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Category: Capitalism (page 2 of 2)

Debate: Margaret Thatcher Saved Britain

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

Presented with the kind permission of Intelligence Squared.
Special thanks to Ted Maxwell.

The panel debate the motion: Maggie Thatcher saved Britain. Chaired by Martyn Lewis.

Arguing FOR the motion are Charles Moore, Lord Bell and Sir John Nott.

Charles Moore states that, for Maggie Thatcher, politics were the art of the impossible, and that’s why she made such a difference. He notes her affirmation of the principle that aggression had to be defeated in the Falklands War and her individual impact on Anglo-Russian relations. Moore believes that Thatcher embodies, expresses and magnifies the positive attributes of Britishness.

Lord Bell argues that this debate is not about the legacy Thatcher left, but whether she actually saved Britain at the time. He believes that she restored Britons’ pride in their country in a period when it was in decline as a world power, and states that history will reflect that she saved Britain when it was at a crossroads, leaving us a freer and more successful nation.

John Nott defends the policies of Thatcher, claiming that Britain needed a radical leader at that period in its history. In his view, Great Britain was the sick man of Europe and action had to be taken. Despite the unbearable pain of deindustrialisation and unemployment, Nott suggests that Thatcher took necessary steps to restore Britain’s prosperity.

Arguing AGAINST the motion are Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, Billy Bragg, and Diane Abbott MP.

Peregrine Worsthorne admits that he was a great fan of Thatcher’s at the time, but, in reflecting on her legacy, he has no alternative but to oppose the motion. He believes that Thatcher destroyed the old labour and conservative parties as well as the great tradition of working class solidarity and the upper class idea of public service.

Billy Bragg asks what the ‘greatest Conservative prime minister’ actually conserved. He outlines how she damaged the unity of the UK, the power of the armed forces and the monarchy, and criticises her economic policies for causing widespread unemployment.

Diane Abbott recognises the sheer immensity of her task in the face of such ‘established’ opposition, and points out that she is exactly the sort of person that Thatcher was supposed to have saved Britain from. While Abbott concedes that Thatcher was a truly remarkable person, who ruled the Tory party entirely through fear, she argues that the Iron Lady only saved a very particular Britain. There are other British people who are not so quick to believe that she saved them.

First Vote: 347 For, 142 Against, 157 Don’t Know

Final Vote: 393 For, 209 Against, 48 Don’t Know

The motion is passed by 184 votes.

Is Wal-Mart Good or Bad for America? A Debate

anti Wal-mart protest

anti Wal-mart protest

Presented with the kind permission of The Independent Institute

Ken Jacobs, Chair, U.C. Berkeley Labor Center – versus – Richard Vedder, Professor of Economics, Ohio University

Excerpt of introduction to this debate given by David Theroux, President of The Independent Institute …

As everyone here knows, the entry and operations of big-box retailers has become a major controversy in various communities. But in the history of economic development, many of the issues being debated are really not new ones. Instead, the same questions were raised when people first began to specialize from what were considered changes that were different from the norm many years ago.

Once upon a time, most communities were based on a subsistence, self-reliant kind of existence. That essentially changed into economies based on division of labor, where skills were divided up as far as production and trade, in both farming and manufacturing. The previous self-sufficient “starvation” of subsistence, essentially, was replaced by markets of craftspeople, who would sell their products directly to consumers.

Craftspeople then found that specialized vendors could expand their markets, their sales reach, and would enable them to cut costs and specialize further. Specialty vendors in turn reduced their cost and risk by becoming middlemen and women for dry goods and other general stores, which was a significant innovation in the history of retailing. Which then, in turn, reduced the time and cost of shopping for consumers.

General stores eventually faced the economies of scale from dime stores and department stores, like Sears and Macys. And supermarkets, like Safeway and Lucky’s. The shopping center arose after World War II, and with new technologies and techniques, the discount department store, or big-box stores, came into being via Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart and others.

The most successful of these big-box retailers is, of course, Wal-Mart stores, which was founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, who incidentally, started his career in retailing by working as a clerk in a penny store in Des Moines, Iowa. So to set the stage of this night’s debate, here are some numbers that I drew from Wikipedia this afternoon, and PBS’ program Frontline.

Today Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, as well as the largest corporation, with 6,700 stores, 3,400 of which are in the United States. Annual revenues of $356 billion, and 1.5 million employees worldwide, 1.2 million of whom are in the United States. As such, it is the largest private employer in the United States and Mexico, and hires 600,000 new employees each year, reflecting a company turnover of about 44 percent, which is pretty much close to the industry average, I should mention. Wal-Mart is also the largest grocery retailer in the United States, with an estimated 20 percent of retail grocery and consumable business, and the largest toy seller in the United States, with an estimated 45 percent of the retail toy business.

Some people of course argue that Wal-Mart reduces living standards, hurts retail trade, disrupts communities, and relies on government programs to provide healthcare for many of its workers. Others argue that Wal-Mart has improved America’s standards of living, with lower cost for consumers, greater employment opportunities, and healthier communities, especially for the least affluent.

So, we’re here tonight to try and sort this all out. And, as I said, we’re delighted to have two experts who have looked at many of these questions.

The Secret to Making Poor Nations Rich

19th Century woodcut depicting Adam Smith and the Industrial Revolution

19th Century woodcut depicting Adam Smith and the Industrial Revolution

Presented with the kind permission of The Independent Institute

February 21 2008 panel discussion with:
Benjamin Powell, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, George B. N. Ayittey

Excerpt from synopsis of the book on which this discussion is based:

Why do some nations become rich while others remain poor?

Traditional mainstream economic growth theory has done little to answer this question — during most of the twentieth century the theory focused on models that assumed growth was a simple function of labor, capital, and technology.

Through a collection of case studies from Asia and Africa to Latin America and Europe, Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Economic Development emphasizes the critical role that entrepreneurs, private-property rights, and economic freedom play in economic development.

Making Poor Nations Rich begins by explaining how entrepreneurs create economic growth and why some institutional environments encourage more productive entrepreneurship than others.

The volume then addresses countries and regions which have failed to develop because of barriers to entrepreneurship. Finally, the authors turn to countries that have developed by reforming their institutional environment to protect private-property rights and grant greater levels of economic freedom.

“The overall message of this book is simple, yet is vitally important for the millions who reside in underdeveloped regions of the world,” writes Benjamin Powell in the introduction.

“Economic freedom and private-property rights are essential for promoting the productive entrepreneurship that leads to economic growth. In countries where this institutional environment is lacking, sustained economic development remains elusive. When countries make pro-market reforms that enhance their institutional environment, growth improves—sometimes dramatically.”

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