Who Won the Caplan/Brook Debate?
When I read that my friend and former co-blogger Bryan Caplan would be debating Yaron Brook on anarcho-capitalism (Bryan is an anarchist; Yaron is not), I wanted Bryan to win. It’s not because I’m an anarchist; I’m not. But Bryan has brought me way closer to his position on many big issues, including open borders. So I hoped that he would make a good argument that would bring me closer to his position on anarchism.
Then, when I read the actual proposition being debated, I was sure Bryan would win. The proposition is:
Anarcho-capitalism would definitely be a complete disaster for humanity.
With both “definitely” and “complete” in there, that’s a particularly strong statement. Before the debate, I said on Facebook that with that formulation, Bryan was almost sure to win. What if you could show that anarcho-capitalism would be only a 50% disaster? Bryan would win.
Bryan explained that it was Yaron who chose the wording. I said that I wasn’t surprised because Yaron likes to state things boldly; I think that reflects the influence of Ayn Rand, although maybe Yaron was that way before he had ever heard of Ayn Rand.
Bryan’s opening argument is very good and he did bring me closer to anarchism.
But then Bryan said this:
If you claim that anarcho-capitalism would be a complete disaster for humanity if were tried today, I agree.
My friend and co-author Charley Hooper and I were talking about this yesterday and we both agreed that this one statement cinches the win for–Yaron Brook. If even the person debating the issue admits the other side’s point, it’s game over. And Bryan admitted Yaron’s point.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read Bryan’s opening statement and/or watch the whole debate. You can lose a debate but still bring people closer to your viewpoint. And that’s what Bryan did with me.
By the way, the traditional way of judging who won is to say who moved more people to his side. By that measure, for example, I won big-time in my debate on lockdowns with Justin Wolfers in April 2020. But I don’t know how the numbers went on Caplan/Brook.