A Thank You to the Students of Doha

Doha Debates
October 30, 2019

To the students in Doha who participated in our Capitalism debate, thank you. Our Capitalism debate focused on one central question: Do the frameworks of capitalism have the means to solve the 21st century’s most pressing problems? Has the time come to shift to a more sustainable economic system? Students from Qatar Foundation’s Education City schools — Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, HEC Paris, UCL and Hamad Bin Khalifa University — as well as Qatar University, attended our debate and asked crucial questions that challenged our conceptions of capitalism. Their engagement not only drove our debate, but helped us all realize that this issue is both extremely complex and important. 

Student participants asked insightful questions about the purpose of economic growth, the challenge of scaling back the influence of those in power, and the painful history that capitalism inevitably invokes. The first student asked our speaker Ameenah Gurib-Fakim about the feasibility of continued economic growth. The student said, “In a world of constant development, is infinite growth — or economic growth — possible in a finite world? Is it bound to stop at a certain point in time?” Another student also addressed a question to Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the former president of Mauritius, about the role her country has played in aiding corporations seeking to evade regulations for their own benefit. He asked, “How can other African countries develop if countries with double taxation agreements like Mauritius act as tax havens for multinational corporations?”

The qualm of inevitably having to trust powerful individuals to overhaul an economic system that they ultimately benefit from was the topic of several student questions. One student asked, “The people in power right now do not represent the values of most people and what most of us want. So then how can we create a system that distinguishes between the types of growth, where we value positive contributions to society? How could we implement that given that the people in power do not want this system in place because they are benefiting from the current system?” Another student, similarly, took issue with the paradigm of powerful individuals dominating and manipulating the economic system but wondered whether transitioning away from capitalism was even a possibility. She said, “While we can discuss or even conclude that today’s most common version of capitalism is more harmful to the world than it is beneficial, given the fact that it is a model most of the world has followed for such a long time — and that it is so deeply entrenched in our countries and the minds of most people — is shifting to an entirely different or even a transformed model realistically possible at this point and time? How can we build the people-power to rein these big corporations in?”

Our final student question brought up the long history capitalism has of exploiting vulnerable populations for financial gain. She wondered: Is our current economic system ethical, or will it ever be? The student asked our speaker Anand Giridharadas, “You said that there are different forms of capitalism, but even some of the better forms of capitalism such as Canada or France are built upon the backs of selling weapons to countries that are using it to starve people in Yemen. Let’s also not forget that capitalism was built upon the backs of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. So, is there any way of distinguishing capitalism from its history and its present? Is there a good capitalism, ever?”

“Is there a good capitalism ever?”

Young people from around the world tuned into our Capitalism debate and shared their thoughts on Twitter using #DearWorld.

Doha students’ questions provided a valuable insight into our Capitalism debate and forced us all to re-examine the past, present and future of capitalism. So, to the students of Doha, thank you. Your engagement and vision for a more equitable future helped drive our debate and come closer to uncovering the future of capitalism.

The debate continues at @DohaDebates with the hashtag #DearWorld. Mark your calendars for our next debate on the loss of trust in governments in Paris, France, on November 12.

Watch our live debate on capitalism: