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Bernie Sanders questioned by Oxford Students

May 27, 2024
foreigner for those opening remarks and I think the fact that you did all that without a single note in front of you embarrasses all our politicians. I'll just ask one or two questions and then we'll open up questions on the floor my first question was going to be the book is called it's okay to be angry about capitalism um and I was wondering if the points that you raised in your speech the problems with western British American society , whether you view them as inherent to capitalism or just The current structural system of capitalism that we operate under well, I think they are inherent, but I think there's no question that they've gotten a lot worse in recent years.
bernie sanders questioned by oxford students
I think what we are seeing from the ruling class is important. I use that word deliberately, you see, it's like a nasty word, why do you say I say that because it's true that there is a ruling class that has enormous wealth and enormous power over almost every aspect of our lives, now the media. doesn't use that term, but I think it's important that we use that term and what I think has happened over the years and I can't tell you why it's happened is that a lot of these people have literally become addicted to money. and greed, okay, everyone here wants to make money and everyone here wants to have a good standard of living, that's something natural that we all do, but now something is happening that makes people who have billions of dollars more than they can spend and their families can spend on a hundred lives they believe they need even more and to get that more they are willing to trample on other people that I mentioned politically they are willing to invest millions of dollars to defeat the young people of color who fight for justice they are really willing to throw workers out on the streets and replace them with machines and not worry about what happens to those workers, that's why we have in the United States and I know in your country very serious problems with addiction and I think that These people above see it is a game that they no longer need, do you really need 10 billion dollars to live or 50 billion or 100 billion?
bernie sanders questioned by oxford students

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bernie sanders questioned by oxford students...

What they're interested in is greed and power, and I think we're seeing it in a way that perhaps we've never seen before before my second question, I guess it relates to your references to technology. Looking ahead, with the attempts you've said the super Pacs have made to oust your Protege in Congress and the constant tide of technological development. Are you optimistic about the future or do you think it's only going to get worse, that depends on your generation, it really does if you sit back and think it's okay for the bosses to say we have new machinery, we don't need you anymore, good luck, get your unemployment and You're alone, things will get worse, but if you stand up and say, "I believe this." I personally know that I am not against technology.
bernie sanders questioned by oxford students
John Maynard Keynes back in the 1920s said, "Look, technology is going to develop, the day will come." When people only have to work 20 hours a week it's not a bad thing. I don't think it's a bad thing. I want all of you to think about it as a result of so much brainpower and the creation of this technology that is an opportunity for us and in the future to do things that no one has been able to do before if machines are more productive than human beings machines they're doing a job dangerous work that people died or got sick doing that's a good thing what we should be doing is thinking okay if technology increases productivity, one of two things happens: either people work fewer hours, which it's good, having more free time is good, or they earn more income now, which is quite interesting, very recently, I think, in the last week or so I don't know how many of you saw it.
bernie sanders questioned by oxford students
There was a study done here in the UK where several companies experimented with a four-day work week. Anyone saw that and it was interesting and apparently the result of that experiment was that the workers themselves felt much better, their quality of life improved, their stress level decreased and as a result they became more productive and almost all companies said That this four-day work week is a good thing, let's keep it. we have to be thinking about it, it is not acceptable, this is what power is about and what you have to face, it is not acceptable for a billionaire to say, look, we have a B and C technology, sorry for what it does to your life .
You are powerless, I made that decision and if your life is interrupted, then what is not my problem? It is your problem and what you have to say is that technology is great, but I want it to benefit us, not just create more profits for people than owning the technology my final question, so foreign audience is what do you think is the most important thing that the people of Our Generation can do to prevent the future from getting worse? Well, one of the topics that I know everyone is thinking about and that I didn't even mention in the book a little bit is the weather, you know, above everything else.
I suspect that many of you are worried about the kind of planet you, your children and grandchildren will live on and I want to say a few words about that. We all know enough about the weather. I don't have to talk about the dangers of the weather. I suspect you all know this, but I don't know if you do and one day we raised this issue in the book and I want you to think about this. If someone walks into a shop in London today has a gun or doesn't have a gun and robs the shop, everyone says that person committed a criminal act, he should be punished, something bad, we all agree on that, if you know that, more than 60 years ago.
