Socialism or Capitalism? A Soho Forum Debate

Jacobin's Ben Burgis and Soho Forum's Gene Epstein debate which system better promotes freedom, equality, and prosperity.


"Socialism is preferable to capitalism as an economic system that promotes freedom, equality, and prosperity."

That was the proposition at an in-person Soho Forum debate held on Sunday, April 18, in The Villages, Florida. 

Ben Burgis, a philosophy instructor at Georgia State University's Perimeter College and a contributor to Jacobin magazine, spoke in support of socialism. His long-term political goals include giving workers control of the means of production through labor cooperatives, redistributing wealth and power through direct democracy in the workplace, and prohibiting wage-and-salary labor.

Gene Epstein, director of the Soho Forum, former economics editor of Barron's, and a former senior economist for the New York Stock Exchange, argued against Burgis. He contended that free markets already allow for worker co-ops and that if they were popular and effective, they would be more widely adopted than they are currently. He also objected that Burgis' proposed ban on wage-labor is a direct assault on individual rights and reveals the coercion behind socialist economic policy.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by Reason, conducts Oxford-style debates, meaning the audience votes yes, no, or undecided before and after the event. The winner is the debater who convinces the most people to switch sides. At the start of the event, 8.6 percent of the crowd agreed that "socialism is preferable to capitalism," 76 percent disagreed, and 15 percent were undecided. Sam Peterson of Libertas served as moderator.

Audio Production by John Osterhoudt, narrated by Nick Gillespie