Debating capitalism at Durham


I was up at Durham on Friday proposing the motion in the Student Union that "Only Capitalism Can Save the World."  The Durham debating society has a high reputation, which it certainly lived up to on Friday.  The chamber was completely packed, with people sitting on the floor at the front and in the aisles, and standing at the back. It was a lively debate with a high level of floor speeches.

My case was that capitalism generates wealth. When people exchange, each gains something they value more highly that what they currently have. Thus both parties gain and wealth is created. Capitalism expands the opportunities for production, specialization and exchange, creating wealth in the process. It is this which has lifted more people out of poverty than ever before in human history.

My second point is that wealth can enable problems to be solved. My dictum was this: "There are few problems in the world so big that they can't be solved by chucking money at them." Again and again in history, the equation has been that if humanity wants it enough and will pay for it, they will probably get it. 

It is not by eschewing economic growth and living more simply that the world's problems will be solved, but through a combination of wealth, will and technology.  I predicted that humanity will conquer Alzheimer's and cancer as it is currently engaged in conquering Aids and malaria and as it has already conquered polio and smallpox. 

The drive for clean power and clean travel requires more wealth, not less. Capitalism creates wealth, and wealth gives us the wherewithal to solve our problems. The motion that only capitalism can save the world was carried. 

Check out Dr Madsen Pirie's new book, "101 Great Philosophers."