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Debate 1984: Capitalism Vs. Socialism

October 19, 2011


 

 

 

 

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This is what we witnessed at the debate.

Click on the red highlighted names to go directly to that part of the YouTube video.

 

Transcript of Debate 1984:

Capitalism versus Socialism, which is the moral social system?

 

Mr. Peter Desbarats (Moderator):

Tonight, Convocation Hall is an island upon which two opposite forces will meet and to defend their own in a peaceful and scholarly fashion. And I’m gonna make sure. The two systems under debate are socialism and capitalism; brought together tonight for your scrutiny and judgment. The issue is morality, not economics, not history. This means that the two systems will be defended on the grounds of fundamental moral principles, not on the grounds of economic or historical statistics. This framework does not suggest that morality and economics are unrelated, but that economic realities presuppose moral foundations. The question for the evening is, “Socialism or Capitalism: Which is the Moral System?” And in the context of this question, which of these systems justifies George Orwell’s concerns for our year 1984?

To your left, and my right, defending socialism are my two distinguished guests from Ottowa , Dr. Gerald Caplan and Dr. Jill Vickers.

Dr. Caplan is a federal secretary to the New Democratic Party of Canada. He received his Ph.D. in African studies at the University of London in 1967, and his MA in Canadian History. He was a professor of history at the University of Rhodesia, and of Third World Studies, here at the University of Toronto, through the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His authorship includes numerous books and articles in the fields of Canadian history and third world politics. For two years, Dr. Caplan was director of the CUSO Nigeria Program and returned from Africa to become senior adviser to Mr. Stephen Lewis while Mr. Lewis was leader of the Ontario NDP (Ontario New Democratic Party). Prior to his acceptance of the position of federal secretary, Dr. Caplan was director of the Health Advocacy Unit of the Department of Public Health for the city of Toronto.

Also to your left defending socialism is my distinguished guest Dr. Jill Vickers. Feminist, Socialist, and Professor of Political Science at Carlton University in Ottawa. She is associate director of the institute of Canadian Studies and national secretary for the Association of Canadian Studies. Concerned with the rights and status of women, Dr. Vickers has written a number of books and articles on this subject, the latest of which is entitled, “In Pursuit Of Patriarchy: A Political Theory of Sex and Power.” She received her Ph.D. from the London School of Economics in 1971, has been president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and was a federal candidate for the New Democratic Party in 1979. Active in the Canadian Womens’ Movement, she now serves on the board of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and as secretary of the Canadian Womens’ Studies Association.

To your right, and my left, defending capitalism are my two distinguished guests, Dr. Leonard Peikoff and Dr. John Ridpath.

Dr. Peikoff is an author and professor of philosophy from New York City. He is the intellectual heir to the late Ayn Rand, philosopher and author, novelist, the creator of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Dr. Peikoff received his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1964 under Sidney Hook at New York University. A native of Winnipeg, he has lived in New York since 1953 and was friend and intellectual associate of Ayn Rand for those 30 years. He has taught philosophy for 17 years at Hunter College, Long Island and New York Universities. His lecture courses on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism are heard on tape in over 100 cities in North America. Dr. Peikoff’s latest publication is, “The Ominous Parallels, the end of freedom in America,” and he is currently working on “The Unpublished Works of Ayn Rand,” the Motion Picture Production of Atlas Shrugged a new lecture series… on understanding Objectivism and a new book dealing with the philosophy of education in North America.

Also to your right defending capitalism, is my distinguished guest Dr. John Ridpath. Dr. Ridpath is an associate professor of Economics, and Intellectual History, at York University here in Toronto. He is… I’m glad to see the audience isn’t split only on political lines. He is recipient of the prestigious award given by the Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations for Outstanding Contributions to University Teaching. He received his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Virginia in 1974. His scholastic interests are political economy and basic economic theory, with special interest in the history of individual rights, the fundamental principles of Marxism, and the history of fundamental ideas and their impact on social change. Dr. Ridpath is an adviser to the National Foundation for Public Policy Development, a new Canadian think tank; and he is a contributing speech writer for Mr. Brian Mulrooney, leader of the Federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Dr. Ridpath has spoken at numerous engagements including the Federal Progressive Conservative Party Conference of Canada and the Thomas Jefferson Institute in San Diego.

And now for the Rules. Which I am going to try to enforce. After 32 minutes in total of opening statements, the debaters will each have 5 minutes to remark on their opponent’s position, during one round of remarks totaling 20 minutes. These remarks will be addressed to the audience, to you, and not directed directly at their opponents. After this exchange, the debaters will have 20 minutes for closing statements, and then the house will rest for 10 minutes for the audience to form their questions, and line up at the two microphones on the floor. The question and answer period will begin approximately at 9:30, we may be a few minutes after that, and continue until about 10:25. I will then close the evening off with a brief comment. Well, it is now about 8:22, and the debate will now begin. I’ll say that we have agreed downstairs that I will give an audible signal, with a bell (ding ding), right… five minutes into the first 8 minute speeches and 1 minute before the end of those, and for the shorter speeches, 1 minute before the end, and I’ll try and be as fair as possible. It’s too bad that I don’t have a commercial to run at the end… at the end of each.

I’ll just take one more second of your time to recall in the 60’s interviewing a rabid socialist called Michel Chartrand in Quebec. He was a great talker and I was interviewing him live on television, and I was getting the countdown for the commercial and I knew he wasn’t going to stop talking and finally I got the 10 second, the 5 second and I had to grab him by the shoulders and I said, “Mister Chartrand, there’s a commercial coming!” And he raised his fist and he said, “More goddamn capitalist propaganda!”

In accordance with the prior agreement of the debaters, the capitalists will start off, beginning with Dr. Peikoff.

Dr. Peikoff:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Our topic this evening is “Capitalism versus Socialism: which is the moral system?” To answer, we must know what is morality. What is the ethical standard we’re going to use to judge a political system? We cannot assume that everyone knows or it’s in the bible. We have to state and validate our moral views at the outset because that’s what’s going to decide this debate. Now our side holds that the standard of morality is man’s life – that which man requires in order to sustain his life. Whatever man requires by his nature in order to survive we regard as the good, or the moral. Man’s crucial tool of survival is his reason – his mind. The mind is our only means of dealing with reality, grasping facts, acquiring reliable knowledge. The mind is the basic source of every pro-life value.

Take as one example, the immense unprecedented wealth that you see all around you in the west. The wealth created since the Industrial Revolution in capitalism. This wealth was not created by muscles, but essentially by thought. The thought of the scientists who discovered new knowledge, of the inventors who used the knowledge to create new products, of the businessmen who used their minds to conceive and organize large scale productive enterprises. Physical labor by itself is not what creates wealth. Every earlier age had an abundance of physical labor. What creates wealth and all human values is thought. That’s point 1: morality means thinking; reasoning, exercising and living by one’s mind. Point 2: life requires selfishness. A living organism has to be the beneficiary of his own actions. It has to pursue specific objects for itself, for its own sake and survival. Life requires the gaining of values, not their loss. Achievement, not renunciation. Self-preservation, which is selfish, not self-sacrifice. If life is the standard, then morality cannot consist of sacrifice. Sacrifice is incompatible with the requirements of human life, and I mean here, any kind of sacrifice, whether of oneself to others, or of others to oneself. Many think that our choice is only to sacrifice yourself to others, which they call altruism, or sacrifice others to yourself which they call selfishness. Cut your own throat for your neighbor’s sake or cut their throats for your own sake. Either way, however, one thing remains the same, somebody’s throat gets cut, and the dispute is merely over who is to be the victim. If life is the standard however, we should not be reduced to haggling over victims, we should oppose on principle the idea of throat cutting, in other words, of sacrifice. A selfish man in the sense I advocate does not sacrifice others to himself. Selfishness means each man is an end in himself, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor others to himself. A man should live independently, by his own mind and effort, with no victims. Such a man uses his mind to the fullest and acts accordingly. In other words, I’m talking about rational self interest, and in dealing with others this means trading value for value by mutual consent to mutual advantage. It means each party respecting the sovereignty and the freedom of the others, with no sacrifice either way. The ethics of social service, the ethics of self-sacrifice, is what is destroying the world today. Who is supposed to sacrifice, and to whom, according to the conventional theories that we hear everywhere? Are the incompetent supposed to sacrifice to the able, the parasites to the productive? Obviously no, the able and productive have nothing to gain from such a sacrifice. It’s supposed to work in reverse we are told. The able are to sacrifice to the incompetent, the productive to the parasites, the thinkers to the mindless, the healthy to the afflicted. In other words, the common denominator is that the successful at living are to be penalized because they are successful, in the name of rewarding the failures, who get rewarded because they are failures. You could not invent a more anti-life code of morality, and the only practical effect it can have is to strike down all who succeed at life, and thereby drag down the whole human race, as you now see happening all over the world.

Properly, if you are in trouble through no fault of your own, – and I stress that this has to be a marginal issue, if everyone was in such trouble, the human race couldn’t exist – if you are in such trouble, you have to depend on the voluntary generosity and private charity of those who are not in trouble. You have to ask for help as a favor, not as a right. You cannot use your trouble as a club over your neighbor’s head. You have to recognize that other men have a right to exist, too. That your suffering does not make them your slave. In other words, this is not the function of the government. What is? Well, Dr. Ridpath will be covering this point, but in essence, we hold the government’s function is to protect each individual precisely from being sacrificed by others or to others. To protect the independence of each individual’s mind, in other words to protect his individual rights and leave every man free to act on his own judgment and for his own profit, and this is exactly what capitalism is – and I want to stress this – capitalism is not what we have in the west today. I’m talking about Laissez-Faire capitalism, in other words the complete separation of state and economics. Not government by pressure groups, not government favors for any group whether businessmen, labor, farmers, or consumers. Not tariff protection, nor subsidies, nor franchises, nor any kind of handouts or welfare functions. I’m speaking of government as an impartial arbiter. To prevent citizens from violating individual rights and otherwise hands off, which is what Laissez-Faire means.

Capitalism is the system that leaves man free to function, it leaves each individual free to live by his own mind and judgment, pursue his own goals, trade voluntarily with others. It’s the system based on the morality of rational self-interest. Socialism is the opposite. However socialists may protest that the individual will benefit under their system, the fact remains: socialists claim that the standard of value is not the life of the individual but the welfare of the group, whether they call it the collective, the community, the race, the nation, the proletariat. They hold that it’s the duty of the individual to serve the group, to sacrifice for others, as decreed by the group’s representative and spokesman, the all-powerful state. This viewpoint must mean ultimately the enslaving of the individual by the state. And therefore the crushing of thought, production, achievement, and finally of life itself. In the 19th century when the west came closest to capitalism, the result was the highest standard of living, and the longest interval of peace in mankind’s history. The moral is the practical. As for socialism, look at the collapse of England, look at Soviet Russia, and remember that Nazi Germany meant National Socialist Germany. The results of socialism everywhere… am I out of time? … are as bad as they could have been predicted.

