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Luke Hutchison

TED Fellow, Google

TEDCRED 50+

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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 4 2013: In my opinion, as a Socio-Economic system Capitalism in its purest form is not a complete or sustainable system. There must be a proper blend of Socialist concepts and practices into a predominantly Capitalist society in order to try to attain the most amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. You cannot really create much that was not already there in some form or another, thermodynamically speaking you cannot introduce create energy you can only change its form. There is no way to have a small number of people hold the lions share of the wealth while somehow eradicating poverty. I am by no means opposed to Capitalism, i love it but it is incomplete. Things such as Food, Housing, Education and Healthcare should be provided as a basis for life while layering the system with the Capitalist principles of harder work brings greater rewards. It would in effect be a blend of two systems to produce a complete one.

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