaders, have no clue as to how our product is made.
    2- in your example of employees making decissions diferently then managment ,if so empowered,about
    a product that may be too noisy or environmentaly not quite freindly , would they make the same decision, if by not making this products , will result in one third of them out of work ?
    Ilan Israely

  • moderator


    Let’s do our best to keep this thread about the Live Chat. I don’t think anything was said that is outside our comment policy, but I hope everyone can enjoy a sprited debate without personal attacks.

    Thank You,
    Sean @ Moyers

  • Pat Hook

    Professor Wolff, If you ever consider running for US President, I’ll be your campaign manager!!! You’ve hit the nail on the head! Pat Hook, Albuquerque, NM

  • DSM

    The concept of cooperatively owned enterprises is an interesting idea, but since the current owners of capitalist enterprises are wealthy and politically well-connected, it’s hard to see congress embracing the concept — quite the opposite. Congress would join owners in vigorous opposition to the idea. Isn’t the problem much more fundamental? Isn’t it the fact that our democracy has already been sold to the highest bidder?

  • Chris Albert

    Professor Wolff. I am a recording artist and I have been fighting piracy since it began. I’ve lost my business after years of working to free myself from the claws of the msuic giants. I have even developed ways to stop it. I feel that there is an added 2% unemployment rate due to the fact that piracy has decimated several key aspects and businesses within this economy. Not only music but newspapers, cad programs (architecture) , movies, accounting, just to name a few. These industries will not come back, unless we start solving the problem instead of making more laws to invade our privacy. I find that not only the media but those like yourself refuse to recognize the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Congress dismisses it because tech companies use and steal information to be sold to marketing companies like political marketing firms through these portals such as phones and computers. Piracy is used to collect data and the real culprits are the tech companies such as Google and Facebook and Congress. My company and others have solutions but as usual Microsoft and other big techs work to keep us out of the marketplace with lame excuses such as ” it doesn’t fit the norm or government standard”. As every American has his idenity stolen and used for the purpose of funding these corporate giants, you guys evade the obvious and continue to keep looking at false data? These jobs are not coming back unless we establish an end to this piracy problem and rebuild these companies through true revenue streams instead of encouraging future generations that stealing is OK!

  • Gitana the Creative Diva

    Prof. Wolff:
    I have some questions based on your interview with Bill Moyers. You spoke of a hypothetical situation wherein the employees of a company that has threatened to move their operations overseas could, instead of caving in to company demands for give-backs, could take over and run the operation with seed capital provided by the government. Your example cited direct competition between the new employee-run company and the overseas company, producing the same goods and vying for the same customer base.
    – Given that the cost of foreign labor is much lower than in the US, wouldn’t the overseas goods be sold at a much lower price, effectively beating out the employee-run competition?
    – Given the considerable strength and resources of lobbyists and special interest groups like the banking industry with a vested interest in the status quo, how likely is it that our government would actually enact legislation to promote this agenda?
    – What are your thoughts on NAFTA’s effect on our economy and do you think it is likely to ever be repealed or amended to favor the interest of the average American worker?

  • Shram

    Professor Wolff,
    One serious problem with government as the employer of “last resort” is the prevailing wage and government union negotiations. People wax poetic about FDR, but let’s face it-you cannot run a WPA-type system today with union labor asking for high minimum wages and complicated contracts. You “could” hire 2-3 workers for every union or government worker with a prevailing wage contract-but there would be strikes.
    The Hoover Dam,Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were built using deflated labor costs and low skilled labor. Many unskilled workers died making those massive-scale projects. These days, you cannot hand some random hard luck case a shovel. The people who build large scale projects are highly skilled and specialized with very high wages. I pass the NEW Bay Bridge everyday and at a high price tag of 9 Billion dollars I nary see more than 30 people on the project. The technology to make these big scale projects is so advanced that it negates the need for any LABOR at all. In the new world, thanks to our government and banks, the need for labor is in massive deflation. No one has the money to pay for artisan products that you speak of, and government is very poor at picking winners in the economy. And when does government hand the work back to the more efficient private sector(which creates more jobs per dollar?) Like NEVER.
    Nice ideas but essentially more Keynesian fantasies.

  • Shram

    I voted for Ron Paul-the last honest man in the US

  • Shram

    Professor Wolff,
    What has become apparent is that the financial and banking system is and has always been a reserved based system. Where I come from that’s a pyramid/ponzi scheme. Why is the basis for the global economy based on inflationary money supply and prices-and cannot function in reverse

  • Ed S

    My question concerns the relationship of the worker to a corporation’s ability to produce goods, and is best illustrated by the following example. Apple corporation outsourced one million manufacturing jobs to China. China then got rid of all the workers and turned to robotics for manufacturing their product. One million jobs lost–to outsourcing, and then to robotics. How can we make corporations accountable to workers who have lost their jobs to robotics and outsourcing? Do governments today, who are essentially owned by corporate interests, even have the power to give money/jobs back to the people? Has our relationship to work itself changed–by virtue of a corporation’s ability to produce goods–without even needing workers? If a job cannot be provided, doesn’t everyone have a right to at least a modest income?

  • Gabrielle Engh

    Professor Wolff,

    You remind me of some of the key capacities we appreciate and need for a democracy to work– the fearlessness and ability to legitimately present new or unpopular thought to a mainstream audience, and the fearlessness to speak against the dictums of those really holding the reigns (private groups, corporations) with the intention to spark momentum and change.

    I appreciated your examples– among them, the priest in Spain who helped found the collectively owned enterprise, now employing 100,000 people, that is studied by Microsoft and others because of its success.

    You suggested that people need to become active, and come out against what’s happening and for change. To your suggestion, I put forth questions for your comment.

    In light of the present economic situation not just in America, but globally, and the related global economic meltdown since 2008 induced by the “best and the brightest” also known as Wall Street, most people are already doing something, doing enough, and have little to nothing left time- or money-wise outside of work, family, the sheer survival of living one paycheck to the next. We’ve seen the rise of debtors’ prisons for the average American (“Return of Debtors’ Prisons,”, but not one person involved in crashing the economy which raised U.S. debt by half has gone to jail (Inside Job,

    As if this weren’t bad enough, some people are engulfed in what they commonly term a fight for their lives (Pennsylvania and New York come to mind, but there are plenty of other places here and abroad) against the natural gas industry, whose Halliburton-developed practice of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, needed an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act passed by President Ford in 1974, in order to proceed. Shockingly, they received it in its entirety in 2005 by President Cheney, also formerly of Halliburton. Others are in a similarly difficult, David and Goliath type, battle against corporations like Monsanto, who recently sued Midwest farmers for stealing technology after their patented seed pollen was wind-blown onto the farmers’ non-genetically modified farms, hence they were sued for an act of God.

    In an odd coupling, in addition to having fewer resources to act, many are also so much more aware now than even a few years ago of the many dire crises that promise to bear out this century. Among the crises around which there is heightened awareness:

    (1) the guarantee of a rise in our earth’s temperature by at least 1-2 degrees, even if we all act now, with devastating consequences (17% of Sri Lanka expected to be underwater);

    (2) the food production crisis where given climate crises, population increase and gross mismanagement by governments and bureaucracies, and outright abuses of power by corporations, all of which promise that we’ll run out of food, as ridiculous as that might seem (see HRH Prince Charles on the Future of Food presentation at Georgetown University, 2012,; and,

    (3) health crises with explosive numbers of preventable diseases that are, not ironically, related to food, among other issues, such as unhealthy weight/obesity, diabetes type II, high blood pressure, and on and on (Escape Fire,

    Overall, it seems like a situation bred to create a sense of fear and powerlessness, if not inertia from a combination of not being able to do much and not knowing what to do with a good sprinkling of a whole host of legitimate fears around what kind of actions, normally protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, have been weakened or eliminated since the tragedy of September 11, including on President Obama’s watch. The recent Supreme Court smackdown of the ACLU-led case against surveillance without warrant, and in particular the Court’s response comes to mind.

    In light of this chaotic mix, my question is simple, but not easy, what do we do? What can we do across a range of potential commitments from say, for example, 1 hour a week to full-time commitment, or perhaps you’ve a better measure for thinking about how to become active. What do we read from layperson to trenchant academic work on specific periods as guidance and recipes for action? What are the most salient places to build linkages right now? Is there an example of this happening in the United States right now? What are some of the best examples we can follow right now?

    Your message is timely. Thank you.


    Gabrielle Engh

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for hosting this excellent discussion.

    I’m looking forward to Professor Wolff’s ideas regarding what is to be done. How do we empower workers and communities so that they may build and secure an economy that works for everyone? Can we get there by implementing gradual reforms, or, do we need to break free of capitalist constraints entirely in order to win economic democracy and substantive equality?

    Christopher & Maryanne
    Augusta, Maine

  • Anonymous

    I like Richard Wolff…a lot. This is modern day socialism. Funny, Dick Wolff was on the Moyers show twice, and never once mentioned socialism. He is a self avowed socialist, and I think that he self-censored on the Moyers program so people would listen to his ideas, not the label “socialism”. I AM a socialist, and find these ideas quite reasonable. I am just a bit chagrined that the word is just so SCARY that it can’t be used, even in liberal company. Why not come out of the closet with it and say the word “socialism”?

  • Russell Spears

    Subject: [moyersandcompany] Re: Live Chat with Economist Richard Wolff

  • Barbara Holliday

    There’s no simple question for no simple answer. However, do you think jail time for the obvious fraud that’s gone on would go a long way to beginning the healing process of our entire financial and corporate systems? not to even get into no bid contracts and out and out theft…. Sorry, I digress. If the consumer has had their investment in their future stolen they have no money to reinvest in our economy. And don’t even food stamps contribute to the economy ultimately? How do we bring our manufacturing home, wresting it from the grip of walmart and other large companies. Thank you for your time sincerely.

  • John Gebhardt

    As we evolve to a world free trade Economy, what is the resolution of free labor movement to fill the necessary jobs? As the labor requirements move, what about the people?
    What do we do, as robotics claim more jobs, to support the displaced laborers? I know that the higher echelon of Capitalists don’t want the hear this, what are they to do to live, and increase their education?

  • Anonymous

    Whoever you are – you express my own thoughts completely! Maybe you will think I’m totally off the wall, but I strongly believe there has been a movement of societal engineering and purposeful financial manipulations to bring us down to the state in which we now find ourselves. I truly believe that all of this has been done to weaken our voices and will against the efforts of the “Gnomes of Zurich” to bring us into the fold of the One World Order. We were warned time and again by past Presidents of the dangers of our own military/industrial complex and the Gnomes of Zurich.

