The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

That Democratic Socialism is a good System

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/16/2016 Category: Economics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 961 times Debate No: 97060
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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You comment that you are a "proud democratic socialist". Yet, there is really no reason to be proud. Democratic Socialism is based on the belief in a Socialist economic system, and a democratic governmental system. Yet these two systems are diametrically opposed.

Democracy is founded on key beleifs of Liberty and freedom, as well as the chance to choose the country's leaders by winning a majority of voters over, or electoral college/seat votes. A true democracy is founded upon the ideology of freedom, whether that be freedom of the press, or freedom of speech. There is also freedom of choice, what to do, and what to spend your money on.

Socialism however, is a sinister, insidious system in which the state possesses all the land and property, and levels of private ownership are very low. There is very little freedom as to what you receive, and what types of good you can use.

As we can see, these two are polar opposites, and it is quite frankly, laughable that anyone would invent a term in which they both coexist in the same system of government. Democratic socialism will not work, because you cannot isolate the economic system from the governmental system. The economy controls the people and the government in a certain manner, the people control the economy and government in another, and the government controls the economy and the people in another way. To try and split the economy from this loop is impossible. You may say that it won't be split, but a democratic government and people cannot work closely with a socialist economy.

The true partner to a democratic government, is a capitalist economic system. A capitalist system allows the same level of freedom in our economic choices as our day to day ones. A capitalist economic system is open to everyone, and yet, while only a few percent will succeed in it, it is better than the socialist system where the doors are closed to everyone, and none can succeed. A socialist system fails everybody, while at least a capitalist system succeeds for some. The only path to success in a socialist system is through government, which is an aberration of the so called 'democratic' system.


I want to begin by thanking the Con for challenging me to this debate and I look forward to a cordial, interesting and education debate.

The Con presents Democratic socialism as an oxymoron, however, he does this in a way which simply does not accurately represent what Democratic Socialism is. He states that Socialism is a "sinister, insidious system in which the state possesses all the land and property, and levels of private ownership are very low." This is a disingenuous presentation of my position and the Con is trying to strawman me into defending a position I do not hold. I do not believe that the government should own the means of production, and run the economy as a command economy. While I do support the nationalization of certain things in the United States (such as private highways, railways, airports, seaports, electricity, water, and the Federal Reserve), I do believe that we should still have a market system but we should abolish current ownership structure of a single owner who controls the wealth generated by a particular enterprise without generating any wealth themselves. Rather I believe that enterprises should be socially owned by their employees and run in a democratic manner, particularly in the form of worker-owned cooperatives.

The largest socialist organization in the United States, Democratic Socialists of America, of which I am a member, answers the criticism leveled by the Con by stating:

"Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.

Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.

Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods."

This represents an identical, albeit better elaborated, position to mine.
The con claims that the people must control the economy in order to control the government, and vice versa, and I agree. However, this must be controlled by ALL the people. Democracy is a system in which all the people control the government, and thus in order for the economy to be controlled by the people it must be controlled democratically, and this is what I advocate. Capitalism is a system in which enterprises and the means of production are owned privately in the form of corporations, which are in turn owned by select individuals, rather than by the employees who create the wealth in society.

In his description of democracy, the con is correct that democracy is based on the idea of freedom, however, it is also founded on the idea of equality, the idea that no man should have power over another and that authority derives its power from the consent of the governed.
Democratic Socialists hold that freedom can only exist if there is equality in society and that no one is ordained by birth or social status as having greater power, be it economic, social or political than another. When this is the case, we find that "freedom" is nothing more than privilege with one person being able to exercise more influence over society than another. As Capitalism is a system which inevitably results in mass inequality, as seen in many countries such as the Untied States. The con concedes this point, when he acknowledges that capitalism may not succeed for many, it does succeed for some.
The result of this mass inequality in wealth is that fewer people, ie the wealthy, exercising control over the government, rather than the people. We already see this in the United States, as demonstrated by a study from Princeton University which found that "Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence." This is not a democracy. When a select few control the power in society, this is known as oligarchy.