Thank you.

Moderator:

Dr. Vickers will lead off for the socialists

Dr. Vickers:

Wow, wouldn’t it be fascinating if you came to a debate and one side said to the other “you got me.” It’s not gonna happen tonight, ladies and gentlemen. My honorable opponent talked a whole lot about man. I wanna start by talking about a woman. She happens to be my favorite woman. She happens to be my mother. And she always gives me good advice. Her advice for tonight was, “Jill, remember someone else washed their underwear, and remember your manners, and since you’re playing the hometown team, get your thank you’s out of the way at the beginning.” And so I’d like to do that. I wanna begin by thanking Peter, for his kind introduction. I wanna thank my colleagues for this opportunity to present an important issue to you. I wanna thank a really super lady, Sandra Shaw, who pulled this all together. But most of all, I want to thank you for being here, to listen to a debate. Now Peter described me as a feminist and a socialist, and I am both of those. What I wanna talk about tonight, is why I think that socialism is the only truly moral system, when it’s built on a feminist base, and why I think it is impossible for women in this country, or anywhere else in the world, to achieve, with men, a moral society, built on the selfishness of Laissez-Faire capitalism. The issue we’ve gathered to talk about is the relative morality of the human orders involved in these two systems. I stress the word relative, because morality is always a matter of human choice. If it were self-evident or clear cut, we wouldn’t need debates of this sort. I’d like us to begin by asking ourselves, why the ideas which underlie capitalism or free enterprise still seem to have so much power, so long after their point of creation. My honorable opponent Leonard “Play-Cough”, argued the case in pragmatic terms. In his book he wrote: historically, capitalism worked brilliantly. And, yes, pragmatically it’s true, capitalism worked. But so did slavery, and so did patriarchy, until they didn’t work anymore, and both stopped working historically because the moral costs involved could no longer be borne of systems that worked for the lucky few at the expense of the many who were dispossessed because of their color, their health, their age, their family heritage or their sex.

Now let me make my point as clearly as I can. Many economic systems based on moral injustice have worked brilliantly in productive terms, but all have eventually been discredited because their legitimating ideologies could no longer hide their immoral character. So it’s really not very surprising that my worthy opponents will persuade people or try to persuade people of the morality of capitalism, rather than its functionality. The ideas used to legitimize the activities of Laissez-Faire capitalism are very seductive, because they express to us a childhood wish. And that childhood wish, is that we could do what we want to do, without having to even worry about hurting other people. And if only it were true! If only that childish wish were true and that there were some magic hand that would solve our moral dilemmas for us.

Now I think there is one other dimension of this seductive ideology that we have to explore, and that’s the thesis that by being selfish we’re contributing to some positive good: the goal of freedom. Now who can be opposed to freedom? Even if a small voice tells us that our dream of freedom, our childish dream of freedom, may only be achieved by a few on the backs of the many. And when we’re young, the seductive lure of this call to self interest is very clear. “Come along,” they say, “join the parade. It’s a nice parade. You, too, can enjoy life in the fast lane.” And as a young woman, I thought feminists should demand equal rights to join that parade in the fast lane. I thought that being free meant to pursue my self interest. There was a terrible temptation to reject those values of nurturance and compassion, cooperation and commitment to the community, which women have traditionally upheld. Uh… and, I don’t wanna fly under false colors, it probably wasn’t virtue that saved me from joining that parade. I know for a fact that it was the realization that this freedom parade was bedecked with signs that said very few women need apply.

One of the most devastating effects of technological capitalism I think has been its numbing of the powers of imagination, especially with regard to our ability to envisage new human and communal relationships. I’m a feminist because I feel endangered by this kind of society. I feel endangered when I realize that so-called free enterprise makes billions of dollars each year out of the pornography industry, which desensitizes the men I care about, including my sons, to the degradation of women’s bodies. I feel endangered by the knowledge that those in charge are willing to spend billions of dollars on weapons to defend their rights to this vaunted notion of freedom, while threatening my life, my children’s lives, your lives and the very life of this planet. And it’s very tempting for feminists to say, “a plague on both your houses.” I want no part on this corrupt malestream political order. But that would be a fundamental error.

The point is that the ideal of socialism is not only a form of government or a manner of managing the economy. It is a way of life, of living and of associating, which balances self-interest with concern and compassion with others. It believes with that awful old sexist Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that we’re a curious species, equally capable of self-love and love for others. And so I’m both a socialist and a feminist because I believe that morality requires a community capable of balancing our childhood dreams of self-assertion with our grown-up sense of compassion and responsibility with others. For me there is no other strategy that will work and there’s no other truly moral choice. Thank you.

Moderator:

The second speaker for the capitalists is Dr. Ridpath.

Dr. Ridpath:

Thank you. Capitalism versus Socialism, what is the moral social system? There really are only two central issues in this debate. The first issue is to argue for the moral code underlying capitalism or underlying socialism. Dr. Peikoff has concerned himself with the issue of the moral code underlying capitalism, the code of rational egoism, and he has shown that this moral code is validated by man’s nature, as a rational being, and by man’s life as his ultimate value. I want to note that in doing this we have not asserted our moral code that we have gone to the pains of arguing for our moral code on the basis of man’s nature. We have in fact done what the debate topic demands so far in making a case for the morality of our system, and I look forward to our opponents doing the same.

The second issue in this debate is the application of this moral code to the question what is the moral social system, and that’s what I’m going to address myself to. In moving from the moral code to the question of the proper society for man, the first point to make is that to live, which means to use his mind and to act on the basis of his thinking, man, in a social setting, needs one thing: freedom. And this, in essence, means freedom from the initiation of physical force or fraud by others against him. This freedom is man’s fundamental social requirement if he is to be able to live by his mind. It therefore is true that it is moral to be free.

The initiation of physical force is the primary social evil. A social system built on recognizing the value of freedom is the moral social system. Any social system adopting and institutionalizing the initiation of physical force in any way, for any purpose, is by that fact an evil social system and an enemy of man’s life. Now, let us consider the State, the government, as a social institution. What is the essence of this institution? The government is not merely a set of laws. It is not a cooperative organization. It is not like an insurance company, it isn’t a charity. The government, i.e. the State, is properly defined as that social institution, the only social institution, that has a legal monopoly over the use of force in society. It is society’s only legally authorized social institution.

Now combine this fact with man’s need for freedom – with the morality of ensuring that men are free – and what do you get? You get the conclusion that the moral government will use it’s monopoly on force only to retaliate against those who initiate force. You get a government that seeks not to violate man’s need to be free, but to protect man’s need to be free. You get a government whose only morally legitimate function is to protect the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. You get the only moral social system that there is, pure, undiluted, Laissez-Faire capitalism.

The principle of recognizing individual rights is our way of safeguarding man’s need to be free from force. Rights protect man in his freedom to act in pursuit of his life. Rights ensure that men will be free to think, free to act, free to enjoy the fruits of their actions. Rights protect men from each other, they certainly don’t enslave men to each other. Thus there can be no such thing as rights to the property of others, or rights to be the beneficiary of the unchosen actions of others. There are no rights to food, to shelter, to health, to education and the like, precisely because that such so-called rights are in fact coercive claims on the property and the actions of others. These rights are really a wholesale assault on the very notion of rights itself, and are re-mindful of George Orwell’s slogans such as War is Peace, Knowledge is Ignorance and Freedom is Slavery, on which I’ll have a little more to say later.

The moral society therefore is the society where the government stands ready to retaliate when someone’s rights are violated, but it never itself initiates force and violates it’s citizen’s rights for any purpose. The proper function of the government is to supply the courts, the police, and the military and that’s it. This is what capitalism, properly defined, is. Capitalism is that social system based on the total uncompromising defense of individual rights. Capitalism is the only social system in which all property is privately owned. Capitalism’s the only such social system in which men resolve their differences and pursue their individual ends exclusively through rational persuasion, voluntarily agreement and free trade. Capitalism’s the only social system in which the initiation of physical force and fraud are abolished from human affairs. Capitalism is the … the social system which recognizes the social needs of man’s nature. Capitalism therefore, as I said in my quote for this debate, is the only moral productive and benevolent social system that there is.

Such a social system has never yet fully existed. In 19th century North America, it was the most closely approximated. In the 19th century, the principle that men would not initiate physical force against each other in their social relationships was more closely approximated than in any other time in human history. In the 20th century, all vestiges of this principle have been totally swept away in the altruist welfare state orgy of our times. There has never been pure capitalism and there certainly isn’t any capitalism in the 20th century. Nevertheless, we do not advocate capitalism because of our looking at the past. We advocate capitalism while looking ahead. While looking ahead to a free, prosperous and civilized future. I think you can see why we are proud to appear here tonight as advocates of capitalism as the only moral system for man. Thank you.

Moderator:

The second… speaker for the Socialists and the last in this opening round is Dr. Caplan.

Dr. Caplan:

Thank you very much… Mr. Chairman. I wanted to join my colleague Jill Vickers in, in thanking Sandy Shaw and her gang for, for organizing this… fascinating but not as I’ll tell you in a moment, quite unique evening. You now today know Sandy Shaw as a great organizer of important debates, someday you’ll know her as a great Canadian sculptor, wait for it and remember the name, it’s true.

Second I wanted to thank my parents for bringing the rest of my family for that small ripple of applause that our side is getting. I asked my 11 year old friend Jason Moor to bring some of his kids to applaud for us and I’m sorry he didn’t because we could have had those seats filled and it would have helped my morale a lot, but still, we’re gonna take you on tonight.

You know, it’s an important historical evening, it’s not the first time, it’s the second time, 25 years ago in this very stage, guess I was in third year, and I don’t know who sponsored it, David Lewis and William Buckley performed. Perform is certainly the word. David Lewis then, as always, the great voice of… socialist passion and indignation in Canada, and William Buckley, fey and insouciant newly up from Yale, his great… claim to fame his… charming and noble voice of… approval for Joe McCarthy and all his works and I wanna tell you with his wit, with his wit he gave David Lewis a run for his money that night, and I’m only sorry his successors tonight are not doing the same thing, of course.

Let’s… I also want to say that I’m not here in my official capacity as a… paid hack of the New Democratic Party, and I say that not defensively, not because of Jim Laxer and not because of 15% in the polls, I’m not, I’m not embarrassed about it, I… they’re difficult ties, but I mean it’s my job! But I want you to know I’m here in a private capacity, even though I do get a derisory sum of money for doing the job from time to time. Let’s talk about the three social systems. We’ve talked about two, let’s talk about a… third for a second that… at the essence here, and let’s talk about morality which simply means how real people live in the real world and I feel at some disadvantage now that, now that John Ridpath has explained that his capitalism has never existed, does not now exist, he does not know when it will exist and therefore… and therefore can show categorically how it is bound to be the best system in every way. I have some, I have some greater constraints, we have a little evidence on our side that, that’s more ambiguous. Democratic Socialism is, as Jill Vickers suggested, not a narrow ideology, it… began as an unbounded faith, a vision of a… great future, as almost a religion that said… this is what the human being is capable of, that there is a way of organizing our world and believing certain things that will suppress that black part of the human soul, that will elevate that best in the human soul that’s not always found in our world. That’s what socialism was gonna do, and, and we can trace it proudly from the Old Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, all through the Diggers and the Utopians through European history and it’s a proud tradition, and it’s an… an ethical proposition, and it talks… well, we’re in a problem here. It talks just the way they talk, it says that people are at the center of things. Now they said that people were at the center of things, but I heard them ending up saying that property was at the center of things, that materialism was at the center of things, that wealth was at the center of things.