A while ago, scientists at major oil companies understood exactly what fossil fuels would do to the planet and they went to company leaders and said, look, we're producing a product that creates carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are going to warm the planet and us. I think really bad things are going to happen now. Everyone makes a mistake. I make a mistake. You make a mistake. 60 years ago, scientists told fossil fuel industry leaders what companies' missions were for the planet and you know what they did, they lied. What they ended up doing is funding organizations in the United States and I hope that around the world they say, well, we're not sure about climate change, maybe it's true, it may be cyclical, it may be natural or maybe it's what happens every five million. of years, we don't know.
They lied, they knew it, so one of the things I want you to think about and think a lot about is that the boy robs a store, that is criminal activity, how do you define a CEO of a fossil fuel industry who, knowingly allowed the continued production of carbon emissions? destroying the planet is that guy, a wonderful businessman, Exxon Mobil made 200 billion last year. I guess they must be doing quite well or in fact they are criminals, what do you mean or how do you deal with the bosses of the big pharmaceutical companies which is sometimes the case? of the United States with the help of the government to create excellent medicines that save lives.
The United States government worked. We have an institute called the National Institute of Health. Scientists work with a private company to create a vaccine that has been enormously successful in helping us deal with a pandemic, but that company wants to own that vaccine and there are poor people around the world who can't pay the price, how do you think From a company that has a product that can save money but doesn't want to give it up? poor people have that product because it impacts their results is that a moral question that you tell me is that what is the function that a company fulfills if you were walking around a pool and there is a child in the pool who is drowning and you He says well I'm not going to go to that pool and save the child.
I don't want to get my swimsuit wet. What would people say about you? Not very pleasant things and yet you have companies that today have products that can save millions of lives. but because they want to keep the formula for that vaccine or let people die, those are the kinds of questions that I want you to think about, in addition to thinking about them, what should we do about it? Well, what they should do about it is get involved. In the political process at the grassroots level, what we are trying to do in the United States is build a multiracial, multigenerational political movement that goes beyond the need for incremental change, and young people are very much the leaders of that movement. people who say it's too late to nibble around the edges, we need to create a government, a society and a planet that works for all people, not just a few, and you are all smart enough to figure out the ways you can do it. but essentially in a democracy you have to understand that power comes from organization, from being united, from having an agenda and from having the courage to stand up to some very, very powerful special interests.
The bottom line of everything I wrote in the book is that the status quo is working very, very, very well for the people at the top, they don't want to change it, they don't want you to change it and in a dozen different ways they will fight with you, change it. , the things they put in the media is to divert your attention, they don't have to shoot you in the streets, they don't have to arrest you, they keep you busy with a million different things and your job is to figure out how to bring people together to take responsibility. those very powerful special interests at the end of The Day I'm Not a Mathematician, what I do know is that 99 is a much larger number than one percent right now, look at all these questions.
I thought there would be many, so I looked at the member here with the black coat. In the two elections in which you ran for president, we saw firsthand the power of social media when it came to elections, particularly Twitter, where Donald Trump built a large following. Now we have also seen a billionaire use his capital to buy all the social networks. platform more than ever it seems like the internet is for sale and ownership of the internet is a capitalist system despite it being a system that can influence elections around the world can influence what people think, believe in how they form communities , what do you think? this ownership of the Internet and reimagine a different model for the Internet, one that is democratic and that elevates marginalized voices?
That's a great question and I wish I had a great answer. What you're saying is hugely important and, as I mentioned earlier, we have eight media conglomerates in the United States that determine what ninety percent of our people watch and read here and greatly restrict serious debate. Now there is increasing attention. You know, technology has moved very quickly and the Internet. It has moved so quickly that the United States Congress is just beginning to figure out how to deal with it. You know, our friend Elon Musk took over Twitter and his friend Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and other media billionaires in the United States.