As we can see, capitalism is not the "true partner" to a democratic government that the con claims it is. The true partner to a democratic government is a democratic economy.

Finally, the last paragraph of his argument, the con claims that the socialism "fails everyone" and then claims that socialism can only succeed through the government. This is a complete contradiction which undermines the entire point the con is trying to make.

Debate Round No. 1


I too would like to thank the Pro for agreeing to this debate. I too look forward to an interesting debate.

In his first paragraph, the Pro has stated that we should abolish the current ownership structure of today's corporations. There are several issues with this, the first one being the implementation. Will you make it a law that an enterprise cannot be owned by an individual, or that all workers in a company must own a particular proportion of the company? That is the first issue, that the current multinationals stock must be dispersed among workers. Do you propose that we just take trillions of dollars of stock away from company owners? And beat in mind that these aren't just the one percent, plenty of middle class citizens have thousands of dollars each in shares and stocks.
The second issue with that proposal, is that it offers no incentive for a company to ever be set up. In every successful company, there has always been somebody, or a small group of people behind it, who have a vision of what their company will one day be. To say to all the entrepreneurs and visionaries that their company will be taken away from them, as well as control over the company, would be catastrophic. Why would somebody with a great idea set up a company, if they know that as soon as it expands, it will be run in a 'democratic manner', that is, all control will be ceded to the workers. The workers of the company aren't the ones with the long term vision, that resides with the founder and owner.

The statement from the Democratic Socilaists of America states that it supports, 'as much decentralisation as possible', and state ownership of the steel and energy industries. You say that you agree with what they say, however, I would like to point out some flaws in their statement. Decentralisation as I have highlighted above, is a huge practical challenge, and will ultimately end in disaster. The very idea of putting the steel and energy industries into state hands is preposterous, as these industries have grown out of economic freedom. The beginning of capitalism, the industrial era, was founded upon manufacturing and energy production. The energy and steel industries are perhaps the largest, and most well established industries in the world, and should stay that way. I do believe that the energy industry is about to undergo a transition into renewable energy, which I strongly believe should happen. This will not occur under government ownership. Governments cannot turn an industry around like companies do, governments are not proponents of change. Governments have no incentive to run an industry well, but executives do.

You say that democratic freedom can only occur in an equal society. Equality could be defined in two ways, equality of opportunity, and equality of outcome. I would like you to further elaborate upon which type of equality you believe in before I respond to your point, as I don't want to make any assumptions.

The study that the Pro quotes from Princeton states that larger entities have larger sway. I see no problem with a big business having more sway than 'the average citizen', as a big business has more sway over people's lives, with the price of its products, and the people it employs. I believe that in America, you have a chain called Wal-Mart. This company employs hundreds of thousands of people, and I think that it should have far more sway over politics and government than citizens. It employs hundreds of thousands, and tens of millions of people shop there.
There is no problem with the so called 'corporate interests' in government, as these corporate interests represent hundreds of millions of people.

I did make an error in the final paragraph by not further explaining my argument. My case is that socialism fails everyone but the extremely small number who work in the government, who hold the ultimate power. Now that is an ultimate 'oligarchy' if I ever heard of one, an incredibly small number, perhaps only a few dozen, controlling the entire governmental and economic system of a nation. That is an oligarchy. Socialism fails everybody else, and it is therefore not the right system to use.

Another problem with socialism and democratic socialism, is that despite the attempts to empower workers, it doesn't give them any actual incentive to work. A guaranteed equal system provides no reason to work, we would be left with a system where few people work, and those that do recieve the same as those that don't.


