tv Capitalism Socialism Debate CSPAN December 27, 2017 10:41am-12:07pm EST
back in 2000 three and let me just see this, the rest is history. "q&a" sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> editors and academic scholars took part in the debate focusing on the ideology of capitalism and socialism. the new york times columnist michelle goldberg migrated the one hour, 20 minute event held at cooper union great hall in new york city. [applause] >> thank you all for coming out on a friday night. [applause] we are here to debate the
proposition -- capitalism is the best way to improve standards of living, ensure political and economic freedom and provide opportunity. and the reason i was intrigued when i was asked if i wanted to do this is because i am sort of persuadablon this issue. time when it at a seemed as if alternatives to capitalism had been completely discredited. i think it's hard to remember if you are not around them. it is hard to remember, how much
you have seen if there was really no alternative. it doesn't matter what you think where of human mortality, the m you are in notable fact of life, i imagine that if you are coming of age now, it seems as if communism has failed and capitalism has now failed. we are governed by this comic book villain oligarch, while people are forced to wear diapers, because they aren't given bathroom breaks. this is at a time when wages are stagnant, while tens of millions are investing in silicon valley startups. i'm interested to see if i can be be talked out of my sense of despair. in i'm grateful to cooper union for you giving us this historic you great are in hall to have this in.
it was scheduled for a different and you will are venue and it you sold out quickly. it's testament to how much hunger there is for intelligent political debate that all of you are are here. this is home to a tradition of political debate going back to 1860 when abraham lincoln made in a major anti-slavery address in this very place. thank you to -- [applause] thank you to haymarket books, operating sales outside the hall. thank you to verso books and the union for providing licensing services so this debate can reach people beyond this room. [applause] and let me explain how this is the going to go.
we're going to -- we have a number of formal questions that everybody that we talked about beforehand -- people will have three minutes on each side to address them and then two minutes for rebuttals. so that i don't have to kind of talk over people and try to bring segments to a close. their mics will cut out when their time is done. keep it moving fairly briskly, then we'll move into a more informal discussion and there are not going to be audience questions, which i hope doesn't disappoint people very excited -- who are very excited to hear. [applause] so let me introduce our panelists.
nick gillespie editor in chief of reason and reason tv. sorry, editor of reason.com and reason tv. katherine mangu-ward is editor in chief of reason. as a future fellow at new america. [applause] vivek chibber is professor of sociology at new york university. >> [cheers and applause] and a person with a very active fan base, and the editor of catalyst journal of, his latest -- a journey -- a journal of theory and strategy. his latest book is post colonial theory and specter of capital. bhaskar sunkara is the founder editor of publisher of jacobin. >> [applause]
>> we're going to begin by trying to define our terms. the first question, which is going to start with reason, what is capitalism? >> thank you very much, michelle. thank you very much to jacobin for organizing this debate. let's get it out the way. we thought this would be a delightful time so we hope you enjoy yourself as much as we do. capitalism is a system that doesn't have any answers. it does not seek to impose answers to the question which -- what should we produce, how should we produce it, who gets the stuff we produce. that kind of sounds like garbage. i will try to t little more nitty-gritty also in my answer. what that means in practice is that propertis lge privately owned. it means that profit provides incentive for production, it means employment is at will.
the government role in the economy should be limited and forces of supply and demand in a free market are the most efficient means of providing the for the general well being of human kind. i'm mostly going to obsess about that last point. my colleague nick gillespie will be hitting on other topics. i will keep coming back to this idea. question whether or not capitalism lets people flourish, whether it provides the best life that we can provide for them. couple of points here. between 1990 and 2010 we have had the most incredible revolution. michelle's introduction expressed dispair. i rarely find myself on the side of optimism. i will give a go here. say that in those 20 years, we took the number of people living in extreme poverty and cut it by 50%. we did the same thing for the number of people who don't have access to clean drinking water.
what happened in those 20 years? i know. capitalism. that's what happened. capitalism came to india and china. the version of capitalism that came to india and china is wily imperfect. it doesn't look anything like the version of citalisi would like to see in the world. it looks enough like capitalism to have generated this huge boom in standards of living. when americans talk about capitalism, we can be myopic. we can think about what our capitalism look like now. that's a different question, what capitalism and idea looks like and what capitalism looks like in the world at large. you don't hear that either nick and i are fans of big business. we're not hear to argue for crony capitalism, we're not here argue for big government. we do not like those things. we do want to talk about how things really fit in the world.
i'm sure the gentleman from jacobin would like to disavow how socialism plays out in the world. let's talk about the real world but let's keep in mind that we have an ideal vision of capitalism as well. >> thank you. [applause] >> jacobin. >> what capitalism is an economic system fundamentally. my colleague said capitalism doesn't have any answers. that's exactly i think is right. it doesn't have answers to most problems the world is facing today. what it is is a system fundamentally organized around exchange. around trade around money around commodities. in particular, capitalism is organized around purchase and sale of labor power.
that is to say wage labor. the first system in the world where work has been fundamentally carried out by people working for a wage in the united states today and in the world where any part of the world that will be called capitalist. the form of labor is wage labor. this country is 65 to 70 percent of the population are wage laborers. on the other side of this, is a group of people who own production. this is a tiny percentage of the population. we call them capitalists. when we say owns means of production, it means two things. either it's direct ownership of the means production or control. a ceo for example technically is a salaried employee. we'll call them a capitalist because they make all the decisions an owner would make. in between these, we have a population of in the united states about 20 or 25 percent of the people depending on how you measure it, who we would call middle class. this will be people who are managers, people who are white collar, high level salary
people or owner operators. mom and pop shops. people who have their own engineering, graphic designers, things like that. the essence of capitalism everything we know about it, resolves around the relationship between the first and the second group of people. the wage laborers and the capitalist. we're going to ask the question, is this a system that is the best possible means for improving standards of living for providing opportunities, etcetera. it's a hard question to answer, when we say best possible for socialists, you're comparing against two things. you're comparing it against a system that today, i hope we will all agree on this, a system that today nobody supports. which is soviet style or chinese style system of socialism. on the left today, people don't support it. on the right it's strong man to knock down socialism.
