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Cafe Inquiry

September 25, 2018
6:15 pm - 8:30 pm

(Shaw) Watha T. Daniel Branch Library
1630 7th St. NW
Washington, DC US

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Organized by:
Center for Inquiry–DC (CFI–DC)


This month’s discussion topic is: capitalism

Most people would define the United States’ economic system as “capitalist.” Adam Smith defined economic systems in terms of markets, and the supply-and-demand curve. Economists have also defined capitalism as an economic system where resources are distributed through private actions, with minimal governmental involvement. In terms of economic systems, capitalism is widely considered to be among the most efficient systems for growing or expanding an economic pie-notably even if the expansion doesn’t benefit most or all of the participants.

Capitalism has significant downsides. In the “tragedy of the commons” situation, capitalism fails to allocate resources where the use of a public good is easy and basically free. It also fails to address economic externalities, where negative consequences from a market activity extend beyond the individual buyer and seller. Finally, capitalism notably breaks down in monopoly situation, where a small number of actors takes control of a portion of the economy.

What is capitalism, exactly? What are the alternatives to capitalism? What does capitalism, across its many varieties, do well? What, and how, does capitalism fail to address societal needs? If capitalism is the best system we have, what are ways to ameliorate the spots where capitalism breaks down.

We will head to Beau Thai for food and drink after the discussion. Looking forward to seeing people.