As to the issue of implementation, the con is justified in asking this question, as this is an issue which has divided the socialist movement for decades. Those of us call ourselves democratic socialists advocate a gradual reformist approach to socialism rather than a revolutionary approach to achieving our goals. We would not ban private ownership, rather we would institute structural reforms which favor social ownership and gradually move away from capitalism. Policies to achieve this end would laws giving workers more collective bargaining rights and power within their workplaces, providing funds for workers who want to purchase their workplace from private owners if their workplace is about to be sold or closed down, nationalizing businesses which are about to collapse and then handing them over to the workers of that business, organizing unemployed workers into worker co-ops to provide them with employment, etc. And while I do not believe that we will see the complete abolition of capitalism or corporations in my lifetime, I believe that steps can, should and must be taken to transition our economy and our society away from capitalism and towards democratic socialism.
The Con brings up the idea of stock ownership of enterprises, however, this is in no way related to what is being discussed. An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is where a trust holds stocks of a company on the behalf of the employees, however, the employees themselves do not own the company, and there is no democratic system of management. What we propose replacing private corporations with Worker Cooperatives. Co-ops are based on the idea of one worker, one vote, and are effectively an extension of democracy from the political realm to the economy.

The Con states that it is unfair to take companies from entrepreneurs and "visionaries." There are two problems with this notion. First, the con's belief rests upon the idea that the power which business owners have over their workers is justified solely by the fact that they started the business, however, simply starting the business does not justify their power. Power derives from the consent of the governed, and in the case of a business, this means the employees of that business. Secondly, social ownership is not "taking" a business from the person or persons who started that business, it is simply expanding the ownership of that company. As long as the founder of that business works for it or is a member of the co-op, they will still be an owner alongside every other member.
The next claim which is made is that no one would start a business under democratic socialism, however, this is simply illogical. Businesses are started to fulfill some demand which is not being met. People will always be developing new products and services, or there will be some demand in the community which is not being supplied, and thus people will still start businesses to fulfill the demand.

In his critique of the statement from DSA, the Con makes two points. The first point is that decentralization is "impractical". The Con claims this was addressed earlier in the argument, however, he never did make any comment concerning decentralization and thus it has gone conceded. The second point he makes is that nationalizing steel and energy would be "preposterous" because these industries "grew out of economic freedom". In reality, both steel and energy have been successfully nationalized all over the world. In the UK steel was nationalized for much of the second half of the 20th Century, and numerous countries have nationalized their energy sectors (both extraction and electricity), including India, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Norway. The con claims that nationalizing the energy sector and electrical infrastructure would prevent a transition to renewable energy, however, this is simply not supported by the facts. Energy and power companies do not have any incentive to transition to alternative energy sources as fossil fuels are more profitable. When nationalized, or municipalized (the local version of nationalization) energy companies would no longer be concerned with maximizing profits and would lose its incentive for retaining fossil fuels. This was the case in Hamburg, Germany, and many other towns and villages across the country. What this has allowed them to do is transition away from fossil fuels and pursue clean energy.

The issue of opportunity vs. outcome is a complex philosophical issue that I would rather not engage in. By widdling it down to this dichotomy we over simplify the issue of equality. Equal opportunities may sound nice and they are a good thing, people should have the same opportunities as one another, however in our society in which there is mass inequality of income and disparities among race, class, gender, etc., equal opportunity is simply impossible. Equal opportunities cannot exist if there is an unequal distribution of resources. Effectively I do believe in equal opportunity, however until we overcome existing inequalities this is simply impossible.

In his response to the Princeton Study I cited in my first round argument, the con misinterprets what the study actually says. The study found that the wealthy and special interests groups representing business owners exercise more influence over government policy than the majority of Americans. In other words, even if nearly every American was against something, that wouldn't have any impact on that policy being passed if it was supported by the wealthy and corporate interests. It does not say that larger entities have larger sway, in fact, it found the opposite was the case.
The con also misunderstands what these corporate interests actually represent. These companies are not working to make policies which benefit their workers, they are working to make policies which help corporations maximize profits. The con cites the example of Walmart. However rather than lobbying for policies which benefit workers, such as increasing the minimum wage, paid maternity leave, and increased collective bargaining rights, Walmart has lobbied against laws which would implement these policies and has lobbied instead to reduce workers rights protections and corporate taxes. It also does not represent its consumers and works to lobby against consumer protection laws.