Not for socialism. The touchstone is people, and people always. And the ends are clear, simple and clear. One is a belief in an egalitarian society. A belief in the moral equality of all human beings and therefore a system that function that way regardless of background or regardless of each of our accidental attributes. Secondly, it’s… a philosophy that calls passionately for social justice, for the fight forever and forever for civil rights, for groups and for civil liberties for individuals. Thirdly it’s a philosophy that calls for economic and social security – and not just a larger cake but a fair distribution of the cake. My old Polish uncle used to talk about stomach socialism, “Don’t give me all your fancy ideas,” he said, “unless people are full in their stomach, they’re not gonna be able to talk about dignity.”

And so, socialists… socialists honed in on the welfare state and made that… made that proudly one of the great contributions of this civilization in the era we’ve lived through. And finally peace. Now I know some of you will say that we’re being self-righteous, that there are even some on their side who believe in peace. Well there are people who… there are people who espouse Laissez-Faire and people who espouse free-enterprise and they speak of peace and they include the people who move back and forth between the pentagon and the American arms movement, and they include Ronald Reagan and, and, and his trillion dollar arms budget. I know that all of us believe in peace in the same way. I don’t want to talk about communism because it’s not what we’re here to do. We do not believe in any socialism that is not democratic. If it’s not democratic, it’s not socialism. A tyrant who, who calls himself a socialist is only a tyrant, and anyone who thinks he’s on our side or she’s on our side and doesn’t believe that is not on our side. But let’s talk about the issue for tonight.

Let’s talk about capitalism, let’s say what it is. I, I agree with uh, with our colleagues, I agree it’s about inequality, it’s about the rights of property, it’s about the right to seek profit, it’s a right, about the right to exploit others in order to seek profits, it’s, it’s, it seek… it’s about… it’s about accepting the role of wealth and property as a, as a, as a gauge of power, of your power and your status, you remember a wonderful old saw from a, a french writer named Anatole France a hundred years ago that, that in a… in a, in the sight of the law, rich and poor alike could sleep under the, under the bridges of Paris. This is the uh, the liberty, I think, that we get from our friends.

Look what they say themselves. Look what they say themselves. They have heard it here… they have written a… John Ridpath says that, “Laissez-Faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights.” Pie-Cough, Peikoff, I’m sorry, “the only alternative to tyranny that’s ever been discovered.” Peikoff actually says that the United States is soon going to become like Nazi Germany. Well, Ronald Reagan said … last night that United States is back. Now what’s it back to? Maybe he thinks it’s back to Nazi Germany, but even I don’t accuse him of that!

There is uh, there is a hyperbole that, that, that I, that I can’t deal with. There is a meanness that I can’t deal with. There are a series of contradictions that I can’t deal with. They talk about free-enterprise, but every free-enterprise government in the world regulates it’s system on behalf of business which always and invariably b-benefits. They talk about Laissez-Faire and they are part – hold on please. They talk about Laissez-Faire and they’re part of a Moral Majority that wants to dictate to us what we do about divorce and about birth control and about homosexuality and about abortion and they want to interfere with our private life! They talk about liberty. They talk about liberty and they talk about liberty. And through all the rhetoric here’s what I hear. I hear McCarthyism. I hear the problem of the Japanese Canadians. I hear civil rights in the United States. I hear the Padlock Law in Quebec. I hear the War Measures Act in… Canada, I hear the question of labor rights. I hear the question of torture of citizens in Central America by those who talk about individual rights and I wanna tell you that the argument for them is always made by the left and the argument for the oppressor is always made by the right. We’ll pursue it later, so much for their liberty.

Moderator:

What I hear is the sound of pencils to the right and left of me, and we’re now going to find out what they’ve been coming up with. We’ll follow the same order for the rebuttals: Peikoff, Vickers, Ridpath and Caplan. Five minutes each, led off by Dr. Peikoff.

Peikoff:

I would need five hours to even comment on the number of absolutely fantastic charges made without any content or foundation and I wanna… you’re taking my five minutes away from me! Don’t applaud please, you’re taking away precious seconds here. I wanna make a few moral points, I’m gonna try to stay on the topic of the debate which is morality, and not Central America.

There is no justification for egalitarianism in morality, nor did our opponents offer any. There is no reason why every man should be equal to every other in anything except equality before the law. People differ in their intelligence, in their morality, in their honesty, in their conscientiousness… and if you talk about social justice as one of them did… justice consists of gaining what you have earned by your own efforts, not inequality which requires somebody else’s production to be taken from him and given to you when you didn’t earn it.

With regard to the… claim that we’re concerned with property rather than people, we deny such a dicotomy. People cannot exist without property, they’re not ghosts. A system which preserves human freedom has to preserve the right to the physical goods that you, yourself have produced. Otherwise you can be free in heaven but on this earth you have to take orders from the government. So if you’re talking about freedom, that has to include the freedom to own property, and that means private property. If I have to get the consensus of the people in this room, let alone the entire country’s government before I can act, I am a slave, and any communal ownership of property necessarily means the negation of all rights, it means dictatorship and it is of absolutely no difference whether it’s achieved by majority rule or by a minority coup. If I am not in the majority that voted, once they establish this system, I am just as much enslaved – doesn’t make any difference how many people voted for that government. So I don’t even recognize such a phenomenon as democratic socialism. Once it’s socialism that’s the end of anybody’s power except the power of the government.

There’s many misrepresentations of our view. Our opponents seem to confuse us with the Moral Majority in the United States. We do not advocate governmental interference in abortion. We do not advocate governmental censorship of pornography, although apparently one of the opponents seems to suggest that she is in favor of that. We do not advocate… we are not, quote “Conservatives” in the sense that we want government control of the mind. We want government out, only for the purpose of protecting individual rights as defined by Dr. Ridpath, so don’t confuse us with Jerry Falwell, please.

As to the question, the lucky few versus the many who are dispossessed and the constant idea that capitalism is a system of exploitation, that is nonsense. Wealth has to be created. It doesn’t grow on trees and there isn’t a limitless amount. One person’s creation is not taken from another. It is a Marxist myth that you get rich at the expense of the poor. If they’re poor, how did you did you get the money from them to begin with?

One of my op- I’m just making these scattershots because I’d need 12 hours just to make a dent on how many falsehoods you heard. One of my opponents interchangably equated cooperation and commitment to the community. Now commitment to the community is a very dangerous thing… is that the end or do I have a minute? Commitment to the community is what any dictator advocates because the question immediately becomes who is the voice of the community? The community doesn’t speak with one voice unless you have Adolf Hitler or his equivalent. Commitment to the community means obedience to the Fuhrer. Freedom means individualism. It means that you are committed to your own life and you are not a serf of the community. That is an entirely different thing from cooperation which term she used. Cooperation is peaceful human agreement to do something together. The difference between cooperation under capitalism and under socialism is: under capitalism you don’t wanna cooperate, you go your own way. Under socialism you have a gun held to your head. That is what the difference is because that is what the function of government is. As far as William Buckley is concerned… please do not confuse us with that… entity. Thank you.

Moderator:

Dr. Vickers?

Dr. Vickers:

Well, I guess I’ve just been declared a ghost, since I neither have property nor think that my human dignity is bound up in having property. I don’t think your human dignity is bound up in having property either.

Person in audience:

Oh my God!

Dr. Vickers:

I’d like to bring this debate down to reality, to Canada in the latter half of the 20th century, and talk a little about the Canadian context in which we’re living, because I find, uh, some of my worthy opponents observations are from the planet Mars, or from the 19th century somewhere else. I cannot believe that there is more than a handful, I hope I’m right, in this room who genuinely believe that paying their OHIP payments is some kind of slavery. I cannot believe that most Canadians at this point of the 20th century believe that the dismantling of Medicare would be anything other than an immoral act! And it seems to me we have been enormously fortunate in Canada, in that we have had some small, important, practical experiences with socialism as a community. Now I know it’s true that a lot of Americans think that all Canadians are socialists under the skin, I, I, I, I hesitate um, I certainly urge you that Pierre Trudeau isn’t one of them. Nonetheless, even the Conservative party of Canada and Mr. Mulrooney considers, in his own words that, “Medicare is at the basis of the morality of the Canadian community.” And I am proud as a Canadian to join with Mr. Mulrooney and with the liberal leadership and with my own party, in defending against those who would tear us back to a time when if you were poor, or if you were black, or you were Indian, or you were the wrong sex or the wrong heritage if you got sick you died.

I think we have to understand a much more normal political spectrum, in which we have some fundamental agreements on the morality of cooperation and on the morality of social welfare, to a significant degree. I think we believe that education, that health, that housing, and that a number of support systems for those who desperately need them are that which we owe to each other, not in any sense out of slavery or coersion, but because we are fellow Canadians, because we live in the same community, because we are brothers and sisters. (Audience voices disagreement.) Well, I hope that when Medicare gets rolled down, you don’t get sick.

We’ve heard a lot about rationality. I’m very much in favor of rationality, but I always like to ask whose rationality is being applied to the situation? Is it the rationality of self-interest? Is it the rationality of power? Is it the rationality that those who have impose on those that would like to have? Mr. “Pay-Cough” asked how you could indeed get rich off the backs of the poor since they didn’t have any money to start out with. How do the poor stay poor? How do the poor continue… how do they continue… side by side with you in this community, if indeed you cannot be construed, in some sense or another, living off them? How many men in this room live off the unpaid labor of their wives? (Audience laughs.) That not a key point? No. Thank you.

Moderator:

Dr. Ridpath.

Dr. Ridpath:

Dr. Vickers has said that she wants to bring this debate down to reality, and by that she really means that she wants to bring this debate down to an unphilosophical level. Well, I have news for you. This is a philosophical topic. You were invited here to discuss philosophy. You were invited here to discuss the morality behind your views, and I’m expecting you to do that, and the audience is expecting you to do that. I’d like to say, that this is the fifth year in a row that I have debated with socialists around this time of the year, in a format similar to this… and I’ve had it with you people, I really have had it with you people. Why it is that I can’t get into an intellectual and philosophical debate with you people escapes me. Every time I come into a debate I’m faced with euphemisms, sarcasms, ad-hominem arguments, vagueness, evading the point, appealing to emotion, and I’m simply fed up with this.