  • Christine Hartelt

    Professor Wolff: My home, Madison, WI, has a small but thriving number of worker-owned cooperatives. Union Cab, for example, has been a worker cooperative since 1970. Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, Just Coffee (a coffee roaster), Nature’s Bakery, Lakeside Printing, WI Citizens Media Cooperative, the Willy Street Natural Foods Co-op (East & West), and Community Pharmacy are some of the others. I enjoyed learning about the highly successful cooperative in Northern Spain, but there are some successful cooperatives right here, albeit not as large. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a Center for Cooperatives that offers start-up advice. Here’s the link:

    I have enjoyed your appearances on Bill Moyers & Co. recently and look forward to reading your book. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Professor Wolff: Do you believe there has been a decades-long program of societal engineering and manipulation of our economy to bring about the decline of the Middle Class?

  • ilfark2

    Is it worth pointing out we could (and should, given the state of the climate) run a program like WWII spending, but for a War on Global Warming?

    During WWII mobilization much of the “capital” was printed, the rest redistributed (via bond sales) from one set of producers to others. The factories were built and owned by the US gov, and “leased” to US companies. Except this time require these companies to be worker run?

    I.e., there is no shortage of “funds”, as we have proven, repeatedly, in the past. We have a model to go by to expand the economy by printing money.

    Of course, without the US people on board, in the face of the powers that be, this scheme has no chance.

  • pmurphynam
  • Bob Rundle


    I found a lot of good ideas in your show Sunday. But I was disappointed in their scope when you discussed changing the system. I have still not found any better plan for this than David Korten describes in the 2nd ed of his “Agenda for a New Economy”. He presents the vision I think we need and the strategies (including some you already discussed) for achieving this vision. What do you think of Korten’s ideas?

  • Richard Kidd

    I remember reading about a workers’ cooperative in Argentina that had taken over a brick factory and was now profitably producing construction materials, ceramic tiles, and paving stones for the local community. The Chicago Windows & Doors takeover is another example of such a successful WSDE. It seems, however, that there is a big difference between small-scale enterprises like these and massive production facilities engaged in heavy industry, electronics, sophisticated transportation systems, and the like. Yes, the Mondragon Corporation makes good refrigerators and operates profitable bakeries, but those things are a far cry from high-speed rail, jetliners, and even products like computers and iphones. Could you explain how you see WSDE’s coping successfully with the challenges posed by large-scale production involving sophisticated technology and (usually) massive capital investment?
    (Parenthetically, let me add that I have read many of your books and am a big fan of yours. I congratulate you on putting your ideas forward so clearly and eloquently on TV without ever mentioning the C-word, the S-word, or a guy named M. While you’ll doubtless continue to play the Artful Dodger on Mr. Moyers’ program, Just between us, doesn’t the issue I introduced above present a real problem for the kind of …. er, “democratic” economy you envisage in your books? Thus, to offer one example, it’s no surprise that state capitalism was essential to the development of heavy industry in the Soviet Union during the 1920’s and 30’s, whereas some latitude was allowed for other possibilities in the agricultural field. This is a big question, I know. I guess what I’m saying is that matters of scale and technology seem to be crucial to the potential success of the WSDE-oriented society you advocate. To some degree this might be considered a good thing — who needs tar sands development, drone missiles, and aircraft carriers? But still … )

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Wolff, I think that progressives have been too quick to accept the framing of the 1% on compensation and inequality, that wages have “stagnated” in recent decades. Economic statistics are notoriously scrubbed of context so it’s hard to tell, but I believe that when wage comparisons are made between different eras, the relative value of benefit packages is excluded. I assume this is at least in part because the “present value” of benefits, many of which are promised for the future (and may never materialize), is quite difficult to calculate. Nevertheless, given the dramatic drop in corporate benefit packages (e.g., Proctor & Gamble used to match employee retirement savings 3-to-1 back in the day, whereas in my last job, we were matched 5-to-4, or 25%, up to a modest ceiling), overall worker compensation should be seen to have plummeted, not stagnated.

    Moreover, I thought Kevin Phillips made a pretty good case in his book “Bad Money,” that since the 90s, the federal government has been purposely, via gimmicks, understating the inflation rate, in order to make economic performance seem more impressive (and perhaps for other reasons). If that is the case, then real compensation has been grossly eroded. It seems to me that it’s hard to get the public riled up over “stagnating” wages but rather easy over plummeting overall compensation. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Mark Patnaude

    Professor Wolfe, the US healthcare system, the most expensive
    in the world, consumes 18% of GDP but is ranked 38th in the world. The
    OECD average is 9.5%. One trillion dollars each and every year is wastefully directed into corporate coffers. We spend
    more on health than we do on taxes. Per David Cay Johnston,” In the US total
    public and private cost of healthcare is significantly greater than the total
    of corporate and individual income taxes, as well as payroll taxes. For each
    dollar paid in all three of those taxes in 2010, healthcare came to $1.29.” I have come to think of the Affordable Care
    Act as tantamount to the imposition of a private income tax and medical bankruptcy
    as the ultimate private estate tax. When I see advertisements for reverse
    mortgages, I am reminded that median wealth in the US is ranked below 23 other countries
    (Credit Suisse). Because the US
    shamefully stands alone among developed countries in denying this basic human
    right to its citizens, black market prices prevail, income and wealth
    disparities are created and continued and tens of thousands of citizens die
    untimely deaths. If the US adopted any system similar to our OECD brethren, we
    would not have a deficit problem and the money that now pours to support corporate
    welfare could easily stay in pockets of our citizens, re-enforcing social
    security and making college grants available, helping with childcare expenses.
    And with a new system that made healthcare universal, how many older workers
    could gracefully exit their jobs making room for the young?

  • Russell Spears

    Mr Wolff has also said that food stamps are actually corporate
    welfare for companies like Walmart that make it a practice of getting
    the community to pick up the low wages of their employees. So you might have to add the difference in public taxes paid to cover these programs as Latent lost income.

  • Russell Spears

    While the ideas are old, they are actually really new to our economy. Time is the only difference between large Corporations and potentially larger WSDEs.

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Thanks, Betty, for your supportive words. I agree with you that the ruling classes (the .001% richest, the trans-national bankers, the trans-national corporations, the corporate-monopoly of media, the military-spy global empires, and the bought-and-paid-for puppet-politicians of nearly every party) have turned against the common people in almost every nation on earth, and are relentlessly looting every society and concentrating wealth and power into the hands of totalitarian plutocracies, and are steadily and purposely impoverishing and disenfranchising the common people. (Books that prove this terrifying phenomenon have been written recently by Hacker and Pierson, Larry Bartels, Sheldon Wolin, Charles Ferguson, Hendricks Smith, Bartlett and Steele, Timothy Noah, Jeff Faux, Chris Hedges, etc. )

    The 3 most important crises and challenges for all people living now are:
    1) Global warming and climate change (that will kill BILLIONS of people and possibly destroy human civilization within a mere 50 to 200 years).
    2) The rapid increase of totalitarianism, spying on everyone, and political and legal repression even in “supposed” democracies.
    3) The rapid stealing of wealth from the common people, concentrating it into the .001% to 1% richest people, and purposely causing the common people majority in almost every nation to be impoverished and oppressed.

    You can see these terrible trends in many nations, especially in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, etc. Now New Zealand wants to pass a law to take money from the common people’s bank accounts to bail out banksters who get in financial trouble.)

    These terrifying changes to our societies and to our planet have been going on for many decades, but especially since the mid-1970’s and the rise of the steady, systematic take-over of many nations’ governments (especially in the U.S.) by giant banks, giant corporations, and militarists of the neo-liberal and neo-conservative right-wing ideologists. And all 3 of these horrible trends are picking up speed and intensity with every passing year!

    Common people in European nations are rebelling and resisting the ruthless ruling classes the most — but so far they don’t seem to be winning very much or very often. In the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street movement showed great promise at times, but failed to win any important or permanent changes in the basic, corrupt structures of the U.S. system. And then the Obama administration, the Homeland Security Department, and the militarized police in many major cities aggressively removed the Occupiers from their encampments so that Obama could run for re-election without any nationwide protests. In fact, Obama has signed into law (and his administration is fighting ferociously in court) for many laws passed by the tyrannical Congress that include the many threatening violations of our Bill of Rights and human rights that I listed in my original comment.

    Even after 35 years of these 3 destructive trends (listed above), there is NO organized, effective movement of the common people in America. I guess there won’t be until the economic impoverishment and inequality gets unbearable for enough people, and until the political and legal repression becomes too painful for too many people. But by the time that the common people in the U.S. get organized enough to fight back effectively against the ruling classes (listed above), I’m afraid that climate chaos and societal breakdown will have gotten so bad that sheer physical survival will be a more important and immediate need than trying to regain a healthy democracy, civil liberties, economic justice, or social equality.

    In fact, I think that one big motive of the ruling classes’ accelerating grasp for ALL the wealth and power is that they know that humanity is quickly running out of time — and like the narcissists and sociopaths that many of them are, they want to “win the game of life” by “having the most toys” when they die — and by their actions, when everyone dies.

    My question to Professor Wolff (and to everyone else) is this: what is the realistic basis for hope and activism given all of the discouraging conditions that I (and many others) have listed? Peace and Good Luck!

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Wolff, it seems to me that one of the most crucial factors in developing a cooperative economy will be the matter of startup capital. For very small enterprises, Credit Unions can probably fill the bill, but what about more ambitious efforts? Do we need cooperative Banks, or perhaps public banks modeled on the Bank of North Dakota? One thing I find amazing is that government has ceded almost all money creation powers to the private banking system. As you know, banks expand the money supply (enabled by the Fed) as they make loans. It seems to me that this constitutes an extraordinary opportunity cost, given that money creation could instead be done by government or progressive banks serving the people, not the Wall Street bottom line. For some reason, economists never want to talk about this, so it is left to obscure money theorists such as Ellen Brown and Stephen Zarlenga to explain to the public that there is more than meets the eye in our money system. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Russell Spears

    More than Scarcity Thinking, it may be more about a Perverse Competitive Spirit: Where the working Poor are competing for employment opportunity with each other. How advanced are we really when able bodied and willing workers are not given opportunity to contribute to the wealth of our country. There was never Pre-European Unemployment in the Americas, everyone did something productive. Capitalism does not work!

