The Instigator
Con (against)
3 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Capitalism Encourages Freedom

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/15/2015 Category: Economics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 608 times Debate No: 69876
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




This argument is over the relation of Capitalism and freedom, with myself believing that capitalism hinders freedom. This first round is to be for accepting the debate, and to clarify certain points:
1. This debate is not necessarily an argument for or against capitalism, merely its role in human freedom (for instance, you could believe that capitalism can result in war and dictatorship, but support it due to your belief in its inevitability or opposition to other economic models, hence being on my position despite supporting capitalism).
2. Capitalism does not necessarily imply a free-market, laissez faire model, simply an economic system based on at least some private ownership of the means of production. One could enter this debate on the "capitalism encourages freedom" side as a European-style social democrat favoring a strong public sector just as much as one could as a right-libertarian or tea-partyist.

May the best debater win!


I'm pleased to accept this debate, and look forward to an enlightening discussion.

I would also propose that we should clarify the definition of "freedom" for purposes of this debate. Since that you and I both lean to the left, I am happy to accept a definition of freedom that includes both negative political right (speech, assembly, etc. without threat of force or coercion) and the positive liberty to conditions which allow individuals to be self-sufficient or to achieve self-realization. I also accept that restraints on and threats to both positive and negative freedom may arise from the government or from private actors.

Under the wording of the resolution, however, I need not demonstrate that capitalism encourages all forms of freedom, or the different forms of freedom equally. I would suggest that I have the burden instead to show that capitalism encourages at least some of the forms of freedom contained within the broad social concept of "freedom" discussed above.

Again, thank you for this debate -- I'm looking forward to the discussion!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting my debate. I look forward to a thought-provoking discussion, and appreciate that you have clarified the different forms of freedom, being "positive" or "negative." I shall thereby attempt to outline how capitalism can deprive people of both positive and negative freedom, which I shall define as follows:

Negative Freedom: Freedom from government interference, specifically for purposes of this debate freedom from government interference in the "civic" sphere, that is, everything a citizen does outside of employment, such as speech and religion.

Positive Freedom: Freedom to reach one's "full potential (that is, their highest possible social station)" based off of one's social merit regardless of socioeconomic factors. This implies freedom from poverty, employment-based discrimination, and even survival.
I would recommend that you consult the essay below in the citations if you would like a good summary of positive and negative liberty. (1)
So let the debate begin!
Negative Freedom
It is a classic myth that deregulation of the economy, or rather, making it more capitalistic (which for the purpose of this debate means encouraging private ownership) by nature simply creates more social freedom. This is not how the political spectrum works, and I point to two real-world examples to explain how capitalism is not always compatible with negative freedom (and so far by negative freedom I mean as in the Western, "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" sense, specifically where the document outlines freedom of speech, press, and religion).
Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern Nation that has grown extremely wealthy from capitalist extraction and sale of its vast oil reserves. While the nation is very Muslim and as such its inhabitants generally reject excessive material wealth (one of the pillars if Islam is to donate a portion of one's wealth to the poor), and while also maintaining a very state-involved economy, it still derives its wealth from foreign demand for oil, specifically foreign demand for oil from countries whose governments do not restrict free trade against despotic nations. Saudi Arabia has one of the world's worst human rights records, with women being treated as the property of their husbands and dissidents often jailed. (2) While women are now slowly gaining the right to work in retail as a result of the countries exposure to foreign market, such a liberalization is actually quite unimpressive, as it simply supplies the nation's industry with cheaper labor (a women would presumably be less well paid than men, and also have to endure more difficulties in their employment).
Chile from 1973 to 1990 was a brutal dictatorship under the authoritarian Augusto Pinochet (3) that arrested about 130,000 dissidents, many of whom were tortured. One of the more notable actions of his regime were the economic liberalizations his government underwent on the advice of the "Chicago Boys," a group of mostly Chilean economists educated under Milton Friedman at the university of Chicago. While the economy of Chile soared as many formerly state-controlled industries were nationalized save for the mining company Codelco. However, freedom did not begin to creep into Chile until the controversial 1980 referendum that reduced Pinochet from dictator to President (albeit the presidency was one of significant power). He may have remained in power even longer had he managed to garner another 8 years of presidency in the subsequent 1988 referendum, but his plans were thwarted when his government actually admitted his defeat in the referendum.
Oppressive military action has often resulted from capitalism, with many nations having gone to war over resources and industrial interests. For example, the American invasion and occupation of Haiti (4) from 1915 to 1934 was primarily over economic reasons, with the United States fearing that Germany was gaining too strong of an economic foothold in Haiti that would open the gates to their domination of the West Indies. The resulting invasion and occupation, while actually improving the nation's economy (5), effectively made the country a protectorate of the United States, with the US seizing control of the country's finances and forcing the Haitian legislature to elect a new pro-American president, Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, who was dismissed in 1922 by the Woodrow Wilson administration in favor of another pro-american president, Louis Borno, an admirer of Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini. While the nation's infrastructure and education improved considerably under Borno, with Port-au-Prince becoming the first Latin American city to have phone service with automatic dialing, he refused to organize free elections, instead being appointed by a council of state made up entirely of those that were in turn appointed by him. The American government eventually did depose him, and even ended the occupation of Haiti (however this was mostly due to the great depression, which convinced FDR's administration to withdraw due to its cost), but did nothing except comment on how "Hitlerian" the administration of Stenio Vincent (the later president of Haiti) was.

