MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Does Capitalism or Socialism Make People More Free? Reason/Soho Forum Debate 10/15 in NYC

Gene Epstein of Barron's and Bhaskar Sunkhara of Jacobin will debate whether "socialism is more effective than capitalism in bringing freedom to the masses."

The Soho ForumThe Soho ForumSocialism is more effective than capitalism in bringing freedom to the masses.

That's the resolution under discussion at the next Reason/Soho Forum debate, scheduled to take place in New York on Monday, October 15, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater of John Jay College. Reason is proud to co-sponsor The Soho Forum, a monthly Oxford-style debate series that "features topics of special interest to libertarians and...aims to enhance social and professional ties within the NYC libertarian community."

As the Soho Forum summary of the event notes, "Socialism has been making a comeback in this country. According to Gallup, 55% of 18- to 29-year-olds now view socialism favorably. Among Democrats, support for capitalism has plummeted over the past two years from 56% to 47%—while Democrats' support for socialism stands at 57%."

The capitalism vs. socialism debate is taking place in a venue that seats 600 people. But tickets, which cost between $12 and $24, are selling fast and must be purchased online (go here now). Admission includes entry to a post-debate reception featuring wine, cheese, and other light fare and drinks.

Here is information about the evening's participants.

For the affirmative:

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin and the editor of several volumes including The ABCs of Socialism (Verso, 2016). He is the author of the forthcoming Socialism In Our Time (Basic Books, 2019).

For the negative:

Gene Epstein has recently stepped down from a 26-year stint as Economics and Books Editor of Barron's, where he wrote the weekly column, "Economic Beat." He has taught economics at the City University of New York and St. John's University, and worked as a senior economist for the New York Stock Exchange. He's the co-founder and director of the Soho Forum.

The moderator for the debate is Naomi Brockwell, the co-founder of The Soho Forum and a former producer at Stossel on Reason whose videos and podcasts about Bitcoin can be watched and listened to here and here.

The Soho ForumThe Soho ForumHere are the details:

Event starts at 6:30 pm
Reception to follow
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
John Jay College
524 W 59th Street
NY, 10019

Seating must be reserved in advance. Buy tickets here.

All Soho Forums are turned into Reason videos and podcasts. Go here for a full archive.

Go here to join The Soho Forum's mailing list.

On September 27, I interviewed Gene Epstein about his critical take on Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, the seeming revival of socialism among younger people, and how he planned to win next week's debate. Click below to listen via SoundCloud. Go here to subscribe to the Reason Podcast at iTunes.

Photo Credit: Bank of Zimbabwe

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    I have it on good authority that Venezuela is now the most freerest country in the world.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    But Venezuelans are more freer! Free from the shackles of material wealth, hallelujah!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Their only freedom are the socialist chains that bind them, comrade.

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    I suppose it is, for socialist countries, considering almost all others are doornail-dead. But it is racing to give Best Korea the lead, and with the Castro Bros down and almost out, they may end up in the lead once again.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Well they no longer have to worry whether they will get enough to eat or not, and freedom from uncertainty is an unalienable human right according to both hihn and tony.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not even a debate.

  • Agammamon||

    Gene Epstein of Barron's and Bhaskar Sunkhara of Jacobin will debate whether "socialism is more effective than capitalism in bringing freedom to the masses."
  • Eddy||

    Yes, go on...

  • Agammamon||

    Waaaaait for it.

  • Agammamon||

    Fricking squirrels.

    To finish;

    I don't understand the point of these debates. No matter how you define it, socialism makes people less free. And yes, even if you include 'government safety net' in your definition. The more socialism you have the more unfree your society is. It *has* to be - because its prioritizing the collective over the individual and constrains individual freedom in order to take care of the poorest/sickest segment of that society.

    Not making a value judgment on whether or not that is desirable here - just pointing out that if you're pro socialist you are, by definition, anti-freedom.

    Fortunately, being pro-capitalism does not, by definition, mean you're anti-poor (or even just apathetic about them). It certainly allows you to be, but does not require it, unlike socialism requiring an anti-freedom stance.

  • Eddy||

    But if so many people are willing to identify themselves as socialists, that indicates that the case for "capitalism" isn't just obvious to everyone - why not see if it can be made apparent to at least some fence-sitters with a good debate with an eloquent exponent of socialism?

    Socialist are, if anything, good with words. Capitalists are no slouches, either, what with Adam Smith, Bastiat, Hayek, et. al. So we know it's *possible* to argue against socialism.

    Why not give it a go, even in NYC?

  • King's Ransom||

    Sure but you should only be able to advocate for the system you live under, and there needs to be minimum 20 year residency requirement. Once they find an actual resident socialist that wants to debate for their team let's do it!