  • Bob

    There’s talk about indexing the minimum wage to inflation, but what about indexing the 8-hour day to productivity? With a 1-2% productivity increase over the past century, one might expect a shorter day and more time to reflect and improve ethics and such. Historically, things like universal K-12 education and social security were, in large part, about reducing supply in the labor force at times of high immigration or unemployement. However, the tax base and programs dependent on growth (which tended to come into prominence around the 1930s) might suffer.
    Physicists or engineers might emphasize the role of technology and energy in growth, while academics and service providers tend to emphasize the role of human capital.
    There’s the story of the town that decides to boost growth by doing each others’ laundry. Eventually, one could form specialized areas of laundry law, have laundry administrators, human resource personnel to integrate all the administrative posts, etc.
    There’s a HBS criticism of current business that claims that some business leaders (who may not have been at the top of their class all the time, may have had failed marriages, and so on) may turn to compensation as a way of declaring and proving their status; in a circular fashion, one can become famous for being famous. Everyone wants to be the biggest fish in the pond, and excessive specialization in “made-up” jobs can exacerbate things. There’s a counter argument in movies like DISCLOSURE or popular books like SHOP CLASS AS SOUL CRAFT.
    How is the invisible hand supposed to work in labor markets? A compensation consultant (the author of IN SEARCH OF EXCESS) points out that executives don’t like to make comparable worth arguments for workers, but do point to the salaries of athletes or actors to justify high executive pay (though, in many cases, the pay of top athletes and actors is approved by the CEO of a conglomerate). Most economists tend to think in terms of orthogonal traits, popular works like THE BLACK SWAN might question this a bit, and shows like CHARLIE ROSE have a brain series (underwritten by people who make a living out of trying to understand things) with guests having opinions on brain circuits on both sides. To throw classicists and Bill Moyer poetry-types into the mix, many might point out that there’s not much evidence of progress in ethical and many other matters over the millenia (though there is progress in the sense of cataloguing new organic chemicals and so forth), and, contrary to many claims, people still live about three score and ten years (though infant and childhood deaths and those associated with childbirth have come down — often through low-tech or low cost means such as sanitation or vaccination — and, as people point out, some of the relatively small increase in years at the end of life may be skewed towards higher social classes).
    Can growth be questioned? There’s a “best of all possible worlds” argument that civil rights and such have caused progress. There’s also a WAR AND PEACE view that broader forces have driven things. Works like BRAVE NEW WORLD have focused on consumerism that boosts economic growth, brought women into the labor force, increased the use of debt, may have changed ethical norms, and lowered the birthrate (childless or gay couples tend to spend more than those staying at home with kids).
    Is there a Pareto-efficient, win-win solution for every problem?

  • Jeff Holmes

    I thought that there was a problem with that too. Corporations would never allow the government to help finance their competition. Can you imagine the disaster for them if it actually worked?

  • grant

    I would like to submit a question to Richard Wolff:
    Mr. Wolf, I live in Ventura County. Several military contractors are moving
    into our country to startup drone production to be used to spy on American
    citizens. They will get tax free incentives, and they will likely hire Hb2 and L1
    visa workers–or cheap foreign labor from outside the country. Could you
    exxplain 1) How do these huge international corporations circumvent the
    law, and hire foreigners rather than Americans? And 2) How do drone fac-
    tories contradict your business model of quality jobs for American citizens?
    grant in Ventura, California

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Two Self-Corrections: 1) Hedrick Smith (not Hendricks). and 2) Donald L. Barlett, by himself most recently (not Bartlett). But Barlett’s books with Steele are also very important and relevant.

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    So sorry! James B. Steele is, in fact, a co-author with Donald L. Barlett in their most recent book, “The Betrayal of the American Dream.”

  • Rishicash

    Dr. Wolff. – All these hypothesis are interesting and all but the time for talk is over and what we need is change and we need it NOW! On Friday’s show, in answer to Bill’s question as to how real change could really be effected, you replied with “non-violent revolution.”

    Here is my question.What specific advice would you give as to what would be needed to initiate and perpetuate this so it didn’t turn into another failed “Occupy” attempt and most specifically, what would be needed from a sound economic strategic standpoint? We know what would be coming from the Conservative media in response. And yes, I am thinking about nominating you to help lead this revolution as the “Economic Czar”. And don’t you go anywhere either Bill! We desperately need your experience and wisdom. It’s basically what the two of you are doing already. The pay will be lousy, but the rewards great!

  • Janet Morris

    Dear Professor Wolff,
    I am a member of a teacher’s union. Our pensions and those of many other workers are under attack. Legislators and the Governor have threatened and seem poised to cut our pensions, decrease the cost of living raises or eliminate them altogether, raise the age of eligibility for taking the pension and increasing workers participation. They have also considered having all of the pensions go into a 401K type of investment rather than maintain the defined benefits plan currently in place.
    I and others have contacted our legislators and Governor and marched on Washington with replies that basically say yes, I understand your pain, but this is what we have to do.

    So, my questions are:
    1. How can we change the direction of this kind of legislation, that the government of Illinois (and many other states), clearly have no intention of changing? They have denied the unions and the Illinois and American Federation of Teachers access in being part of that conversation? How do we convince lawmakers that this will be harming many people and that another solution must be considered?
    2. How do you get the people responsible for the shortfalls of these pensions to be taken to task?
    3. How do you start a revolution and still keep your jobs?

    Thank you.

  • Sara Hopkins

    Professor Wolff, I enjoy your creative, outside the box ideas. And I love your down to earth way of explaining very complex economic concepts. I have a question for you about the worker cooperatives. It seems like they could work well with some of the examples cited: small manufacturing entities, neighborhood coffee shops or other service-oriented businesses, etc. But how about businesses with many moving parts, like major pharmaceutical companies? They are so complex to run that it seems to me that those with the skills to manage them would also have the skills to rip off their fellow workers to a large extent. Maybe I am just being cynical and I know that the system we have is completely unsustainable, but I have a hard time seeing people with power or wealth letting anyone succeed on any scale but the smallest one. Thank you and Mr, Moyers for having this wonderful dialogue not seen in many places in the US.

  • Oliver Johnston

    Professor Wolff, I would consider myself a socialist, in that I accept the extensive critique of capitalism that has filled Marxist literature since the man himself wrote (and in recent months have been particularly inspired by you and Prof. David Harvey). I also agree with the notion that a concept like the WSDE – building socialism from the bottom up – is the only legitimate way to bring about socialism and worker’s control of production.

    However, I often find myself at odds to imagine what a ‘fully’ socialist system would look like beyond things like workers cooperatives that already operate in a capitalist system with great success. On a macro level it makes some basic common sense – the workers produce, they allocate the surplus to those who require it etc. But most of the work in Marxist theory seems to focus only on the critique, and offer very little in the way of specifics of how a society may look without capitalism.

    Could you perhaps describe a vision of what day-to-day life may look like for ordinary people on a micro scale, and how the macro may differ from previous attempts at socialism from the USSR, China etc. that often either faced economic stagnation, or saw the workers no better off?

  • Mary

    How do we get the people to believe that they have the power to make the change? Look at the grocery unions today, they have no power. they have lost wages, health care , full time work.

  • Duff

    Professor Wolff: What effect will worker’s self-directed enterprises have on creative .individualism? Would there still be motivation for a person who has a innovated product or service to start a worker’s self-directed enterprise?

  • Cre8Liberty

    Dear Professor Wolf:
    I am afraid that the three prescriptions you would undertake if President with a cooperative Congress fall short in addressing a fundamental issue that you keep underscoring as an often overlooked flaw, a failed system. Your 3 suggestions, government as an employer of last resort, a Green New Deal, and passing a Marcola Law that would support the creation Cooperative Enterprises, while helpful as Economic Reform tools would not, in of themselves, reform our Political System. These economic reforms while smart and great ideas could just as easily become undone by the next President and the next Congress. In order to at least create a Political Structure whereby the very important economic reforms that you propose can be considered by a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, wouldn’t concrete reforms such as a Constitutional Amendment that would define Money as property and not as speech, and define corporations as non-political artificial entities and not as people go a longer way to reform our system? And would then publicly funded campaigns actually remove the inequitable influences that the special interests and the elite class have over our government? Public support for these reforms is already at an all time high, so what might a third reform look like that would bring long lasting and real change?

  • Thell

    TO Richard Wolff:

    1 Crowdfunding is decidedly democratic in its structure it is in some ways the Democratization of our financial system allowing all of us to invest in new companies what are your thoughts about it. Will it work ? will it spread the wealth?? will it fall on its face for the lack of A LEADER CONTROLLER? would you invest in a Crowdfunding program to develope COMMUNITY CENTRIC CROWDFUNDING PLATFORMS TO communities all over the US

    2. When people INVEST money or time and energy in a new enterprise arent they investing in an idea but mostly in a person a leasder who is often dictatorial and who will make an enterprise work often hireing many people who he controls and make it profitable???? How does that square with democracy in the work place for new enterprises (Shades of Mark Zukerberg or even Steve jobs)

  • David Powell

    Professor Wolff: Are democratically run cooperative businesses different than “socialism”, i.e., the means of production, distribution, and exchange owned or regulated by the community as a whole? And if so, how so? Thank you. David Powell

  • John Cane

    Professor Wolff – I liked your idea about giving unions an extra bargaining chip by threatening to take over facilities abandoned by off shoring. However, there is the problem of capital for the unions, which Bill pointed out in the show. What we need to do NOW is to launch and support a national campaign to unionize the USA’s largest private employer, WalMart. Not only would a Walmart union contract cut off the recent Supreme Court nonsense about gender discrimination, but more importantly would lead to a living wage and good benefits for all Walmart employees and by ripple effect, service and retail workers across the country. If Walmart’s anti -union, low wage stance can be broken, it would be easier to unionize more workers in the private sector and help restore middle class wages across the economy. It would also
    undermine the GOPs campaign to emasculate public sector unions because the GOP
    could no longer play off public sector unions to be out step with the private
    This union organizing campaign would be hard and need to be national, with boycotts against WM until it accepts unions and negotiates decent contracts. Walmart workers
    couldn’t strike because they would be replaced in a heart beat, but a huge
    consumer boycott could get Walmart management ’s attention if it had an effect
    on the bottom line, share prices, bargaining power with suppliers, etc. What do you think?