i want to stipulate now for the rest of the conversation, neither i or nor bhaskar will support that system. a second alternative to which we compare it is the improvements that have been made within capitalism improvements that push it in a socialistic direction, but without going whole hog into public ownership with means of production. the reason most socialists embrace those systems they are driven by the same principles. >> thank you. [applause] >> you know the first thing i want to say, michelle is, i didn't realize when you were talking about working conditions, that the "new york times" requires its people to work at their desk and wear diapers. i thought that only happened in the third world. >> it clearly does not. >> i realized many of the people at the "new york times" are that old. we'll let that pass. [laughter] >> obviously if everybody in
this country had working conditions of the "new york times," capitalism won't be up for debate. >> well, yes. >> [applause] >> the revolution, right -- i want to pick up on some of the things he said that capitalism is an economic system. i want to stress, actually that capitalism is a subset of a larger liberal political philosophy. i suspect that reason people in jacobin and people in this audience agree on which, the very way that we're talking about this question does the individual, you have individual fair under a particular political economic social system. capitalism is the application to economics of a kind of classical liberal theory that goes back at least to the 17th century. it's really all about centered around the individual and increasing and maintaining autonomy for individuals. the way that i think about
capitalism or the world and the liberal philosophy from which i tend to defend capitalism was best summed up few years ago by a canadian politician named tim mowen, who ran around the slogan, i want my married gay friends to be able to defend their plans -- their pot plants with guns. that's in my ways, is what reason's vision of capitalism is about. it's about securing basic rights to live and to explore and to express yourself to participate in what john stewart, a political economist who straddled libertarian ideas as well as socialist ideas, said about running experiments of living. that's what we're defending when we talk about capitalism. >> thank you. you get the last word.
in >> i'm glad you said that. actually we couldn't agree more. socialist and people on the left for generations have fought for those right. the reason we have those rights is because of the left. >> [applause] >> it's important to understand that the liberties that libertarians embrace are liberties that were not bestowed upon the population by the elite power in the 19th power. -- 19th century. what they put in place was oligarchies. everyone where and always came about through fight and struggle of trade unions working people, of all colors and all genders. that's a baseline that we can agree on. what in the rest of the debate i will be trying to establish is that the problem with capitalism is not that it's based on the principles or the
philosophies that our colleagues here are talking about. the problem with capitalism is that it cannot possibly deliver on them. this is what we're going to try to establish from now. >> [applause] >> to return to jacobin. first question, is this a force for good? >> maybe i'll surprise you, michelle. no. in a limited way. what i said earlier, what capitalism is a system that's based on market exchange. that's little bit misleading. what capitalism is a system which structurally compels firms and on owners to maximize profits. at the center of capitalism is blind relentless pursuit of profits. it's a compulsion.
it is not a profit opportunity. it is not an entrepreneurial spirit. it is a compulsion. if firms don't maximize profits they die. this is a very important consequence. it goes straight to the question of freedom and autonomy. because in capitalism for the and vast majorities of the population, there's no choice but to offer up labor services for wages. they have to seek employment. the employer who hires them is an entity for whom the only thing that matters and only thing that can matter is not just acquiring but maximizing their profits. this results in two things. for the worker, they have to when they take the wage bargain, what comes with the wage bargain is an increment for the eight, nine or ten hours or 19th century 12 hours or third world today, 14 hours, for that period, i surrender my autonomy to you. i pee when you tell me to, i
talk when you tell me to. i stand where you tell me to stand. you get to set the wage level. it's not just that inside the workplace the boss gets to tell me what to do. because he has the power to set the terms of the wage bargain, the boss gets to decide what the level of wage is. he gets to decide what time i come in and leave. i understand this. it means that first of all, income distribution and capitalism is set by people who run the firms. by the ceo's and managers. that means that their power, their bargaining power sets what they will get out of it. that's why in the last 45 years, what we've seen in the united states while productivity and manufacturing as gone up, real wages, production line workers , for ordinary workers have stagnated. they've gone up maybe six percent. for the bottom 60%, there has not been rise in wages in 40 years.
that's a consequence of their lack of freedom. secondly, means that for the ten hours they're at work they are unfree. for the time they leave work, now they are spent rest of that time getting ready to come back now they are spent rest of that time getting ready to come back to work again. they have a choice who to work for. whole point is, whoever they work for, that's the bargain they get. [applause] >> did you hear that little bit at the end? >> yes, they have a choice who they work for. but, that's my whole point here. that's what i will dwell on. people have choices. people have choices when they take a job. and they have choices when they buy an object, when they engage in commercial transactions -- where people don't have choices is when they deal with government.
one of the strongest spaces for capitalism when we carve out space that is voluntary transactions. i agree, self-expression, individual autonomy. these are the goods we're seeking. it's clear in the case of the in a modern american market economy, where people are living free you are lives is not only outside of their work lives. we heard about the working class and capitalists. hope we hear about the bourgeoise, later. >> if you want. >> these days, we are benefiting from the modern capitalistic system. profits are information. just like prices are information. what profits and prices tell us is when we are making the right amount of stuff for the people
who want it, people who are going to voluntarily buy it. it tells us when people are in jobs they are willing to do for the wages that they are offered. this is something that is constantly locked in this debate. the idea that people are somehow coerced in their working environment. it simply is not the lived experience of workers in america at any level. >> [laughter] >> this is not to say that people love their jobs and just bounce in there everyday full of unicorns and rainbows. and that is how i feel about my job, it is not how most people feel about their job, maybe. but, this is still ultimately every morning about the decision, whether you decide to wake up and go to work or not. the day that you choose not to go -- you know what happens to you at that point, nobody comes to arrest you or take you away. under socialist systems,
historically, that is what happens. i think this is something that our friends on team jacobin like to pretend doesn't exist. that is not the ideal form of their system. it is the lived form of their system. under capitalism we have a constant ongoing push for profits, which leads to all the riches that you currently enjoy. it leads to the fact that you or $10 forour $5 tickets to this event. it leads to uber and phone that you're texting on now and tweeting about how i'm an evil capitalist. >> thank you. >> [applause] >> let's start with the question of choice. is it the case you wake up every morning, and wonder whether you are going to go to work or not? for me it is. >> [laughter] >> screw the rest of you.
