Frequently Asked Questions

Questions below were sent to Professor Wolff by visitors to the site and the answers provided are his response.

Are you proposing adopting the old USSR system, Putin's managed capitalism, China's whatever system, or what?
Why is the issue of money not a central one?
Can socialism in whatever form gain political traction in Europe without revolution?
That Oregon taxed the rich does not seem to have affected the unemployment rate last August. What did the tax in Oregon accomplish, do you think?
How can we communicate this message to the broad majority of Americans who are by any standard of Economics, poor?
What is the Marxian definition of corporation? How is it different from the mainstream definition?
How do you feel wealth should be measured in our society? Should ownership of corporations (stock) be used or consumption levels – or something else entirely?
With rising productivity and stagnant wages over the past 30 years or so, where does the expanding supply of middle and low skilled workers come into play on this issue? Is mass collusion by business leaders to keep wages down involved?
An article in Barrons said public sector employees can "spike" their pensions, rolling over sick and vacation time to increase pension checks – some even worked two state positions to receive two pensions. Is this true?
What impact would a million-dollar cap via the death and/or estate tax have on national debt and society, and is there any chance for this to happen? Didn't our founding fathers want to remove the nobility class and being born into wealth?
Is the massive shift of the tax burden from corporations to individuals a statistical mirage?
How would taxing HNWI (High Net-Worth Individuals) 10% to raise 1.28 trillion dollars impact stocks and bonds, and what would the tax mean for future methods of handling crises?
I often hear free-market advocates mention "marginal utility" as the alternative to labor theory of value but rarely explain why. Could you give a summary of marginal utility, and what its impact is on the labor theory of value and Marxism in general?
What is “market socialism”? Can markets and socialism coexist?
Can socialism and religion get along?
Has neoclassical economics – sometimes called marginalism – destroyed the labor theory of value?
How could a large company possibly work if all workers ran it together?
What might theology and theologicans have to contribute to the key economic debates in the Congress early in 2011?
What are some resources I could use to verify statistics that you are using in your presentations?
With individual debt being a significant cause of the present economic crisis, what effect would individuals getting completely out of debt have on the present crisis?
What can I do other than vote to contribute in a positive way and promote change - in particular, while having limited free time to spare?
With individual debt being a significant cause of the present economic crisis, what effect would individuals getting completely out of debt have on the present crisis?
Can socialism, in whatever form, gain political traction in the United States without revolution?
That Oregon taxed the rich does not seem to have affected the unemployment rate last August – Idaho has lower unemployment than Oregon, for example. What did the tax in Oregon accomplish, do you think?
How can we communicate this message to the broad majority of Americans who are by any standard of Economics, poor? Is there any stratagem against these well-funded attacks and influence by the American Plutocracy that divide the population so effectively?
What is the Marxian definition of corporation? How is it different from the mainstream definition?
What are your thoughts on the social and class undercurrents in France that seem to continue to this day?
In France, there seem to exist organizations that call people together and into action, and knowing they will not be alone, people might be more willing to participate. Who could call for a strike in the United States?
Where can I get empirical statistics on the rate of surplus value across different countries? I have a feeling that this will tell us about who really makes the world's wealth.
How would the hypothetical Silicon Valley startup change with growth, such as having thousands of employees?
What is your take and analysis of the progressive caucuses "People's Budget?"
Why is it we Americans have significantly fewer demonstrations than those in Europe, like in France or Greece?
Can worker cooperatives possibly be the foundation for socialism, given that the most modern historical efforts such as the Israeli Kibbutzim have failed or become capitalist corporations? The idea might be called Utopian.
What is the core of Neo-Marxian philosophy as you see it?
Which English translation of Capital do you recommend?
Is the federal reserve the real source of power/control in a society of capitalism?
Why do you think economics is the only real area where the left is so supressed? Do you think it is because economcis deals with the bottom line for the capitalists: money?
"What if” real wages had not stagnated in the 1970s? What effect, quantitatively, would that have had on our account deficit year after year?
Did imperial powers gain more from imperialism than they spent on acquiring and keeping hold of the empire? Or should it be seen as an internal class issue within the imperial nations? And do you recommend any particular books on this matter?
Why did the phenomenon of stagnant wages appear in the 1970's and not before?
Are corporations unfairly double taxed?
Has the historical moment for a challenge to capitalism arrived? Can a movement for democracy now arise and succeed?
What are your thoughts on elections?
How can anything be communist which exists only to produce commodities for market? I told my students that this surplus crop would not be a commodity because it was not produced for the PURPOSE of market exchange.
When did large-scale debt begin in the United States?
I have heard you say a few times that the government borrows money from the rich and that the rich pay no tax on the interest, how is that?
How does your description of the politicians borrowing to pay off previous debt differ from Madoff's Ponzi scheme? Why is Madoff in jail & the politicians wandering around free to cause more damage?
Few people give credit to Labor groups and the Left for putting pressure on politicians during the depression era, but are those people who argue that it wasn't the New Deal as much as WWII that got us out of the depression?
Do you recommend organizing from within the Democratic Party or is joining that party an endorsement of its conservatism? What other options are there?
How did Marx treat the issue of who owns the means of production – such as the factory, tools, computers, and other equipment provided? Does ownership justify profit?