  • Michael H

    Hello Dr. Wolff,

    I just finished watching your last appearance on the show and enjoyed it though I think one key thing is missing. I don’t think anyone can question that our economy is stratified by wealth, but it is also divided by race and gender. The unemployment rates of people of color are higher than those of whites across education and sector lines and there are a number of reasons for that. And as much as we hear of women in the boardroom these days, women continue to be pigeon holed into certain careers that often require a college education to have any chance of stable employment. So my question is, how we can seriously rethink our economy to deal with these structural issues?

  • Jay Thal

    By pure chance Professor Wolff and I share a birthdate (VBG), though I’m four years older.

    Did the writings of E.F. Schumacher influence your economic thinking?

  • Topher Dean

    Dear Mr. Wolff, Would someone please solve my basic math problem. The Republicans claim that the top 10% pay 70% of the annual federal budget. Given that the top 10% do this while paying an effective tax rate of 15% on an adjusted gross income that has been whittled down as much as possible, wouldn’t they be able to pay 140% of the annual federal budget if they paid what we pay, 30%? We would be able to pay off the entire federal deficit in less than 10 years. After that, the government would be able to build up enough equity to start the massive civil works project that we need, implementing the solar-hydrogen grid. Really we need to start that now. The science and engineering have all been done, except for the details. Unlimited, clean, reliable, dependable, energy forever. That would permanently stabilize the markets and have the rather nice benefit of saving us from extinction.

    On another note, your idea of a more efficient mass transportation system sounds nice, but don’t forget who destroyed the one we had, the automobile industry. Talk about getting around regulations, I can’t even immagine the backlash from trying to develop more mass transit. Again, if we implemented the solar hydrogen grid, we could all burn as much energy as we want, guilt free. Leave your lights on all night? Sure, go ahead. Drive an enormous hydrogen powered truck? Drive all day and night if you like. Desalinization plant? Get on it.

    Finally, I liked what Martha, from Natick Massachusetts had to say on Sunday’s show. The truth is, any economic system that relies on never ending growth is doomed to fail and if we don’t stand down from this situation soon, failure will be immanent. It’s hard to immagine the pain and suffering that will follow the sudden and complete failure of capitalism, but I’m sure Hollywood is way off the mark. We need to make birth control free and easy to access world wide, so we can reduce the global population, which means permanent recession in a capitalist system. We also need to disseminate the harsh realities of our frightening situation to the general public.

  • MikeD

    I like the idea of cooperatives but wonder if there are other creative solutions for finding financing? I am thinking along the lines of part of the Occupy movement which began buying debt and then forgiving it. This might be a method of getting a start that “proves” that the program works, will (hopefully) garner positive mentions in the media and generally educate the population at large about this method. Yes I know it is already proven overseas, but if I know Americans, many will believe that just because it works elsewhere is not evidence it will work here.

  • Rusty Wilson

    #OWS is no longer front and center with tent cities but it has moved out into many areas helping people who are being dispossessed by the 1% and even by natural disasters such as #Occupy Sandy. It is building up a base that will erupt into millions down the line.

  • Christina Coolidge

    Which states are the most cooperative-friendly, in
    their laws and policies or in their number of cooperatives?

    Could one or more of these states be the places
    where a federally-supported program of ‘Model States’ test-drives a more
    progressive America in a number of policy areas?

  • Abigail Jennings

    Dear Professor Wolff,
    My question after watching your interview with Bill Moyers is: what is the secret to Germany’s economic success that functions without economic cooperatives? Do they have more effective regulation than we, the United States do?
    Abigail Jennings
    Junior, University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Topher Dean

    Well said sir. I made a New Year’s resolution to call the President everyday. I wrote him a five page children’s story about the tar sands mining in Alberta. I call, email, and write my Senators, Congressmen and Women, The speaker, and various other Government agencies regularly. (Writing helps the Post Office.) If everyone who thinks like we do contacted their representatives regularly the servers would crash, the mail room would be jammed, and the phone operators who are very nice, would be swamped. All of this can be done for free from the comfort of your own home in just a matter of minutes and it feels really good. I also request meetings and have had one already although that’s more difficult to set up. They do respond, sometimes with rhetoric but if you’re persistant you do eventually get a real response. Think, Shawshank Redemption.
    The one thing I can’t get anyone to respond to is my warning about the failure of Lake Mead and Powell. If you check out Tim Barnett and Dave Pierce’s paper titled, When Will Lake Mead Run Dry and start to extrapolate the ramifications, I hope you’ll join me in my effort. Research Marine Physicist Tim Barnett and Climate annalist Dave Pierce of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography completed a ten year study on how climate change effects the water levels in Lake Mead and Powell. The studies were completed in 2007, before the mega drought of 2012. NOAA predicts, “Drought to continue or intensify for 2013.” They’re conclusion is, there’s a 50% chance that those reservoirs will fail by 2021. Those reservoirs feed the cities of the south west, Including LA. If they fail, that’s it. It will cause a cataclysmic failure of our economy and by extension, the world’s economy. I seriously can’t think of a more dire or immediate disaster. In case you’re thinking a 50% chance isn’t that bad, think of putting three rounds in a six shot revolver and putting it to your head. Suddenly 50% odds don’t sound so good. Millions will die if those reservoirs fail.

  • Richard C

    Professor Wolff, thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Watching your videos, listening to your lectures sometimes I think of a quote from Archie Bunker. When Gloria and Mike bemoan the inequality they see in America, Archie flatly states, “Equality is un-American. Certainly it is. Why should a man go to work all his life, sacrifice and save….if all he’s going to end up is equal?”

    Don’t you think most Americans agree with him? I’m not sure your idea for a workplace of equals can survive in the U.S. I don’t believe we want to be a society of equals I think we want to be winners. We celebrate the American Dream, it’s in our collective DNA so to speak, and its philosophy in part says that, while we’re all created equal under god we certainly don’t plan on staying that way any longer than we must. Winners reaping their just rewards, that’s the American Dream. Side-by-side along the way are the losers. We’ll setup safety nets for them in good conscience but we don’t intend to elevate them into winners or “equals.”

    So my question is basically, how can you hope to fight 200+ years of indoctrination using ideas that are so blatantly antithetical to the myth we call the American Dream? Perhaps your answer will begin by examining the myth but if so, won’t most Americans hear “he wants to make us all equal” and react the way Archie Bunker did?

  • Rusty Wilson

    Plato’s Republic is what the American Republic is based upon. Democracy was instituted among the free Athenians(most were slaves) to keep them from killing each other for property and influence. It worked for awhile but led to wide scale corruption only surpassed by our own present corruption. The Athenians had to abandon their democracy when it’s corruption threatened to destroy Athens, a lesson we should learn from. The founders of our U. S. Republic set it up to protect their minority, white propertied males(the only ones who could vote originally), from the majority seizing their wealth. The system is working very well for the 1% and they are running the government. Their lobbyists democratically work out who gets what by who best bribes the politicians. The Supreme Court was absolutely right in ruling that money, campaign contributions, is free speech. The freest individuals with the most free speech are Wall Street, the banks and the corporations. They pre-vet and finance the politicians of both parties.

    Fractional banking and the modern debt system controlled by a central private bank(The Federal Reserve is a private bank) was born under Queen Anne in the old British Empire. It is the basis of the capitalist revolution that replaced feudalism. Capitalism has hit the fan and the only solutions are socialist solutions such as Mr. Wolff suggests but I do not believe that the 1% will allow them to be implemented on any meaningful scale without a revolution or the total worldwide collapse of the capitalist system that has already begun. The only question is will the coming chaos and the ecological collapse end the human race?

  • Rusty Wilson

    The system is working very well for the 1% and they are running the government. Their lobbyists democratically work out who gets what by who best bribes the politicians. The Supreme Court was absolutely right in ruling that money, campaign contributions, is free speech. The freest individuals with the most free speech are Wall Street, the banks and the corporations. They pre-vet and finance the politicians of both parties. To vote in an election for anyone, even yourself, is to approve and consent to that system.

    You’ve Got to Stop Voting – by Mark E. Smith:

    Voting For, Voting Against

    Colonized by Corporations

  • Rusty Wilson

    “Our dying corporate class, corrupt, engorged on obscene profits and indifferent to human suffering, is the guarantee that the mass movement will expand and flourish. No one knows when. No one knows how. The future movement may not resemble Occupy. It may not even bear the name Occupy. But it will come.”

  • Taylor W

    Mr. Wolff, how would you redefine the relationship between the private enterprise and American citizens? Not workers, but citizens? A private business should be an institution essential to the public good, but such a definition does not exist anywhere, certainly not in the mandate of a corporate enterprise. Can such a deal be made with businesses whose home is the US?

  • Ted

    Professor Wolf:

    I was wondering if you could speak for a minute on unionization and the influence of private healthcare on the state of unions?

  • PineConeBob

    Can we avoid Fascism or Feudalism in America in the coming decades?

  • JohnP

    Professor Wolff –
    Totally involved in the high technology industry, over the last 40 years I have seen an amazing loss in a US competitive dominance to other countries, especially Asia, in this ultra-important facet that affects daily lives on a global basis. I lay the blame of this lost opportunity, not at the feet of lower-wage foreign workers, but at the feet of utterly incompetent US political and business management. Unfortunately this includes the overly-compensated American folk heros who the media idolize. How do we extract the American worker, the American public, from the canyon of this feudal tyranny ?

  • Alice Brown

    How about the carrot/hammer approach to get the 1% to do the right thing? Or how about a ‘real’ threat from Outer Space (when the truth is the 1% and their polluting ways make the biggest threat to our planet.)? Where is Orson welles when you need him?

  • Andrew Gorman

    On Economics: I see universities teach two concepts: macroeconomics and microeconomics. Where does Marxian economic analysis fit into this model? Or is this merely the model that is perpetuated precisely to alienate more critical forms of analysis?

  • MWWA

    Question for Professor Wolff: Is it possible to have capitalism without growth? The growth imperative seems to be what makes the current system so destructive of community and environment.

  • Gregory Ugrin

    How can we pursue political activism if we give up on regulation because it doesn’t work?

  • Gregory Ugrin

    Many people are afraid of losing even what subsistence work they may have. How do you suggest reaching out to people and community to inform, motivate and create largely unknown and perceivably risky WSDEs?

  • Joyce Sloan

    Your ideas for cooperatives to replace capitalism makes a lot of sense to me. i know there must be many details to work out but it’s a start in the right direction. Where you teach must hold you in high regard. You are easy to follow and talk in an interesting way that holds my attention absolutes.