For you to come in here and intimate that we are appealing to childish wishes, that we’re offering seductive ideas, that we are… (person in crowd shouts)… that we are advocating some Utopian future in the… some not known time in the future, that some of us – but certainly not the Rightists – believe in peace. That we are actually advocates of McCarthyism, that we are advocates of torture, that is totally inexcusable. We have been standing here arguing for the repudiation of the initiation of physical force in human affairs. How can you say that we are an advocate of torture and McCarthyism and all of these things, are you not hearing what we’re saying?

Now this debate is a serious – on a serious issue, now the essence as far as I see it with regards to socialism versus capitalism, capitalism properly defined as we have defined it, is the roll of the initiation of physical force in human affairs, which you have not addressed yourself to. The truth of the matter is the State is a coercive institution and you, as Socialists, are advocating the coerced imposition of your view of the beautiful society on everybody here! That’s the truth! You have the gall to have some view of the way men should live and be prepared to force it on everybody through the use of the State and that is totally immoral and that is the issue that we are discussing here and you have failed to address that issue completely.

This is not… this is not entertainment. This is a serious issue. This debate is over serious ideas, and you are not really prepared to discuss the issues in the level we’re talking about. We have gone to considerable pains to present the argument… (someone shouts from audience) behind our moral view… Save it for the question period. (clapping in audience). Just for those of you that are commenting that we are advocating fascism, I’ll say it one more time. Capitalism as we are advocating is a social system that would repudiate the use of force by anyone including the government, and that is clearly the moral opposite of any fascist system. (Audience clapping.)

Now the truth is, that capitalism as a social system acknowledges the nature of man. It acknowledges the fact that men have to act in order to live, that men have to think before they act, that men deserve the fruits of their efforts after they act, that men deserve the right to own their own property. Capitalism as a social system, in recognizing the nature of man, produces a social system, or would produce a social system when fully adopted which would in fact be truly benevolent and truly productive and would bring to all of man, all men, a truly prosperous future. The argument for capitalism is the argument for individualism, the argument for rational self-interest and the argument for rejecting the barbarism of solving our social problems through the use of a coercive institution. Capitalism on moral grounds is completely the opposite of socialism, of fascism, of communism, of totalitarianism, of Attila the Hun, and every other form of statist society that you can think up. In that sense, capitalism stands alone, advocating a free society, a society where men reject this as against all of the other versions of society that adopt the use of force in one form or another. Thank you.

Moderator:

And Dr. Caplan will deliver the last rebuttal.

Dr. Caplan:

I, I, I feel kind of terrible, I’ve ruined John’s evening, I, I, I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry he’s disappointed, Jill and I tried and I’m sorry we couldn’t satisfy him. Uh, we actually have a different way of looking at it, John Ridpath. We actually think that your words are not all that counts, John Ridpath. We actually think you can test most your words in practice, and they don’t come out as well. So don’t tell us that we’re not dealing with the issue, the issue is what happens with words when they get applied to people. And the mythology is universal of what you promise, but the reality is the opposite. And don’t tell us you’re not associated with the Moral Majority, you’re not associated with Bill Buckley. You are part of a crowd that talks about (loud laughing and booing) individual enterprise, you talk about Laissez-Faire, you talk about unregulated capitalism, and so does this large group and they have important things in common.

One of the things they have in common is you say and all of them say, it comes down from us from Max Weber to Friedrich Hayek, his book “The Road to Serfdom” that any state regulation leads ipso facto to to the regulation of human beings to an absence of human freedom … good, clap, that’s what it says. But the reality happens not to be that. The reality happens to be that the most prosperous, that the happiest, that the most generous period in human history has been in Western Europe, in North America in the 25 or 30 years since the second world war precisely because the State introduced social services which made more people lives more decent, more com… more livable than they’ve ever been before, and that’s… You dare denounce us for, for, for the evasions and the falsehoods, you talk about socialists governments that rule with a gun, I take it you mean that British Columbia, I think- take it you mean Howard Pawley in Manitoba, I think, I take it you mean the British Labor Party and the German Social Democratic Party and the Swedish Social Democratic Party, all of which, as you know, came to power by force, have remained in power by the gun, and have oppressed and enslaved their citizens!

Well, forgive me, forgive me, I’m not ashamed of it even with this audience tonight. It’s the greatest contribution socialism has made to this society. We move, we move the parameters of the debate to the Left, so people who before the war talked about capitalism in this way, no longer can afford to do it. The issue became not whether there ought be a welfare state, but what the size of it was going to be. We won that major way of accepting the State’s responsibility for taking care of those who, through no fault of their own, couldn’t hack it, were underprivileged, were handicapped, couldn’t make it. And we forced people to say that was the State’s responsibility because the State alone could handle it. That’s how it happened. And what’s so terrible about what’s happening today, what’s so terrible about what’s happening in the United States and in a tiny way here, and with Margaret Thatcher, is that these people are moving the debate back to the right, where you can speak the unspeakable. Where, where John Ridpath on a TV program can say that it is coersion, it is enslavement, it is force, for the government of Canada to provide welfare assistance for pregnant teenage kids or handi… (Loud laughing from audience) … I have… don’t you HO HO HO me, I have the notes here, I have the tape here, and I will play it for you. He believes that, he said it tonight. And he, and hold on, he acknowledged that, so please don’t laugh at me!

Now it’s really an easy decision, it’s really a quite easy decision, you, you, you talk about free-enterprise and you talk about Laissez-Faire and you talk about rights to property, and what you do everywhere in the world in the event, is you, is you oppress and you take the side of the privileged and the wealthy and the predator against the side of the wretched and the destitute and the vulnerable and you, you, you, you take the perpetrators and you turn them into the innocent victims and you take the victims and you claim that they are somehow the enemy, and you do it time and time again… you introduce, you introduce a simple division between whether you’re gonna be mean about how the world runs, or caring and I think it’s an easy answer.

Moderator:

We’ve now reached the time for closing statements. The order of speakers is Peikoff, Ridpath, Vickers and Caplan, but the time is going to be divided into 10 minute segments allotted to each side. I won’t time the individual speakers. I will ring the bell at 5 minutes, 9 minutes, and stand up at the 10 minute mark. Dr. Peikoff, would you like to lead off for the Capitalists?

Dr. Peikoff:

I just wanna say that I regard the welfare state as an abomination, as morally evil. I do not base morality on the Sermon on the Mount, and I do not put forth a moral case in terms of the lame, the halt and the blind. I say, if you are talking about what mankind requires, what man or woman requires by our nature and his nature to survive, you have to first say, what does the healthy, unafflicted individual require? Because the weak, the sick, the helpless by definition cannot survive on their own. You cannot shackle those who are able to function, allegedly in the name of helping the weak, because then you will wipe out the whole human race. So if quote “compassion” is your value, compassion for those who can’t survive on their own, the first thing that you should do is take the shackles off the people who are able to think and produce and create the wealth that everyone requires to survive, including the weak. What the welfare state does is exactly the reverse.

This shift in direction that Dr. Caplan talked about is precisely a gradual tightening of the noose around the necks of those who are able to produce, and the result of this is increasing economic crisis. We’re oscillating just the way Nazi Ger- Weimar Germany did between potential runaway inflation and a potential depression. We have hoards of unemployed just as they did as a result, not of capitalism, but of all the government controls in the economy. If we have poor, and in the West poverty is a very relative thing, if you go to the East and see what poverty is, but such poverty as we have here is essentially caused by this very glorious welfare state, which is undermining and making productivity impossible. Moreover, this is not a stationary thing. Every control requires further controls. It produces certain dislocations which necessitates still further control. You could check that by looking at history. Every single decade, it doesn’t make any difference what party is in office, has more and more controls to try to cover the consequences of the preceding controls. And there’s only one end of that road, as there was in Weimar, Germany, and that is total control. This is the end result of the welfare state, which is only a transition point in history.

Now having said all that, I nevertheless despair of arguing on this topic because I do not think you can argue about politics by itself. Politics is not a primary. Whether you are a socialist or a capitalist depends upon basic philosophic questions. Our opponents have already appealed to the sermon on the mount and by implication have rejected reason in the suggestion that rationality is subjective and that one person’s rationality is not somebody else’s. So they have an entirely different philosophic framework, so it’s no wonder that they are socialists.

It also happens to be the case that the thing is entirely rigged against us because the universities in this country and in the United States are entirely skewed in favor of the two ideas that socialism depends on. Namely, the rejection of reason and the insistence on self-sacrifice that absolutely dominates. You can take the typical college graduate and see it very easily by asking him what he thinks, and as soon as you say anything he will say, “Well it’s all a matter of opinion, who can know anything, there is no absolutes,” et cetera. In other words he has been brainwashed to conclude his mind is helpless, except, although you can know nothing, he knows one thing, it’s bad to live for yourself, you’ve gotta live for the society, for the poor or whatever. How he knows that is presumably by revelation.

Now, in my book, “The Ominous Parallels,” I point out that this exact same intellectual situation existed in Weimar, Germany, and Hitler counted on it and cashed in on it, specifically on this kind of unreason and this kind of intense commitment to self-sacrifice on the part of the Germans, and the result was that socialism triumphed. Naziism is socialism, it’s one form of socialism and it.. it is that in theory and it was that in practice! Let us define our terms, I think we ought to have had a definition of socialism by now: Government control over property. Are you going to tell me that in Nazi Germany there was such a thing as private property and free independent action? If so you have never been there, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Dr. Caplan (interrupting):

Only for the rich.

Dr. Peikoff:

Now, Hitler- Hitler was able to rise to power in Germany because he had no opposition, he had his liberals and conservatives just as we have in this continent. I’ll just be… (to Dr. Ridpath) can I take one of your minutes? His… the liberals in Germany at the time said, “Lets have more economic controls.” The conservatives said, “No, let’s have more intellectual controls by the government.” And Hitler said, “You’re both right, let’s have total control.” The only antidote to this development is someone who says Let’s not have government control! Let us stand up for the rights of the individual as absolute to his life, libery and the pursuit of property, regardless. He has no obligation except to live as a rational being. If we can’t establish that, there is no hope. So my concluding remark is this, that if you go to college, I don’t ask that many professors teach reason and selfishness. I think a fair ratio would be one professor advocating reason and selfishness to two hundred advocating unreason and socialism. If you would get your faculties to allow that ratio, just one to two hundred, I would have no fear for the future of the country. But unfortunately they will not allow it.

Dr. Ridpath:

Today’s topic is which is the moral social system? We, we have tried to present an argument in defense of a man’s right to live his own life. We have tried to present an argument in defense of a man’s need for freedom, for man’s need to have his rights respected. We have tried to present our argument therefore for capitalism as a social system which does this, as the only social system that offers man this, that offers man the opportunity to live his life and therefore the only moral social system. Had our opponents bothered to try and argue for their… the moral basis for their system, they would have had to have argued for man’s duty to serve others, for altruism. They would have had to have argued for the moral appropriateness, and professor Caplan has admitted to this, the moral appropriateness of coercing man into the good life as the socialists see it. They would have argued for socialism as the social system where the government has the power to force people to live the good life.

