As the Jaipur Literature Festival wound to a close today with a promise to preserve its democratic spirit, renowned authors argued over the relevance of capitalism in the contemporary world in front of a jam-packed audience.
Debating the motion "Has Capitalism Lost its Way," the very last session of the five-day literary jamboree concluded - by a show of hands and voice vote among the public like in any democratic parliament - that capitalism had indeed lost its way.
Author Shoma Chaudhury, speaking for the motion, charged that the entire system was being driven by greed. "There has just been advancement of the few by the few," she said.
"The markets are not transparent, the privileged few have cornered the resources and the poor have grown poorer," she said.
Other panelists speaking for the motion author Sudeep Chakravarti argued that capitalism had made itself arrogant. "We have grown to treat our own people badly," he said.
Adding to his contention was author Professor Michael Sandel who pointed out that instead of "being a market economy (which is a valuable tool), the system had morphed into market societies. This is different because in the latter case everything is up for sale," he said to loud applause.
Sandel also called for active regulation of capitalism, which he said had gone to places it did not belong.
"The areas of civic life, health, education, law do not belong to capitalism. We are not arguing here to get rid of capitalism but to keep it in its place, which is not an easy thing to do."
Against the motion was entrepreneur and author Frank Savage who pointed to the upward social mobility effect of capitalism. "Show me another economic system over the last 200 years that has given mobility to so many people. Show me an economic environment that has not embraced features of capitalism," he argued.
Invoking the example of China, the CEO of Savage Holdings LLC pointed out how even India's eastern neighbor had provided private ownsership. "That is because it realised their system would not meet people's needs," he added.
Admitting that the system was not perfect, Savage drew attention to different forms of capitalism in different countries – each according to individual needs. "You have to make capitalism work for you," he told the audience at Diggi Palace, the venue of the festival.
Furthering his argument, advertising man Suhel Seth commented, "Capitalism is not national highway 8 that there is just one way for it to go." Arguing that capitalism had not lost its way, Seth instead said that while mistakes had been made, they had also been corrected.
"We cannot live without capitalism because it drives the engine of growth. We need to be cautious and not throw the baby out with the bath water," he said.
As the debate came to a close, the motion was put to vote to gauge the sense of the house and by an overwhelming majority, the audience at the jam packed front lawns of the venue held that capitalism had lost its way.
"None of us here are arguing for doing away with capitalism. What we are saying is that the system needs urgent introspection to reform itself," concluded Chaudhury.