  • Vanntoni Konuso

    Dr. Wolff:

    A previous commenter emphasized the ownership of a company due to *his personal initial financial investment,* and questioned the notion that he should share ownership with the employees of his company. This sentiment is likely shared by all the “captains of capitalism” of large and small companies alike: ownership by the initial investor(s) or shareholders. ( There is a sub-theme here about the inequality of “initial conditions,” however I will not digress on that topic).

    My Questions:

    — Given that a (traditional) company cannot exist without employees/workers, is this concept of company ownership by initial instigation flawed as

    the workers (may) also have a vested interest in the company’s success as well?

    — Does the current paradigm of “at will” employment reinforce this corporate ownership sentiment? Could some form of “contract employment” be in order to ensure a more equitable, fair, and disciplined method of distributing a company’s profits (or losses)?

  • Edie Lynch

    Your remarks are sobering about humanity running out of time – against those that are greedily grabbing wealth and power – and still I think, WE MUST NOT GIVE UP. The way that we can fight is by proving that we are human. We can only prove this by being involved in some real way in efforts that increase the quality of life – even if it is only one life that we help. I work with the homeless youth of Rio who are murdered at night because their growing numbers are an embarrassment to the Government. And though I can’t bring back those who have died that I have known and cared deeply about – I can continue to tell their stories in the hope that someone who hears will be able to rally the forces that can bring about change. Each voice counts, each community undertaking has the possibility to forge a new pathway for humanity.

  • Jonakron

    What gives you optimism, Professor Wolffe?

  • Harry

    Professor, thank you for your courageous analysis.

    With our political system captive to corporate and private wealth, the only way I can put the “brakes” on our out-of-control capitalism is to control my own spending.

    I want to cut my spending nearly to zero, for healthcare, telephone and cable and internet services, banking and investments, and a host of other products and services which make me and millions of others into hapless cash cows for corporate milking. I will take the money I’m not spending to support corporate piracy, and invest it instead to spread your message and establish and support an economic counterculture. If I have to endure austerity, let it be an austerity of my choosing and one that the plutocrats will feel as much as I do. Let’s shrink the Golden Egg until they are willing to compromise as happened under FDR. What do you think?

  • Steve Irwin

    What does it take to explain supply side economics in simple terms and what it is doing to us now?

  • AskSomeQuestions

    Professor Wolff:

    While I agree with 99% of your ideas I am skeptical about one concept concerning your cooperative-based industrial/commercial system.

    If most everyone is to receive nearly the same compensation what is to keep current capitalist-based business from stealing the talent from the cooperative-based industries by offering their most talented employees significantly higher wages?

  • Eric Amada

    Dear Professor Wolff,

    In Today’s New York Times, there is a disturbing article regarding the effort of Puerto Rico to market itself as a Tax-Haven, extending 0% tax rates on both Capital Gains, as well as on Interest and Dividends. On a recent broadcast of your radio show, Economic Update, I recall you mentioning that companies that use tax havens can be legally required to bring their money back to the US. Could you further elaborate?

  • Maris

    Professor Wolff:

    I’m 70 years old….how safe are my retirement savings?

    Next to FICA, they are my only source of income.

  • Rick White

    Is plunder groundless?

  • Vanntoni Konuso

    Dr Wolff:

    It would seem to me that the main mechanism for wealth accumulation in our capitalist system is via investment speculation in the stock market. For those who have the initial capital to do so nearly exponential profits can be had with the proper (lucky?) choices. For those of us who aren’t financially fortunate, our wealth is accumulated at nearly linear rate of wage compensation for employment. I assume that these two semi-independent wealth accumulation strategies are responsible for the increasing disparity between middle-class and top 1% of the personal wealth distribution function in our nation. ( Underlying this is also the notion of a “threshold” value above which there is excess “wage income” to allow for investment, below one is constrained to the linear trajectory. I suppose there’s another option: one could always start a company….if they had or could obtain the initial capital….)

    My Questions:
    — What would be a proper method to temper this inequality in wealth accumulation via our current capitalist system?

    — Could a “National Stock Market Assessors Office” that advises on the value of stocks in the market (but does not dictate price), help in reining in wild speculation and fortuitous wealth accumulation via market anomalies? Does some form of this exist, and if not is such an institution a bad idea?

  • Paul Olmsted

    I was traind as a Keynesian to believe that we could counter the cycle through monetary and fiscal policy. There would be painful recessions -but they would not last too long – or go too deep. Now we have powerful Oligopolies that cut costs and provide huge bonuses to their CEO’s — how can we get the board of directors of those companies to give up the power – and place employees in decision making positions?
    Paul Olmsted
    Pepperdine University

  • David

    Professor Wolff, I am a citizen of a former Yugoslavian republic Slovenia – one of the EU countries that have the most problems in the current crisis. The problem in Slovenia is, when people think about socialism (and communism), they feel as though communism has failed them – because they do not think about what communism is but remember the former Yugoslavia and its non democratic government. This is the reason most East-european countries reject ideas like the ones you promote. However, there is a difference between former Yugoslav countries like Slovenia and other ex-communist countries. In Yugoslavia, socialism was not forced upon us by Russia, we had our own kind of socialism and did not feel as forced into it. For that reason, there are still a lot of older citizens, that have good memories of “the good old times”. What do you believe went wrong in the former Yugoslavia? How to persuade people, that socialism/communism is still the right way to go? How to persuade them, that communism “has not failed them” and that (as many feel) cooperatives are not a way for some lazy workers to live on the work of others (as they all get to keep their jobs and get paid equally)?

  • Anonymous

    Jeff Anderson said ” Every argument made in defense of capitalism is a recycled (albeit, unknowingly) argument once used in the defense of slavery.
    Pro slavery arguments exist in collected anthologies, and in great detail, anyone can check them out with minimal perusing – pro-slavery advocates argued that slave-owners were entitled to exploit the labor of slaves due to the masters economic risks, they argued that the slave/master relationship was one of “synergy” and mutual benefit, they argued that without the master/slave dynamic “negros” would be idle, lazy, or there would be chaos etc etc.

    Capitalism, is ostensibly…modified slavery. In-fact, the Capitalist concept of private property is directly derrived from the Roman law of “dominium” – a law which was first formed to define the slave/master relationships in Rome. Allowing Roman slave masters to have “absolute” right over their slaves – “dominium” was later applied to non-human objects.

    Capitalism not only retains elements of slavery vis a vis the employer/employee relationship…but literally views the entire world, as a set of slave/master relationships.”

  • Daniel

    Connections between the financial crisis, the Democratic party, Department of Education and 54 school closings in Chicago?

  • virgil

    Professor Wolff,

    Why has such an apparently successful alternative, the Mondragon experiment, not spread? Thanks.

  • John

    How do you feel about Henry George and full value land tax?

  • Harry

    Bank Interest vs Brokerage Owership

    Since the 1980’s bank interest has been eroded to its .01%

    It appears there is no incentive for Banks to increase this. Is this due to banks now being owned by Brokerages who would rather see the money invested in Stocks etc.kes no sense seeing profits from our deposits not being “shared” with We the Depositors”

  • Michael, UMass Amherst

    Professor Wolff,

    What do you think about the lack of visibility of Marxian & other heterodox economists (Steve Keen, MMT, etc.) in a) the mainstream academic journals and b) the press? Are Marxists (and other leftist economists) too insular as a community, or is the Austrian-neoclassical orthodox refusing to engage the harsher criticisms brought on by left economists, or both?

    In the same vein, how much success do you expect the various criticisms will have in the long-term? (Models of imperfect contracts, group or class-centric macro models, Modern Monetary Theory, behavioral economics)

    Thank you.

  • Robert Beal

    Gar Alperovitz’ new book is “What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.”

    He explicates the themes of his new film, “The Next American Revolution: Beyond Corporate Capitalism and State Socialism,” in this 3-part video about democratizing capital, which followed the publication of his “America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy.”

    Alperovitz’ blueprint (more practical than a vision) links:
    Neighborhood/municipal resilience
    Cooperative worker/owner enterprise
    Ecological sustainability

    A base for his work, the Community Wealth Building Initiative, shows how hospitals, e.g., as anchor institutions, can be engaged to better serve both their own mission and the wider community.

    Question: Alperovitz expounds on our culminating political-economic dysfunctionality fermenting open-ended quests for justice — and liberty. How might one and one’s allies build local transformational institutions on this Big Picture foundation?

  • Don

    Dr. Wolff, it’s obvious no significant change of any kind can occur as long as corporations control all three branches of the government. Shouldn’t first priority be not only to bell the cat but defang the beast, to remove the influence of money from the political system? Isn’t the best way to accomplish this a Constitutional Amendment revoking corporate personhood and re-establishing money as property, not speech?

  • Aaron Joseph Clegg

    Your ideas sound incredible, and I fully support them. But I think most of us are part of the “choir” we are preaching to. How are we to convince the economic and political powers to go along with any of what you are suggesting?

  • Anonymous

    Short of moving off the grid completely and/or joining living co-ops, are the majority of Americans and the rest of the world’s citizens going to be able to wrench ourselves away from the present oligarchy? How?

  • Becky Spoon

    “Healthcare IS the economy, Stupid!” I don’t mean anyone personally is stupid, but collectively we must be idiots. Bill Clinton told Reuters that we could save a trillion dollars every year by adopting the healthcare system of any other advanced nation (where everyone is covered equally). That’s 250% more than most economists say we need to save in order to save our entire economy. What do you say?

  • Lee Tilson

    Do you think our society’s approach to problem solving can be improved? I don’t mean just the approach to one or two problems in one or two areas. I mean generally.

    We do not learn from our mistakes and insist on repeating them. This is true not just in the arena of economics, but in so many areas in which our courts have to keep trying to resolve the same problems over and over again, e.g. patterns of medical malpractice, exposure to asbestos, employment discrimination.

    Experience is thought to be one of our best resources, but we warehouse those with the most experience, seniors, and view them as a drain on our society instead of seeing them as a resource.

    Do you have any suggestions for how our society might waste less energy on chanting slogans at each other and become better at problem solving?

  • Joan Richmond

    I am developing a small market farm business. What would it look like to develop such a project within a system that is different from traditional capitalism?

