University News

Lotta, Loury debate economic systems

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Socialism and capitalism – the two major economic systems pitted against each other during the Cold War – returned to center stage in a Janus Forum debate last night. An audience of about 80 people gathered to listen as Raymond Lotta, political economist and writer for the journal, Revolution, the self-described voice of the U.S. communist party, advocated socialism, while Glenn Loury, professor of economics, made the case for capitalism.

Speaking first, Lotta characterized “our current capitalist world” as one of unjust wars, imperial conflicts, discrimination and environmental degradation. He said capitalism has three rules – commodify everything, expand or die and achieve global dominance. “It’s an anarchic system that lunges us into crisis,” he said.

“We need a revolution to break the stranglehold,” Lotta said. “Never before has the potential existed for change as much as now.”

Lotta had with him a draft constitution for a “New Socialist Republic in North America,” put forward by the Revolutionary Communist Party. He said the revolution should be based on the “new synthesis of communism” advocated by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, adding he wanted the audience to see past their preconceptions.

“Okay, I said it, the word ‘communism,'” Lotta said. “Many of you are thinking, ‘robotification and tyranny,’ but people think that because they’ve been lied to.” He said a new socialist state would be better able to overcome divisions of class and ethnicity and protect the planet’s ecosystems.

“The kind of society I’m talking about is not a utopia,” Lotta said, concluding his argument.

Loury criticized Lotta’s argument for its numerous “non sequiturs.” He argued that though Lotta identified several flaws with capitalism, socialism is not necessarily the solution. “He has a problem, and that problem is history,” Loury said.

“You have to think about the eradication of poverty, the massive expansion in standards of living, which billions of people on this planet have been able to enjoy,” Loury said. People who have left socialist countries for capitalist countries have “voted with their feet,” he said. “Let’s just say the socialist societies never had an illegal immigration problem.”

Loury also argued that central planning on a large scale is not practical. “Coordinating the actions of hundreds of millions of individuals, each with their own agendas and idiosyncratic information, is a massive coordination problem,” he said. “It is solved by markets, private property and self-interest. All (Lotta) has to offer us is a dream.”

The debate was followed by a question and answer session that lasted over an hour. Members of the audience asked Lotta and Loury about prison overcrowding, criminal trials, human psychology and communist history.

When asked about the financial crisis of 2008, Loury called it a “very bad show all around.” The finance sector should not have been able to extort money from the rest of the country, he said. Lotta said the housing market typified capitalist irrationalism, arguing that basic human needs such as houses should not be commodified and “made the object of investment and speculation.”

  • Perspective

    “Let’s just say the socialist societies never had an illegal immigration problem.”

    And pray, why are all those immigrants coming to our shores? Directly as a result of capitalism as forcefully imposed upon by the old European colonialist expansion and invasion and now by the new empire, the USA. In order to make capital gains to fund and run such a massive country as ours consistently cannot rely on the market alone. It comes, though, from the reliable subjugation of people’s on a socioeconomic level to extract raw basic products for use in manufacturing and industry. In order for that to be profitable, those raw goods must cost considerably less to obtain and transfer than the sale of those goods when passed on to the consumer. In other words, the US made sure countries like Chile, Guatamala,El Salvador, etc did not choose any other style of government that would not be friendly to its business interests or inother words socialism and communism. Britain did the same with India,China,Burma,etc. in short, Professor Loury is being either naive or coy if he thinks it is merely the incompetence of other non capitalistic governments that has caused their citizens to flock to our nation. This would be analogous to saying that by the US in by engaging in slavery “saved” those who would have otherwise died from the inhospitability of their own lands. That is a disgraceful warping of history from, yet again, an interpretation that seeks to show causation as effect which it clearly is not. Oh and by the way, why are the many nations in the African continent perceived by many as doing so poorly? Perhaps we should ask Britian, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, and perhaps ourselves in the US to muster the courage to examine how well our little escapades in capitalism have worked out in Africa