that's capitalism. >> [applause] >> it's a great system if you're on top. it's never been a better system if you're on top. the fact of the matter is, for people who actually are, people who work for a living, here's the expression they use. i have to work for a living. there's no choice in capitalism about whether or not you will go to work. this is no small thing. it is because there's no choice about whether or not will you go to work that you submit to the power, the authority, and quite often the degradations of your employer. it's disingenuous to suggest that when people go to work, they face an open playing field for themselves. what they face is an employer whose sole goal is to pay out as little as they can and to get as much work out of the workers as possible. is this a bastion of freedom and is a bastion of opportunity?
not really. it's true that it's better than being a slave. it's true that it's better than being a serf. it's true that it's better than state socialist society. those are the choices we put before our kids? are these the choices on which we want to hang our philosophy of life. the way we organize our societies? it is absolutely true that the state social systems were abominations. we have done much better within capitalism. every time we have done better it's been increase power of employers, increasing the power of workers, and giving people access to the basic necessities of life without the market. >> [applause] >> can freedom exist without private property? >> let me get to that.
we are as if negotiation and trade and change improvements, the capitalist achievement does not typically consist of putting -- the capitalist achievement ofs not typically consist more silk stockings of queens, but bringing them within reach factory girls. we live in a world that is overflowing with crap. thin to buy, opportunities to have, and freedoms to indulge in. it may be among the working class in fetishizing brooklyn youth, but that is what is happening. we tried this and more opportunities than we ever have.
the cost of virtually everything you want to buy that is not completely regulated or priced by the government, like health care or education, has been getting cheaper in terms of the amount of work needed to produce it. a car, a refrigerator, a television set, a cable package, and internet connection goes on and on in the developing world. there is not a placement is not getting better when trade, commerce, or capitalism increases. three out of four adults in america are better off than their parents were when they were age even though we have had 40. a terrible economy for all of the 21st century, we are still doing better. we were saying that extreme poverty has been more than halved in the past 25 years, because of trade, not because of aid, not because of giveaways by states to corrupt dictators around the globe.
is property absolutely essential? can freedom exist without private property? i would say no. the starting point of this system, and i don't think this is a question about socialism either. it begins with the individual and a concept of self ownership. it begins very clearly and profoundly with the right to say no. you're not going to do something , and it is a cheap applause line to say working for a living is better than slavery. it is quantitatively better than slavery, it is qualitatively distinct from slavery as well. it is wrong, particularly in an advanced economy, the u.s., canada, mexico, to try and blur those lines. because we do have a options. we own ourselves. not completely, not fully, but we own ourselves, and in that is the beginning of liberal philosophy and capitalism as it plays out in the world which
makes us richer and better off. >> thank you. [applause] >> i was hoping i would not have to speak tonight, i could just hang in the back of the music video. most of myself-conception is like a suge knight. so don't burst my bubble. i think self ownership is a great way to put it. do we have freedom today? yes we have some freedom. , it is limited freedom, it is a by aom mostly enjoyed small group of people who own private property. the rest of us are at these people's mercy. i'm not talking about personal property. i'm not talking about your ownership of a toothbrush. i'm not talking about nick's leather jacket. he got it at a dead kennedys concert in 1982 and i would die for his rights to keep it.
but private property is different. those are the things that give the people that own them power over those who don't. take a privately owned workplace, business owners get to impose working conditions and given a good alternative, most people would reject them. while workers do most of the work at the job, owners have a unilateral say of what happened afterward. this is under we are driving home but it is a simple point. i think is a point that even libertarians should not reject if they are taking their conception of self ownership seriously. work or starve is not a fair bargain. economic relations are not free and private if the contract was made under duress. the contracts we have today are contracts that undemocratically give some people tremendous power over others. if you want to talk about concrete historical examples, let's do that. let's look at existing societies like europe's welfare state. places where private property has been undermined through the
regulation of capital. those societies, to some degree, limit freedom for the people that own private property, but the majority that don't, these people enjoy a greater range of choice and a greater chance to achieve their potential. they have this freedom not because private property is upheld, but because the freedom for the minorities who own private property is limited. [applause] >> fundamentally, socialists believe in the rights of people to the fruits of their only burn. [applause] -- fruits of their own labor. [applause] >> of course we believe in individual rights and individual freedom but have individuality can only be achieved in a society truly embodying the virtues of liberty and solidarity. of course, we believe in a system of law, we just believe in different law. ending private property is not just about government taking things. an all-powerful
government bureaucracies, but we don't want corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. social and economic decisions must be made by the people they most effect. libertarians can't go far enough embracing the vision of freedom, they can't go far enough to truly embrace the self ownership that nick was talking about. [applause] >> and you get the last word. >> the idea that we have two define private property as a property that seems kind of yucky and we don't like, we have to put all the cool stuff that we do like in a different basket of personal property is a misunderstanding of how those things are very, very tightly interrelated. if you like your stuff, if you want to be able to do what you want to do in your home, in your car, on your computer, this is all enabled by private property. if we are talking about civil
liberties, they exist because we have spaces carved out where people not only own their own bodies, but also the physical space around them, they own the mea in which thecommate. this is more true than ever, it turns out that capitalism as it exists in the world do not result in a narrowing of the channels for communication. let us talk about free speech. it turns out, that greedy corporations actually have made it incredibly easy, therefore -- incredibly easy, have proliferated the ways for people to get together, shout at each other, express their opinions, do they want to do. that is predicated on our understanding of where the lines of free speech start. they are different in public spaces or private spaces. speech is freer in private spaces. this is something that you can tell by the fact that when you look on a corporate owned platform of any kind, you see people shouting about how awful corporations are. that strikes me as evidence that
corporations are not suppressing expression or personal liberty. furthermore, i want to say that private property as a precondition for political liberty does not mean businesses get to be in charge of the government. that is the opposite of the thing we're talking about, the moment big businesses and the government get together, socialists lose, libertarians lose, everyone loses. that is not what we are advocating for, but it is the inevitable endgame of socialism as it is proposed. >> thank you. [applause] >> the next question is what is the relationship between freedom and democracy. >> capitalism. >> capitalism and democracy. [laughter] >> this is a historical question. i think we should be very clear about the answer to this
question. capitalism has everywhere and always fought against the implementation of democracy. [applause] >> and the expansion of suffrage. no need to clap, is a sad thing and a historical fact. once we got democracy capitalism , has worked to undermine it. to make sure the power it has or the power it could have is hemmed in. capitalists don't want to give up power to democratic processes. they don't want to do with engaging empowered voters. why were capitalists so worried about working in democratic society? it is simple, they thought that if working people could express their political rights and they wouldn't stop there, they would extend democracy into economic and soci wlness. capitalists underestimated how resilient the system is. we do live in a democratic capitalist society. a society has been made more civilized.