The issues therefore I think are clear: We have argued for Laissez-Faire, they are arguing for State management; We have argued for the State as the protector of individual rights, they have argued for the State as our parent; We have argued for individual rights, they have argued for sacrifice to the group; We are arguing that we are not our brother’s keeper, and they have to morally rest on the claim that we are our brother’s keeper. So now, the issues are out and you must think for yourself.

If you want to know my basic reason for agreeing to engage in this debate, it is because of my belief in the power of ideas. Ideas count. History is determined by ideas. Ideas will determine our future. True ideas will lead us ahead, false ideas will kill us. The enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the 19th century, the creation of the United States of America were all products of ideas. So as… this is also true for Nazi Germany, for communist Russia, for communist China, for slavery, for slave labor camps. These also are ultimately the results of ideas. I must say, that I literally believe that the ideas our opponents have propounded, would, if followed, lead to poverty, slavery, and the destruction of… civilized life on this planet. On the other hand, I believe that our ideas, if followed, can lead to a prosperous and happy future. Thank you very much.

Moderator:

Dr. Vickers will lead off the closing statements for the socialists.

Dr. Vickers:

Look here, I wasn’t aware that this was going to come into a debate as to who owns philosophy. Um… I’m willing to concede some share, but I’m not going to hand in my philosopher’s badge just yet. Philos… philosophy: the desire or love of the truth. Truth, it seems to me does not just exist as you have been told in the idea, or the written word, or the book titles that can be dropped. I also believe very strongly, that by your deeds shall you be known. It seems to me it’s important to look rather closely at the deeds of social democracy, as they have been implemented, here and there in bits and pieces in this country, in this century. It seems to me, that that has a truth that we should be pursuing every bit as much as my opponent’s desire to define my philosophy for me.

I believe in reason, but I believe in emotion too, and I’m not afraid to say that I think that human beings who believe only in reason should not be entrusted with the running of governments or the teaching of students. I don’t believe that altruism is only to be defined in these terms of self-sacrifice, but I do believe in self-sacrifice. Not as an exclusive virtue, I certainly don’t go around day in, day out, saying, how can I self-sacrifice next? I-I’m very much an old Aristotelian and in that I share a great deal with Leonard “Play-Cough.” I don’t accept Aristotle’s… (Audience laughing) I don’t accept his defense of slavery, uh- Aristotle’s that is. I don’t accept some of his social programs, but I certainly accept his belief in moderation. All things in moderation, and that of course also includes self-sacrifice.

I define what I consider Social Democracy to be, and a great deal of that definition came out of my experience in this country with those small experiments we have proceeded with. And it seems to me, that this is a false dichotomy: self-sacrifice; altruism; selfishness – I tried to say that, at the beginning, in talking about relative morality, because that is what we are talking about. I know that a lot of people would like there to be absolutes written up there in the sky, written up there on stone, but there are not. There are values that we can reason about with one another. For me, the chief value about which we must reason is how much self-interest we can be expected to be allowed to assert – and I’m a self-asserting person. Most feminists are. And how much commitment to others, how much responsibility for others we should expect ourselves to give. I say expect ourselves. I have never felt coerced by my government in the context of providing for others. Nor do I just leave it to tax day, nor do most of you. Canadians are among the most generous people in the world. And indeed that is, that is probably why it has been possible in this country to get away from the stereotype dichotomies and to see how much, as generous Canadians, we are willing to give to others. And sometimes we say to ourselves we went a little too far there. Okay? Maybe we better pull it back here and maybe university students ought to pay a bit more for their education, and taxpayers a little less. And we have been able within the rubric of a social consensus that exists in this country, and I believe it despite some of the things I’ve heard this evening, to balance. To say, yeah… we wanna get as much as we can, we wanna assert ourselves. But we believe we are members of a community and as members of… of a community, we will spend some time and some property and some of our fabric and some of our energy and some of our love, on those people around us.

Dr. Caplan:

I want to go back to the challenge from uh, professors Ridpath and Peikoff. I want to talk about the logic, the implications of their… of their rhetoric, their positions on individual liberty and the defense of property and Laissez-Faire. I have a quotation if you’ll bear with me. “Their leaders do not believe in unions, or in welfare economics or in sufferage. Their basic premise is that government exists to protect the entrepreneur from undesirable infra- interference by other actors so that the accumulation of capital can proceed without restraint.” Not so far, I think, from some of the comments that uh, that the other side have made or written elsewhere. It happens to be about the government of El Salvadore and it happens to be a new book out of the university of North Carolina. Uh, it was said earlier that El Salvadore and Central America are not part of our debate tonight. Forgive me, my socialism can go that far, and what Ronald Reagan does there is part of my socialism.

And now in El Salvadore, a reactionary military clique dependent on the United States for its survival, tortures and kills at least a hundred citizens each week in order to create a climate of fear in which it can stay in power. This gang shares its power with fourteen of the richest families in El Salvadore who own all there is in that country together with American business interest, and together they have reduced the majority of people in that poor country to a subhuman existence. The United States, President Reagan, in the names of all that he believes in, non-interference in other countries, Laissez-Faire, individual liberty and the concern for human beings, sends arms and advisers to these thugs in the name of those freedoms and shares in the murder of those who are rebelling against such unimaginable brutality, and suppression that they obviously must be surrogates of the Soviet imperialist power.

Audience Member:

What are you talking about?

Dr. Caplan:

When you read… each time I read another unimaginably horrible story of a, of a piece of torture of some poor peasant in El Salvadore…

Audience Member:

We’re not talking about El Salvadore!

Caplan:

Or in Guatamala. You forgive me, I am, Buster!

Audience Member:

(indecipherable)

Dr. Caplan:

Whenever you talk about it, what you’re talking about is the logic, the inexorable logic of the philosophy that the large scale Right espouses. The philosophy that says, somehow liberty is found in property rights, and the rights of capital take precedence over those of humanity, and that selfishness, however sophistically defined, is morally superior to a humanist egalitarian ethic. We reject it.

I have two final quotes if you will forgive me. One is from a hero of mine who, who I, I mentioned earlier, David Lewis, the prophet of Canadian Socialism. “The modern democratic socialist,” David Lewis wrote in 1956, “should proclaim his aims loudly and passionately”, as I hope we’re doing tonight. “The equality of man, and woman is the socialist watchword. The moral struggle against injustice and inequality is the socialist duty. To be a strong and powerful voice for the common man, against the… the abuse and oppression of a privileged minority is the socialist function. And to forge an ever finer, and ever higher standard of values, and a richer pattern of life and behavior is the socialist dream.”

I wanna say it in less highfalutin’ terms. I met, last year in the Yukon, a great old woman who happened to die last week. She was 92 years old. Her name was Hilda Helenby. She spent all her time in the north working with native peoples, working for feminist rights, working in that strange world, for a socialist dream that she had. Hilda Helenby used to say… she wasn’t as good on the philosophy of reason as our colleagues. She didn’t talk as they do about Kant and Plato and Berkson and Heracletus. She wasn’t good at that, but she was good at saying things, and what Hilda Helenby said, and I heard her. She said, “You know why I do it? When in doubt, take the losing side, the winners don’t need us, they’re doing fine.” That’s all that socialism has ever meant. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the basis…

Audience:

(laughing derisively)

Caplan:

…it’s the basis of a creed that is noble, of a dream that is warm and glorious, and it is as… true to the bright side of the human soul, as man and women have ever invented. I take it that I cannot enjoin a certain number of you in this room to share that dream with us tonight… but some I believe you will, and I hope you do. Thank you very much.

Moderator:

The debate portion of the evening has ended, the floor will be open for the question period after a 10 minute break. When you come back, please line up at the two microphones on the floor, in the left and right hand isles. Paper and pencils will be provided by the ushers on the floor. Thank you very much, we’ll see you in 10 minutes.

(pause)

Dr. Peikoff to Mr. Peter Desbarats:

Is it more or less heated than you had anticipated?

Mr. Peter Desbarats:

I think it’s going fine, I mean people enjoyed it.

Dr. Peikoff:

Now we have to move ov… why do we have to move over there for this one?

Mr. Peter Desbarats:

You’re supposed to, I think uh, to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

(pause)

Dr. Peikoff:

Well… alright…

Mr. Peter Desbarats:

It gives… it gives the audience a sort of sense of importance… (inaudible).

10 minutes later…

Audience Member #1:

Paper, pencil anyone?

Audience Member #2:

Yep, alright.

Audience Member #3:

I don’t know what he’s doing.

Moderator:

Now we’ll start the question period – uh, we’ll begin. The questions are to be directed to either or both of the two sides, not to the individual speakers. This will ensure that your questions receive the best possible answer, the sides will decide among themselves who will answer it. Answers are limited to 2 minutes each, and the opposition will then have 2 minutes to comment on the answer. I will call for questions from the floor marks alternately, starting with the right microphone. And I’d like to say, while I’ll tolerate a small amount of speech making, from, uh, the questioners, I’m not going to allow people to get into long policy statements, we really would like to have questions. So we’ll start on the right.

Questioner #1:

The question is directed towards both sides. My name is Kevin Nightingale. Um, given that the crucial points made by both sides are indeed valid, that is, that capitalism is naturally the more productive and honest system, and that socialism is the more humane, in whatever basic primal or emotional way, I ask you whether, um, either extreme is indeed advisable. Socialism in the name of equality, would see, basically, us starve to death, and starvation is not moral, Dr. Caplan. And socialism is never democratic. True capitalism, in the name of individual excellence, may drive a desperate few into the hands of a Hitler, or a Lenin, or an Ellsworth Toohey. By calling it revolution, I leave no room for equivocation. Yes, it is moral blackmail, but morality is defined over humanity, and revolution is not moral either.

Moderator: Okay, okay, let’s have a question.

Questioner #1:

The question is, firstly, can you… can you defend a system, where we kill the goose that lays the golden egg? Or a system that the only egg some get is on their faces even if it isn’t from a marketing board. Is… is then, a basically, substantially, fundamentally free-enterprise system, tempered slightly to accommodate those who are less capable than ourselves the only morally defensible system?

Dr. Peikoff:

That question translates into, “Why go to extremes? Why not take the middle of the road, a little capitalism and a little socialism? Can you hear? There are issues on which you cannot compromise. Contrary to what Dr. Vickers said, Aristotle did not say all things in moderation. He did not believe that axe murdering should be committed in moderation, or that you should have a balance between food and poison. If it has been established that certain principles are required for human life, you cannot say, “Let us temper them with a little bit of their opposite.” All you will do in such a case is subvert the principle, and lead, step-by-step to the complete extreme opposite. This is why I said that in the middle of the road mixed economy welfare state, such as we have now, is an unstable mixture which will gradually get, more and more, in the direction of complete government control.

I do not believe, by the way, that… that quote “being humane” is an attribute of a socialist system. If being humane means, being concerned with man, with woman, with the rights and the welfare of human life, then I think that the argument is one hundred percent pro-capitalism. So I don’t see why there even is a temptation to compromise. That… that’s brief. Okay.

