The Union denounced capitalism last week, as a small majority voted in favor of the motion “capitalism has failed the poor”.
Co-founder of Big Society Capital and Ex-Union President Sir Ronald Cohen opened proceedings with a speech highlighting the power of capitalism as a method of economic growth, but deriding its failure to successfully deal with social issues.
Cohen suggested that we are now at the threshold of a necessary revolution where a form of responsible capitalism, with an entrepreneurial desire to do things for others at its centre, must evolve. “The poor do not want benefits or charity,” he concluded, “they want a chance and capitalism has not given it to them.”
Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth led the opposition by claiming that capitalism would only have failed the poor if it had failed to move the left hand side of the bell curve, something he claims it has never failed at since it was first used centuries ago as a solution to the supply and demand issues caused by the Black Death.
However, his position was countered by General Secretary of the Socialist Party Peter Taaffe, who replied that capitalism had failed society in general, as it is a system based on the “exploitation of the working class”. Taaffe likened attempts to fix the current situation with capitalism to insanity, defining insanity with Einstein as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
The debate came at a time when all the main political party leaders are discussing the future of capitalism following the recession.
Dr Marsden Pirie said he wished the motion to be amended to “capitalism is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened”, on the grounds that it “taught us how to create wealth”, which can be used to help the poor. This view was later echoed by The Rt Hon Lord Grantley who said that bad government has failed the poor, not capitalism.
Brasenose College student Scott Ralston said the opposition had a skewed view of what it is like to be poor; explaining that the consumerism that comes with capitalism trapped the poor in a system of political apathy from which they cannot escape.
The concluding speaker for the proposition Michael Brindle QC said that capitalism’s failure was “obvious”, agreeing with Damien O’Connor that the trickledown theory of economics in the financial sector is “the rich pissing on the poor”.
The debate was concluded by Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, elected in 2010, who said that family breakdown, the welfare state and unchecked immigration were some of the reasons that the poor were trapped and that these issues were the fault of previous governments, not capitalism.