  • tom ogradys

    Professor Wolff:
    My question is somewhat off topic, yet I hope you will be kind enough to address it. Our election process, in particular the obscene fund raising that prevents most of the elected from spending their time on the issues and responsibilities of their office. The perversion of the fund raising which in debts them to the larger donors seems to prevent true representation of their constituents as well as many other problems. Do you think that a federally financed election fund that gave each qualified candidate e.g.: president, senator, representative etc. an equal predetermined amount for their campaigns would bring more integrity, truer representation and sanity to the election process

  • Julie Dole

    What’s your response to: HT @The Atlantic: Higher wages can translate to higher profits

  • Bob Rundle

    David Korten in the 2nd ed of his Agenda for a New Economy outlines a vision and strategies for creating a new economy. What do you think of his approach?

  • Treme Gray

    I am 63 and over my lifetime I have seen the economy slowly dying ,staring in the late 70s and 80s.Is there anything realistically we can do about it! We feel helpless! Mission accomplished! What should we the people do?

  • kirby

    I agree with most of your post,except the notion that campaign con-tributions are constitutionally protected free speech.They are not.
    Speech is one thing,money to back it up is something else altogether.
    When you accept that contributions are protected speech,you insure
    that the wealthy will ALWAYS have more influence in our political pro-
    cess.The wealthy can always put more money into the process than an average person can,thus will always have more influence on the process.This is a bad thing for our political process.Every citizen must
    have equal access to the political process,no one more,no one less.
    The only way to insure this is to strictly control what money goes into the process,and the only effective way to do this is strictly controlled
    public financing of political campaigns.That way,every citizen contrib-utes the same amount,through taxes.The government cannot limit speech, but the people, through their government, can and must con-
    troll the flow of money into our political campaigns.So,if you want to
    campaign for a candidate,or want to stand on a soapbox in the public
    square and speak your piece,the government can’t stop you,but if you want to put money into the political process,the rest of us,through our government have the right to say how much you can put in, and the most effective way to do this is public financing of political campaigns.

  • kirby

    There is no such thing as a free market. There is government interference and corporate collusion everywhere.
    Communism as practiced by the old Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Korea,etc. is not really communism,just authoritarian rule under a different name.One possible exception is Vietnam.
    Socialism as practiced by many European countries works quite well.

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!

    Edie, Thank you for your reply.

    I emphatically agree with you that we (the common people) must not give up, must never give up! No matter how bad things get, it is always vital and worthwhile for all of us to be as heroic and humane as our individual circumstances and our character allow us to be. (Viktor Frankl and Anne Frank are inspiring examples of individuals remaining heroic and humane in the most terrifying of situations.)

    We never know if an inhumane, unjust system (like the U.S.A.) will unexpectedly collapse or change (like the U.S.S.R. did). Also, our collective actions might at least prevent bad conditions (like global warming) from becoming even worse. Our actions may save just one person or just one animal, or might make their suffering a little less painful. And even if we fail completely, our humane actions will at least be a testament to our goodness and caring. For all of these reasons, we must never give up trying to improve our world.

    Your own humane and compassionate work with the homeless youth of Rio is an inspiring example, that truly touches my heart. You are a very caring and generous person, and I wish you and the youths of Rio the very best!

  • MLK and FDR are needed NOW!


    Thank you for your reply and thank you for all of your good actions.

  • Matt Moran

    Richard Wolff, I have been privaleged, as a faithful follower of Bill Moyers for decades, in viewing these two recent segments I am truely impressed with your analysis,and find your solutions attrative, stimulating and appropriate. The way you think provokes me to desire many hours of direct conversation, but with this comment I will try to ask a single question. I seems to me you identifiy properly the crisis of wealth distribution, as occuring naturally out of the system in place, and that even attempts to regulate these corporate influences will be circumvented. Yes the problem is systemic and regulation in this currant climate where money will pay for or outsmart the regulators, the need for a fresh concept is apparent. Your solutions for dealing with ths problem without regulation , and implementing a “Green New Deal” is very attractive. I must say Richard. although I absolutly love these concepts, and truely see them as concepts looking to fix what is broken and replace it with a sustainable system that functions with a collective best interest, unfortunately the powers that be have no interest in the collective or the workers interest, and will exercise all of their athority to prevent it. When lookiing for solutions in stopping mega coporate intersets, we must not underestimate how much of our current scenerio has been to the benefit of the few who have paid for thier representation. These people know full well they are breaking the individual economies down. This is all manufactured and calculated., as we head into their “New World Order ” Goverments are being corpotate raided. I am runni ng out of time so I will close by saying We would have to first examine the control this top 1% has over the entire agenda, the control over the media, and information, would prevent and discredit any ideas that offer solutions for the people or the worker. The top 1% think things are all going according to plan, and have the mecanisims in place to have control. i am one wh thinks it will be next to impossibe to have any populist reform. when the news is only representing this oligarcy, and stratigically misinforming the public

  • Robert Berry

    As more and more people become aware of their exploitation by the 1% and they demand their rights the 1% will have no choice but to give in. Its been a slow process but if you study the last two centuries of world history this transformation began with the kingdoms of Europe and religious leaders losing their power. I can see the day when we will begin to see with our own eyes and the truth will set us free.

  • Kelsey Jewett

    Is it possible to use Google+ hang out for a meeting like this?

    Thank you for your clear view of our dilemma. Many of us have noticed that voting left or right dosn’t chang thengs.

  • Kelsey Jewett

    Well said. I share your observation and your concern about our unwillingness to do anything about it.

  • NotARedneck

    “Did you vote for Ron Paul, as I did?”

    It is a plethora of economic libertarian policies over the 28 years from 1981 to 2008 that caused this mess. Only imbeciles and scum who benefit from these policies want more of such stupidity.

  • NotARedneck

    He isn’t honest about the mess that his policies will cause.

  • NotARedneck

    Obama’s biggest mistake was in not getting out of Iraq in 90 days and ASAP using the marines to simultaneously invade all tax havens. GITMO should have been used to incarcerate all those found in these tax havens who facilitate this evasion and corruption. Turn the air conditioning off while these criminals rat our their “clients”.

    Tax havens control $33 trillion in money that has been accumulated by organized criminals, tax evaders and corrupt 3rd World despots. Seize it all and pay off nearly all government debt, world wide..

    In future, corporations that want access to prosperous markets must pay for it.

  • duff

    best comment so far

  • dsl

    good point, I hope there is a good answer to this question

  • mlk

    your last paragraph gets to the heart of the matter

  • Terry

    Can you speak about the unfair treatment of Fathers in Child support case
    and why the percentages are so high and so one sided. I feel
    We the Fathers and Mothers who pay CHILD SUPPORT WANT

  • Russell Spears

    The point is not to take away your efforts to profit off the work of others, or to over look the “investments you make”.

    The point is to offer working people two choices: To work for people like yourself and, rightfully, have no say in the functioning of the business; or to offer workers the opportunity to pool their money to start their own businesses which are not exploitative like your company.

  • Russell Spears

    I like what you said, but I disagree about the government interference… You see I think it is all too obvious that big corporations creates the laws in many cases, but directs their content for sure. The more regulations there are the better for big business since they frequently break or ignore regulations and the smaller companies are disadvantaged by having to follow it. banking is one clear example, but so is energy companies and food industries, telecommunications and on and on.

  • kirby

    The answer to the problem of big business breaking or ignoring regu-
    lation is better,more stringent,more effective regulation.
    My term “government interference”may be a little ambiguous. What I mean is that all governments use tarriffs,quotas,wage and price con-trols,etc. to regulate markets/trade. I’m not implying that this is a bad thing, I’m just saying that when markets are subject to government regulation AND various forms of business collusion,it’s hard to think of such markets as “free”.

  • David Woo

    If Lenin says that,”the State will wither away,” does that make small government conservatives or Libertarians his co-joined twin? They want to kill government rather than have societal infrastructure in place to allow it to disappear. Are their ends the same ends of Lenin?

  • Russell Spears

    In time, large and powerful institutions (corporations) will subvert government, is the real problem we see over and over again.

  • kirby

    So our choice seems to be: effective regulation of the tool of capitalism, or doing away with capitalism for some other system,thus losing its great capacity for wealth creation. But no other system
    seems capable of capitalism’s ability to create wealth.One problem is that Man seems incapable of instituting REAL socialism or commu-nism(there always seems to be a privileged class).So maybe we should go European and use strictly regulated capitalism with some socialist control over distribution of wealth. I don’t know!

  • Russell Spears

    We don’t need corporatist… They need us to buy their products and services.

  • kirby

    OK,you are trying to make me into a capitalist apologist,which I defi-nitely am not. I have socialist tendencies. I recognize all the ills of
    capitalism,that’s why I’m in favor of stringent regulation. That said,tell
    me what other economic system is better at creating wealth. I can’t
    think of any.It’s one thing to recognize the fact of unequal distribution
    of wealth in our capitalist system,but there must BE wealth in order to
    distribute it fairly and equably.Perhaps we aren’t using “capitalism” in
    the same way. I define capitalism as an economic system in which the greater proportion of economic life, particularly ownership of and investment in production goods, is carried on under private (i.e., non-governmental) auspices through the process of economic competition and the avowed incentive of profit. According to this definition coop-
    eratives owned or managed by workers are still capitalist enterprises,
    and would be better than what we have now, but would STILL need regulation.
    BOTTOM LINE:don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Use the
    tool of capitalism(that’s all it is) to create wealth,but regulate it to en-sure fair distribution of this wealth,protection of the environment,and any other social goals we deem important.Think about it,capitalists countries have the highest standards of living on earth.It takes wealth
    to have high standards of living.Taking into account all the ills of our
    particular economic system,most of us have a pretty good life here.
    We must take this good life, this wealth, and spread it more fairly so that EVERYONE shares the wealth. Can’t do that if there’s no wealth to share!

  • Russell Spears

    Again we can see the restriction of thinking our media and culture creates. For one we find it hard to question the tenants of our economic theories. Capitalism, like Socialism and Communism have been never been tried: We keep recreating that same inequality and slavery we see at our roots, we just use different words for our own oppression in each of these states.

    The Success of Capitalism has come by way of exporting the problems to third worlds: It has been a complete failure and I am sure history will look upon our last 200 years as the most crude and brutal period in the history of all mankind.

    We see, in late capitalism, that this system begins to erode away progress (larger interests not willing to invest in clean energy), innovation (Corporatist patenting key genes that prevent others from doing critical research in that area and others) and democracy (the buying, in whole sale, our government and creating their own laws). and productivity (We have 20% of our factories closed and about 14% effective unemployment and more if we include under-employment). “THE BOTTOM LINE” is that we must be willing to throw away all of our misconceptions about the true damage we are doing to ourselves and others in the world. We have to go beyond!