The con then corrects his earlier statement, which I pointed out the internal contradiction of. He says that socialism benefits the government and not the people, however, this is simply illogical given that I do not advocate the state control of the economy.

In his final paragraph the con contradicts an earlier statement by claiming that socialism is a system of equal outcome. He earlier went out of his way to ask for clarification of this issue, however as this is a complete contradiction of his earlier statement, and is nothing more than a strawman argument, it should be disregarded.;
Debate Round No. 2


The Pro has stated that he would implement a system of one worker, one vote in companies. There are several issues with this, but first I will address the issues that he has with my stating that it is unfair to take companies from entrepreneurs and visionaries. He begins by stating that my belief is, 'that the power which business owner have over their workers is justified solely by the fact that they started the business'. And he would be absolutely right to say so. He also states that, 'power is derived from the consent of the governed' and this is also true. When workers sign up to a job, they become the governed, and they have consented to be so by signing a contract. The power that owners gain is justified by the fact that the started the business, because in many cases they provide hundreds of jobs to the communities in which they reside. The workers owe a debt of gratitude to the owner for providing them with a job. Governments are also in debt to businesses, as they employ billions of people accross the world, and keep the economy afloat.
The pro states that, "social ownership is not taking a business form the person or persons who started that business, it is simply expanding the ownership of that company". This makes absolutely no sense. Let us imagine that someone has set up a company, and owns 100% of the stock. To 'expand the ownership' can only involve taking stock from them, leaving them with a lower proportion of the stock than what they started with. It's like having $100. If I want some of it, I have to either take some of the money, leaving the initial owner with less, or I make more money, which devalues the money that you have, and leaves you with less money. This is what 'expanding the ownership is' and it is indeed the 'taking' of money from business owners.

The claim that nobody would start a business under democratic socialism is not illogical. People start businesses to make money, and an empty market space is a way for them to do so. People don't start businesses with the intent to fill a market gap, and money is merely a convenient side effect. People go out to make money, and if a need is not being met, then they will meet it to make money. However, under socialism, there will be no money to be made, as they will have to forgo their profits and stocks to the workers, which gives them no incentive to start a company. Ask any businessperson why they started a business, and the answer the majority of them will give, is to make money, not to fill a market hole. The market gap is merely the means to make money, which is the goal.

The Pro brings up several examples of where the steel and energy industries have been nationalised. We can disregard the UK, as the industries were privatised once more as they were not working. Let us look at the examples that the Pro has given: India, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Norway. In India, 21.2% of the population are under the poverty line, and it has a BBB- credit rating, in Mexico, 44.8% of the population are under the poverty line and it too has a BBB- rating. Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world, at 100% in 2015, expected to reach 650% by the end of 2016 and hit 1800% in 2017. Remember that Venezuela was the country which underwent the 'Socialist' movement that you propose early this century. Its debt forms 51.4% of its GDP, and over 80% of its population are below the poverty line. The GDP has shrunk by 5.4%, and has a CCC rating, so we can see what happens when a socialist government takes control of a country.
The Argentinian economy has an inflation rate of 39.1%, and 28.9% of its population live below the poverty line. Inflation has smashed the Bolivian economy since the 1970s, and the nationalisation of their energy industry has not helped. Ecuador has undergone multiple coups and upheavals over the last few decades, and it hardly paints the socialist movement in a glowing light. Brazil is currently undergoing a recession that it has been under since 2014. Norway is the exception on your list of a successful economy, and that is because of its proximity to other European trading partners who are doing incredibly well under a capitalist economy.
The Pro states that energy companies under state ownership would not be concerned about maximising profits, and transition to renewables. He cites the example of Germany. Well, guess what countries with state owned energy companies haven't transitioned to renewables? India, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Norway. And even with non renewable focused companies, they are still barely keeping their heads above the water. The transition to renewables has occurred in Europe because of generous incentives for companies to transition to renewables (which I support), as well as there being a lack of space in Europe for land consuming mines and production plants.