  • Agammamon||

    So, how does socialism require an anti-freedom stance? After all, how can someone be free if their life-choices are constrained by economic limits?

    Well, in order to free one person from an economic limit (or even lessen its effect on that person) requires you to increase an economic limit on another person. Basically, an injustice exists (you're poor, sick, etc) because of the way *the universe is*. Because we live in a reality with entropy. The best you can do here is forcibly shift that injustice onto someone else. Ideally, someone else that is better capable of dealing with it. But the injustice still exists. It didn't go away. It just got put onto someone else. And you've created *more* injustice in the process of pointing guns at people to make that happen.

    Socialism *increases* the net unhappiness in the universe. It can do no other.

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    You've alluded to, but not made specific, the transaction costs. Not only does all that redistribution require bureaucrats and enforcement, but the poor decision making of people with no skin in the game and imperfect information means that their decisions will be poorer than free markets.

  • spec24||

    "how can someone be free if their life-choices are constrained by economic limits?"

    Economics and freedom are not inherently linked. Everything that follows in your argument is invalid. Though your conclusion is correct because is a socialistic society it IS a zero sum game, unlike a capitalist system.

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    If it constrained individual liberty equally -- such as increasing gravity by 10% -- the "benefits" might be worth it on some fashion. But collectivism by definition gives a few people power over everybody else. It always astonishes me that people who swear by Piketty and income inequality are happy to increase inequality.

    The only explanation is that they think they will be one of those in charge.

    They remind me of the logic of Jehovah's Witnesses (?) whose own philosophy says only 144m000 people will go to heaven yet go around trying to find more recruits, which could only decrease their own odds. Their only explanation is that they think they can find stupid sinful people yet somehow convince St Peter that they selflessly chose good sinless people and server to rise in the rankings. How stupid do they think God is?

  • sarcasmic||

    Listen, dude.

    In a capitalist society your basic needs are not provided for you.
    Because you have no choice but to pay for things like food and shelter, you must have a job.
    Because you have no choice but to work, you are engaging in involuntary servitude.
    Involuntary servitude is slavery.

    Socialism provides all of your basic needs for nothing.
    That frees people to do what they want to do.
    Hierarchy of needs and all that.
    Socialism fills the foundation and frees people to pursue higher needs.

    To summarize, capitalism is slavery to the corporations, and socialism is freedom.

  • spec24||

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! What a load.

    Listen, bub.

    "In a capitalist society your basic needs are not provided for you."

    Yeah. Welcome to life. A socialist society is no different, other than the work that you would normally do to provide for yourself has been shifted, and put upon, someone else. The fact that one person is free from involuntary servitude (a stupid concept in a free market) doesn't mean that someone else isn't further enslaved to produce the goods and services that the lazy piece of shit needs to survive. You're not changing the system, you're just changing who works more!

  • spec24||

    "Because you have no choice but to pay for things like food and shelter"

    Sorry, but in a capitalist society you are free to build your own shelter and produce your own food. It's the government that requires you to pay for anything - just like a socialist society.

    "Socialism provides all of your basic needs for nothing"

    This is the dumbest, most ill-informed, most ignorant point of view ever. You can't provide basic needs to people without someone PRODUCING those basic needs, you bubble head! Do you really think that goods and services will fall out of people's asses? Every person who doesn't do anything to provide for their basic needs will need someone else producing those basic needs. Not just for the lazy prick, but for themselves. That's why socialist countries are so inefficient and eventually crumble.

  • spec24||

    "That frees people to do what they want to do"

    Oh my God, the stupid! No, it doesn't! It forces some into slavery to provide for other people's needs. And guess what? The efficiency of that system is so poor that the people who should be able to "do what they want to do" (at the expense of others) wind up with less than they need to survive. Ever heard of bread lines?

    "Hierarchy of needs and all that."

    Make believe shit and all that.

    "Socialism fills the foundation and frees people to pursue higher needs."

    No, it doesn't. Socialist destroys the foundation, starves the people so they can die earlier.

    To summarize, only a child who still believes in Santa Clause would think the way you are.

    On the other hand, your whole post might be satire. If so, bravo. If not, your socialist education system has failed you royally!

  • Eddy||

    I like how this time they gave the socialists the affirmative.

    The next step is for the pro-freedom (i. e., anti-socialism) debater to exploit this advantage by, for example, pinning the guy down to a precise definition of socialism.

    The last time they had a debate with this Jacobin guy, he was able to let off various applause lines about how of course he didn't believe in Venezuelan-style socialism, and look at the wonderful stuff in Scandinavia, but he didn't think the Scandinavians were socialisting hard enough.

