TED Conversations

Gregory Sun

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Equal opportunity through the expression of individual liberties.

My idea is that we create a society not where everyone is equal, but one where everyone is free to pursue their passions and make a living for themselves regardless of what their parents were and how they have failed in the past.
Here are some basic requirements of my meritocracy:
*A fluid financial markets for people of all financial statuses to have the capital necessary to move up
*A fair education system that allows anyone from any social status to gain the skills necessary to succeed
*For people's basic needs (food, water, clothing, shelter) to be guaranteed so that people do not have to seek employment just to feed themselves thus giving them a certain leverage over their employer.

These requirements are idealistic at best, but that's why I posted this talk
I want to hear everyone's opinion on a) how we might start to go about any of the four requirements above and b) to hopefully share other requirements that I have not thought of yet

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    Jun 29 2012: You had to overcome the established concepts of property and heritage to have each new born human life equal at the starting line. And the moment you are going to change that you would face quite some resistance I assume.
    Human nature has proofed itself susceptible towards greed, jealousy and selfishness, by which all financial markets will become influenced sooner or later. Education is based on information and knowledge, which themselves are related to influence and power on some very vital subjects and therefore withheld from individual interest. And to overcome this, again, you would face quite some resistance I assume. The free supply of all basic needs to each individual on this planet is already feasible, yet it contradicts the established principles of economy. And again, any attempt for a change would spark severe resistance. The world we live in today could be a much better place than it is and the reason that it isn't is the outcome of the imperfection of our human nature. But we have not been around for long, so if we manage to sustain longer on this planet, we might evolve beyond our lower instincts. Questions like yours are part of this process!
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    Jun 4 2012: Gregory, I guess no society is fully equal and I'm not suggesting full equality in all spheres is realistic or desirable. We are all born into families with different resources and situations. Not everyone has the same intellect, talents, drive. Not everyone has the same health, role models etc.

    Nice if we can prevent race, age, sex, sexuality, religion or lack of it being unnecessary barriers.

    Nice if we can strive to give a reasonably equal opportunity in terms of education, basic health etc.

    Striving for equality of condition doesn't work, but agree there are some net benefits to trying to level the sharp edges of the playing field in terms of opportunity. But individual drive and ability should be rewarded. But need not just merit or resources should be considered too.

    Balance.

    I recall a saying that equality under the law is great - it prohibits the rich from stealing bread and sleeping under the bridge just as it prohibits the starving and homeless poor.
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    Jun 3 2012: The idea you propose is basically the core ideal of Communism, everyone is placed in a position in which they are most valuable. I am not saying it is a bad idea but I am saying that it won't work.

    Consider the aspects of "moving up". If everyone is moving up then no one moves up. The Education system is fair and anyone may go to school regardless of social status (Your profile says you are from Ohio so I'm not sure why you brought this up. Even if you do not have money you can take a loan).

    Then you say " people's basic needs (food, water, clothing, shelter) to be guaranteed so that people do not have to seek employment just to feed themselves thus giving them a certain leverage over their employer."

    What leverage? If everything is provided why would you work. You get paid to work because you are trading time for money, 99% of the population would not work if they didn't have to.

    Not to be rude but I really feel you need to do some more research on why the communist system failed (Hint-It was human) and also think about what would happen if this system was put into effect and think bigger than yourself, think of your friends, your nation, and the world.
  • Jun 2 2012: To guarantee the services and resources everyone in your society is entitled to, there must be a subset of people within it who are denied individual liberties. To get food, water, education, etc., human effort must be exerted (for now). Unless you can guarantee that it will be in the interest of a great many to provide the necessary resources, or guarantee that an amazing and futuristic technology that frees humanity from the bondage of working for sustenance will be available to all, some must be enslaved. There are a variety of means through which your utopia can be realized, and i'm afraid i can think of none that do not involve force, which is the antithesis of choice and individual liberty.

    Maybe your society should be established within an existing state that also values individual liberty, so that it becomes a choice to live there and make the community the way you want it, a place where people who share your values can make it happen without the power to enslave people to other people. Then you'd only need to find those people.
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    Jun 2 2012: I think when we talk about equality we generally mean equal treatment under the law, equal rights etc.
    Not talking about people having equal capability, drive, resources from family.
    Fairness.

    Good to promote equal opportunity and try keep society somewhat balanced not all the power and wealth in the hands of one or a few people, families (monarchy should go), companies etc. But we recognise some people are born in better circumstances than others.
    I'm okay with the productive sector making money, generating jobs, but there need to be limits to prevent monopolies, and dangerous concentration of wealth, dangerous working conditions etc. The rich should contribute a higher % of tax, but not punitive.

    In my ideal world tax rates depend on wealth (net assets) not just income.

    Agree about trying to make education fair.

    Agree with a safety net if a country can afford it, but not too cushy and not too tight as to try avoid an underclass.
    • Jun 2 2012: I can;t help but state that the limits you suggest are unecessary in a truly economically free state, my belief being that dangerous concentrations of wealth and monopolies are symptoms of a government's interference.

      What I want to point out, however, is your neglecting individual liberty by advising that his society tax and implement a safety net with the state's help. The state being involved in commercial affairs necessarily means denying an individual his liberty. But reading the idea again makes me doubt that liberty was the goal of his utopia...because it's equal opportunity THROUGH individual liberty...and all of the requirements requiire that there isn't any.
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        Jun 2 2012: Unfortunately completely free markets don't work.
        Greed rules. Poor environmental outcomes. Worker exploitation back to the workshops of the Victorian England or Apple and Nike in China today.
        I prefer a mixed approach.
        The poor deserve some protection from the elite rich.

        Funny how the US with relatively freer markets than many other places has a horrendous concentration of wealth. Disgusting so many homeless in the richest country in the world.

        With liberty comes an equal measure of responsibility. I believe the rich should pay their fair share.

        I think it is about balance. Taking the sharp edges off rampant capitalism, but not getting more involved than necessary. I'm okay with reasonable redistribution of wealth.

        We probably prefer to draw the line at a different point.

        I note that low paid people pay a higher tax rate than those than earn many times more via investments in the US. It is nearly criminal. Why tax the poor a higher rate than the rich?

        I'm okay with death taxes too. Say a sliding scale up to 10% starting at about US 10 Million.

        Quality state paid education. Quality health care etc. Roads. Infrastructure. Get the basics right to benefit all. And tax as little as possible but make it progressive for income and wealth. I'm not talking about state run enterprises etc as per China.

        You realise wealth grows exponentially. Every generation it increases until 1% has 99% of the assets.

        I'd rather see less get taken from the 70 to 99% who create jobs and wealth than the 1% playing many games.

        If you think the US system is working okay or the Russian oligarchs, then we have a difference of opinion.

        No issue with a variety of views.
        • Jun 2 2012: I don't think it's proven yet whether or not free markets will work in this era, since a mixed economy, what we have now, is an economy bought by corporations;competition forced out with nonsense regulations and the Federal Reserve investing first in the businesses, banks or firms of their buddies with newly minted money. There is too much political pull in the history of countries that started out with free-er markets for anyone to say conclusively that they do not work. Because we chose not to substantiate our claims, I'll leave this thread with another "view": The reason the thieves up top have so much of our wealth is because free markets created more for them to thieve.
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          Jun 3 2012: Actually Russia has been using a completely free market model since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The entire country is owned by 4 men. That is what happens in an unregulated market.
        • Jun 4 2012: Last time I checked their cartels and government were calling the shots. Free markets are free from coercion from the government and from criminal organizations. Not that they don't exist there. It's a mixed economy.