UT Hosts Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate

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Bhaskar Sunkara, former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, presents his case for democratic socialism in the William C. Powers Jr. Student Activities Center auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Students and faculty witnessed firsthand the clash between capitalism and socialism at this debate sponsored by The Steamboat Institute.

Photo Credit: Kidus Solomon | Daily Texan Staff

Over 100 students and community members gathered in the William C. Powers Jr. Student Activity Center auditorium on Wednesday to hear experts debate capitalism and socialism. 

The UT Center for Enterprise and Policy Analytics hosted the debate between Yaron Brook, chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Bhaskar Sunkara, former vice-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. The debate was sponsored by The Steamboat Institute, a conservative nonprofit organization, as part of its nationwide Campus Liberty Tour. The two debaters sparred over the practicality and ethics of the opposing political theories. After the initial discussion, audience members had the chance to ask questions to either of the debaters.

“Capitalism is a system that leaves us free to make choices for ourselves, to act on those choices and to pursue our values, free of coercion,” Brook said. “Everywhere capitalism is tried to the extent that it is tried, it is incredibly successful.”

During the debate, Brook talked about the dangers associated with a large government and said to be cautious of its unnecessary expansion. Sunkara emphasized the practicality of socialism as a safety net amidst a failing capitalist system in the United States, pushing back against the idea that socialism always leads to the nationalization of all production.

“What the socialist vision is, is guaranteeing the basics of life to people. Your right to housing, your right to healthcare, your right to childcare and your right to pursue an education,” Sunkara said. “If these rights are guaranteed, then more people will be free to embrace their individual potentials.”

While audience members occasionally voiced their protest at answers from either debater, the debate carried on largely undisturbed.

At the end, the moderator asked the audience to raise their hands if their minds had been changed, and two people put up their hands. Psychology junior Jheel Patel did not raise her hand, but said she went into the event with an open mind and thought both sides presented good points.

“I came because I just wanted to hear a new perspective, because I know I’ve always thought one way, and I’ve always wanted to hear the other side just to hear what they have to say,” Patel said. “I have to say, I loved hearing their back-and-forth commentary, because it really taught me a lot about both sides. I think I definitely became more
moderate from the debate.”