Interview with Noted Economist, Richard Wolff: Part Three
A close examination of various economic issues, including the current economic crisis, issues with capitalism, and their proposed solutions
Interview by: Konstantine Roccas
Konstantine Roccas has an in depth discussion with noted economist Richard Wolff that spans of variety of topics, including the “crisis of capitalism” and how we can recover from the current economic crisis.
RW: Well, when people you know who are suffering from alcoholism finally decide that something needs to be done, they go to A.A. It is explained to them that the first step must be to admit to yourself in a room with other people, that you are an alcoholic; to admit that you have an illness. The argument given is that the first step in breaking out of something that is not good for you is to admit that you have that problem and that you are determined to get out of it. The same thing applies to capitalism.
In order for us to have a conversation, there must be courage and the honesty to admit that capitalism as a system deserves to be debated, questioned, and criticized. The United States is a country that for over 50 years has not dared to do that. You cannot find a debate. What you have are different degrees of celebrants. Capitalism is a system in our country that we cannot debate. It is thought to be stupid, ignorant or, worse, disloyal to question it.
We question in our society the education system, the transportation system, and the medical system. We think it’s healthy to debate a system that’s part of our society in order to make sure that we fix it where it’s broken, improve it where it needs it and that we change it when it’s necessary. It is generally understood that if you exempt one system from criticism, you are going to allow it to rot and indulge its worst tendencies. I think that is what has happened to our system. We have a broken dysfunctional system, because we’ve given it a free pass for 50 years.
Our first step is to play catch up and open ourselves up to those who have kept alive the flame of serious, but harsh, criticism. Capitalism is not working now for the majority of people. That has to be faced and that has to be admitted. Only then can we have the type of debate and discussion about our system that will allow the creative genius of the people to find, debate and settle on what the solutions are.
For myself, simply as one participant in that debate, I would argue that our problem is systemic. You are not going to solve it by another set of regulations, [or] laws; we’ve been there, we’ve done that and it does not work. What we need is to change the basic system. By that I don’t mean who owns the property. I am not that thrilled with taking private property and making it state property, or vice-versa. Likewise, while I have many criticisms of how markets work, I know that there are problems when government planners make [the] decisions. So while that may be partially a way to go, it’s not the kind of systemic change I’m talking about.
We have to change how we organize the business of America; what goes on in the factories, offices and stores. We have to democratize them. Let’s remember that the board of directors, chosen by the shareholders, make all the basic decisions in all of our corporations.