A Marxist economist explains what is wrong with capitalism. Not

American economist Richard D. Wolff was born on April Fools’ Day; in this interview with Russia Today, he shows why as he makes a complete and utter fool of himself.

This interview with the TV channel Russia Today was uploaded to YouTube on April 3. It’s less than twelve and a half minutes, so if you can multi-task fairly competently, do listen to it in full. Among other things, it is a plug for his new book, which from the sound it, is exactly like the new book promised by Dennis Stafford – one you simply must not buy.

No doubt Professor Wolff means well, but by the same token, so did Conrad Murray when he supplied Michael Jackson with propofol. Dr Murray’s good intentions did not absolve him of responsibility for killing his patient. This is an interesting analogy, because of the reason Murray did what he did. If he hadn’t, the wealthy Jackson would have dispensed with his services, and Murray would have been out of a job. If the likes of Emeritus Professor Wolff did what is necessary and spoke the truth, he too would be out of a lucrative job. Him and every other quack economist in America and everywhere else, which is most of them.

Although Michael Jackson’s death was a tragedy, it was the death of one man, and ultimately it was his decision to take and keep on taking the medicine that killed him. It is our leaders - elected and otherwise - who have decided on the medicine we must take, but we don’t have to, if we can show sufficient backbone to do what is necessary, not to riot in the streets, not to commit symbolic but ultimately futile sacrifices like retired Greek chemist Dimitris Christoulas last week, but exert enough direct pressure on our governments and the banksters to make them change the system. Okay, that’s enough analogies, now for some analysis.

It was put to Professor Wolff that two years ago he said the crisis would take a very long time to get over. He replied this is a crisis of the entire global system, and that the banks are in terrible trouble. In Britain, two months ago, the Bank of England created £50 billion and gave it to the banks, this second round of Quantitative Easing brought the total amount created recently to a staggering £325 billion. Where has all this money gone? How can the banks still be in trouble, especially as they have been sitting on this money and earning interest on it?

Professor Wolff doesn’t explain this conundrum, but he does say the crisis is heading back to America to give us as many problems as the Europeans. By us, he does not of course include himself, after all, he is paid rather handsomely, and his new book - doubtless subsidised by some foundation or other - will soon be hitting the shelves. The jury is out, he says, it’s not clear where we are or where we are headed, in other words, he hasn’t a clue.

Next, it was put to him that he had said at some point that it was World War Two that had led the United States out of the Great Depression. If that is the case, did George W. Bush and is Barack Obama doing the right thing by pursuing wars and in some cases considering new ones?

The woman interviewing Professor Wolff is, frankly, stunningly attractive. The big question is: has she made a pact with the Devil to trade good looks for brains, or is she taking an incredibly sophisticated swipe at his work? The Professor smiles as he replies.

If this were true, of course, then the very best course of action would be for the United States to start a worldwide nuclear war, would it not? Not, obviously. While it is true that some people may profit from war, including in countries actually at war, the bad consequences for others far outweigh the small amount of benefit that accrues to the profiteers, although if you were an arms contractor who had made fifty or sixty million dollars from a regional conflict on the other side of the world, you might not lose a wink of sleep at the thought of thousands of people being killed, tens of thousands wounded and permanently disabled, and hundreds of thousands made homeless or losing their livelihoods. Even a humble Prime Minister – like Margaret Thatcher – might think a war was a good thing if it brought you another election win - as it did in her case. For those not au fait with what is known as the broken window fallacy, here it is from a man who understands something about economics. And here is a more parochial version.

Fortunately, Professor Wolff does not advocate a nuclear war, a regional war, or even handbags at twenty paces, but he takes a different view of the Second World War. The technology of warfare at that time was such that if you were going to fight a war, you needed millions and millions of people; the US had millions and millions of unemployed people, and basically, we took half of them in 1940-41, and put them in uniform, and the other hallf we put in factories to produce the guns and the bullets and all the rest.

Today, warfare does not require large numbers of people, it is both politically too dangerous and not necessary for the kind of hi tech warfare that we now specialise in as a nation. The kind of warfare that we have today cannot suck up masses and masses of people and give them work, so we have to find another way.

This is a statement of such profound ignorance that it is difficult for the enlightened mind to comprehend; it is akin to a biology teacher explaining to a class of 15 year olds that rather than being delivered by a doctor or a midwife in a hospital, a baby is brought by the stork.

Being a Marxist though, Professor Wolff is not only blind to usury - of which more shortly - but has the mentality of a wage slave, as do most of his kin and almost all politicians. Perhaps this should not surprise us unduly, because although he was and remains a slave, his bondage is a lot easier than ours. Even in the darkest days of American slavery in the Deep South, there were some slaves who fared a lot better than their kin; they lived in their masters’ houses, ate the scraps from their tables, some of them even ate well. There is a fine depiction of a house slave in the mini-film series Roots. Although Alex Haley’s book is a tissue of lies, he got that part right.

Check this out at about 42 minutes. * Fiddler was a house slave, and as his name suggests, he was a musician. He was also his master’s favourite, a master who according to this account was about as good as any slave in the Deep South could ever have hoped for. Fiddler realised that, but he also realised that however well his master treated him, he was still a slave. Professor Wolff and his fellow economists and academics don’t realise they are slaves, but they do know that their inflated sinecures, long sabbaticals and funded research will dry up if they dare to tell the truth about the corrupt, debt-based financial system. Far better to tow the line than be sent out into the fields with the other slaves where they will have to perform meaningful work.

Listen again to what Professor Wolff says about World War Two, and think of what this actually means. Half America’s unemployed were set to work fighting in Europe and the Far East; the other half were set to work making uniforms, weapons and ammunition. There is no doubt that all these men were employed, but what was the end result? Many were killed or maimed, and the weapons and ammunition was destroyed, even if it hadn’t been destroyed, what use are guns and bullets? Wouldn’t we all rather have no wars, no guns, no bullets and no soldiers?

What he doesn’t seem to realise is that if it is possible to mobilise unemployed men by the millions during war time to create and destroy, it is also possible to mobilise them in peace time to create goods and services to be consumed. He is saying, in effect, that a factory can manufacture tanks and send them abroad to be destroyed, but the same factory cannot produce cars and put them on the road at home. This is an Alice-in-Wonderland view of economics.

Sadly, Professor Wolff’s ignorance is not only profound but widespread. Because of his wage slave mentality, he doesn’t realise that full employment is not only unnecessary but undesirable. Now what does he say about debt and usury?

Literally nothing. He finds no fault with the banksters, at least no more than with anyone else. It is the system that is the problem, he says. No, it isn’t! We have no solution to the debt, he says. He doesn’t suggest that countries should simply default. How can the entire world be in debt? A debt cannot exist in isolation, for every debt, there is a credit. The reality is that this debt is owed primarily to the banking system, 97% of the money in existence has been conjured up out of thin air by the banks and sold to the rest of us. The debt cannot be repaid because the money never existed in the first place.

The Professor finishes with the suggestion that the United States can do better than capitalism, which isn’t working. It can also do better than the arrant nonsense being peddled by this sheep in Wolff’s clothing, as the lady from Russia Today must surely realise.

[The above review was first published April 9, 2012. * I began working on this page January 10, 2022; when I visited the link for the Roots video, it had long been removed due to a copyright claim, so I replaced it with a short clip of the relevant scene culled from a Russian video website. It goes without saying it is used here under Fair Use.]

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