Thursday, November 05, 2020

Capitalist vs Socialist

 I had a debate today with Richard Wolff, a socialist economist, and it has been webbed.


At 9:13 AM, November 06, 2020, Blogger Parrhesia said...

It seemed difficult to argue against Dr.Wolff.

He views migration patterns as a silly heuristic, analogizing to looking in someone’s left ear to see if they are sick. I think that comparison is terrible. The fact that even trying to leave many socialist places will get you killed is definitely worth noting. If these places are better why have North Koreans, East Germans, etc. risked their life to leave? Why not just let them leave. Why must these societies be secret? These questions are extremely important and I did not like how he dismissed them.

Dr. Wolff also makes a rejection of the importance of growth by saying that we can use any measure we want, but also believes that the Soviet Union and China had the best growth. Dr. Friedman was correct in pointing out starvation of millions of people. There was also murder and terror. Dr. Wolff says that capitalists start wars and colonize leading to deaths but I don’t believe capitalism inherently requires either war or colonization, evidenced by the fact that we can point to capitalist nations not at war and not colonizing. However, the coordination problem and incentive problem is going to frequently lead to starvation because it is inherent in communism and socialism. I could say that the Nazi’s were socialist but saying that the Jews killed are a consequence of socialism would not be fair.

Dr. Wolff makes a rejection of cost benefit analysis by saying that there are infinitely many consequences to actions. This seems an absurd argument to make and I do not see how it benefits him. This argument seems rehearsed in it’s presentation. He makes the mathematics analogy and says he was a mathematician. But how could someone critically think about this argument and not come to the conclusion that it’s a silly thing to say? It does not seem off the cuff. Bizarre.

At 1:11 PM, November 06, 2020, Blogger Casey said...

If found Dr. Wolff to be thoroughly unconvincing, and strongly agree with what Parrhesia said.

Dr. Friedman, who do you think would be the debate opponent who would have given the best defense of socialism, and offered the most effective criticism of your view of capitalism?

At 6:10 PM, November 06, 2020, Anonymous Michael Wolf said...

I didn't find that Wolff answered a single one of your critiques or comments with anything even approaching a compelling, coherent argument. Of course I'm biased so I'd tend to favor your side anyway, but, for example, the final audience Q about the difference between actively starving someone to death vs choosing to not share your rightfully owned food with a starving person, was a far better, more interesting and compelling question than anything Wolff himself came up with.

At 7:01 PM, November 06, 2020, Blogger Rodolfo said...

He conpletely destroyed science with the consequences analogy. Basically, scientists can't isolate variables because any action have consequences in all other places. Science is thus descredited with this argument.

At 12:51 PM, November 07, 2020, Blogger Casey said...

Also, what was the book by Thomas Sowell that you mentioned, that convinced you that some people arguing against capitalism were not wrong, but actually bad people?

At 4:39 PM, November 07, 2020, Blogger David Friedman said...

The book by Sowell was _The Vision of the Anointed_.

At 9:51 AM, November 12, 2020, Anonymous mjg said...

I enjoyed this debate, although I found the lack of common ground around the meaning of "Socialism" and "Capitalism" frustrating and ultimately the two of you seemed to be talking very much across purposes.

One point I found especially interesting was your explicit rejection of democracy, which is usually left implicit in this kind of discussion. It seems to me attitude towards collective, democratic decision making might be useful in describing what we mean by "Socialism." That is to say, a more socialist form of government is one in which more decisions are made collectively by some kind of theoretically egalitarian, representative process versus being made autonomously by private actors. This seems to capture many of the disagreements between the economic left and right: For example, the debate as to what role collective, social decision making should have in the provision of health care.


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