Steve Forbes, an economist and editor-in-chief of business magazine Forbes, was met with protests during his campus talk Tuesday where he discussed his book on how capitalism will “save us all.”
UW’s Young Americans for Freedom organization welcomed Forbes, whose lecture focused on the idea of experimentation breeding knowledge and ingenuity, the myth of capitalism being based in greed and the ways capitalism unites people.
Protesters called to action by a Facebook group titled “Capitalism is Violent: Resist Steve Forbes!” also gathered on Bascom Hill Tuesday. Students Coalition for Progress led the opposition to Forbes’ presence on campus.
During his lecture, Forbes emphasized a free market enables experimentation, which breeds knowledge. The incentive to innovate and create new things disappears when the competitive nature of capitalism is removed, Forbes said.
Forbes pointed to changes in the news industry to see this idea in action.
Print newspaper jobs have decreased immensely, he said, and internet publishing jobs have increased at a rapid rate over the years. Changes like these would not take place without a free market, Forbes said.
But Scot McCullough, a UW graduate and member of International Socialist Organization, said at the Bascom Hill protest the idea of capitalism is that production is based on profit rather than need.
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“In a rational world — if we’re thinking about what people need and what humanity needs right now — we don’t need war planes, we don’t need tanks,” McCullough said. “We need busses and trains.”
In his talk, Forbes addressed the notion that capitalism is based on need and said it actually possesses altruistic qualities.
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This flow of money benefits everyone in the long run, Forbes said.
“You may not love your neighbor, but you sure want to sell to your neighbor,” Forbes said.
Forbes said claims that capitalism brings out the worst in people are “exaggerated.” People have “always been doing bad things,” regardless of their society’s economic system.
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Rather, Forbes said, capitalism can actually unite people. Using the example of a restaurant business, Forbes said capitalism encourages restaurant employees, farmers who supply the food and people who manufacture the appliances and equipment to cooperate with one another.
“Everyone is co-dependent and needs to both contribute to, and take from, a system larger than themselves,” Forbes said.
At the demonstration on Bascom Hill, protestors clashed with students who came out in favor of capitalism.
Protesters began chanting, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” and, “fuck white supremacy, this is our university,” after the clash began.
One of the members of the protest and the Black Liberation Action Coalition, Cortez de la Cruz II discussed the alternative of capitalism with Cahleel Copus, a UW sophomore.
While Copus said he personally opposes socialism, he came to the protest to listen to the speakers and engage in conversation.
“We did not come here with a goal,” Copus said. “The conversations that happened were spontaneous.”