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Capitalism | Munk Debates

EPISODE #4

Capitalism

Be it resolved, the capitalist system is broken. It's time to try something different...

Guests
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Yanis Varoufakis
Arthur Brooks
David Brooks

About this episode

There is a growing belief in western societies that the current capitalist system no longer works for average people. Economic inequality is rampant. Life expectancy is falling. The environment is being destroyed for profits. Political power is wielded by wealthy elites and big business, not the people. For capitalism’s critics, the answer is a top to bottom reform of the “free market” along more socialist and democratic lines. For proponents of capitalism, it is the engine of economic and social progress, full stop. Not only has capitalism made all of us materially better off, its ideals are responsible for everything from women’s rights to a cleaner environment to greater political freedoms. The answer to society's current ills is more capitalism, more economic freedom, and more free markets.

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Guests

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Americans are tired of struggling merely to stay afloat… It’s time for a completely new deal.

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Americans are tired of struggling merely to stay afloat… It’s time for a completely new deal.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editorial director and publisher of The Nation, a leading American source of progressive politics and culture, and served as the magazine’s editor from 1995 to 2019. She is a frequent TV news commentator on U.S. and international politics, and she writes a weekly column for The Washington Post.
 
Vanden Heuvel is a graduate of Princeton University, where she studied politics and history, and has been recognized for her journalism and public service by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Community Change. She also serves on the boards of the Institute for Policy Studies, the Women’s Media Center, the Correctional Association of New York and the Roosevelt Institute, among others.
 
As an author, vanden Heuvel’s credits include The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama and Dictionary of Republicanisms: The Indispensable Guide to What They Really Mean When They Say What They Think You Want to Hear. She edited A Just Response: The Nation on Terrorism, Democracy, and September 11, 2001 and Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover.

Yanis Varoufakis

We need to organise politically to defend the weak, empower the many and prepare the ground for reversing the absurdities of capitalism.

Yanis Varoufakis

We need to organise politically to defend the weak, empower the many and prepare the ground for reversing the absurdities of capitalism.

Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek politician, economist and academic. He sits as a member of parliament for the MeRA 25, a left-wing party he launched in 2018 and that is affiliated with the Democracy in Europe 2025 movement. He served as Minister of Finance of Greece in 2015, as a member of the Syriza party, resigning after failing to reach an agreement with the country’s creditors during the Greek government debt crisis. He was also economic advisor to George Papandreou, then Leader of the Opposition, from 2004 to 2006.
 
Varoufakis grew up in Greece and was six years old at the time of the military coup in 1967. He moved to the United Kingdom for his postsecondary studies, attending the University of Essex and the University of Birmingham. He holds a PhD in economics, and has taught economics and econometrics at the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. He was a Fellow at the University of Cambridge, lectured in economics at the University of Sydney and was a professor of economic theory at the University of Athens. He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
 
Varoufakis has authored several books on game theory, microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Arthur Brooks

The American Free Enterprise system is our gift to the world.

Arthur Brooks

The American Free Enterprise system is our gift to the world.

Arthur Brooks is a Harvard professor, bestselling author and a Washington Post columnist. He left college age 19 to work professionally as a classical musician. In his late 20s, he earned a bachelor of arts in economics, mathematics and modern languages by correspondence. He got a master’s degree in economics at Florida Atlantic University and a PhD in public policy at the RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica.
 
As an author, Brooks writes on topics including philanthropy, military operations research, the future of conservatism and human happiness. His latest book is Love Your Enemies, and his other titles include New York Times bestsellers The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America and The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.
 
Brooks’ writing also appears in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs magazine. In the spring of 2019, he released a feature-length documentary film exploring the themes of poverty alleviation and human happiness at home and abroad.
 
Based in Maryland, Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a non-partisan, public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., and host of The Arthur Brooks Show podcast.

David Brooks

Capitalism over the past 25 years has been an incredible moral good.

David Brooks

Capitalism over the past 25 years has been an incredible moral good.

David Brooks is an American cultural and political commentator who was born in Canada when his father was earning his PhD at the University of Toronto. He is a bi-weekly columnist for The New York Times’ op-ed pages and a regular analyst on PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered.
 
Brooks is known for using humour and passion to address his audiences on topics that include present-day American and foreign politics, culture and healthcare.
 
As an author, Brooks is best known for his New York Times bestseller Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, published in 2000. He’s also the author of New York Times bestseller The Road to Character, which illustrates how to reach success through selflessness. In his most recent book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, Brooks explores how to have a life of meaning and purpose.
 
Brooks holds an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Chicago and honourary degrees from Williams College, New York University, Brandeis University and Occidental College, among others. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and currently teaches at Yale University.

Show Notes

Read David Brooks's recent New York Times column defending capitalism here.
 
Read Katrina vanden Heuvel’s recent Washington Post column on capitalism here.
 
Yanis Varoufakis explains why he became an “eratic Marxist” here.
 
Arthur Brooks talks about capitalism as a force that has lifted 2 billion people out of poverty. According to Pew Reasearch, over 700 million people moved out of poverty from 2001-2011, mainly in China, South America and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the middle class has hardly expanded in places like India, Africa, and Central America.
 
Katrina vanden Heuvel talks about social mobility in Canada compared to the United States. According to Maclean’s Magazine, Canada is one of the most socially mobile countries in the world. In the US, upward economic mobility has been declining since the 1940’s. In that decade, more than 90 percent of Americans went on to earn more than their parents. Today, that number has dropped to 50 percent.
 
David Brooks talks about being a socialist in college, and participating in a debate with Milton Friedman at the age of 21. You can watch that exchange here.
 
Do the rich really pay less taxes? For the first time in recent memory, the 400 wealthiest Americans pay a lower total tax rate than any other income group. Their tax rate has been steadily decreasing since 1950.
 
David Brooks talks about Scandinavia having some of the world’s freest economies. They have no wealth tax, no inheritance tax, a low corporate tax, and no minimum wage laws. Here is a look at how countries like Sweden reformed their economies in the 1990’s, introducing greater deregulation and privatization into the market, while simultaneously establishing a flourishing economy with high social support.