Dr. Vickers:

Sure, it’s certainly true that in philosophy classes… you take extreme positions. Uh, it’s also true that in real life, uh, you try and develop the best mix, that you can. I’m a democratic socialist, and for me, the only powerable method is the method of persuasion. It seems to me, that the sort of lurching that we have proceeded with, in the Canadian context, is the test case. It’s a test case for me, not just because I’m a Canadian, it’s a test case for a lot of other people to look at. Politics is the art of the possible, and it involves compromise. I think we have an ability to learn from other people’s mistakes, whether they are to the south of the border or to the north of the border.

Dr. Caplan:

Talk about extremism.

Moderator:

On the, left hand side now.

Questioner #2:

Yes. My name is Susan Rosenthal, I’m a physician in Toronto and a member of the International Socialists, and I have a question for the… pro-socialist side. I can certainly agree that capitalism is neither a moral or rational system, when the most productive… development of society that has ever existed in the world is used to produce means of destruction instead of providing what people need. But on the other hand, I also don’t see how what you’re offering is any real alternative. It seems to me that what you’re offering is a more benevolent form of capitalism. Capitalism with a more humane face, but capitalism nonetheless. And that it’s not…  socialism’s not about state control at all! It’s about who controls the state! And…as far as I understand, socialism is about ordinary working people controlling society. About working people taking control of their workplaces and running society… in order to meet human needs. And I haven’t heard anything about that tonight. And that’s what I would like to hear in… a debate about socialism versus capitalism.

Dr. Caplan:

Well, I think you’re right and I, I accept your uh, your analysis. We are not, goes back to the first question, we are not an extremist form of socialism because both Jill and I, insisting that socialism without democracy is not socialism, necessarily, work within a democratic sphere, in which it is impossible to go beyond certain bounds. Those bounds are where you can go through reason, through persuasion, through the ballot box of running a good election campaign, to trying street socialism. You can do that, but it’s a long way from the kind of utopian ideal that many of us would like, but is very hard in practice to implement. And so, yes, we agree, we are, we are moderates, we necessarily go slowly, more slowly, you will be thrilled to know, than we ever want to go, and that’s the way it has to be in a parliamentary country.

Dr. Ridpath:

Is mine working? Can you hear me?

Audience:

Yeah.

Dr. Ridpath:

First of all I’d like to comment on the remark made in the question… about the problem with capitalism being that it leads to the development of mass means of destruction. In fact, the capitalist social systems we’ve been arguing for, is concerning itself, the government is concerning itself, with the protection of the rights of it’s citizens. If a capitalist social system lives, or coexists, in a world with other social systems that are, first of all, totally devoted to the imprisonment and slaughter of their own citizens, and also devoted to the imprisonment and slaughter of the citizens of other countries if they can get away with it, the capitalist countries have no choice, and it would be immoral of them not to arm themselves to the teeth in order to protect their citizens from that kind of threat.

Questioner #3:

I have uh… oh.

John Ridpath:

With regards to the question about the… Democratic Socialists being moderates: in the end, if an individual’s right is violated by a tyrant, or if an individual’s right is violated by the vote of the majority, the end result is still the same: society has organized in order to use the State in order to violate the rights of individuals.

Person in crowd:

Hear, hear!

John Ridpath:

There is no… there is in the end, no moral difference between being forced by a majority vote and being forced by an elite group with all the powers of government. The only solution is to create a social system where the powers of government are constitutionally restricted, so that the government has no power to do such a thing, even if the majority of the people in… their misfound wisdom would wish them to do so.

Moderator:

Yes, on the right hand microphone.

Questioner #3:

Sorry for interrupting you Mr. Professor Ridpath. I have two questions, one for each side, first to the socialists, I’d like to know why it is morally right for me to sacrifice the fruits of my labor for someone other than myself.

Dr. Vickers:

I wouldn’t say it is morally right for you to sacrifice all of the fruits of your labor.

Questioner #3:

Where do you draw the line?

Dr. Vickers:

I would certainly say, that you live in a community, in which other people have contributed to your well-being. Uh, does your mother do your laundry? You know, there is this notion, that you’re a hard-balled individual, with this shell. And that nobody helps you, that you do it all yourself. It’s sort of like the 19th century. When men were men, and, and, and, and ladies still did the laundry. I don’t think any of us lives in that context. Mind, if you’re at school which, I suspect you may be, my tax dollars go to pay for your education, and I’m pleased that they do! I am pleased, indeed, that in our community, in our society, that it’s possible for you and for me, it was possible for me to go to university even though my family couldn’t afford it. Personally, I feel that I should give something back. And I hope you’ll come to feel the same way, too.

Dr. Peikoff:

In a capitalist society, you do not derive benefits from quote, “society as a whole,” but from specific individuals, who have done specific things. And there are mechanisms to determine exactly what it cost, and how you compensate the person. You do not take general tax money, for instance, from people who have no children, extort it from them, and use it to pay schooling for people who do have children. Life… is not a systematic raid on whatever you can grab off, with the implication that you are then mortgaged as a serf for life to pay it back.

As far as your mother is concerned, she has a moral obligation before she does your laundry, in fact, earlier than that. Before she decides to concieve you, you did not ask to be conceived. She has to say to herself… this is a one sided choice on her part, you were not consulted… she has to say to herself, if I have this kid, it’s gonna mean 21 years of doing laundry. Is it… is it worth it to me or not? Do I regard the pleasures involved as sufficient payment? And if she says no, I would say, “Do not have children.” But the… proper attitude is not to say, “I resent doing it, but I’ll do it bitterly as a sacrifice for 21 years and then the kid will be a slave for life to repay me.” I don’t believe that parenthood consists of breeding slaves.

Moderator:

I… no, I, I’m afraid I, I’m going to be very rigid about one question per questioner, there are lots of people lined up…

Questioner #3:

Just, just a quick question.

Moderator:

…and we can only get through a fraction of them, so,

Questioner #3:

It’ll just take, it’ll take 10 seconds.

Moderator:

I’m gonna go over to the left hand microphone. One question per questioner, please.

Questioner #4:

Yes, uh, this is for the uh, capitalists. I’m curious about your concept of reality, um… just… I mean, what happens if you’re just an average family growing up and you happen to have a mentally handicapped child, you didn’t plan on one, but it happened to come along and you don’t have any money, so I guess we’ll just throw it in the garbage and pretend it doesn’t exist. Um, I wonder what happens in the case of a Canadian indian, who’s kinda hangin’ out ther’ doin’ whatever he’s doin’. These white guys come along and go, “Hey, you can’t do that!” You know, I mean, just because you have money and own something, does that mean that you forget about everybody else? Okay, so I blew it, we all make mistakes. The question is…

Dr. Peikoff:

Oh, I thought he asked it already.

Questioner #4:

What are you gonna do about the people who don’t have the money to afford certain medical… educational… things… are you just gonna forget about them, and just let them do whatever?

Dr. Peikoff:

Well, I think that we covered that, but I’ll answer it again briefly. You either have to believe that human beings, by and large and in the majority can survive by their own effort, or that the whole human race, is congenital, incompetents, handicapped and helpless. If the latter is true, there is no such thing as human survival. If it’s possible for the human race to survive at all, and it is, it has to be because the normal case is an individual who is not handicapped or mentally retarded or run over by a truck. Who is able to afford the things that his life requires, when he becomes an adult and becomes productive.

Audience Member:

What happens to the mentally handicapped, answer the question!

Dr. Peikoff:

In the case, as I was about to say… I thought that happened… I was told that happened only in the United States, not in Canada. In the case of people who are handicapped and in difficulty through no fault of their own, they depend upon private charity. That is it! There is no… I do not regard that, such a thing as a handicap, as a mortgage on anybody else’s life. I myself would voluntarily give to charity if I thought the person didn’t create his own handicap. I would on the grounds that it’s not… But I oppose on principle the idea that a social system is to be defined by what happens to the handicapped. A social system has to be defined by the nature of man, and when… only when that question has been answered, and you lay down the principles that a healthy human being requires to function, do you say, “The surplus will voluntarily be given to those relatively small group of people, who are helpless through no fault of their own. As far as medical care is involved, try to remember that we do not have capitalism now, and the fantastic escalating costs, particularly for people who are unemployed, is not a phenomenon of capitalism but of the mixed economy.

Dr. Caplan:

The two last questions come together in fact, I think. I wanna just pick up… sorry, can you hear, I wanted to pick up Jill’s point for a second. We are an interdependent community, as I see it. You’re sitting in this hall tonight because the government… Ontario… University of Toronto… when you go home today, and when you go home today, you’re going to perhaps take a taxi that’s inspected by the Metropolitan Toronto Licensing Commission. It’s also paid for by taxpayer’s money. And every part of our life, each of us benefits and is affected, by the structure that’s been built in the society. And… we come…

Audience Member:

That’s the problem!

Dr. Caplan:

That may be the problem, but you’d be a lot unhappier without that problem. I’ve been to places that don’t have that problem. And, in return… in return, you have the right to expect that you owe somebody something. And I want to tell you, there are most people in the hall, I tell from the applause, we know this, who don’t believe it, who don’t share this, and I don’t care. But I think what John Ridpath, and I think what Dr. Peikoff are talking about, is such an ugly, and mean and heartless system… It is such, it is such a throwback, to that 19th century Dickensian world, that one of these guys lauded as the, uh… as the apotheosis of capitalism earlier, when in fact, life was miserable and scummy for most people. That I am thrilled to know, that this is a very narrow extremist fringe of the right movement, and that most of its advocates are in this room tonight. That gives me hope. That gives me hope that this kind of miserable way of wanting to run a world will not prevail much beyond where it goes in this room.

Dr. Peikoff:

What? Yeah. You take the next question.

Speaker #5:

This question is directed to the… to both sides. The morality of the ultimate socialist system may be seen in facts. One fact may be seen in the Robarts Library, where now is displayed the artificial famine of 1932 and 33.

Moderator:

Could you, could you get a little closer to the microphone and talk a little louder please?

Speaker #5:

Okay. One of these facts is displayed in the Robarts Library where now is displayed the artificial famine of 1932 and 33, in Ukraine, where 7 million people died. This genocide is the… was a deliberate public and political policy of the communist government in Moscow. It was a policy to remove those who did not, by their lifestyle, agree with their own policy. It was also policy that removed food from the farmer, and was used in international trade, to require money, to enhance Moscow, the protector of ultimate socialism. How is this consistent, this genocide consistent with morality. Is this the morality which we are to expect from future socialism, and it’s ultimate heir, communism?

Dr. Caplan:

I, I guess this is a highly mobile audience, because I guess most of you weren’t in the room when I talked about our socialist view of communism earlier. I could talk to you about the Kulak murders for hours and tell you things you know nothing about. I can tell you about the horrors of the communist empire for hours, things you know nothing about. A democratic socialist is raised on it, is raised on it so that he or she knows, not to have a confusion between a tyranny of a new kind, in the eastern world, and something that’s called socialism. It has nothing to do with anything any democratic socialist believes… tolerates, or will ever accept!

