A Marxian Case for Capitalism

The question of how to address poverty in the United States is complicated. Steven Horwitz, chair of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University, and Jeffrey Reiman, professor of philosophy and religion at American University, debate the level of government assistance that should be given to help the poor.

In this clip from the full debate, Prof. Reiman answers Prof. Horwitz’s question about the role he sees for markets in addressing the poor. Prof. Reiman says he is a believer in capitalism and a believer in free markets. He finds that capitalism has worked well to raise the general standard of living for the poor in the United States and elsewhere in the world. He has even written a book titled, A Marxian Case for Capitalism. But he suggests that these gains are general and that more should be done for the individuals who are struggling in our country. Prof. Reiman also argues that the current system has degraded the dignity of many of the poor and that there are many problems that stem from bad government programs. But, he says, he does not favor abolishing the role of government dogmatically.

Prof. Horwitz responds that the question of reducing government is not so much a dogmatic question as it is an empirical one. Has government worked at these things? Can it solve these problems? Prof. Reiman argues that perhaps the results are mixed. What do you think? Watch the full debate for more.


  1. Lee Jamison

    The principle question here is “How do we express collectively a desire that people do not individually suffer unjustly?” When I examine this question the key points are obviously the notions of individual and collective interests and the notion “justice”.

    What we are REALLY asking is “How can I conform collective action to my individual ideas of justice?” or “How can I make society do what I want?” If we really want to understand this issue we really need to focus on the underlying assumptions inherent in these questions.
    *Does not the idea of steering collective action require an assumption that “my” values are superior to values I perceive to prevail collectively?
    *Must “collective” action inherently preclude the expression of other value sets?
    *Is it possible that the expression of many value sets provides resources which would be precluded by the imposition of few value sets?
    * Are compromises possible between the expression of one global value set and the expression of an infinite diffusion of value sets?

  2. Alex Moscoso

    Too short of a video, not much detail. However, I would like to mention that even if there was less government intervening in trying to "solve" poverty, it wouldn’t happen politically in an abrupt manner. Therefore a compromise needs to take its place. I would suggest Milton Friedman’s Negative Income Tax.

  3. Chocolate Thunder

    I’m really curious as to how one can have a "Marxian Case for Capitalism," as the Marxian definition of capitalism is one where the economic system is organized for the benefit of the capitalists, where large corporations are given benefits by the state. Thus, a Marxian definition of capitalism =/= free markets.

  4. GreedyCapitalistPig

    Great example of answering the question without answering the question. I notice that anytime you ask a question with a very obvious answer, the way to dodge the questions is to say "Well, that’s really too complex for us me to explain right now." How do you nail Socialist/Marxists to the wall on topics like these?

  5. ndvo

    It doesn’t matter if we call it "right" or "entitlement", if someone gives money to another person in exchange of nothing, it is charity. It is not more dignifying to lie saying: "you deserve it because you were born".

    Someone who depends on charity should not be ashamed for this unless it is due to a mistake of his. If someone is ashamed, the solution is not to lie, it is to fix whatever the situation is…

    It is a very dangerous thing to call charity something evil because it says to the receiver that he is dependent, while calling government charity something good because it lies to the receiver saying he is entitled. Government charity is simply charity with other people’s money that removes from society the virtues of both givers and receivers: givers are no longer willing and receivers are no longer humble.

  6. Hunter Markson

    While I am a devout believer in the free enterprise system, I believe that we should listen to the concerns of the left and try to word our arguments to show how market capitalism helps solve the problems they bring up

  7. Jake Andrews

    There would be value in this as the liberal view of economics is very static, and by looking at Elizabeth warren, you can tell they are frustrated, though not by us per se, but rather their lack of economics knowledge

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