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CU Denver hosts “Socialism vs Capitalism” debate

Debate encouraged diversity of thought

“Socialism vs Capitalism” highlights different political ideologies.
Photo: Amanda Blackman · The Sentry

CU Denver students and community members had the opportunity to engage in diversity of thought at the Socialism vs Capitalism debate, hosted by the Steamboat Institute’s Campus Liberty Tour. Notably, CU Regents changed the campus free speech policy last year to allow all speakers for political events on campus so long as there are no security concerns.

Yaron Brook took on Bhaskar Sunkara in this 90-minute debate, with Brook arguing in favor of capitalism, Sunkara in favor of socialism. Brooks is the current Chairman of the Board for the Ayn Rand Institute, as well as the author of Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government. Sunkara is the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin, a magazine voicing socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture. He’s also the author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality

Brook and Sunkara’s national Campus Liberty Tour came to CU Denver through the work of Republican CU Regent Sue Sharkey and her connections with the Steamboat Institute, which “promotes America’s first principles and inspires active involvement in the defense of liberty,” according to their website.

Brook’s arguments stemmed out of the Objectivist thought   — that individual happiness is the moral purpose of life and productive achievement as the noblest activity. Sunkara argued that democracy should not be only in government, but within workplaces and all of society through a socially and democratically owned economy. 

Moderator Hadley Heath Manning posed questions on the topics of healthcare, social inequality, and real-world instances of capitalist nations and socialist nations.

“I don’t care about inequality,” Brooks said when asked about inequality. He explained that in a truly capitalistic society, every individual has the same opportunities, giving everybody the same chance of social mobility. 

“I am less concerned with inequality of income, but more of inequality of power,” Sunkara said. To Sunkara, ownership serves as the creator of power. Socialism, in his view, aims to address the lack of ownership in certain social classes and excess in others.

At the event’s conclusion, moderator Hadley Heath Manning asked audience members to raise their hands if their stance on favoring one economic system over the other had changed during the debate. A swath of the crowd raised their hands, acknowledging their thoughts had shifted.

Regardless of ending stance, students voiced their appreciation of the opportunity to discuss perspectives that are less common on college campuses. Events such as this are meant to encourage students to not only ask questions about political stances, but to respect those of others.

“I’m very interested in different trains of thoughts on campus,” Chris Speciale, a student attending the event, said. “I want to help one another, but I want to be a capitalist. People who want to help one another can do it in capitalism, but they can’t in socialism.”

Other students at CU Denver may disagree with this assessment, as there is a chapter of Democratic Socialists of America on the Auraria campus.

While taking advantage of the University of Colorado’s new free speech policy, events such as this allow students to learn from diverse thinkers.

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