Can Capitalism Survive? Westport Students Explore With An Expert.

Back in the day, Staples High School students marveled at the ham radio technology that — thanks to physics teacher Nick Georgis, a ham radio enthusiast — enabled them to talk with luminaries like Senator Barry Goldwater and King Hussein of Jordan.

Imagine what those 20th-century students would think of our 21st-century Westport Library, and teachers like Drew Coyne.

The other day, Advanced Placement Economics classes headed to the transformed library space downtown. There, in the Forum, nearly 175 students teleconferenced with a business and economics writer whose work has enormous relevance for the future of, well, the world.

The project began last spring. AP Economics teacher Rob Shamberg suggested a summer reading text for all incoming students: Steven Pearlstein’s “Can American Capitalism Survive?: Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and George Mason University professor believes that without trust and social capital, democratic capitalism may be doomed.

Coyne worked with Library staffers Alex Giannini and Cody Daigle-Orians to arrange Pearlstein’s virtual (and pro bono) appearance.

Steven Pearlstein, live in the Westport Library Forum.

Eight sections of classes filled the futuristic Forum. They spent a very interactive hour, engaging with the columnist and professor over the merits and logistics of a universal basic income, his theories on American social capital, China’s economic and political rise, income redistribution and the emerging 2020 political field.

When a student asked about the changes Pearlstein has witnessed since his book was published last year, the author noted the recent Business Roundtable redefinition of the purpose of a modern corporation.

Staples student Cassie Lang — who calls herself and her classmates “stakeholders in the American system” — describes the session as “the best introduction to the Economic course I could have asked for.”

Pearlstein’s talk reinforced what she learned from his book: “opportunity is not equal.” She uses this real-life example: “I doubt that Mr. Pearlstein would have been this accessible if we resided in a less affluent school district.”

Because the library Forum is such an open space, library-goers who are not AP Economics students participated too.

Student Owen Dolan saw his grandmother. They hugged, then watched the presentation together.

Capitalism may not survive. But family ties — and interactive education, Westport-style — sure will.

13 responses to “Can Capitalism Survive? Westport Students Explore With An Expert.

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70, BA, MA, JDE

    Capitalism, like anything else, is subject to correctable abuse. The key is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Most Westport children (myself included) would not have a pot to p—s in if it weren’t for Capitalism.

    • Saranda Berisa

      Exactly. The indoctrinating is a bit worrisome. Yikes.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70 BA, MA, JDE

        I was in college during the 70’s. What I learned in Econ 101 was that all economic philosophies begin with the best of intentions. Anything unchecked/unquestioned sooner or later is corrupted.

    • Eric, Pearlstein is not against capitalism per se. I saw part of this presentation at the library and followed up by reading some interviews with/articles about him.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70 BA, MA, JDE

        Fred—thanks, I’ll rest easy but current political events have me fidgeting somewhat.

  2. I have no doubt that in the name of “fairness”, Rob Shamburg’s class gives “equal” time to books or people with opposing views to some of the points made by Mr. Pearlstein…
    No doubt.

  3. LOL

    Mr Pearlstein’s book …..$22.51 through amazon
    I would say capitalism is surviving just fine

  4. Raymond O'Sullivan

    If you keep filling these impressionable minds with leftist thoughts, such as opportunity is not equal and greed is not good, of course capitalism will not survive! Everyone well become a toll of the state to produce income so everyone is paid the same. Just like in communist countries. But even today, communists are revolting against the state.

    • Raymond O'Sullivan

      My question, how did all these kids’ parents become so affluent for them rjo have such a good education? It certainly was not from everything being equal and fair!

  5. Raymond O'Sullivan SHS '73, BS Utah '81

    My question, how did all these kids’ parents become so affluent for them rjo have such a good education? It certainly was not from everything being equal and fair!

  6. Such a special opportunity for these students to reflect on such an important subject ! Kudos to their teacher and our wonderful new library

  7. Gloria Aintzane

    Westport continues to be tops in education. My four kids were so lucky to attend the town schools and to graduate from Staples.