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Dean's Forum Spurs Rich, Compelling Debate

by Dana Trismen '15
February 24, 2015

Does capitalism have a future? This dynamic question narrated the Sixth Annual Dean’s Forum, held by the Adam Smith Society and the Perlmutter Institute for Global Business in the format of a lively debate. 

Dean Bruce Magid, P ’15, opened the event with anecdotal reflections on his time living and working in Latin America and divulged wisdom concerning capitalism in developing countries. The debate teams were led by Professor Stephen Cecchetti, former Economic Adviser and Head of the Monetary and Economic Department at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; and Professor Aldo Musacchio, whose recent book, Reinventing State Capitalism, highlights the corporate governance reforms of state-owned enterprises around the world and examines the pitfalls of such reforms. Team members were assigned specific angles to argue in favor of (regardless of their own personal viewpoints), to effectively illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism. Audience members were asked to vote both before and after the debate on whether the economic system can and will continue to flourish.

On one side of the debate, Professor Cecchetti and his team argued the view that capitalism has no place in society. “The wealthy beneficiaries of the market, the elites of capitalism will work to extinguish competition and protect their place in the system,” Cecchetti explained during the debate. The group commented that as capitalism does not naturally maintain the functions of free markets, what results is immense inequality.

Professor Musacchio and his group counter-argued that “there is no other economic system on earth that has been able to generate rapid economic growth and sustained improvements in living standards like capitalism.”

The flow of arguments and rebuttals continued throughout a lively and engaging debate. Clifford Drake, MA ’16, a member of Professor Cecchetti’s team, suggested that economic disparity will only continue to increase under capitalism. “We are facing a different world than our parents and grandparents. We are facing globalization. We are facing a technological revolution that will make our society excessively unequal and unjust, and frankly immoral, unless we address this disparity,” Drake said. “We need something better, and we need something smarter.”

The opposing team remarked that capitalism can spur innovation, and is capable of self-correcting many of its negative outcomes. “The government can intervene through the common people to re-adjust the mechanisms so that everybody has the same opportunity and access to markets, to capital, and to freedom,” said Carlo Guercia Sammarco, MA ’16.

Both teams addressed real-world situations, examining the effectiveness of economic systems in countries like Sweden and Argentina. By the close of the event, many audience members changed their original vote.

“Activities like this event, where our students engage with real-world issues alongside experienced faculty practitioners, are central to our World Ready mission,” said Dean Magid. “This debate brought knowledge and perspective together in a way where they can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom today to challenges they will face in our world tomorrow.”