TED Conversations

Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow,


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Is capitalism sustainable?

Bono stated in his TED2013 talk that the numbers show that we can eradicate all poverty worldwide by 2030. While I really hope that is true, it begs the question: Is capitalism sustainable? Is it possible to have a rich and middle class without a poor class? The sad reality of capitalism is that if there is an exponentially small number of people with exponentially large wealth, there has to be an exponentially long tail of much poorer people who are each contributing to that wealth. Not that we necessarily need an exponentially small number of people with exponentially large wealth, but would the world keep running without capitalistic incentives that increase the separation between rich and poor? Can we eradicate all poverty without the rich sharing their riches? What happens to civilization when nobody is willing to work in the factories and orchards, or build roads?

(Please don't take this question the wrong way! Personally I wish that nobody had to work menial jobs. I just don't understand how we can eradicate poverty when so many jobs will always translate into low-paid labor.)


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    Mar 3 2013: Since when is Bono the bastion of common sense? He makes great music but he lives in a rarified atmosphere. He is out of touch.

    Capitalism is not passe' in that it is a good economy that gives people hope and incentive: incentive to provide for their children and give them a better life (education, health care etc.) AND, the most important thing of all, the notion that one does it by hard work (and faith), not by hand-outs. Hand-outs decrease self-respect.

    People confuse wealth with happiness. Happiness is having enough for a happy and healthy life for one's family and some extra for improvements. The worst thing that can happen to people as a whole is to have no incentive.
    • Mar 4 2013: I think the most sustainable economic system would be a capitalistic system based on a gross nation well-being metric and a national/global environmental well-being metric.

      The amount of money that's moving around has little to do with happiness, health, and well-being once basic needs such as shelter, health care, food, etc. are paid for.

      Take a read:

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