After World War II, because of technologies that had been developed, you had a kind of celebration of the natural sciences. Inside the university, those fields were getting all the favoritism; part of that favoritism is funding. After World War II, economics discovered that for a long time it had been considered a social science, paired with things like history, sociology. These were not the favored fields. The economics profession made a decision that its future in the university would be to become more and more like the natural sciences — to prove its science-like nature by looking like those others. What has happened over the last 50 years is to say to the student who comes in all excited to understand depressions and inflations and to see how it all relates to history and politics: ‘We don’t do that anymore.’ Economics becomes this technical field...inaccessible to all but a few.
An awful lot of students have had bad or no experience in economics as part of their training. So they come out of college and they don’t know much about this subject and they have a bad feeling about it. We have a low degree of economic literacy which is part of what allows the weirdest, wildest junk to pass for economic perspectives.
I can assure you that nothing that I’ve said should make anyone doubt for a minute that there’s enormous personal interest in learning more about economics. The truth of it is, the economy isn’t all that complicated. And to make economics simple is not to take something terribly complicated and falsify it.
What do you think is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the American people about Marxism, socialism, and the ideas you espouse? Socialism existed long before there was a Soviet Union or whatever particular society you want to point to. Socialism is a creature of capitalism — it is the self-criticism of capitalism. Every system that the human race has ever had has people who love it and celebrate it and people who are critical of it. That’s the normal condition and capitalism is no different. A healthy society knows that criticism is part of what ‘health’ means. It’s sad — it holds back the level of discourse in this country. To be unable to listen to a critic, that’s nothing to be proud of. That’s a defect of our culture.
You advocate for ‘Worker Self-Directed Enterprises’ as the foundation of an alternative economy. Tell me more. I am interested first and foremost in the cooperative organization of the workforce. Even when workers become owners [as in many co-ops], it is typical that the worker-owners still turn over the direction of the enterprise to people other than themselves. What I’m talking about is when workers themselves transform the workplace into a cooperative. The workers, all of them, have a job description that has two parts: part one, you do a particular task in the division of labor. Your job description also has a second part, namely your participation in the direction of the enterprise: what to produce, how to produce, where to produce, and what to do with the net revenue or profits that the enterprise generates. [The current] top-down un-democratic arrangement we have now [is] ethically unjustifiable, contrary to all democratic principles.