In response to the question of Equal opportunity v equal outcome, the Pro has effectively stated that he will accept equality of outcome until such a time as we can guarantee equality of opportunity. I will leave this issue, as I agree that it is a complex issue that is better served by its own debate.

The Pro has stated that the Princeton study says that even if nearly every single American was against something, it wouldn't have any impact on that policy being passed if it was supported by the wealthy and corporate interests. This is totally untrue, because the politicians do actually want to be elected again! Politicians only support something if a proportion of the population, by no means a majority, supports the proposal, and they can sway another proportion of the population with its success. Politicians aren't silly and illogical, they do have lots to gain out of public popularity.
Indeed the corporate interest wish to make a profit, but what is good for the corporations is ultimately good for its workers. More profits mean expansion of the business, and expansion of the business means more jobs, and more growth in the regional community.

The Pro states that he does not advocate the state control of the economy, however that is precisely what socialism is.
I have provided a definition below in case he has forgotten what his own ideology actually means.

In the Pro's final paragraph, he states that I went out of my way to ask for clarification on the equality issue, and then discussed it. In the paragraph where the Pro rejects my asking on what side of equality he stands, stating that it is a complex philosophical issue he would rather engage in. He then proceeds to spend several sentences discussing it, which is a complete contradiction of his initial statement in the first sentence.


In his defense of the capitalist ownership model, the con claims that business owners are justified in exercising totalitarian control their workers as the workers "consented" to the authority when the signed their contract. The key word here is consent. Consent implies that the decision has been made voluntarily, however in a market system where people must work for a wage in order to afford the basic means by which to live. This means that in order to survive, people must accept a virtual dictatorship in the workplace. If your options are to either submit or starve, then you do not have a real choice.
The next claim made by the con is that business owners are justified in holding absolute authority over their workers as the business owner "created jobs." He further claims businesses and governments should praise business owners for employing people. This demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of basic economics on the part of the con. Jobs are created when an enterprise provides a product which is in demand and when people have enough money to buy said product or service. In order for jobs to be created in a certain industry, there must be demand for that product, this, in turn, increases the demand for labor. Business owners do not arbitrarily decide to create jobs. Moreover, it should be argued that workers, not business owners, should be praised as they are the ones who create the wealth which keeps the economy running.

The con reiterates his claim that businesses would not be started in a democratic socialist society because "...there will be no money to be made, as they (entrepreurs) will have to forgo their profits and stocks to the workers..." This is a complete misrepresentation of how a worker co-op works. Worker co-ops, the main form of social ownership which I call for, profits ared distributed in a manner derived from the ammount of labor performed. To claim no one would make money is simply false, the only difference is that the money would be made by all the workers, rather than the single owner or board of directors.