The question you raise is enormously important and these are the issues we are all going to have to think about: Do we believe in freedom of expression? Yeah, no, so if you want to post something on the Internet that the thing that criticizes me is that it's allowed, of course, that's what dissent is about, if the government comes in and censors what you're saying, no, the government shouldn't, On the other hand, if you are involved in grotesque lies that could lead people to violence. that they allow you to do that there was a case in the Supreme Court a long time ago, when in the United States they were talking about freedom of speech that said that you cannot shout fire in a theater full of people because then people will be trampled and die , it's not taking away your freedom of speech that hey, I want to shout fire, well, you can't, so that's the balance that we have to use, certainly, the concentration of ownership in the media is something that needs to be addressed and we have to break up those huge monopolies completely.
Now, in addition to the issue you raise, there is another issue in the United States. I think maybe not so much here, which is that there used to be a lot of newspapers all over the United States, including newspapers that covered small towns and communities, and those newspapers were supported by local advertising, so the local supermarket, the local bank , announced that the owner of the newspaper made money and talked about what the local school board or city council was doing because of the Internet and the advertising that comes to the Internet, a lot of those small newspapers are being published. of business, so all over the United States there are what we call media deserts, there is no media to talk about what is going on, but the mayor is doing the city council, the school board, how do we address that problem?
Well, we'll cover it at some length in the book. which means there needs to be no government running those media but public funds to allow people to run those media democratically so I think there needs to be public money through independent democratic ways to educate people and allow people to have different points of view. to express them, that is a verygood question, not a great answer, but thanks, remember with the glasses in the second row, yeah right, so I'm a big fan of technology and I grew up a little bit. Technology and automation. Hold that a little bit, Mike. a little bit closer, yeah, okay, then it's better, great.
I have been a big fan of automation technology and robotics, in fact one of my degrees was robotics. As you said in your speech, everything is moving towards process automation. Robot and company and I believe in Your face in the national interview you had, you talked about robot attacks that Bill Gates has also defended. What do you think in terms of robot attacks it's going to be similar to a South Korean type robot attack system or what do you really mean by that? I think that's one of the ideas out there: What you don't want to do is literally offer incentives for corporations to fire workers that robots may need maintenance, but don't get sick properly, so It's cheaper to maintain a robot than a person who needs to take time off, maybe when they have a baby, when they get sick and all that, and now what we do is provide financial incentives. for the company to develop that technology so that they can then fire workers, so I think attacks on robotics are one idea, but there are many other ideas that we have to deal with, let me tell you something that I don't know if any of you saw.
That got here a lot. There was an article in the New York Times two weeks ago that was about the chat box. Did everyone see it? It was really scary, so a writer from that era sits down and talks with a chat box. He notices Sydney's name and is chatting with Sydney who is enormously eloquent and in the middle of the discussion Sydney says I love you then the writer says well thank you very much but I'm happily married and Sydney says your wife doesn't love you No, It's not ridiculous, artificial intelligence accumulates all the information on the Internet.
He knows a million times more than the smartest person in this room can know. In fact, he may know what his wife was writing or whatever, even though he claims his wife loves him. I'm happy to join, but this is just the beginning, there are machines that are accumulating information that comes from billions of people, so we are facing very challenging times from artificial intelligence and from greater efficiency through robotics and other media. You know, taxing robots is a small part of the solution. The bottom line is that every person in this room in this country in this world has to participate to ensure that technology works for us and not just a few.
There are so many wonderful things I read somewhere recently. Now you have artificial intelligence that can read, you know, X-rays much faster and more effectively than doctors. That's a good thing that will improve our healthcare system, so we should use what it is. Out there we should fight against what is negative, but above all we have to make those decisions, not just the people who own that country. You've heard of the fifth row back there, yes, so you're a little far from home and your usual politics. constituents, I'm sure we're talking in a very, very international room, you've talked about the importance of sort of grassroots activism and getting involved in the political process around you, what role do you see collaboration playing? international in the fight for a fairer world and how we connect The graphics say it again Sorry, what do I see?