Positive Freedom
While most argue that positive freedom can be achieved through social insurance programs within a capitalist system, the very nature of private employment tends to be antithetical to this. Capitalism for one thing, by nature of it being maintained by private employment (that is, employment of workers by privately owned entities), forces workers to produce goods not for themselves so that they could sell them and thus advance in the world according to the quality and necessity of their work, as envisioned by Adam Smith and Ricardo in their respective economic treatises, but rather for private capitalists. Workers are then paid not according to their real talent (they can never be paid at exactly the full amount of their labor, otherwise the business would not profit), but rather how much their employer chooses to pay them, which fluctuates according to the unpredictability of the market. When the economy is good, wages are high, when it is bad, wages are low. This fluctuation occurs regardless of any change in the "merit" of a worker's labor.
Capitalism also is unable to fully regulate the acquirement of unearned income, i.e. inheritance, hence allowing some to posses more positive freedom than others, regardless of their true "potential" in society if they were left without such income and could advance only by what they could work for. While many argue that the rich are actually are hardest workers, and hence should be the biggest earners they ignore the fact that many of the world's billionaires didn't work squat to earn their fortunes, and simply inherited their wealth. That is, since about 1 third of the world's billionaires inherited great wealth, while 1 in 8 billionaires gained all of their wealth through inheritance alone (6). It is also debatable how much of the wealth of "self-made" billionaires is even deserved, with late billionaire Steve Jobs having profited off Steve Wozniak's single-handed invention of the Apple I and Apple II computers. Wozniak does still receive a stipend of about $120,000 a year, but this is nothing compared to Jobs' 5.426 million shares in apple (7). It is important than to look at his "humble" salary of $1 a year in a different perspective.
All that, and at the end of the day, one's "full potential" in capitalism is almost never based off of one's true merit, as it is easy simply to take advantage of market factors to achieve one's wealth, or even simply to not consider them at all and merely to succeed based on their silent influence.



I find that I must make an apology rather than an argument. This has been an unexpected work weekend.

If my opponent is willing, I'd be happy if we both skipped this round and continued a substantive debate in subsequent rounds. If not, I'll gladly concede at this point. Whichever approach my opponent would be happiest with would be fine with me.

Again, apologies for the miss.
Debate Round No. 2


That's perfectly fine, and I hope your work week is productive.


It seems at this point I must simply concede, with apologies.

In support of Pro's position, I note simply the anecdotal evidence that capitalism is mostly at fault for my inability to complete my rounds on a timely basis.

I will be interested to see this debate return in the hands of someone better equipped than I at the moment to address its substance. My apologies again to Pro, who proposed an intruiging topic.
Debate Round No. 3


TheGentlemanlyMarxist forfeited this round.


Moving things to their conclusion
Debate Round No. 4




That's a wrap. Vote for Con.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by CASmnl42 1 year ago
Just letting you know that I'm taking my time to post Round 1 in order to have a longer period to develop substantive arguments over the next couple days. Looking forward to the debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro gracefully concedes.