    Worker Directed Enterprises have, so far, seemed like a viable alternative to any economic theory we have and the profits from these companies seems to be going directly into building new factories that focus on the practical needs of food, energy, housing and hopefully education (A Free online University, is my hope)

  • kirby

    “Worker Directed Enterprises have, so far, seemed like a viable alternative to any economic theory we have and the PROFITS from these companies seems to be going directly into building new factories that focus on the practical needs of food, energy, housing and hopefully education (A Free online University, is my hope)”
    Bubba, what you describe are worker-directed CAPITALIST enter-prises(meaning no government ownership of the means of production)
    using PROFITS, in a socially acceptable way, to produce WEALTH
    (goods,services,new factories, food, energy, housing, education, etc.).
    THIS IS A GOOD THING!! But even such worker-directed or worker-
    owned capitalist enterprises need regulation.

  • Russell Spears

    Regulations are fine, but to think they can control large corporations
    is a joke. There are intrinsic interests with worker self directed
    enterprises that you do not find in hierarchical business models. The
    preservation of the workers jobs and living wages, healthcare, local
    environment, retirement, safety, education , etc are all a clear examples
    where regulation for the individual business owner is required, but
    unnecessary with WSDE. ie no worker will agree to subvert there our
    interest were for corporatist we need regulations that in the end still
    can’t protect us from abuse.

  • kirby

    You are saying that if a worker owned and operated business starts
    losing profits they will never, under any circumstances, consider cut-ting jobs,wages,or health and retirement benefits,or take shortcuts on safety,or environmental protection.I think you have an idealized and
    naive vision of human nature.There will come a point in any business
    that is facing loss of profit where the owners/managers,whoever they
    are,will have to balance interests,and consider taking measures to reverse losses.Sometimes that is going to include layoffs,wage cuts,
    etc. And as far as protecting the environment, I don’t see any intrinsic
    difference in workers,CEOs,or shareholders in this regard. In all three
    categories, some care about the environment, some don’t, and all de-grees of caring in between. I know many average working people that do not care one bit about protecting the environment, and if given a choice between environmental protection and jobs, they will choose jobs every time! You can believe that the “ideal”- the “what should be” – is that worker owned/operated businesses will always put pro-tecting jobs, wages, benefits, and environment ahead of profits, but I suspect that the “what is” is something quite different. No worker owned/operated business is going to protect jobs,wages,etc. to the point of going out of business. Would worker owned/operated capita-
    list businesses be better than the type of capitalism we have now? YES! Would they be so ideally perfect as to not need regulation? No.

  • midnight rambler

    I think it could be said that Carl Icahn, the original “corporate raider”, is in no small part responsible for the insatiable greed of the corporations. Is it not his mantra that any corporation exists for maximum profit for its shareholders, regardless of how that profit is achieved, whether it entails dismantling and selling the least profitable of its parts, or increasing worker productivity by decreasing its workforce. So that, in a very real sense, it is no longer humanity, its dignity, and its happiness that matter, but the ‘machine’ – powered by the efforts of the least powerful, within a greedy society whose greed seems to grow exponentially. And while we (at least some of us) bemoan said greed, we still want to purchase every product we consume for the least we can possible pay, regardless as to whether it drives the neighborhood grocer, or book store, or, dare I say it, car dealer, out of business. Is one attitude not as bad as the other?

  • Russell Spears

    I think you drifted a bit from the actual points you posed, but even here your points do not support the level of regulation we need for corporatist and many regulations will still be a non-issue for WSDE.

    Would WSDE make tough decisions or make decisions that require regulation? Sure, I think it is quite possible for WSDE to make cuts to their own benefits and pay and workdays, but I do think layoffs would not happen. Also, I never said WSDE would not make tough decisions that can adversely affect themselves. But the point of regulations is that these workers would not sacrifice themselves, just so the company itself can make larger profits for one or two people.

    We already know how CEO’s make decisions and it has overwhelmingly meant that the workers will suffer the whole of the problems you mentioned, and as Richard Wolff points out, this done because of the decisions of the few for which the many workers had no choice in making, but must suffer nonetheless. I consider the belief that only an individual owner can make tough decisions as a very servile attitude. In fact many owners walked away from businesses that worked, but did not result in the higher profits they were after. They have also been quite ok with compromising Safety Measures, where no worker-owner would: This is the very heart of why many regulations would be superfluous for WSDE. The only point I will give you is that regulations would important to make sure environmental concerns are met, but even there I do not think that a majority of workers would decide to poison their own neighborhoods or that of their friends. CEO’s do it all day.

  • dsm

    Your post is absolutely superb! You’ve captured the state of affairs in the U.S. perfectly. I too want to be optimistic but realistically, there is no hope.

  • kirby

    If you think I drifted from my point,then so much the worse for you.
    However,I will state my point one last time,then I move on.
    POINT:All capitalist enterprises,whether owned and managed by workers,CEOs,shareholders,or some combination of such,and whether managed locally or from afar,MUST be regulated to ensure that they make profit in a socially acceptable way.Just changing the
    owners/managers is not enough to remove the need for regulation.

  • NotARedneck

    You are assuming that the parasites at the top of most corporations are “talented”. At what?

    They’ve been earning “world beating” remuneration for decades while US business has had its lunch eaten by other country’s business leaders.

    Their main talent is sabotaging the careers of competitors and keeping the board of directors on their side for the few quarters needed to get a large nest egg.

  • NotARedneck

    “As for democracy in the workplace, the problem is that it takes the
    control of the enterprise away from those who had the vision, made the
    sacrifices, and ventured the capital to set the business up, and gives
    it to those who did not.”

    Nonsense. For the most part, such people are either no longer alive or have a minority interest, at best.

    The heirs or corporate raiders of today have NO vision, made few sacrifices (unlike those working for these companies) and usually avoid putting their own capital at risk.

  • NotARedneck

    Since Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, extreme short term thinking has been the norm.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. NAR:

    Perhaps you should explain this to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the guys who founded Google; I think they are all still very much involved in their companies. If you are referring instead to the sclerotic management of GM and Chrysler prior to the bailouts, part of their problem appears to have been an excess of union involvement in the running of the companies, certainly a form of workplace democracy. Union work rules stifled efficiency and unions managed to extract more compensation and benefits than the value of their labor would justify, resulting in bankruptcy and govt. bailouts.

    Seems to me that if workplace democracy had so many advantages, we should see more worker co-operatives, worker-owned companies, etc. Unfortunately, there are very many who do not want the responsibility of creating their own jobs.

    And maybe you should get out in the sun more; perhaps you have a vitamin D deficiency.

  • Russell Spears

    Then the same can be said of Capitalism: The abolition of the common good for a few rich people.

  • Russell Spears

    Occupy is alive and well….. If your missing people on the streets, it is because they are busy building new radical solutions to the varied institutions that have been failing us.

  • Russell Spears

    I think you have the intent wrong here HarryAnchrite…. Worker Self Directed Enterprises are not trying to take business from entrepreneurs their investments and “innovations”. What this is about is giving workers two real options:

    One: to work in the benefit of one owner who will pay you less than what your worth, decide everything like a dictator, hold your job over you and take all the credit for being the only one that built the whole company-which you seem to believe.

    Or Two: to join in with other workers and be a co-owner and make decisions for your own company that distributes the surplus profit democratically. Now this is quite in the spirit of America as I am sure you will agree. More choice more democracy.

  • Russell Spears

    To your first point that WSDE would need the same regulations is wrong: I still think that less regulations is an obvious answer since the regulations that prevent bosses from exploiting the workers safety and a host of other worker rights will be a non-issue.

    Now since you seem to think that you did not make a further point about weather WSDE would make the same hard decisions as a single owner I will address this anyway. This is another instance where the inherent self interests of the worker owners to keep the health of the business and their jobs secure over their own benefits is just as vital to them as it is for a single owner: but with a few important exception: the single owner would additionally close the doors for other reasons not in the interests of the workers, like not making the large enough profits or finding cheaper labor in China.

    in all ways a WSDE is better than the single owner model that requires more regulation and protection for the workers.

  • Russell Spears

    The need for any executive and managerial functions is a terrible myth and so the workers would be glad to leave those positions and their hyper-inflated salaries to the now dated capitalistic model. All of these positions were necessary when the workers had no inherent interests in the company. We are looking to make way for the new economy not drag along the baggage of the last century.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Spears:

    I think your Two is an excellent option – definitely in keeping with the American Spirit. Unfortunately, we do not see much of it; why not?

    What I object to is the govt. mandate that tells the owners – even owners I don’t like – that they have to make way for worker democracy and control. This, to the best of my memory, is what Prof. Wolff was advocating, and it is way too fascistic for me.

  • Russell Spears

    I follow Mr Wolff Closely and I have to say that he does not advocate taking over any businesses from owners. He wants us to begin using abandoned factories and creating new worker owned businesses to compete with the current ones, only.

  • kirby

    A WSDE would indeed be better than a single owner model. Even so,
    there would be need for regulation.Perhaps different regulation,but re-
    gulation nevertheless.I did not mean to imply that WSDEs would need
    the same type or amount of regulation.I meant to say only that any
    capitalist enterprise would need some regulation.

  • Russell Spears

    Well we have already agreed that any capitalists system will need some regulations, and yet I think there is enough support the notion that WSDE’s would require much less regulations simply based on worker self-interests.

  • kirby

    I wasn’t aware that we had agreed that any capitalist system will need some regulation,but if we have so agreed,so much the better.It
    is likely true that WSDEs would require somewhat less regulation than
    is needed for our present capitalist structure, so I guess we have come to some agreement overall.This is good!

  • Anonymous

    Good point; he does not appear to advocate forced worker democracy. But things do not appear to be going in that direction. For example, the Chicago Local 123 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is a powerful and vigorous union; what would prevent it from incorporating and competing for contracts with other companies? Or, what would prevent the UAW from taking over unused automotive plants around Detroit? I suspect that management contributes much more to the industrial process, in terms of strategic planning, financing, etc., than Mr. Wolff acknowledges. In some cases perhaps all that is needed is financing, but if the business model is good, financing should be available from investors; if it is not, – as in the case of Solyndra, etc. – govt. financing only winds up financing failure.