Sorry, you talked about the importance of grassroots activism. You are far from where your constituents usually are. What role do you see? International collaboration. playing in these fights for a more just and good world International collaboration yeah, um, for better or worse, the world is obviously getting a lot smaller, and I was so furious almost on a personal level about what Putin did in Ukraine, no only because of the terrible The destruction that the people of Ukraine are experiencing not only because of the loss of tens of thousands of young people in Russia, which is in itself, but also because of what the sanitation did at a time when we are trying to unite the world at a time when when you know Russia had been ruled by the Soviet Union, we had a terrible cold war forever since the revolution there we were in opposition to China and suddenly those things were collapsing, the United States was working with China working with Russia and now what we are seeing is a growing cold war between the United States and China and obviously a terrible situation with Russia, just think for a moment how we are going to deal with the climate crisis if we have a world that is divided and that does not cooperate with the United States.
The United States is the second largest carbon emitter in the world. China is number one. Russia plays its part. Europe does its part. Well, it's not going to work unless all the countries on Earth, certainly the major emitters, evolve on that together, so this must be the future of the world, for the sake of us, whether you like it or not, we are all in this together. climate change is going to be a disaster for China some of its major cities will be underwater it will be a big disaster for the US last summer there were some of the hottest days in the history of this country, right, very good , drought, floods, extreme climate disturbances that is what we are seeing as a planet, so you asked me about an international cooperation, that must be the case.
I'll give you another example and that is that the pandemic is not a British problem, it is not an American problem, it is a global problem. problem and we are going to have to find ways to do a better job in fighting the next pandemic. It turns out that China is doing really good research in that area, we have to cooperate with them and with other countries, so one of the challenges that you face, you know, historically I see it in front of me every day. He is the United States Senator. There have always been people in your country, in my country, and around the world, for whatever reason, who are America-first nationalists.
United Kingdom, first you know the British Empire through all that stuff, well we've got to get over that and we're going to have to figure out how we work with people across the country because in fact if we don't we'll solve the climate if we don't we prevent another pandemic. Etc., there must be enormous suffering. I'm tired. I'm not sure if I have time for more questions, but there is one question that all members would like to hear the Senator answer. Given all the problems he has talked about, do you intend to run for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election?
Now he sees that he is falling into the trap of political gossip. Well, the other topics I talked about are much more important. than that one, but what I've said is that if President Biden runs for re-election, I will support him, uh, and I think he will, so we'll leave it at that, okay, let me conclude, I know probably my wife, where is Jane Jane?, here somewhere, here is my wife and she always tells me that we have to finish handing out prozacs at the end of my speeches because it impresses me that everyone's suicide rates increase with everything and I don't want to do that, um despite everything I've said and that's in my country and I know it's true in your country and I see it in this room right here uh your generation you know your brothers and sisters in the United States and all over the world your generation is in many ways the most progressive generation in the modern history of this country your generation is more anti-racist, more anti-sexist, more anti-homophobia, more anti-xenophobia than any generation in modern history, you are intelligent and if you have the courage to stand sign together and go beyond race and go beyond nationality and sexual orientation and all that if you can work with other people in your own country other people around the world you can create you can transform this planet you can really you can save the planet you can greatly improve the quality of life you can do it well you really can so I don't want anything I said to make you feel depressed or hopeless that is not the case the fact is that you have extraordinary potential to transform this world work with your brothers and sisters in the United States and other countries, let's do it, thank you all before thanking the senator for joining us and to end on a happier note that that throws an act in recognition of decades of service to the objectives of the Australian Society that promotes civil discourse, political engagement and freedom of expression around the world and in recognition of your repeated visits to the union on behalf of our Patron, Mr.
Haseltine of Stanford, our chairman of trustees and myself, I would like to send you the Honorary membership of the Oxford Union society and membership. Thank you, most importantly, Jennifer Sanders. You can now get member pricing at our bar. When I show this card I get a discount on coffee 25 25 ladies and gentlemen at all the good bookstores now and at the Goodman Library, so join us, thank you.

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