but this is because of the struggles of working-class movements and despite the resistance of capitalists. the fact is we still live in a , partial democracy, not a complete democracy. that is because of how much time we spend in our workplaces. a few ceo's make decisions that affect millions of people. this tyranny bleeds over into other spheres of life, even if you are saying that the tyranny at the work place is fine, it can be justified but we want democracy elsewhere. it doesn't work that way. it has been consistent for the economic power of capitalism undermining our political democracy. whatever noble and liberal dream we share of liberty and justice has been frustrated by how well and empowering it has been distributed. if we were to go forward, if we were to try to achieve a deeper democracy, and economic
democracy, the kind that would allow the majority to win and live in freer and happier lives, we would see capitalists as a barrier to that event. we see it everywhere. this, to me, is history. sohe only recourse they have is to defend his history and say that the inroad against democracy were justified or go on. but this libertarian temptation to play lip service to the democracy is unsustainable. [applause] >> maybe it is worth defining what we mean by democracy. democracy is majority rule. how many of you are republicans? how many of you want absolute democracy now that the republicans are in the white house and both houses of congress? is anybody out there?
i can't hear you. this whole idea that democracy is somehow an absolute good is bullshit. we all know that. the single achievement of the past 500 years in western political philosophy has been spent limiting the state. there are certain things that the state does not own of you, from you, or because of you. we all believe in federal democracy. nancy mclean recently wrote chainscy in ch -- in about how the evil koch brothers will work democracy. i should point out thathe koch brothers are donors to reason, and thank god. we believe that there are individual rights, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that a
majority of dollars can vote to takeaway from the from republicans can vote to takeaway from the rest of us. so let's get that straight. no one wants unfettered democracy. bocracy.mo what is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? -- thatocial good that want to fund and if you are liberal, a libertarian in today's parlance, capital liberal in years past that might be something like public education. i will not speak for catharine, as libertarians we are not allowed to speak for each other. i'm not even allowed to speak for myself. i usually am not quite sure what i think about something. take public education. that is something where we might tax people.
we will not take all of their income. we will take people -- will take people and give it to the people that can't participate more fully in society, developed themselves, have more ptolemy. capitalism, or the economic application of liberal, political philosophy gives you the money you can use in taxes to help people participate more fully in society. we might argue in terms of, and thing, the market socialists, they might say public education would be better if it was based on charter schools and schools of choice rather than mandatory schools that are a lot like prison. [applause] >> for the record, this is mostly a friendly conversation, but that last part was liable
us. nick mentionedt the koch brothers. does anyone know where they got rich? catherine has brought up the practicef socialism and stalinism a little bit. they got rich -- part of the from thewealth arrived ussr. how ford andforget u.s. capitalist interests were very happy to drop their ideology and do business where they could. example of public education. if they're conceding that, i actually agree that most conservatives and libertarians would concede that a child has the right to be literate and
learn basic mathematics and it is really unequal. but we have public education in this country. it is taken out of the market in this country. if they have this right is a social right, what is more fundamental than housing and them having three meals a day? isn't that even more fundamental than education? [applause] why don't we enjoy all those things as social rights? as far as democracy, i want to stress of course we believe in rightsrock social and the rights of minorities, civil rights. the question is how to take those rights on paper and turn them into reality. the historical record is very important for american socialists. we fought for the eight-hour work week, women's suffrage, civil liberties for african-americans, reproductive rights the fight , for gay marriage and on and on. this is ourhistory,
legacy, and what our actual relationship to democracy and practice is. [applause] >> this is the last question for the formal part of the debate. does capitalism allow people to reach their full potential? >> this one seems easy, it is having access to resources that allows people to reach their full potential. as you just heard, the jacobinists at the way that we give people access to basic step they need is socialism. we fight against the capital system to shove all the stuff have auntil people minimum they need. in fact, i will come back to the song i've been singing all along. in the last 25 years, there has been a spectacular, unprecedented, mindblowing large growth in the number of people who have access to the basics.
