Is Socialism Better Than Capitalism? A Soho Forum Debate

Jacobin's Ben Burgis says yes, Soho Forum's Gene Epstein says no.


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"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.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie, edited by John Osterhoudt and Regan Taylor

Photos: Hansjörg Keller on Unsplash; Khachik Simonian XYav on Unsplash; Kaan Kosemen on Unsplash; Mario Caruso on Unsplash; Dominik Bednarz on Unsplash; Renate Vanaga on Unsplash; Henry Co on Unsplash; Tim Foster on Unsplash; Doun Rain aka Tomas Gaspar on Unsplash; Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash; BP Miller on Unsplash; Justin Guariglia on Unsplash; Jamison Lottering on Unsplash; Michelle Ding on Unsplash; Ilse Orsel on Unsplash; Event photos by Brett Raney