Well known Marxist economist Richard Wolff has released a new documentary – Capitalism hits the Fan. In it he gives a rather concise and poignant history of economic “progress” in America, and why the entire economy collapsed just like the blue simulated poo in a recent episode of Mythbusters.

Wolff’s points are simple: from around 1820 to 1970 American workers enjoyed constantly growing wages in real terms, but then it stopped dead in the mid seventies. So while productivity (money earned by companies off an hour of work) has continued to grow with the computer revolution and whatnot, wages haven’t. Instead, workers began working more hours and others joined the workforce – women, teenagers, retirees. Consumers also ran up the largest debts in the world’s history to pay for the shortfall in their wages since this time. And all the while, corporate profits have exploded at our expense. Instead of arguing for more regulations (which have failed in the past) like many liberals, “progressives” and traditional Marxists, Wolff argues for a democratizing of business enterprises, what’s known in many circles as “Socialism from Below”. Using an amusing example from a grad student drawn from cutting-edge software firms in Silicon Valley, dropping out of white collar corporate jobs and starting their own firms where they act as their own collective Board of Directors, making decisions in Hawaiian shirts, with frisbees, dogs and copious amounts of marijuana. While others call this “innovative entrepreneurship”, he calls this (gasp) socialism, and either way, it generates far more and better new technology than traditional corporations.

Capital Hits the Fan, A Marxian view Talk at University of Mass. (Google Video – 38 mins)

Capital hits the Fan Documentary (free on his website, 1 hour).