i do not think anybody in this room would disagree that if there is any economic system that has been dominant, it is capitalism. this is a very fundamental fact which plays to our point of agreement, people need stuff to do they want to do. capitalism generates stuff. it generates the most stuff for the richest people that control capital, no doubt. it generates an incredible amount of stuff for the poorest people. i think what you will always here is the inequality point. not irrelevant. absolutely important, particularly from the political perspective, because people respond to what feels fair. at the same time, the poorest people, while the gaps between them and the richest people is growing, the poorest people are getting richer at a spectacular rate. if your apprentice is that too
-- is that to self-actualized, to flourish people need to have , some basics and go out and do their thing, capitalism is the best way to provide as basics and i think everything ee isssentially clouding the issue. peop have private property, their own space, and self ownership to do what they want to do. we have capitalism even in the garbage and imperfect way it is exists in the world, people are rich enough to get a hold of the basics. the amount of people's income they spend on food has plummeted dramatically. the amount they spend on housing has plummeted dramatically. i know it doesn't feel like that in new york city, but it is a global truth and an american truth. this is something it is so easy to gloss over, that is why want to say over and over like a lame broken record. people have enough money to buy the basic stuff and there is no amount of handwaving and talking about the workers and talking about the capitalists that can make that untrue.
the idea that we are looking for something else for self-actualization is totally misguided. people should be able to choose what their own best life looks like. they are maximizing the area for personal choice and it starts with providing the basics and that is what capitalism does. [applause] >> the answer is no, it can't. [applause] >> this is my time you are taking up. a couple of factual issues here, i want to respond to two factual issues quickly that nick and catherine brought up. thisdea that the h been a massive decrease in poverty rates around the world, this is driven by china. it is a little misleading, i don't want to be the pointy-headed professor here, but it is a little misleading what they are saying. china is a country in which 50% of the revenue is still controlled by the state. if that is your vision of capitalism, it is not quite
where you want it to be. secondly, this is more important. you can't be serious when you're talking about the united states. three out of four americans are better off now than they were 30 years ago, actually untrue. ,atherine, you are saying outside of new york it seems misleading, but people are better off? absolutely untrue. we are living through the first period in history in the last 40 years in the united states, the bottom 50% of the country has not seen his wages or income rise. this is from stanford, study after study is showing this. why does it matter? we think on the jacobin side that capitalism doesn't have bargaining. quite the contrary, it absolutely has bargaining, the point is the bargain itself between employer and employee is what is resulting in stagnated incomes for the bottom. why has it resulted in this? the trade unions are supporting institutions for the state to
dismantle and what we have is a complete despotism of the employers. this is not an aberration, this is capitalism. this is what you get when you take away the support from working people. let me address the question very carefully. -- very directly. does capitalism maximize chances for developing capacity? yes, if you're on top. if you are wealthy. but for the rest of them, no. what does take for you to develop your capacity? three things. autonomy. you should have the freedom to decide what you want to do. time, to develop them and in the end, money. for the bulk of the working time of a working american, they are presiding in a tyranny. a private tyranny that is called the workplace. by the way, catherine, you said civil liberties are enhanced whenever there is private property, you can't be serious. the one place in america are you do not have full right to speech is in the workplace, a place
that is the essence of private property. if you want to organize a union, you are fired. you want to talk when we told you not to? you are fired. you want to take a piss when we told you not to? you are fired. these are called employmen rights and these are enoants on people's autonomy. no a tana me there. there.utonomy secondly, time. do you know that 80% of americans feel stressed? they are underpaid and overworked. overworked means you are killing yourself at work and what happens when you are away? you are just recovering to like go back to work. what autonomy? what flourishing? >> thank you. [applause] >> here is the question. as catherine pointed out and has underscored, we are not talking about perfection, capitalist perfection.
versus a socialist paradise. i'm not a religious person but i believe in original sin. we live in a fallen world. china is more capitalist than it was 15 or 20 years ago. it has a fuck-ton long way to go to where it would even be similar living in mississippi, but to the extent it is more it's also true in the continent of africa, where between 2000 and 2015, two-way trade between the united states and africa more than doubled and the extreme poverty rate, which is generally defineds living on a dollar $.90 or less -- $1.90 or less purchase power parity has massively declined because it is more capitalistic than it was. commerce, more trade, moral goods that i own and sell to you and you buy and you sell me something back.
also, what i said is, if you look -- this is scholarship drawing off of the panel survey of income dynamics. it is not controversial. three out of four people, by the time you turn 40, you are doing better off than your parents were. and a nice song to say this is the first generation in america that will live at a lower rate than before. think about yourself, when is the last time you bought a tv? when is the last time you paid more in dollar amounts, not accounting for inflation, things have been getting cheaper and cheaper in nominal dollars and also in the amount of work that the average worker has to do in order to do it. things are getting better. where they need to get better still is to remove restraints on individual rights so we are not locking people up for nonviolent drugs and things like that. improvement.e for
but economic stagnation is not actually what we are talking about here. corks now we are gog to move into something more informal area would i want to know a position is it your that, because capitalism has given us a world overflowing with crop, that the inequalities that that creates, the kind of desperate stories that we are all familiar with from our health care system, people who schedulinginhumane defeat any attempts --family life or stability is it your position that is basically worth it for a world full of crab that capitalism creates? >> so a couple of things. those thing,that
those horrors are working life are a thing that are more common in poorer societies. so in that sense, yes, we are saying those things are -- that the world full of crab corresponds to fewer of those things in the world. we are not saying the world full of crab is contingent on those things. we will see a heck of a lot more of the abusive practices that we hear all the time that workers experience. that will be in part because of political advocacy here but also because of the sheer rob wealth of our society. when we have more money, one of that we consume his moral goodness. i know it sounds crazy. just go with me for a hot second here.
