TED Conversations

  • R H
  • Chicago, IL
  • United States


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Why do we NOT invest effectively in the poor and marginalized so they can participate in the global economy?

Nearly half of the world's population cannot effectively participate or contribute to the global economy. Basic economic theory holds that each 'participant' in the economy is a 'unit of productivity' providing a return on investment. In other words, it's more profitable to have people working and consuming than not. Yet nations continue to allow and accept that the poor and marginalized are - to borrow from another popular phrase - 'too big to succeed'.

In my view, the (relatively) small investment in infrastructure, education, and basic healthcare in the poor and marginalized will be more than made up by their increased productivity and spending. The rich think they're rich now, just imagine the wealth created by having 3 billion more people buying their stuff? I know there are obvious problems with this: corruption, unified effort, immediate ROI, etc. - but why is this such a 'tough sell' to national leadership? They're always looking for ways to increase the tax base.

3+ billion people now contribute to the world gross productivity. What if that were doubled? To me, this is the next threshold of economic growth -bringing in those who have been left out. Yet, we don't even talk about it. What do you think?

Topics: economics society

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  • Oct 31 2012: R H, It was a homeless man, fasting for economic rights in Chapel Hill NC who drew me into this fight. I offered him a lifeline but in the end, his determination to fulfil a vision of placing a nation's abandoned chidren in family homes would lead to his own death in poverty.

    His own account identifies leading oligarchs as the primary cause of the problem, i.e:

    “Excuses won’t work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine’s economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine’s orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine’s death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them..”

    Over the years, there was much being said about business addressing social problems and as and when I saw opportunity to seek support, I made contact. One example was UK billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who seemed to be singing from the same hymn book. :


    The cost to us overall was 12 man years effort and our founder's life. Looking back, our experience was to be constantly brushed aside by more influential players and ultimately hijacked by a consortium of our own governments and their corporate partners.

    I wrote recently to my MP who is also UK immigration minister, pointing out to him that we won't address the problems caused by organised crime, if government behaves with the same dihonesty,

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      R H 30+

      • +1
      Oct 31 2012: Thanks again Jeff. What you cite is exactly what I meant when I referred to the 'usurper's of capitalism', those who are so weak of character that they interpret the ability to debauch as the right to. They are criminals in my opinion. If you don't kill a man but take away his ability to live, are you any less guilty? Maybe slightly, but not much so. Yet we have sacrificed this human consideration, our humanity, for the 'holy grail' of individual initiative, productivity, and political (in the classic sense - not necessarilty gov't) reward - with a lot of luck thrown in the pot. But I refuse to see it anymore as an 'unfortunate problem', a 'situation to be dealt with'. I am refocusing to this issue as an untapped resource. Anil said it best below when he said that the poor and marginalized have the same 'neurons' and the same aspirations as those in the developed world. Therefore there is tremendous talent, creativity, understanding, and more to be contributed to an impossible vision. How can we cook with no fire or heat? How can we be on the other side of the world by nightfall? How can a small pebble of material in the palm of our hand save us from death? This was done by (virtually) half of the population. Just imagine when the other half gets activated.

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