Obama on Socialism Versus Capitalism: ‘Just Choose From What Works’

President Barack Obama declared to an audience of Argentinian youth that the differences between socialism and capitalism make interesting discussions but, ultimately, they should just do whatever works.

“So often in the past there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate,” Obama said during a town hall meeting in Buenos Ares.

“Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical, and just choose from what works,” Obama continued. “You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works.”

President Barack Obama speaks at the 'Usina del Arte' cultural centre in Buenos Aires on March 23, 2016. The United States and Argentina sealed a major trade deal on the eve -the first day of President Barack Obama's visit- bolstering the efforts of his counterpart to end a decade-and-a-half of international financial isolation.  (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks at the Usina del Arte cultural center in Buenos Aires Wednesday. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama was responding to a question about establishing nonprofit community organizations and said it’s important to get government and private-sector investment.

He seemed have a preference for capitalism, recalling to the Argentina audience his discussion with Cuban President Raul Castro, but he still admired aspects of the communist Island nation.

To president Castro, I said you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education. Medical care, the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States despite it being a very poor country because they have access to health care. That’s a huge achievement. They should be congratulated. But, you drive around Havana and you see this economy is not working. It looks like it did in the 1950s.

Obama stressed the younger generation should not be rigid regarding labels:

You have to be practical in asking yourself: How do you achieve the goals of equality and inclusion, but also recognize the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services and innovation and it also gives individuals freedom because they have initiative. Depending on the problem you are trying to solve, depending on the social issues you are trying to address, what works? What you’ll find is the most successful societies and economies are the ones that are rooted in a market-based system but also realize a market does not work by itself. It has to have a social and moral and ethical and community basis.

179 Comments