Economics is not the most light and entertaining subject one can imagine for a podcast, but ECONOMIC UPDATE is worth anyone’s time who wants to make a little more sense of the economic factors which govern all of our lives. Dr. Richard Wolff is a Marxist economist from the New School in New York City. Yes, he is one of the few academics in the United States who teaches economics from an explicitly Marxist viewpoint, no, that does not mean he wants to see this country descend into a Stalinesque bureaucratic nightmare at the drop of a hat. Instead, Wolff examines the inconsistencies and inefficiencies of free market neoliberal capitalism and steadily proposes his alternative to our current economic system: worker-owned cooperative businesses to replace our current economic system which concentrates wealth to an increasingly shrinking class.
In a short and concise manner, Dr. Wolff does an exceptional job examining recent headlines from the week and discussing them from a Marxist perspective. It’s not always the most uplifting programming, but it’s surprisingly consumable and easy to follow, even if you have no background in economic analysis. Simultaneously, he does an exceptional job keeping the real human beings affected by these economic policies always at the forefront of his discussions. Particularly touching are his monthly conversations with therapist Dr. Harriet Fraad, in which he discusses the psychological impacts of late-stage capitalism. They discuss everything from alcoholism to drug addiction to mental health and how these psychological struggles are all the result of the stressors of living in an economy that has, in many ways, still not recovered from the Great Recession. They speak candidly about the economic factors that have lead to the opiate crisis, from Purdue Pharma’s naked lies to the medical industry to aggressively push Oxycontin onto the market, to the collapse of the Rust Belt creating a need for out-of-work people to drown their sorrows in substance abuse.
Wolff is a class act in terms of breaking down how economics touches every aspect of our lives, and how capitalist exploitation creates problems for the majority of us. You may ultimately find yourself vehemently disagreeing with Wolff, regardless of your political affiliation, but if you happen to be a person who has never seriously considered the political impacts of economic policy, this podcast can be truly eye-opening.
The beauty of podcasts is that they allow a person to thoroughly explore ideas they may have never otherwise encountered. At first, Richard Wolff’s perspective may feel alien or harsh, but hopefully, it will encourage you to do more reading and research of your own, regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with him. To engage with a thinker like Dr. Wolff is to challenge your own assumptions about the economy—how you choose to respond to that challenge is ultimately up to you.