How would you use Marxian class analysis to understand civil servants who often produce goods or services worth less than their wages?
What is the difference between ownership of the means of production and the class relations outlined in Marxian theory?
How does investment from rainy-day investors, like those with pension contributions, impact shareholder demands on returns on investment?
What exactly is a "traditional" American family, and how is it modeled as a feudal economic system?
Using a three person business enterprise as an example, how would decision making and raising capital be addressed, especially in the "soviet" method of voted weighted according to salary?
What is in your opinion on the actual cause of the global economic crisis?
What is this so called 1%? Who does it represent and who does actually benefit on the rest of the world's back?
What is really going on in Greece?
What is the worst possible scenario that you think might happen if it continues in this political and economic direction?
Inspired by the famous movement emerged in America, your latest book carries a symbolic name "Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism". How do you, theoretically, see 'occupation of the economy' and what methods can we use to come to this ‘occupation’?
Is it possible, at present circumstances, to ‘implement’ a self-conscious anti-capitalist alternative at the global level?
Despite the announced program of mass employment in the US, the situation is still poor and one of the biggest causes of this are the Republicans who block any proposals going in the direction. Why is this so?
Why is capitalism still a taboo subject within American political and intellectual elite?
You recently stayed in Europe where you held several lectures. What are your impressions at the crisis in European Union?
Noam Chomsky said that the measures of European Union are made in the service of 'class war.' Do you agree with this statement?
Greek citizens have chosen a political party that is committed to continue the implementation of austerity measures imposed by the international community. Is their success a signal that the political alternative to the current situation is possible?
How does the administration of Barack Obama look at Syria's anti-austerity policy, as well as the similar position of French Socialists?
Current economic situation is oftenly compared with the causes that led to the Great Depression in the 1930s. But the real question is whether it's possible new New Deal in the 21. century?
Has the Occupy movement capacity to replace the lack of strong labor unions and leftist political options, which, in your words, were willing at least to raise the question of a system in the 1930s?
Why do you think so many public officials describe the occupiers as "unclean"?
On what level do you think the mainstream media are responsible for maintaining the status quo of capitalism on a global level?
Why, in your opinion, in the American economic, political and intellectual discourse, Karl Marx and his ideas became a kind of taboo?
What do you think about people who blame Obama or the Bush administration for the crisis?
If capitalism has been in a serious crisis for 5 years, why hasn't this affected 'corporate' profits?
Is the Occupy movement anything other than a watered-down iteration of the 1930s progressive movements? Is there really much difference between the two parties at the end of the day?
I know the socialists have come to power in France. Greens strengthened in France, UK and Germany, and the Left Greens came to power in Iceland. Syriza rose up in Greece. Any others that you know of?
I am interested in studying Economics. Any advice?
In your latest Economic Update, you dealt with the question of innovation and capitalism. I was hoping you could expand a bit more.
One major problem for the restructuring of the capitalist workplace and system is money. Seeing as how the lender(s) would hold power in the form of influence or the collection of interest accrued, how do you get around this issue?
If a company threatened to move overseas, the workers could respond by telling the company that they will run the company and compete with them. Is this realistic in a globalized economy?
How do coops of all types actually work in the real world? Unlike other kinds of enterprises, they seem to frequently fail because the workers are too inclined to put up with poor business practices.
How can organizations be set up to set up to encourage and enable people to work in a co-operative manner while at the same time setting up structures where everything does not need to be discussed by everyone?
Where is the money, the capital, going to come from to start and sustain WSDE’s? You can't expect that capitalists will provide the money to a competing kind of enterprise.
What do you understand "capitalism" to mean?
What is the response to when capitalists say that capitalism has worked so well in the United States but socialism/capitalism hasn't provided the same standard of living in other countries?
I recall hearing you mention a "strike of the 1%." What do you mean by this?
Why do Democrats allow Republicans to say "government does not create jobs?"
Is it possible to socialize the private sector in a sense through government regulation without having the government directly involved?
It seems every corporate leader is well aware that his enterprise would fall apart the instant randism or a similar philosophy were truly embraced by his employees.
Can Rolling Jubilee abolish student debt?
Can you explain a possible contradiction in Democracy at Work on surplus-producers and surplus-enablers and WSDE board activity?
Is there a discrepancy between secretarial/lawyer wages because employers can convince secretaries that there is a disconnect between the secretarial output and the actual business/services provided by the firm?
The very important differences between ESOPs and WSDEs
Are Workers Self-directed Enterprises ends in themselves, goals that, when achieved, will bring about the better society so many progressive folk seek?
What is the relationship between capitalism and growth?
Isn't it true that a WSDE economy may not provide better job security than a Capitalist economy?
Why do many successful WSDEs (as seen in Silicon Valley) transition into Capitalist enterprises?
Has any research been done on the various ways in which the worker co-ops/ WSDEs can distribute surplus in different ways than the capitalist firms and change the wealth distribution of the society as a whole?
If the capital isn't provided democratically, then why should the profits be distributed democratically?
If you take all the risks involved in supplying the capital to start a new business...and you pay the employee for any labor he/she provides, why should the employee get any say in what the employer does with the profits generated? Isn't that the return