Martin Wolf is widely admired as one of the most influential economic commentators in the world. While he sees the flaws in the capitalist system he believes it is worth saving. Yanis Varoufakis is a globally renowned economist and a bestselling author. He rejects economic orthodoxies and advocates for a progressive post-capitalist new order. In February 2023, Wolf and Varoufakis came to the Intelligence Squared stage at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill to discuss and debate their competing views for a better world.
As Wolf argues in his new book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, for all its recent failings – slowing growth, increasing inequality, widespread popular disillusion – democratic capitalism remains the best system we know for what Wolf calls human flourishing. And while progressives such as Varoufakis claim that democracy would function better without capitalism, Wolf believes that the two are complementary systems that need each other if either is to thrive.
Varoufakis by contrast believes that capitalism isn’t working for ordinary people. Political power is wielded by wealthy elites and tech overlords. As he sets out in his latest book Another Now, there could be a different way: one without banks, billionaires, tech giants or stock markets. In his alternative vision employees all have equal shares in companies, everyone is guaranteed a basic income and housing is socialised.
Should we admit that capitalism has had its day and strive for something new? Or can capitalism be made to work in a way that grants us all our fundamental freedoms?