we in the united states, as we have gotten richer, we commit less and are more conscious about our environmental footprint. that is something we have the luxury to do because we are rich. why ask if that is true, the united states is richer than a lot of scandinavian countries in terms of per capita income, but you have a lot of people being bankrupted by the health care system, people being bankrupted by childrth that we don't have in countries that aren't as rich , but have devoted themselves to a more equitable system. richer,when people are the benefits of that, the rapidity of change by which those changes make our lives tangibly better changes from second or to sector. in the united states, health care and education are two places heavily
dominated by the public sector. this is not the places where we let market get in and improve people situations. we have not realized the system of free labor. people are much more trapped in a health care job or government job or a teaching job than in a lot of other sectors. >> how is the system you are proposing different than a generous european welfare state? >> we start at a certain level of thinking about what we want what we aresociety, against an capitalism. socialists, especially those of us with marxist backgrounds, like to have very scientic pretensions. it's called scientific socialism for that set reason -- said
reason. we are against -- first that sad reason. him and its which a shame. we have seen the struggles of the workers movement in much of europe and scandinavia, but also elsewhere have belt welfare states that have given people a greater range of choice and opportunity. we see that working. the system also has an achilles heel. even though they put workers in a commanding position of power, it has kept market decisions in the hands of capitalists. that helps the road all that is gained. want sustainable, long-term socialism, you have to go beyond social democracy and socialized investment. when it comes to markets are not markets, i want what works. is something where we can say, given our experience
, the path of central planning, that model is broken. the future with computing, with other things, maybe a more participatory system would work or maybe we will still have h -- lthyere we need thearket to work. society without class, a society after capitalism, not just socialism within capitalism. >> i think most of us would agree that capitalism has to answer for the sins actually existing capitalism. you can't just talk about it as this theoretical abstraction good so why can't the well-documented horrors of communism impact how people think about the possibilities of socialism and why shouldn't it make them wary of something that goes beyond social democracy? [applause] >> at some level, it should
impact the alert -- the thinking of any thinking person. any past experience, you cannot ignore it. you have to factor in. but in the same way, when we one hasut -- no mentioned pinochet or franco, because these are different things. in the historical record of the 20th century, you have seen democratic experiments in socialism. you have seen movements that attained great power, even state power, and honored and respected democracy while sustaining social and economic rights from the social workers movement in scandinavia in sweden and in norway, including in sacrament -- in central america, nicaragua , where the left participates in peaceful transfers of power. you have also seen in other instances, gross violations of
people's dignity and rights. i've seen that on both sides. suffice it to say that both socialism and capitalism are andble of democratic forms the tradition in the united states is long standing before the soviet union exists now, afterwards, and many of these people were the most incisive and intelligent critics of stalinism as a political system. our knowledge, even the word stalinism, came from the democratic left. >> one more question before we turn to the final proposition how a poor person
in the united states, going to a shitty public school and with substandard medical care, how free is that compared to a person bornpoor into a european country in a welfare state? >> we should recognize that they can move to america or they can come here. when we talk about european democracies, we are talking that is generally hostile to immigration, has been historically, continues to be. open borders person. i think anybody who wants to come to the united states should be allowed to enter. .hat's not a small thing on the left, that is usually meant that i'm somehow try to stoke the reserve army of the unemployed to drive down wages so that capitalists can get more wealthy, even wealthier still by having low wages. what it means is that people can come here and flourish in a way
that europe, because of socialism -- and this is generally true, the higher the welfare state, the more homogeneous the population tends to be in the don't ke immigrts this is why donald trump is a really stupid, but is profoundly ail, even though he is within few generations of emigrating. he would close off america. many people on the left would do that as well. many people on the right can i think it is a big mistake. clearly, there are people who are born in bad circumstances. not by you fix that is starting to talk about democratic socialism and investing socially. you free them from a public school system which, despite massive and ongoing increase these s increases in per person them the it hurts most. this is why the libertarian people have more chases
than the limits but in front of them. you do the same thing with health care. you liberate the health-care system from a place where $.50 of every dollar is spent by the government. it doesn't work very well. there's no reason why health care and education can't be delivered much more cheaply, much more innovatively by a flourishing free market are. but to say wouldn't it be great if we were all born middle class in denmark, maybe. but that is not the world we live in, the question is why we have the poor with us everywhere, how do we have the fewer of them and how do we have more options? i would argue that is limiting the government and providing a basic social safety net and then looking to civil society as well as market socialism within those areas that we agree going to be under public purview like education and health. >> about immigration, it seems that the one thing that america
actually has historically done better than most countries in europe is integrate immigrants and part of the backlash against immigrants in the european social democracy is that people don't like paying all this money for people that they see as "them." and the one thing that makes me despair about the social democratic system that underlie seems ideal is that it seems to crack under the strain of diversity. >> that is not true at all. a couple of points, let me say something, what nick saiis really important. he says the health care system is not working and that we need to free it up because we see there's too much public money being spent on it. it is being freed up because they are clearly failing and they need to get them more choice by bringing markets in. it is important because too often in these debates when we find something working, here's
-- something isn't working, the answers to market hasn't privatized. here's the thing -- health care in europe is provided at better quality at lower costs and with greater scope through the public system. it is not private health care. in american debates, you you wonder, do americans know that the rest of the world exists? let us look at public schools. yes, public schools are failing because they have been choked because the funding to them has been choked. there is stealth privatization of public education because of the way they are financed. the result is not to further advertisements of the poor get -- further privatize them so the poor get trapped in these apartheid the neighborhoods of theirs, these are increasingly balanced schools with kids with michael get to lead, the option is to genuinely fund them and get the money the way there given money and other advanced industrial countries. [applause]
>> the insistence on privatizing is a kind of extortion. that public support is off the table. so, either you stay in the shit-houses we are giving you and that is not fair to me. >> think the socialists should be reminded that denmark exists. >> let me answer your observation that the as that are going on in the workplace of the united states are something that occurs in poor countries so let's talk about these poor countries. why do they occur in poor countries? because poor countries today are what victorian england was in the 19th century, the reason you don't see these abuses occurring in europe right now is not because there's something magical about rich countries. it is because in all these countries there are trade unions
and political parties that defend workers and it makes it hard for employees to have what they have in the united states. it is not about rich and poor, it is because in more developed countries there is a history of trade unionism. united states stands alone in having a protection from workers organizations with those workers and that is why in the u.s. today, it is a parallel to what you find in poor countries when these two parts of the world have no protection from workers and the unbridled power of employers, that is why. that is not denmark, that is the best of the world. >> what they stand up for is workers to the exclusion of people who would hope that they would be workers sunday in our country. quite against immigrants they stand up for workers. they stand up against people who want to work for lower wages, they want to make that illegal. those people don't have jobs at all. i honestly think that stanng up for workers is and an unexamined sentence that should be more closely examined, there are
are in whose interests opposition and who need our help. >> i didn't hear all that. let me try to systematically answer what michelle raised. i'm sorry i did not hear everything you said. it is true that in europe right now, there is a kind of backlash against immigration amongst certain sections of the population. let us keep something else in mind. the wave of migrants and immigrants that came out of the middle east, iraq and syria over the last 12 years is quite extraordinary how in europe they were welcomed. in the midst of that, there's been a backlash. that is not an artifact of the social democracy. that is not an artifact of social democracy. since the establishment of the european union, wages have stagnated, england has gone through its worst period of wage stagnation. what they say is that our mainstream parties, our own states are doing nothing to defend our wages while our benefits are being cut. the reason they point to that immigrants is not because of social democracy, it is because all the establishment is telling
them is that there is nothing we are going to do to improve your economic luck. europe has been in unrelenting austerity for almost 15 years. the far right comes in and says to them, here is why you are stagnating, these people are coming in and taken it away. there is no other political party that is addressing the issue other than the far right. until the last 10 years, immigration has not been an issue in europe. it has become one because of the fact of the stagnating standards of living and that is all because of the increasing power of the right, the increasing power of corporations any increasing insecurity that we -- that the poor are feeling. that has nothing to do with social democracy. it has to do with the altered balance of power. [applause] >> we have to move on to the final question.