  • Russell Spears

    I think this is why Mr Wolff chose to distance himself from CoOps as a term since this has been tried in, in the past, in ways that still involved some type of hieratical business structure. I suspect many Unions would simply adopt that same model since they too are hieratical. But your right some unions are big enough that they can initiate some WSDE, but I think they have self preservation issues here and I would not be surprised to find many Unions on the other side of WSDE. Sometimes we just have to accept that some people make strange bedfellows and in the case of unions I would find them more antagonistic to Worker Self-Directed Enterprises since any successful WSDE would make a union obsolete.

    Also Mr. Wolff has acknowledged in several of his pod-casts the need for additional schooling in respects to managing a business for the workers. But from my viewpoint and experience the people on the floor has always better understood what changes were needed. More importantly, the typical business school is invested in the prevailing corporatists’ hegemony and so I suspect that the current crop of managers and educators will not be able to offer much in the way of management training and for the workers-owners themselves.

    As far a financing: Look into “The Working World” and other financial institutions that are backing the worker-owner movements. Even some governments are looking into promoting WSDE in their own country. I would not be surprised to hear of Cuba creating a program for WSDE in the US, much like Venezuela was subsidizing heating fuel for US citizens. What a chance for them to lead the way in an industrial revolution in the country that has tried for sixty years to disparage their socio-cultural-economic system and now they are on the cutting edge of progressive change.

  • Anonymous

    There are many things that are theoretically possible which fail catastrophically in practice. One of the theoretical advantages of a state-directed economy (eg the Soviet Union) was that it could eliminate the waste and duplication of effort that characterizes free enterprise, providing more of everything for everybody and ultimately burying the Western economies. In practice it did not happen. I find it interesting to that Mr. Wolff had to go to Spain for Mondragon to find a working example of what he advocates. Did Mr. Chavez actually subsidize fuel oil for poor Americans once the project disappeared from the headlines? I doubt it. And I don’t think that Cuba will be a position to finance projects in the US for some time, if ever. For the moment, I think they are having some trouble buying food.

    To reiterate, it appears to me that we already have all the bits and pieces available to put together WSDEs. Perhaps investor-owned financial houses such as the Vanguard Group, and the various mutual insurance companies are examples; I don’t know enough about them to say. Otherwise, this just does not look to me like a viable business model.

  • Russell Spears

    The practice of both Capitalism and communism didn’t match their theories and they both have ended in the same situations of plutocratic domination of the workers. The first time they let loose the capitalistic reigns of control and had a free market it caused a crash so deep they never tried that again. However they have managed to forget that lesson and were well on the way to resurrecting that as a new conservative libertarian ideal.

    I think you underestimate the potential of WSDE to reinvest as they do in other industries. And the capitol needed to fund these types of businesses are not a large as you might be assuming and supporting some basic industries can be strategically fruitful. Many of these businesses use start up capitol to purchase the necessities to start productions.

    FYI: Venezuela’s Petroluem Corporation, has over six years of providing subsidized heating oil to low-income people in the United States. An estimated 132,000 households each year benefit. And Cuba has many programs to help other countries, from free medical schooling to other humanitarian projects.

    2012 was called the year of the CoOp by the United Nations, I suspect this is going to be bigger than you think.

  • kirby

    Just to clarify,I understand that the supreme court has said that
    campaign contributions are constitutionally protected political speech. I just believe they are wrong.

  • Russell Spears

    Really we find governments can and do limit free speech: The US has only aggressively started to codify these limits because the Occupy Movement started to use the free speech rights in a way that the civil rights and unions did back in the day. The actuality is that a majority of Americans are brainwashed on the narrative the elite sold us and who benefit greatly from our unquestioned agreement, the institutions like the church, schools and media like the movies and advertising have been here to cement this relationship.

    Richard Wolff does not just state a platitude about the resistance Americans have when questioning our economic system, he has uncovered a symptom of our economics.

  • kirby

    Get real! Clearly I mean government can’t validly or constitutionally limit constitutionally protected political speech.You regularly sieze on
    some minor aspect of my posts and rant about that,while ignoring my
    main point. Stay in context! My point is that the Supreme Court rul-
    ing that political contributions are constitutionally protected political
    speech is an incorrect ruling..Money isn’t speech. You have seized on a minor part of my post, misunderstood it, then gone off on a rant
    against your misunderstanding. You remind me of Emily LaTella on
    Saturday Night Live! Quit wasting my time in this manner.

  • Russell Spears

    Well Kirby, I raise my ideas and show respect for others who do the same. I find honest debate is important for all involved: I even find the language important since most forms of power and oppression are rooted in the language we use.

    “Money is not free speech” is your main point that few in this forum will disagree with it… I don’t see the point in replying to that, but to assume any constitutionally rooted point is a firm basis to make valid points is meaningless, since that same document protected slavery too.

    Now the very intent of forums like this is lively debate: not agreeing with everything Kirby finds worthy of his great time to remind us of. If you post I show the respect of addressing the ideas-not the person. If not I might suggest that you start texting yourself: this might work out better for you, than
    posing in forums…

    I personally find the points you make uninteresting and a bit too mainstream psydo-progressive, but when I do reply to your posts, I do on the points of contention you have made, not to send love letters or hate mail. One other point, I think it is relevant to mention is a pattern of ignoring other posters ideas. Hey even the great Kirby can develop better beliefs if you challange ideas rather than make irrelevant rant posts to replies.

  • kirby

    LOL!! What’s wrong with you man? My main point(uninteresting to you
    since you misunderstood it) is not that “money is not free speech”. In-
    stead,my point is that the Supreme court has(wrongly) said that it is. I don’t expect you to agree with me, ever, but I do expect you to make more careful use of language,and to make some sort of sense. For ex-
    ample, “…to assume any constitutionally rooted point is a firm basis to make valid points is meaningless…” Whatever could this mean? Does
    it mean no constitutional question has meaning? BLURG! Also,what do you mean by “mainstream psydo-progressive”? I think you mean

    pseudo-progressive,but I don’t know what that means either. In what
    way have I established a “pattern of ignoring other poster’s ideas”?
    How would you know that? Perhaps you didn’t see my post agreeing with everything poster Pappy said. Do you mean I ignore your ideas? That may be a valid point,since I haven’t heard an idea from you that merits much attention.

  • Russell Spears

    The points your arguing are psydo-progressive because they are all rooted in the discourse of the conservatives and current political elite who own this system. Trying to discuss the merits of corporate free speech is just lingering in the narrowed conversations the right construct. We have to be willing to build on new ideas and challenge old one to be really progressive.

    Moreover, looking to the constitution or some court to re-interperate it, yet another way, is still playing the same game. If the courts can look at the same document (constitution) and arrive at pro slavery, anti-gay or anti-black rights and see money as free speech, then any argument constructed on the basis of that document is meaningless.

  • Russell Spears

    On what basis do you disagree? this is the real question!

  • kirby

    I have no clue what you think you mean by this.

  • moderator

    Hi Russell and Kirby,

    We are big fans of discourse, however we are not fans of personal attacks. Please try to stay within the bounds of our comment policy.

    Sean @ Moyers

  • kirby

    Man,it’s “pseudo”,not “psydo”,which isn’t a word. No point of mine is
    rooted in any discourse of the conservatives or the current political elite, left or right. I’m not discussing the merits of corporate free speech,I’m saying that corporations are not citizens,so don’t have free speech,even though the Supreme Court says they do. If you think
    we should throw out our constitutional protections just because the
    Supreme Court or congress misinterpret it,then so much the worse for
    you and all the rest of us who depend on it.The problem is the courts and the politicians,not the constitution. My guess is that you are an anarchist who believes that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished. I’m not offended by that doctrine,I just have trouble seeing how to make it work.Take a lesson from the French Revolution. Its intention was to overthrow the ruling
    class and bring equality,liberty,and fraternity to all. What happened was that people used the revolution as an excuse to settle personal
    grudges,and it degenerated into an anarchistic rein of terror.The lesson:be careful what forces you unleash,because you likely will not
    be able to control them,and things will go in directions you did not,
    and likely cannot predict.

  • kirby

    Yes,Sean,I shall try.I don’t feel that I have been unfairly and person-ally attacked,and I hope Russell does not feel personally attacked either.

  • Russell Spears

    Where are the personal attacks? I have been talking about the ideas and the absence of progressive debate. I don’t feel offended by kirby, I feel as thought a debate is lacking, not the presence of insult.

  • Russell Spears

    The constitution is only a paper and making a reasonable point rooted in it is meaningless for all practical intent. We have to consider horizontal movements like Occupy and institutions like Worker Self Directed Enterprises, while subverting the current political system. Not as anarchists, but in an attempt to do away with any and all oppressive systems. This is what real progressive ideas will do.

  • moderator

    Thanks Russell and Kirby!

    Just trying to keep it a safe place for great discourse.

    Sean @ Moyers

  • kirby

    If you actually believe that “the constitution is only a paper and making a reasonable point rooted in it is meaningless for all practical intent”, so much the worse for you. As for your very idealistic and naive goal to “do away with any and all oppressive systems”,and to do this without regulation,Good luck with that.The human condition is that all human systems,especially political systems,always have the potential to be oppressive.Political systems are power structures, and whoever controls them will tend to benefit themselves and their friends at the expense of everyone else.The only way I can see to prevent this is effective,independent regulation of the exercise of power.This is something we clearly lack now with our dysfunctional government at all levels. As long as there are humans,there will be power structures,as long as there are power structures they will tend toward preferential treatment of some and oppression of others.This seems true no matter who controls the power structure. Effective regulation of the exercise of power seems to me the only way to prevent oppression and preference. Give me some sense of what
    type of human power structure you think we need to put in place,and
    tell me why you think that power structure will not need independent
    regulation.Alternatively,if you believe that we can completely do away
    with power structures of any type,tell me how we can accomplish this.

  • kirby

    It occurs to me that no one but Sean seems to be following our
    posts,at least no one is replying or voting.This might be sufficient reason for both of us to shut up! I bet this post gets some favorable response! LOL!

  • kirby

    I’m contacting you this way because I can’t figure how else to do so.I have two posts on the Wheeler program that haven’t shown up.One was a comment on another post, one was an answer to a comment on my post to Father John Saville. I
    didn’t insult anyone in these post. Que Paso?

  • moderator

    Sorry about that! For some reason they were caught up in the spam folder. They are up now.

    Sean @ Moyers

  • ashley

    What are 3 major steps that are being taken by the U.S. govt. and/or Federal Reserve Bank to bring the economy back to full employment.