Dr. Ridpath:

I would like to start by saying, that I would not, and I will not now, accuse any individual, unless I have hard evidence, of being an advocate or a supporter of that kind of mass slaughter, and I don’t wish, in my remarks to say that I think that our opponents are in fact endorsing that kind of thing. However… but, your question is: is this kind of genocide consistent with the morality of socialism, is this the ultimate end of socialism? In my view, even though the Democratic Socialists believe that the uses to which the coercive powers of the State will be put, will be limited by the majority, and that they will not vote for the State to do such things, they are nevertheless endorsing the morality of altruism, of self-sacrifice and they are endorsing coerced solutions to problems, and in endorsing those principles, even though they may not wish it to be the case and they may not believe it to be the case, that they are nevertheless in the camp with principles that do lead to those results, I’m afraid.

Moderator:

Yes, on the left.

Questioner #6:

Yeah, this question is for, to the capitalists.

Moderator:

Could you get very close to the mic please?

Questioner #6:

Look at the Third World where your capitalism isn’t working at all.

Moderator:

Could you get a little closer to the mic?

Questioner #6:

Look at the Third World where your capitalism isn’t working at all. Your… the people… that you said that people cannot exist without any property and I agree with that. What happens to the people who aren’t born into wealth? You say they have to get their own wealth, and how do they get their own wealth, by motivation. Where do they get the motivation, from energy. Energy requires food. Food requires money. They’re not born into money, how’re they gonna get it?

Dr. Ridpath:

Well, you could address that question to the people who lived in the caves. And how did they get out of the caves? The way people get out of those situations is by the very process that you talked about. It’s a long, slow and arduous process to earn your way in life and to raise your standard of living. And you know, in a sense, the thrust of your question is comparable to the thrust of an earlier question which actually boils down to: under capitalism what happens to the poor? And, basically, what I’d like to say is that there is a moral premise implicit in that very question when you ask it. Implicitly, you are expecting that when you point out the existence of the poor that I will automatically understand that I have some moral obligation to sacrifice some of my values, some of my property, some of my energies so that they may be better off. We have argued for rational egoism, for the virtue of rational selfishness… we reject that very morality. It is also that morality which is behind Professor Caplan’s remarks that our view is mean, heartless, ugly and miserable…

Questioner #6:

It is!

Dr. Ridpath:

Our view… You’re welcome to your own opinion. But all I am pointing out is that if it is… automatic to you that our view is as such as that, the reason for that is because you are captured by two thousand years of Judeo-Christian morality which actually endorses the principle of self-sacrifice.

Dr. Caplain (interrupting):

Shame!

Dr. Ridpath:

And, from that perspective, you would view what we are saying as ugly and miserable, et cetera. But, from the argument that we have made with regards to the needs of human life and how that applies to every individual, we are arguing that the facts of human nature in fact dictate that men are individuals, they each have to use their minds, they own their own lives, and nobody has a moral right to use their lives for their own purposes.

Dr. Vickers:

I’m not ashamed to say I’m a Christian, any more than I think that Gerry would, in any way, want to disassociate himself from his religious background. I have to say that the young man that your question has made the debate for me. It gives me hope. I picked that up, McClain’s “Four and a Half Million Poor in Canada.” That’s what’s before us, that’s what we can’t not see, if we have any eyes at all. But your question points to all of the millions that we can’t see, that we don’t see very often. I think morality is involved in El Salvadore, and in all of the countries of the Third World. I think it’s very convenient for us if we can export our exploitation, our sex tourism…

Dr. Caplan:

That’s right, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right.

Dr. Vickers:

Oh yeah. That we can export the effects of our capitalist system into the rest of the world, and I am delighted to know that there is someone who sees that they’re there.

Questioner #7:

First of all, may I make a statement instead of a question? Short statement, short statement, and then maybe a question.

Moderator:

As long as it’s short, and as long as it ends in a question.

Questioner #7:

Yeah, okay. First of all, I’m offended by the morality of the debate itself. We presume that socialism is what it’s supposed to mean, and not what is meant in the mind of so many people. So, in other words, socialism is connected to Gulag, Ukraine, famine, or whatever, and capitalism is meant with the… you know… the 19th century starvation of the masses. Okay. That’s not what came here for. That… I came here for the morali… simply for the moral aspect of it, and I’m going to talk about the morality. My question is… the professor, he should not be called professor because he, in the realm of animal, maybe can be professor, but in the realm of a human being can not be professor, on anything, on anything. The capitalist side, there, the capitalist side, especially the one who said, the one who said that life… morali… morality is defined by the rational self-interest of self… self-interest, okay. I would like only to, to, beg him to carry that to the extreme consequences.

Moderator:

I want, I want, I want the question now.

Questioner #7:

In California now…

Moderator:

I want, I want the question.

Questioner #7:

…mothers are selling their children to for self-interest for pornography right now! I wish, I wish, why is mother the… the… send in for pornography, that’s the question! Why if life is determined by self-interest, why is mothers to sell them for pornographic industry!

Dr. Peikoff:

I’m sorry to say that the… I’m sorry to say that the hysteria and the form in which that question was asked is a direct result of the fact that people put forth the ethics of self-sacrifice on religious grounds as though it is a revelation. Consequently, people do not even believe that moral issues can be open to reason and if they disagree, they resort to vilification and apoplexy. That is a sign of a wrong approach to the entire subject of ethics. If I translate that question…

Questioner #7:

… even… acknowledge…

Dr. Peikoff:

I’ll do what I want with my two minutes, please. Would you ask him to be quiet please?

Moderator:

No, no, no no, you had the floor, and the speaker must have the floor.

Dr. Peikoff:

If I were to translate that question into something resembling intelligibility… I would say he’s asking, “Are you saying that an advocate of selfishness can do anything? Do you believe whatever you feel you should do regardless of how it runs roughshod over other people?” And if he had asked the question that way, he would have seen that I already answered that, by saying that selfishness does not equal doing whatever you feel like. You might feel like cutting your throat, or jumping off a cliff, that does not make it something which redounds to your self-interest. Your self-interest has to be objectively, rationally defined. It has to be in accordance with the requirements of your nature. And it has to respect the equal right of every other human being. I said over and over, selfishness is not running loose like some kind of monster, that is simply the movie image put forth by altruists in order to try to dismiss this issue. Selfishness is perfectly rational, if you are rational. You live to achieve your life by certain definite means, you respect the rights of others and you trade, that’s it.

Dr. Caplan:

Do you want to do this? I don’t know what he was talking about, but I could do it, it’s up to you.

Dr. Vickers:

Go ahead.

Dr. Caplan:

I’m sorry that the, that the questioner got a little carried away. I’m even more sorrier that Professor “Pie-Cough” was so snot-nosed to him, and I apologize to you for that…

Dr. Peikoff:

I want to say…

Moderator:

I’m going to exert the chairman’s prerogative in a minute.

Dr. Caplan:

As far as I can figure out, a selfishness that is bound only by my own rational decisions as to what its limits are, is a selfishness that allows me to do anything I want, in fact, because I’m the only arbitrator…

Crowd:

BOO! [MOANING]

Dr. Caplan:

Gosh, it’s really nice, not only do I have him, I have all of you moaning at the same time, it’s really terrific. But it is, in fact… it is, in fact, what the speakers repeat, time after time, there is no other force, there is no other arbitrator to stop me from making those decisions, other than my own rational processes. And as long as that’s so, I assume that ultimately means I can do whatever I want. Now because they are sophisticated, they know they will not do anything too bad, except cut off all these people from Welfare and social service, and all the other things they will do. Ah, so, so the argument, I, I confess, eludes me, and it has never seemed quite as persuasive as… as many of you self evidently appear it to be.

Moderator:

Yes, on the left.

Questioner #8:

Yes. My question is going to sound dangerously similar to the one before me, except that I don’t think that the question or the answer in that case really addressed the issue. It’s addressed to the capitalists. I basically understand where you are, I accept the position, except for one thing: Why is inherited wealth part of your morality? Wouldn’t it not be better to investigate systems of wealth redistribution upon death, rather than allowing huge conglomerates to build up so that the small man from Parkdale South is in a position where he effectively can’t compete against Number 10 Toronto Street in any meaningful way? Just as a small addendum I’ll say that I agree with you that a man is entitled to the fruits of his labor. I’m not so sure that he’s entitled to the fruits of his father’s labor. As a starting point.

Dr. Ridpath:

The issue is: what is the father entitled to? The issue in connection with inherited wealth is what are the rights of the people who earned that wealth, including their right to give that wealth to whomever they choose. And that is the focus rather than the alleged unfair headstart or whatever on the part of the child.

It is the case when you worry about inherited wealth, many people who worry about inherited wealth, worry that, in a sense, “unworthy people” inherit wealth and, in a sense, have a free ride generation after generation, and they see something unfair in that. The fact of the matter is, that, at least in a free society, that people who inherit wealth who are not themselves rational and productive, entrepreneurial people… that those people will lose the wealth that they have inherited. There is an expression… there is… there is an expression which was, which was typical of 19th century America which was the freest period in human history, which was shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. And that meant, the first generation made the money, passed it to the second generation and by the third generation, the money had gone to more worthy hands, and they were back to shirtsleeves again. But the essential moral issue with regards to inheritance is that the people who earn it have the right to dispose of it as they choose. It’s their right to do that and that’s why it’s moral.

Dr. Vickers:

You know, I heard the…

Dr. Caplin:

Good and gone.

Dr. Vickers:

…shirtsleeves quip this morning from Professor “Pay-Cough.” It didn’t grab me then and it doesn’t grab me now, quite simply because it isn’t true. Uh, it’s from shirtsleeves, yes, by hard work, that I will agree with, in many instances. Uh… then it’s up to, uh… three piece suits, uh… then it’s up to wing collars and rather large establishments of conglomerates. I think you put your finger, uh, perhaps unwittingly, uh, perhaps deliberately, on a very important point. I would be far more persuaded of the ethic, uh, that I’m, I’m hearing, uh… if I thought the mono… monopoly game wasn’t rigged. It’s quite clear that the monopoly game is rigged, not everyone gets $200 when they pass go, and a whole lot of people have quite a lot of lolly in the bank before they start the game. What’s more, some people have, uh, uh, obstacles to jump but others don’t, and some have, uh, shackles of one kind or another that they’re forced to carry. The imagery of, of, of, of life as a race, uh, when you have inherited property, in the middle of the race, uh, certainly doesn’t sound very fair to me.

Questioner #8:

I agree.

Questioner #9:

My question is directed to Dr. Peikoff on the capitalist side. I conclude from part of this discussion that Orwell has retained some of his apostles in his contradiction of terms and words. Your pursuit, Dr. Park… “Pie-Cough” in the, uh… building of selfishness, no, in the survival to build self… your pursuit of survival is built on selfishness, contradicts any claim to a peaceful intellectual pursuit to achieve objectives in a peaceful way. Hitler perfected this, ah, your out was that you lumped national socialism with international socialism. Hitler saw that his next step was national socialism which would have pinnacled that power that he had already accumulated on the personal and national basis.