as i said at the beginning, is capitalism the best way to improve standards of living, ensure political and economic freedom, and improve opportunity? >> before i respond, i would like to thank everyone for participating. i sent catherine an email and she responded within a couple of hours. libertarians see market opportunities, i will give them that. thank you for both sides being so respectful. please keep it there, i can't imagine what the offspring of socialist and libertarian would be. probably the most inept human being. this question itself is a bit unfair. it is too easy for us simply because we can't compare a theoretical system with an existing one in good faith.
i can tell you socialism would be way better and give all sorts of assertions but that would be fair in a debate. what we can do is start with the reality, where we are right now and think about what a just society would look like. we think a just society would be one in which everyone is able to reach a goal. -- reach their potential. a social scientist used to say about einstein that he was a certain, is interested and impressed with his brain, people equal talent lived and died in sweatshops in cotton fields. if the system is allowing people -- if the system isn't allowing people to reach their potential, i think we would all admit that it isn't, it is still filled with amazing wealth, also, exploitation of poverty and all sorts of terrible misery, how can we make it better? we can try to tame the system at first. we can try to build the welfare straight to get the basics. we are all unique and different,
but we can all only develop these unique abilities in a society wi a diffent oerriority. ace ere inuities are tackled so we all truly have a fair shot at life. this would mean that society will be able to socially provide people with the necessities, food, housing, education, i'm glad we only got one of them, healthcare, child car. to allow for individual furnished -- individual flourishing. but can we go urther? can we go beyond it will burst into a more democratic , participatory society? this is an open question, we notice the social democracy works, we also know it has limits. maybe we can go beyond it. this is a lot of my work on the idea that we can but we did so by testing and pushing the boundaries, it is a democratic process that can move forward but also one that can move backward. i imagine in a capital society
that there will be plenty of room for nick and catherine to have a party of the 3% or 4% on the fringe of society. honestly, it would not be much of a chance for any of us. but where we end up, wherever we end up, it will not be a utopia. it will still be a place where we can get our heart broken, we may be depressed and feel lonely, it won't cure your stomach ache, your nausea, indigestion, all that stuff, in the process of getting that i think we will solve a few of our animal problems. we begin to start tackling our human ones. socialists know that the old system isn't working and we know that a democratic one allows people to live more free and independent lives. that is the extent of the claim i can make and if you're interested in these ideas, i think it will be part of a long, multigenerational unit of movements. it will perhaps one day make the of the earth -- make of the
earth a homeland rather than an exile. [applause] >> it is funny what you said just now, your system won't stop you from being heartbroken or lonely, it will not hear your -- cure your heartburn or your stomach ache. capitalism does do those things actually. i'm sure all of you have been on tindr, i'm sure all of you have bought pepto-bismol, those are the gifts of capitalism and it sounds silly but it is true. [applause] >> capitalism as it exists in the world is imperfect, i appreciate the extt to which we managed to curb both of our impulses to compare realo imaginary and vice versa in this discussion, it has been an absolute pleasure, a rare one. i think what i want to wrap up is just to say that the virtues
that capitalism fosters are not sexy ones. it does not struggle and marshall courage and solidarity. the bridges of -- the virtues of capitalism are prudence and politeness and to be the guide -- in the guy who is fighting for politeness is not a great place to be but i think it is the right place to be. a world where people are fundamentally basically decent to each other because they are going to engage in voluntary market transactions to get the stuff they need in which people can find love and cure their stomachache and go down to the duane reade, head over some money and whatever you need, thank you, whatever build out they wanted, it is an underrated miracle that capitalism has provided, the free-market enterprise embedded in capitalism, embedded in modern liberalism has provided. i think the idea of separating
crap from the broader system is misguided. the crap is the system and system is awes now again, it is not as exists in the rlworld, perfect. i'll say that a million times over. reason magazine publishes 80 pages about how the current system is nothing magical capitalist system we would like to see. but what i want to say is that if we are try to create a world where people can make their own choices about their own lives, capitalism does better than socialism, even more so than the wimpy capitalism socialism that these guys keep flogging. i think the reason that is true is because it actually is a powerful force for bringing poor people into more access and basic income, fundamentals of life, just because rich people get richer doesn't mean the poor
people are not dramatically better off and freer under a capitalist system. that was the last 20 years that show that, i think we can show in the developing world, only if we would let it. [applause] >> this really went by fast, i thought we were just getting warmed up. i want to thank all of you who came here. jason has not been mentioned yet and he did incredible work. you may not know this but for all hiradical talk, he runs a magazine and jason is one of his workers so for michelle of course, thank you for coming here and this does not going to my three minutes by the way.
