This house believes this is the end of capitalism…

Speech at the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution, Highgate Debate, 8 October 2020.

Paul Mason
HOW TO STOP FASCISM
5 min readOct 9, 2020

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I proposed the motion in an online debate with Gervais Williams and two students from Fortismere School… The anti-capitalists lost, but narrowly…

The richest 50 people in America own as much as the poorest 165 million people in America. Does that sound just, or sensible or sustainable to you? You may be thinking: well they earned it…

Out of the $2 trillion they own today, nearly a quarter of it was earned since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Tell me what they did to earn that?

What they did was they sat on money and watched it grow because central banks printed a lot of money, inflating the price of every share, gold bar, Bitcoin, apartment block and luxury yacht in the world.

What do we call a system where the money of the rich expands and the wages of many people stagnate? Unfortunately this grossly unequal society is what capitalism has become.

So what is capitalism? Capitalism is a social system where the typical interactions between people are mediated by money; where wealth is held in the form of private property and financial assets; and where the market regulates economic life; where work, investment and and innovation are drive growth.

Before capitalism, in Europe, was had something called feudalism: where the interactions between people were mediated by obligation; where wealth was held in land; and where the market operated in the margins; where few people were paid wages; rent was the main form of distributing wealth upwards; interest was, for a long time; regarded by the Christian religion to be a sin.

OK, feudalism died. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It worked for a while and then stopped working. Some of the reasons it stopped working were internal: new technologies arose that didn’t fit with a world of absolute hierarchy and land: one of them was the compass; another was gunpowder; another the printing press; new ideas arose that clashed with the ideas of all-powerful landowners and churches.

But another reason was external: around 1300 what we call the Little Ice Age began, putting a strain on the fragile feudal economy. Famines broke out. And then the biggest external shock of all time: the Black Death — a plague that wiped…

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Paul Mason
HOW TO STOP FASCISM

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.