John McWhorter & Richard Wolff – Capitalism and Democracy in Post-Industrial America
This week on The Glenn Show, John McWhorter and I are joined by Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor of International Affairs at the the New School. Richard is Marxian in his orientation and I am not, so we do some debating here. And while we may not agree on much as far as economics goes, we do share some concerns about the direction of the left in this country.
Before the conversation, I make an important announcement: Beginning today, I’m partnering with the Manhattan Institute to bring you The Glenn Show and this newsletter. I lay out what this means in my introduction and in conversation with John at the end of the show, but here are two important takeaways. First, I will maintain full editorial independence over all the content on the podcast and at the newsletter. And second, we’re lowering the cost of the newsletter. For monthly subscribers, fees will drop from $7/month to $6/month. The price of an annual subscription will drop even more substantially, from $70/year to $50/year. For those of you who already have an annual subscription, we’ll extend it by three months to make up the difference. I’m having success here at TGS, and I want to share it with you.
And with that, let’s get into it.
Richard begins by describing his student days and early career, when he was relatively quiet about his Marxism, the post-Occupy Wall Street environment that made him into a public intellectual, and his origins in Youngstown, Ohio, where the flight of capital devastated the formerly thriving industrial city. He argues that capitalism is not only bad for democracy but inherently anti-democratic, since it allows unelected CEOs and boards of directors to determine the economic fate of huge swathes of the populace.
I take some issue with this. First, I ask Richard to respond to Friedrich von Hayek’s claim that markets will always allocate information and resources more efficiently than centrally planned economies. Second, I raise the point that business owners are entering into a contract with employees. It’s a standard exchange of goods and services. Why should employees have any right to the business owner’s property beyond an agreed-upon wage or salary? There is also the matter of socialism’s historical track record, which Richard defends. Richard and I do find some common ground in our skepticism toward the contemporary left, which sometimes seems to have abandoned the working class in favor of identity politics.
Once Richard departs, John and I discuss my new partnership with the Manhattan Institute. He and I both want to make clear that John himself is not employed by the Manhattan Institute, though he used to be, and he still respects what they do.
There’s a lot happening in this episode and in TGS World. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.
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0:00 A special announcement from Glenn
3:47 Richard’s journey from quiet Marxist to public intellectual
9:08 Why Youngstown, Ohio was left behind
12:04 Richard: Capitalist ownership is inherently anti-democratic
15:41 Richard’s critique of Hayekian libertarianism
21:44 Pecuniary externalities vs. objective externalities
23:49 Socialism’s historical track record
31:07 Employees as stakeholders
34:36 The rise of the right in the wake of the New Deal and WWII
42:00 The Glenn Show’s new partnership with the Manhattan Institute