i would like for nick to think about this and address this, because nick said that capitalism, what it is is an implementation of liberal political philosophy book when i would suggest is that capitalism is completely inconsistent with liberal and political philosophy. if you really do take liberty and freedom seriously, you have to be a socialist. there is no way around that. let me tell you why. [applause] the essence of liberal and political philosophy is not the protection of property, this is something that was foisted on us in the 20th century because of liberalism's fear of socialism. the essence of liberalism from the moment of its founding through all of them, the essence was to treat people as equals. the moral equality of human beings, not equal treatment, not to give people money or equal income but to recognize the
essential moral equality, the intrinsic worth of human beings. that is liberalism. it gets better. capitalism is a system, what it is is a system which systematically forces subordination, the willing subordination of the majority of the population to an unbridled authority. that forces them to subordinate every other one of their longings for artistic expression, love, health, whatever they want to do to the imperative of the job. it systematically pits them against each other, it forces people to treat each other as means, not as ends. it forces every worker to see the other worker as a potential threat to his job. nick said the left calls it an army of labor.
it is. it is not the left's fault. that is capitalism's fault. when people are moving from one part of the world to the other, they are forced to view one another as rivals. there is nothing natural about that. that is how the labor market works. you cannot have a vision of the world in which you insist that people treat each other with respect, while you live in a system that is built on power, hierarchy, on hobbesian war against all, that is the essence of capitalism and what motivated socialists from the start is to try to open up a space where people can have mutual respect and treat each other as ends, not as means. we have made progress in capitalism. it is true. all that progress has come from battles of the poor, led by socialists who try to tame these barbaric aspects of an inhuman system.
[applause] >> so the question was put that if i really wanted to take liberalism seriously, i would have to be a socialist. i don't think so. i thought it over and among other things, the history of liberalism is bizarre in that it does not actually begin with beginning of liberalism which predates locke a couple hundred years before he was talking abt it. it was about equality under the law. it was very important to understand that what religious fighters were fighting that is that we are all equal under the eyes of god and that a ruler does not have an absolute claim to any of our shit, especially our lives. in that limitation of government power and state power or as the collective in the face or body
of the king. that is where liberalism was from and it is about limiting government based on the idea that we are all not means to an end, i would argue that capitalism is a system that does a better job of actually implementing that vision. it does it in a lot of ways by releasing us from, you know, mobocracy, whether in the name of the king or the spirit or anything like that. capitalism as we have been talking about it and we can quibble with definitions, it is not perfect. it does constantly need to be adjusted, but of the great things of what the lefties to lament about capitalism before they started going back to talking about lake capitalism rather than invest capitalism is that capitalism is infinitely malleable and takes on all this criticism and puts it in the system and it gets people more time off.
kids did not stop working because of eugene b debs. they stopped working because technological innovation and capital production that a point where we didn't need kids in order to grow food or make so cks. we produce more stuff with less time and less resources, that is good for all of us. that gives us time to watch netflix, that is also a product of capitalism, not of socialism. our lives are getting better, our food and culture are getting better, our lives are getting longer. this is not accidental to capitalism, this is because of whole foods, netflix, amazon, apple, dreadful pharmaceutical companies. and in pursuing the profit motive of mostly going out of business and going bankrupt but every once in a while coming up with pepto-bismol or antidepressants or all sorts of things like viagra, you name it, it is out there, the contraceptive pill was not a socialist fantasy, it was a capitalist reality, and it is a good thing.
capitalism helps us grow, it helps us energize ourselves and live our life to a fuller potential. what we do need is not to debate capitalism but take the wheels off of things, we have to stop shooting wars and we have to stop wars on drugs. we have to allow people to become more free not just from the state but from society in a way that says we don't like the way that you want to live, with only the way you
look, we don't want you to live there and get rid of those impediments which come primarily from the state and vested, certainly not from capitalists who are just happy to sell anybody anything, anytime they want. coming up, the mock trial over the divorce in the play "wealth night." editor of a new book about race and criminal justice reform . later, a look at mea coverage in the current political climate. first amendment scholars and authors from around the country. a university of chicago professor outlines the issues in tonight's event. traditional liberals are
divided now on this question about free speech. there are those liberals who see themselves as most committed to issues of equality and what they see as justice and feel that the should override traditional justice as we speak -- of free speech. and the ways in which free speech have been restricted by people bowl in power and do not .rust even themselves on the conservative side, in almost every episode in american history, efforts of suppression of speech have been driven largely by political observers, in the in the -- academic realm -- whether in the early 19th century where it is about religious moralism or opposition to darwinism or the turn of the 20th century with
punishing faculty members and students for criticizing wealthy donors or world war i who criticize the war or the draft could be thrown out or during the mccarthy era, for example. it has always been conservatives on the side of restricting free speech. even on the larger national community, with campaign finance on commercial speech, -- i find it annoying that all of these republican legislators are suddenly championing free speech in a situation in which the people who are being silenced coulter.and what it is a buffer them is not the principle of free speech as it is the particular oxygen that is being gored. that bothers me. it's a matter of principle in terms of what this is really all about.
by theevent was cohosted national constitution center, the federalist society, and the american con's to two should societ see e enre debate on campus free speech with first amendment scholars and authors from around the country tonight, 8:00 eastern, here on c-span. the shakespeare theatre company of washington, d.c., presented a mock tour -- a marked trial -- a mock trial based on shakespeare's "12th night." presiding among the judges was merrick garland, a former supreme court nominee and chief justice of the d.c. circuit court of appeals. this is an hour. >> thank you and good evening for joining us.