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What it’s like to debate socialists: a reflection

On 20 May 2016, Generation Liberty, in conjunction with the Melbourne University Freedom Society, took on the Socialist Alternative at the University of Melbourne in The Great Debate: Capitalism v. Socialism. This debate was repeated at Monash University. The following is a reflection from John Hajek, campus coordinator and debater, on debating socialists.

Given the abject failure of socialism to anyone even slightly literate in history or economics, it was only a question of which kind of intellectual slipperiness the Socialist Alternative would end up using.

It turns out that strategy is essentially this: reel off a list of bad things, only some of which are true, blame them all on the free market while providing not even a tenuous link between the two, and then go to no effort to prove that things would be improved by massacring the bourgeoisie and establishing a Trotskyist paradise.


The Great Debate: Capitalism v. Socialism, University of Melbo…Last week we, with the Melbourne University Freedom Society – MUFS, took on the Socialist Alternative at the University of Melbourne:

Posted by Generation Liberty on Wednesday, 13 April 2016


Meanwhile, claim to be defending the poor while blatantly showing off your sheer sense of entitlement.

One of their debaters remarked, ignoring his position as one of the most privileged people in human history, that under capitalism the super-rich accumulate all the wealth while “the rest of us are deprived of practically everything.”  One of his ideological fellow travellers lodged a similar complaint against the economic freedom, only to conclude her remarks and revert immediately to fiddling on her iPhone.

In a similar vein, when the floor was opened for audience comments, a young Marxist decried the fact you cannot access private jets or super-yachts on an average Australian wage of about $70,000. It seems they have never stopped to consider how many societies today, or ever, have enjoyed an average income of $70,000. There is a pun that aptly describes socialists like this: irony deficient.

What also amazed me was the total un-falsifiability of the Socialist Alternative’s case, which should be a red flag (no pun intended) for a cultish, self-reinforcing and illiterate worldview.

Essentially, in their view, every single country, in history and today, is capitalist. The United States is capitalist, as is Venezuela, and as was, you may be surprised to hear, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

This means, comrade, that while you might have naively thought that the economic chaos, grinding poverty and soul-destroying misery of the Soviet Union, Mao’s China or modern-day Venezuela might have something to do with price controls or Mises’ Problem of Economic Calculation or some other kind of voodoo economics, with just a bit of cognitive dissonance and a helping of intellectual dishonesty they can in fact be blamed on—guess what—capitalism.

It is interesting to note, however, that given that they seem to think that the Soviet Union was a pre-eminent example of what they spuriously define as capitalism—a system whereby a tiny group at the top exploits the masses at the bottom—they must also think that such exploitation can very easily arise without private ownership of the means of production (the actual definition of capitalism for anyone who is interested). Whence, therefore, their absolute hatred for private property? It beats me.

Lastly (and most fatally), they went to absolutely no effort to respond to perhaps the most sweeping and devastating critique that one could level against socialism: the aforementioned Misesian problem of calculation, that points out the impossibility of efficient resource allocation without market prices that only a decentralised system of profit and loss can provide.

To fulminate endlessly about poverty and deprivation, while apparently unaware that both are at an all-time low, while being able to point to no link between these scourges and capitalism, while not being remotely aware of the most powerful critique of socialism, is simply irresponsible.

You can watch the full debate at the University of Melbourne here:

John Hajek

John Hajek is the IPA Campus Coordinator at the University of Melbourne.

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