Leiter-Caplan Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate Video
By Bryan Caplan
Update: On his blog, Leiter writes:
My point–which alas Professor Caplan steadfastly ignored–is that a serious discussion of the merits of capitalism or socialism should not be based on the bad behavior of self-proclaimed capitalists or socialists. It was striking that Professor Caplan did not have any real reply to my basic point about the logic of capitalism:
[C]apitalist producers must reduce their costs, for if they don’t, their competitors will do so and then drive them out of business. Since the logic of capitalism demands reduction of production costs, and since the wages of most people under capitalism are simply “production costs” to be reduced or eliminated, this cannot end well. The only humane alternative is socialism, that is, ultimately taking collective control of the immense productive power that capitalism generates, so that its purpose is not the endless pursuit of profit, but producing what human beings need to live and flourish.
I think I did reply during the debate. But if misremember, I definitely replied shortly after the debate:
Leiter’s better argument was that capitalists are perennially trying to cut costs – and that in the long-run capitalism works. So eventually capitalists will figure out a way to run the economy without workers – an outcome that is individually rational for a capitalist, but socially disastrous for capitalism. My response: Yes, capitalists want to figure out how to produce a given level of output with fewer workers. Their deeper goal, however, is to figure out the most profitable way to employ all available inputs. As long as there are able-bodied people who want to work, there will be a capitalist brainstorming how to make money off the situation. And to echo Leiter, in the long-run this works.