On the issue of nationalization, the con first claims that the example of British Steel should be disregarded, as British Steel was privatized in 1988, and he claims that this was because it was "not working." This is false. While British Steel had been in a production slump, at the end of the 1970s, by 1985 British steel production had recovered. The reason Thatcher privatized British Steel was to reduce the power that the steel workers union had over the government.
The con then goes on to point out various economic issues in other nations which have nationalized industries, however he does not give any reason or evidence as to how these various economic issues are linked to nationalization. He points out how many of these nations have high levels of poverty, however all of the nations he highlights this in are developing nations, in the so-called "third world." Many of these nations have economies which are centered around oil, and globally, oil-based economies are in recession due to the oversaturation of the oil market which began in 2014, and recently accelerated this year. This is the reason for the economic crisis in Venezuela, a nation in which oil makes up 96% of oil exports. The con ignores this however, and blames the crisis on socialism, even though economists are in agreement that the crisis is the result of low oil prices. This is identical to the situation in Brazil.
In the case of Argentina, the high inflation is the result of rapid economic growth across the board, in an attempt to replicate the growth seen in China.
On Bolivia, the Con claims that "Inflation has smashed the economy...since the 1970s." While inflation was a major hinderance to development for many years, it should be noted that the Con's own source (Wikipedia) also state "...recent years the fundamentals of its economy have showed unexpected improvement, leading major credit rating agencies to upgrade Bolivia's economic rating in 2010." It also pointed out that inflation has come under control ever since President Evo Morales (a socialist) began implementing policies to help curb inflation after he took office in 2006.
He claims Ecuador has undergone coups in the past, however, this is in no way linked to nationalization, as the two are completely unrelated. Furthermore, the last coup d'etat in Argentina was in 1972 and the country has been a functioning democracy since 1979. The socialists, meanwhile, did not come to power until 2006.
He also critiques my claim that nationalization or municipalization of power companies allows for a transition to renewables by pointing out the state-owned OIL companies in the nations previously mentioned had not transitioned to renewables. It would be illogical for an oil company to transition to renewable and so this argument is utter nonsense. The companies being municipalized were electrical providers, not extraction corporations.

The Con claims that the findings of the Princeton study are untrue, as "...the politicians do actually want to be elected again!" This shows that con has completely ignored the entirety of the study which found that politicians will only do what the wealthy and business elites support as they are the ones which finance the campaigns of these politicians. Because of the role that money plays in politics in the US election system, politicians effectively ignore the actual will of the people as money is the number one determining factor in who wins American elections.
Next, the con claims that "...what is good for the corporations is ultimately good for its workers." This is simply nonsense. Policies such as outsourcing, layoffs, pay and benefits cuts, union busting, and price gouging are terrible for workers, yet are wonderful for corporations, as it allows them to maximize their profits. And contrary to the Con's belief, corporations are not altruistic institutions. Corporations will use extra profits to line the pockets of the corporate owners, not benefit local communities. They exist to serve one goal: to make profit and line the pockets of its owners. Workers are simply a means to an end under capitalism.

The Con condescendingly believes that I do not know what soicalism means, and provides me with a definition from Merriam Webster dictionary. The first problem with this is the con seems to believe that I do not know my own ideology, which is simply condescending and offensive. The second issue with this is that the definitions on what I define as socialilsm were clarified in round one, and supported my definition by referencing an actual socialist organization, Democratic Socialists of America. The Con seemed to accept this in round 2 and responded to my actual arguments, however now he is reverting back to his original, incorrect definition of socialism. This is an informal fallacy called "moving the goal posts." This is an attempt to give the con an unfair advantage in the debate and is a clear conduct violation.

Finally, in his fourth paragraph, the con agrees to drop the debate concerning equality of opportunity vs outcome, however in his final paragraph, he attacks my request to drop the argument. He is attempting to blame me for highlighting a strawman and in doing so violates his own agreement to end debate on that topic. This is yet another violation of conduct.
Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by BrendanD19 2 years ago
bojupiter any idea what is going on with this?
Posted by binkshimself 2 years ago
The problem that PRO needs to understand is that it is foolish to assume all the productive capacities of a capitalist system with private property will remain when the incentive structure is drastically changed. This is a common issue with socialists at large. They assume that the capital structure in the country would remain the same even if you completely remove the incentive for individuals to invest in said capital accumulation.

With this foolish assumption, you can then go about deciding how wealth and productivity can be organized (in this case democratically) because you don't have to worry about how it was created. Productive growth is just assumed as some exogenous variable in this ideological model, which unfortunately means ignoring the entire concept of purposeful human action in regards to incentives. People invested and created new productive endeavors because there was an incentive to do so. What incentive exists when immediately after creating such productive endeavor, it can be voted away from you by others?
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