Dr. Peikoff:

Alright, I’ll take that.

Questioner #9:

Alright would you not agree…

Dr. Peikoff:

I got it.

Questioner #9:

Would you not agree, somebody said next questioner… question… would you not agree that laws are, uh… a matter of degrees, that is; socialism is attempting to pursue the laws for a greater percentage of equality, not equality, but a greater percentage of equality, which would include capitalism, and this is the area in which capitalism is resenting. Uh…

Dr. Peikoff:

This entire…

Questioner #9:

If we, if we backtrack on that, the underworld resents the laws that we now have, so, I would say that capitalism’s arguments against, uh, further pursuit of laws is, is, is not valid.

Dr. Peikoff:

Well, I have to ignore the last part because I don’t know what you’re talking about, but the first part, I would like to comment on.

Selfishness, as a term, simply means that the recipient of the values you create should be yourself. That leaves entirely open the question “What values should you aim to pursue and by what means should you achieve them?” And if you had any rudimentary knowledge of the history of ethics, there are many egoists of all kinds of different varieties, and it’s very uncommon for them to have the kind of view that is… caricatured in your statement. There’s nothing in the idea, “I should pursue my interests” to say, “I should pursue it by means of cutting your throat or violating the canons of peace,” there is no such thing. Particularly when you hold, as I do, that the only essential means that human beings have to deal with reality to achieve values is thought, is the mind. And that… the all of human life depends on the sanctity and absolutism of the mind. If you hold that, you would shudder in the name of self-interest against any form of coercion or wrong peace against others and you would do it for your own self-interest.

As far as Hitler goes, I’d like to say, I happen to have made a very lengthy study of the Nazi ethic viewpoint, and the Nazis are thorough ideological explicit champions of altruism and self-sacrifice. If you want detailed quotes, from Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, the whole hierarchy, you look up my book, and you will see that they define the Ayran as the extreme exponent of self-sacrifice, they equate the ideal Nazi as the one who gives up everything, not only his wealth, but his mind, his independent judgment, to the Fuhrer. And they preached universal sacrifice. All Germans were to sacrifice, for the master race, which was no one individual, it was a mythical, supernatural entity, and the whole rest of the world was to sacrifice, there was no one to be selfish. They were the opposite of the champions of selfishness.

Questioner #9:

The superior race!

Dr. Caplain:

To hear, to hear, that… that the Nazis believed in a kind of altruism, and… sorry! To be told that the Nazis believed in a kind of altruism and self-sacrifice that, in other parts of this evening we have been told is comparable to some of the things that us benighted socialists believe, is, forgive me, for a Jew, so offensive and so intolerable that I can’t answer anymore of that question.

Dr. Peikoff:

Excuse me. I’m Jewish also, for what it’s worth.

Dr. Caplan:

Not much.

Moderator:

Now, uh… I’m not going to impose on the panel, uh… too much longer, or on, at least some members of the audience. I’m going to take two more questions only. Uh… one from this side and one from that side. And it starts with the one on the left.

Questioner #10:

Before I commence, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Matthew Marshall. I’m a capitalist and I wash my own underwear. I’d like to address this question to both panels. But first of all I’d like to give the socialists a chance to rebuttal. Mr. Caplan, did I understand you to say, “morality has real… morality is defined as how real people operate in the real world”?

Dr. Caplain:

Uh… yes.

Questioner #10:

Okay. Why deal with the real world? If we look at the nations of the world, those who have enshrined the value of property rights are the ones who have had the greatest economic advancement, and the masses have benefitted the most. Okay?

Dr. Caplain:

We haven’t agreed to everything, yet.

Questioner #10:

Okay, I just wanna finish my question first, okay?

Dr. Vickers:

We like the underwear, though.

Questioner #10:

Okay? Now, socialism, as I know it, is concerned with the welfare of the community. Which in itself is a very noble idea I don’t disagree with. But, as being a socialist, and, and empirical observation demonstrates, in countries that respect property rights are the countries that have the greatest wealth for everyone. As a socialist… and this empirical truth is evident… how can you, as a socialist, disagree with property rights?

Dr. Caplan:

Well, I guess I don’t accept all of your facts, you know, strangely enough. Seems to me that among the countries… sorry. It seems to me that among the countries that support property rights are… Argentina… are… Chile…

Audience:

No way!

Dr. Caplan:

Are…

Audience:

(Booing)

Dr. Caplan:

… are… Uruguay. Are Pakistan. Are a dozen African countries which have property rights written into their constitution. And which work hand-in-glove with corporate interests and the local elite to oppress and cause misery for their people. Now why is that so difficult for this audience to understand? They are there before you. So spare me your stuff, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why I don’t accept property rights in the way you talk about it. We accept property rights! God, has there not been social democratic governments in this country and in Western Europe, in the way that any sensible person does, was there confiscation? Did shopkeepers lose their stores? Did businesses get taken away without proper compensation? Did anyone lose a house? No, they did not! Those were lost… those were lost in the capitalist-created depression of the 30’s… those were lost… those were lost in the capitalist-created recession of the last few years. That’s when people lost homes, and shops and businesses. So, spare me… please.

Audience:

Spare us! Spare us!

Dr. Ridpath:

This is, an… exercise in Orwellian language. I’ve spent over a year studying the evolution of the concept of man’s rights, I went to lengths to explain in my remarks tonight, that the principle of rights is, in essence, a principle which acknowledges that each man is an end in himself, and must be morally regarded as being an end in himself, and therefore must be treated by others voluntarily through trade and through contract, and never through the use of force. To say that property rights can lead to oppression, Statism, Nazism, is just totally contradictory and just ignores everything we have been saying tonight. And as a matter of fact, I must comment that Dr. Vickers said that she wasn’t very happy with the ethics she was… kept hearing from this side of the platform. Well, I want to say that I wish I had heard an ethic coming from the other side of the platform. But I never did. I never did hear one word why it is that I, as an individual, must be forced to live my life for anybody else. I never heard that justified in the whole evening. And I’m sad to say, therefore, I think they failed to fulfill the demands of the debate.

Dr. Peikoff:

Is this the last one?

Moderator:

This is the last question.

Questioner #11:

I’d just like to say that people voted for Hitler. And also, the thing about wealth is that, yes, it’s very true that it’s hard to earn wealth, but it’s also more true that it’s harder to hang onto it once you’ve earned it.

I’d like to ask Dr. Caplan if he believes that the State is responsible for creating wealth and for distributing it… then why didn’t some State, three hundred years ago, create a law that said we’re going to build everybody cars and give them insulated homes? Or, as a matter of fact, why don’t Third World countries do that today? Just decree a law that says we’re going to create all this wealth to distribute.

Dr. Vickers asked the question, why do the poor stay poor? and a large hush fell over the crowd. I’d just like to say that if there is any amount of freedom in the country, and this is the key, the amount of freedom in a country… then the poor stay poor because they earn it.

Moderator:

Uh…

Questioner #11:

The… one thing the socialists never answer is who’s going to pay the deficits, and the other point I’d like to make is…

Moderator:

You’re not supposed to be answering the speaker’s questions, they’re supposed to be answering yours.

Questioner #11:

In Canada we already have lost fifty percent of our freedom, because when you are allowed to be taxed at a rate of fifty percent on your personal income, money is the only commodity which allows you to buy your freedom.

Moderator:

Okay, let’s have the question, come on!

Questioner #11:

If you’re taxed then you’ve lost that amount of freedom.

Moderator:

Let’s have the question.

Questioner #11:

That’s it. Thank you.

Moderator:

Ah!

Questioner #11:

My question was: will Dr. Caplan please explain why states just don’t create… decree laws that create wealth?

Dr. Caplan:

Well, of course it’s, uh… it’s uh… Professor Ridpath who’s an economist, and I guess…

Audience:

Louder!

Dr. Caplan:

…and I suppose something about inflation and the false creation of extra money has something to do with it, but that’s not the serious answer at all. The serious answer is that western capitalism grew up through the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and much of the twentieth century by being able to batten on and feed off the countries you’re talking about, you see? They manage to make us rich by making that Third World even poorer than it was. And what that… and the real problem… and the real problem, you see, of that Third World, is it now has no one to exploit, as we exploited them.

Now, I… I want… I want, I want to make an offer to this, uh, to this generous and open-minded audience. I want you to send me your names, and I will send you booklists, dozens and dozens of pages long, of books written by very serious people, not necessarily crazy as Jill and I are, who will tell you that what I said is right. And that’s a serious offer, and if you will write me, I will send you the books, and if you will read it you will see that I am right, but you won’t write me and you won’t read the books because you don’t want to know anything other than what you believe.

Dr. Peikoff:

Well, the socialist side, to the bitter end, insists that wealth is achieved by robbery rather than by creation. And the question becomes, where did it originally come from? Now when they landed on this continent, there were not skyscrapers, there was no wealth, it was completely barren. You cannot possibly hold in your mind the idea that there’s a fixed amount of wealth. There’s like a dozen eggs or ten trillion, whatever, and whoever… got some… got it by taking it of the common pot, because the overwhelming majority of what we have, everything beyond grabbing a piece of fruit that falls off a tree, had to be created by somebody’s thought and effort. To ascribe wealth to exploitation is entirely to deny the crucial fact: wealth is a product of the human mind. The poor, in those countries which are poor, and which are endemically poor are so, not because there is anything wrong with them, but because their social system is what ours is becoming. It thwarts, inhibits and prevents the exercise of the individual, of creativity, of the entrepreneur and the result is they do an unthinking routine, century after century. If you really were concerned about the Third World, and you wanted them to become very wealthy, I would say let American investment go there, and you would suddenly see… that would be… that would be the most humanitarian thing you could do…

Audience Member:

No!

Dr. Peikoff:

…because that would, that would develop those countries… and would spread the wealth around but if you close them out, if you keep it a preserve of simply the backward and the dictatorial, they’re going to be poor forever!

Moderator:

Thank you very much. No, no, I’m afraid…

Questioner #12:

Very very short.

Moderator:

No, I’m afraid that’s it, or I’m gonna lose the panel. I think we had a good discussion tonight. Lots of thought to chew on and just the right amount of nastiness. I’d like to thank the panelists on your behalf. I’d like to thank the audience for its enthusiasm. And I’d like to say that, we mentioned Nineteen Eighty-Four at the beginning of the discussion, one of the reasons why, I guess, we’re not living in Nineteen Eighty-Four, is the type of discussion that we’ve had tonight. Thank you very much, and I think there are some presentations. And I would like to thank Sandy Shaw for giving us this evening.

[ The entire debate, with subtitles, can be viewed on YouTube. ]

 

 

 

 

 

From → DEBATE

One Comment
  1. This is what I heard at the debate.

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