Richard Wolff on Investor Risk vs. Worker or Consumer Risk

Richard Wolff on Investor Risk vs. Worker or Consumer Risk


Investors risk [by] putting their money into
buying shares of a corporation. So they end up having all the power and control
to elect the board of directors and ultimately to control what happens in
the corporation (what decisions it finally makes). And the notion is that
somehow reasonable or fair because they have put their money at risk. I always
found this argument somewhere between outrageous and insulting. And let me
explain. What the workers do when they go to work at a corporation? Well, we know
part of the answer: they do work. They use their brains and muscles to transform
raw materials into finished goods and services. That’s what they’re paid to do.
But they also take risks, and indeed their entire families do. Here are some
of their risks. The environment where the worker works, that’s not a decision the
worker makes. It’s a decision the employer makes. Is the air good? Is the
water good? Is the sound at a reasonable level? Is it polluted? All of those
questions will shape the health of the worker and the kind of health he or she
takes home at the end of the day. Workers take a risk when they work in the
environment that’s controlled by the employer. Let me give you another example.
If the employer, the Board of Directors, make a mistake and produce something for
which there’s no market the workers will be fired. They take a risk when they go
to work for any company that their job will be lost their income will be lost
because of decisions over which they have absolutely no power, made by the
Board of Directors, other people, and of course they’re taking a risk. They’re
taking a risk that production will be moved overseas. They’re taking a risk
that the company will be unable or unwilling to pay taxes. And here they are
having move to the community where they have a
job only to discover that the community can’t survive because the companies
aren’t paying taxes. Come on, folks. When you choose a job you’re choosing a
life, a community, a place for your home, a place for your family, all of those
things are not what you’re paid for. You’re paid for your labor but you’re
not paid for your risk. Well, why then if you’re not paid for the risk you take as
a worker would you want to believe that employers ought to be paid for the risk
they’re taking? Let me give you another example. The customer takes a risk. When I
buy something here’s my risk: the thing I buy, for which I’ve paid, may not be what
the seller claimed it would be. The courts in the United States are full of
cases where exactly that has happened. We know the risk and it’s not much of a
comfort to say “well, you can get a lawyer”. That’s expensive. “You can take time to
file a claim”. That’s a problem. There are all kinds of risks but we don’t ask
corporations to compensate us for the risk. We are told: “You take the risk when
you buy the commodity”. Yeah, and we could tell the corporate investor “You take the
risk when you invest. Don’t give us arguments about being paid for a risk if
you’re not willing to pay the customer or the worker for the risks they have to
take as well”.

8 Comments on "Richard Wolff on Investor Risk vs. Worker or Consumer Risk"


  1. This is something that I always found baffling as well. The idea that "investor risk" is so paramount that they get to control everything about a company is ridiculous. It's a literal form of money buying power and freedom. An employee and even regular people in this country never get such power or freedom, despite the hours they put into society and the heavy risk they take everyday to please the employers.

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  2. It's not about morality. It's about appeasing those with money as best as you can so some bills are dropped your way. That's why there's a "fiduciary responsibility" by law for the board of directors to maximize share holder value, those with the money, and not the workers, who have nothing other than what they can get by renting their bodies for labor.

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  3. The best way to deal with investor risk is to abolish capitalism and have the entire country starve to death.

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  4. Now you know the real reason why Jordan lies a lot Peterson went into “rehab”. Gonna look pretty stupid when all of professor Wolff’s assertions about capitalism(what with completely understanding everything that flies out of your mouth, and being well read on Marxist economics and not just regurgitating the rhetoric of the elite) play out. Zero argument. Bravo as always

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