    By this time, there have been enough approximations of "pure" socialism that this guy needs to identify which of these regimes have managed to uplift the people more than capitalism would have done, and at less cost.

    Just as the pro-freedom side has to defend the actions of flawed, not-purely-capitalist regimes in illustrating the benefits of a free market, the socialist side needs to defend at least *some* of the actions of the regimes which have called themselves socialist, or to admit that socialism is just too durn pure to be actually implemented on planet Earth, with the limited human material available.

  • Eddy||

    Also, and this will be a sellout from a pure libertarian point of view, watch out for the Jacobin guy advocating stuff that Hayek also endorsed ("so, socialism means unemployment insurance? Hayek advocated a form of that in *Constitution of Liberty.* Socialism is a bigger tent than I thought!")

  • Eddy||

    "State support for the education of the poor? Check out your fellow socialist, Milton Friedman!"

  • buybuydandavis||

    "and look at the wonderful stuff in Scandinavia"

    It is infinitely amusing that those who run about castigating anyone who disagrees with them as Nazis always profess white ethno welfare states as their ideal societies.

  • geo1113||

    Young ethnic guy versus old white guy. Hmmm, I might be spending more time checking out Naomi Brockwell.

  • Eddy||

    They were going to find a young ethnic guy to defend capitalism, but he was too busy with his real-world job.

  • CE||

    I only read the articles.

  • sarcasmic||

    The moderator for the debate is Naomi Brockwell...

    Dang. I'd go just for the chance to share a crowded room with her.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Socialism has been making a comeback in this country.

    So is AIDS.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The moderator for the debate is Naomi Brockwell

    How YOU doin'?

  • Here for the outrage||

    But tickets, which cost between $12 and $24...

    Who voted on that? You're going to hold a public forum without the consent of the state, and also charge whatever you'd like?

    Socialism will cure you all of your selfish capitalist behaviors

  • Aloysious||

    The moderator for the debate is Naomi Brockwell

    Hello, Darlin'

  • Dillinger||

    Naomi Brockwell worth the ducat.

  • jjjjj||

    The type of freedom socialism provides is emotional freedom, not absolute freedom. With socialism you do not have to worry about most of your needs because, really, you have no choice. And that liberates people from having to deal with emotions. As a trivial example, think about buying a cell phone. There are so many options out there and people spend hours researching and picking one out. You inevitably have buyers remorse to some level because you have to make trade-offs. In a socialist system, there's only one phone, or you get the phone the government provides. You never have buyers remorse because there's no decision to be made. It's great... until you need something other than what the government provides. Then, you're screwed. You have no freedom to get what you really want.

    It's the same with healthcare. Socialized medicine, much like American whatever-the-hell-we-should-call-it medicine , is great if you do not get sick. Even if you do get sick, you will probably be fine. But if the gov sticks you with an incompetent doctor or decides the cost is not worth the benefit (an 80 year old getting a knee replacement gets less total lifetime value out of it than a 40 year old), you have no choice but to accept crap. At least with capitalism I can go outside and make decisions to go elsewhere, even if the process is stressful and emotionally annoying.

    tl;dr: socialism is great if you can't deal with emotions

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Socialism is great for weak stupid people with no drive or ambition.

  • Darth Soros||

    Freedom makes people free. And if people want to use that freedom to be socialists, by voluntarily sharing their wealth, that's fine with me. (They can start by sharing their wealth with me.) Just keep your hands out of my pockets. As Leonard Read wrote, "Anything That's Peaceful."

  • Rob Misek||

    Free from what?

    We live in a civilization that needs to be maintained and improved.

    Capitalism and Socialism are two parts of a whole.

    Neither works without elements of the other.

    Your elite masters don't care which wins, their corruption exists in both. What's important to them is that they keep them "separate" which keeps the rest of us in conflict, squabbling over irrelevancies, our eyes off the ball.

    They fear the day we recognize and value truth more than our petty conflicts.

  • Rob Misek||

    Free from what?

    We live in a civilization that needs to be maintained and improved.

    Capitalism and Socialism are two parts of a whole.

    Neither works without elements of the other.

    Your elite masters don't care which wins, their corruption exists in both. What's important to them is that they keep them "separate" which keeps the rest of us in conflict, squabbling over irrelevancies, our eyes off the ball.

    They fear the day we recognize and value truth more than our petty conflicts.

  • Rob Misek||

    Wtf

  • Rob Misek||

    It keeps us squabbling as we advocate elements that we have reason to believe may be wrong because they are part of the mythical cable bundle that we believe represents what we really want. In this case, freedom.

  • spec24||

    Next, let's have a debate whether having cancer, or not having cancer is good for people.

  • Enemy of the State||

    Damn - I'd go just for the chance to meet Ms Brockwell....

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online